Questioning the Moral Foundations of Management
Edited by Sara Louise Muhr, Bent Meier Sørensen and Steen Vallentin
Chapter 4: Understanding Ethical Closure in Organizational Settings – The Case of Media Organizations
4. Understanding ethical closure in organizational settings – the case of media organizations Dan Kärreman and Mats Alvesson INTRODUCTION 1. Organizations have traditionally been understood as instrumental and social spaces, where products and relationships are conceived and manufactured. Increasingly, organizations are also understood as moral spaces, where humans continually form and exercise ethical judgment (Jackall 1988; Bauman 1989, 1994; Kjönstad and Willmott 1995; Mangham 1995; Parker 1998a; Jones and Wicks 1999; Tucker et al. 1999; Weaver et al., 1999; Bird 2002). A growing body of scholarly work points out the various ways organizational activity includes ethical issues and dilemmas. Some perspectives picture ethical imperatives mainly as a restriction on organizational activity, comparable with market forces, competition, government regulation, and customer preferences (Morgan 1998; Sorrell 1998). There is some truth in this, but from reasons spelled out below, we are drawing upon a more expansive understanding of the relationship between ethics and organizational activity. In particular, we are going to pay specific attention to the inversed relationship: how organization processes affects the articulation of ethics and judgment. Our point of view has some resonance with what Kjönstad and Willmott (1995) call ‘empowering ethics’, which underlines the learning and developmental aspects in ethics, and what Butterfield et al. (2000) refer to as ‘moral awareness’, the recognition that an issue is important to consider in terms of moral standards. We assume that ethical dilemmas are potentially everywhere and can’t really be captured and solved through a set of moral rules regulating...
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