Review of Mary Godwin, Ethics and Diversity in Business Management Education. A Sociological Study with International Scope

By Buzar, Stipe | The Journal of Philosophical Economics, Autumn 2016 | Go to article overview

Review of Mary Godwin, Ethics and Diversity in Business Management Education. A Sociological Study with International Scope


Buzar, Stipe, The Journal of Philosophical Economics


Review of Mary Godwin, Ethics and Diversity in Business Management Education. A Sociological Study with International Scope, Heidelberg, Springer-Verlag, 2015, eb, x + 94 pages, ISBN 978-3-662-46654-4

Mary Godwyn's Ethics and Diversity in Business Management Education is part of Springer book series on CSR, Sustainability, Ethics and Governance. Godwyn's book draws on a qualitative study of business ethics programmes in 17 different countries, spanning five continents. As a sociologist, rather than a philosopher or an economist, her goal was to research the various business management education programs, but also delve into public opinion within various cultural backgrounds in order to provide the data for a rich comparative analysis. Such a goal should certainly be praised, since so much work in the field of business ethics is done almost exclusively by philosophers or economists, and it is often discussed without the benefit of solid empirical work as a building foundation. Godwyn's work is precisely that - a solid social scientific empirical foundation for a number of questions that are of great interest for researchers and teachers from various academic fields with an interest in business ethics, such as philosophy, economics, law, sociology, etc. The foremost research questions that Godwyn wanted her respondents to answer were:

1. Are there different definitions and expectations for business ethics and socially normative ethics, and if so, how do they differ?

2. How much does business ethics education affect business practices?

3.How do larger cultural values impact the presentation and interpretation of business ethics?

Based on this research, Godwyn concluded that ethical behaviour is not merely relative to space, time (in terms of geographical and historical context) and culture, but that it I..J depends upon the group with which [respondents] are currently identifying.' (p. v) In short, she found that the same person would make different decisions and have a different grounding for their ethical arguments, depending on whether they are asked the same questions as members of companies, or citizens, or consumers, etc.

Godwyn presents and comments on her findings through five chapters and a conclusion. In the first chapter, A Qualitative Study of Business Ethics: A Sociologist Walks into a Business School (pp. 1- 20) she introduces the idea of ethical reasoning and behaviour as relative to the group with which a person currently identifies, and explains the basic theoretical framework of her research. This framework is crucial for explaining unethical behaviour in business, and in creating it; Godwyn relies on Hannah Arendts concept of the banality of evil, and Emile Durkheims concept of solidarity. This also makes the first chapter the most interesting and engaging from a philosophical point of view, which is why we will grant it a bit more space in this review.

Ultimately, Godwyn is interested in why essentially good people do bad things in business, and the framework connecting Arendts and Durkheims concepts allows her to say that this is often done out of a sense of group solidarity, or rather solidarity with the prevalent ethos within companies, the business environment, or any other environment for that matter. To show this, Godwyn cites examples from Nazi concentration camps, to large companies like Enron, to business schools and professional athletic associations. The point that she tries to make in presenting her theoretical framework is that throughout human societies we will often be able to find pockets of activity in which the actors conduct themselves according to a moral framework that is often at odds with, and sometimes completely contradicts the moral framework of the society at large. When the activities in one such pocket (a political party or movement, company, or association of competing athletes) become so immoral that it is hard to believe they actually occur, they can only be explained by reference to an ethos that is specific to that same pocket. …

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