Questioning the Moral Foundations of Management
Edited by Sara Louise Muhr, Bent Meier Sørensen and Steen Vallentin
Chapter 6: Business Ethics and the Question of Objectivity: The Concept of Moral Progress in a Dialectical Framework
6. Business ethics and the question of objectivity: the concept of moral progress in a dialectical framework Samuel Mansell INTRODUCTION 1. The purpose of this chapter is to explore the possibilities and limits of moral argument in informing the development of corporate legislation. Through a philosophical consideration of what is implied in the concept of a moral argument, a dialectical framework is outlined in which a moral basis for regulation can be conceived. This framework is built upon the idea that moral progress, as it applies to corporate regulation and more generally, is dependent upon the interaction of two contrary forces. These can be called ‘continuity’ and ‘progression’ (see, for example, Coleridge  1972). The latter refers to the distillation of moral argument that arises in a discursive space upon the need to solve a particular moral problem in the present, and the former refers to what may be called the historical sediment of moral convention, out of which a culturally specific value system has grown. Though these two forces may at times pull in contrary directions, the morally informed development of corporate legislation can be seen as dependent upon the mutual interaction of both. With the proliferation of ethical concerns over the social conduct of business, arising from such issues as the accounting scandals of Enron, WorldCom, Parmalat, and Ahold, the exploitation of sweatshop labor by multinational corporations, the problem of environmental protection in an era of global capitalism, etc., many critics have urged that a tougher regulatory environment...
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