Questioning the Moral Foundations of Management
Edited by Sara Louise Muhr, Bent Meier Sørensen and Steen Vallentin
Chapter 9: The Creature Comforts of Management – On Morality and Empathic Response in Economic Exchange
Alf Rehn INTRODUCTION 1. Can there be such a thing as a moral foundation of management, and what would it in such a case look like? And what, to begin with, would be a moral foundation in the case of management? This issue, which might seem like a most abstract one, only of interest to people with a distinct philosophical bent, might however be exceedingly practical and tell us a lot about the way in which the complex field of ‘management’ as a set of human practices is enacted and made meaningful, but it also forces us to consider what it is we mean by such a field. The notion of a foundation implies the existence of a certainty, while the notion of morality implies the existence of a judgment – which would mean that we could say a lot of very defined things about a thing that has a moral foundation. Are we even prepared to accept something like this for this strange business of ours, one we are conditioned to think of as emerging ex nihilo nihil? Looking at how business ethics has been discussed, there is often little heed paid to the historical and anthropological constitution thereof (see however, Argandona 2007; Gordon and Thietart 2007), to the point where much of what is written in the field implicitly seems to assume that ethics comes to the economy a posteriori, as an addendum to an assumed Hobbesian state. As a consequence, relatively little attention has been paid to the...
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