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Business ethics and social theory: Postmodernizing the ethical

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of Management
Issue numberSPEC. ISS.
DatePublished - 1 Dec 1998


This exploratory paper is concerned with the conditions of possibility of business ethics from the viewpoint of social theory. The paper begins with a description of the tensions between moral philosophy and pragmatic managerialism that largely constitute the field of business ethics. It then explores some of the elements of this field - focusing particularly on the identity of ethics, the difference between ethics and morals and the tension between stories of nostalgia and modernization. The following section frames the problem of ethics in terms of modern and postmodern epistemologies which then leads into a (postmodern) attempt to undermine the notions of 'decision' and 'judgement' that must be central to any (modern) conception of ethics. The paper concludes with some speculations on the relevance and irrelevance of contributions like this to thinking, teaching and writing business ethics.


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