Human Nature and Organization Theory

Human Nature and Organization Theory

On the Economic Approach to Institutional Organization

New Horizons in Management series

Sigmund Wagner-Tsukamoto

In Human Nature and Organization Theory, Sigmund Wagner-Tsukamoto challenges the conventional wisdom that (organizational) economics is an amoral and empirically incorrect science. He treads new ground regarding the behavioural portrayal of human nature in organization theory.

Chapter 8: Concluding Discussion: The End of Ethics or Is Economics the Better Moral Science?

Sigmund Wagner-Tsukamoto

Subjects: business and management, organisation studies


At issue is human nature: How wise are we and what is the role of morality, emotions and social bonds in our individual and collective behavior? (Etzioni, 1988, p. xii) We can aim to promote as much cooperation as possible by deploying some reasonable degree of coercion and by supporting arrangements which encourage cooperation through self-interest, thereby making small demands on trust . . . This is not just a solution: it is possibly the standard solution, which, filtered through Machiavelli, Hobbes, Hume and Smith, has been handed down to the present day as the more realistic, economical and viable. (Gambetta, 1988, p. 224, emphasis as in original) Behavioral researchers often suggest that economics perpetrated a morally questionable image of human nature because of the application of the model of economic man. The previous chapters here voiced caution. They argued that the model of economic man and, similarly, the idea of the dilemma structure are the wrong targets for discussing the image of human nature of economics. Section 8.1 follows up. It outlines how the image of human nature of organizational economics and its moral status as a social science can be differently assessed than by critiquing ‘economic man’ and ‘dilemma structure’. Section 8.2 has an outlook on the question of interdisciplinary organizational intervention. It proposes that for certain problems, especially ones which reflect pluralistic interaction contexts, economic intervention may have to be prioritized over behavioral intervention – not only for effectiveness and efficiency reasons but also for moral reasons. Section 8.3 suggests directions...

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