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Philosophy of Management

Volume 1, Issue 3, 2001
Articulate Action

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1. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Editorial: Articulate Action
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2. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Ruth Abbey The Articulated Life: An Interview with Charles Taylor
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Charles Taylor is one of the most prolific and wide-ranging philosophers in the English-speaking world today. He writes with authority in the fields of moral theory, political philosophy, theories of language, the history of western thought, epistemology and hermeneutics. Currently an Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at McGill University, he has enjoyed a distinguished academic career which includes being Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at Oxford University. He has also been active and influential in the politics of his native Quebec, arguing passionately for recognition of Quebec as a distinct society, but against the province’s secession from Canada. For many years he has been a member of the New Democratic Party. The American philosopher Richard Rorty described him as ‘among the dozen most important philosophers writing today’ and one of North America’s ‘most thoughtful politicians’. He is interviewed here by Ruth Abbey.
3. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Robin Attfield To Do No Harm? The Precautionary Principle and Moral Values
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From over 2000 years ago the ideal expressed in the Hippocratic Oath has encouraged doctors never knowingly to do harm: primum non nocere. Over 25 years ago the management writer Peter Drucker proposed it as the basis of a management ethic, ‘the right rule for the ethics managers need, the ethics of responsibility’. He argued then that the rule had wide scope encompassing for instance executive compensation, management rhetoric and the management of business impacts. In 2000 the United Nations Global Compact embodied a Principle 7 enjoining ‘a precautionary approach to environmental challenges’ as defined in Principle 15 of the 1992 Rio Declaration. But what can such precautionary injunctions mean in practice? And what of conflicts with other values? Robin Attfield lays out the key questions he argues need to be asked about the Precautionary Principle if it is to be taken seriously and acted upon soundly. His focus is on the management of vulnerable resources - specifically planetary ecosystems - with whose management knowingly or otherwise we are all concerned.
4. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Hans Bolten Managers Develop Moral Accountability: The Impact of Socratic Dialogue
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How can organisations ‘manage for integrity’? Two differing approaches have been called the compliance strategy and the integrity strategy. While the first seeks to instil compliance with externally imposed standards, the integrity strategy seeks to teach ethical decision-making and values as well, so that ‘ethicalthinking and awareness...[are]...part of every manager’s mental equipment’. In this paper the Dutch consultant philosopher Hans Bolten reports on how Socratic dialogue has helped managers develop ethical capacities and responsibility. Drawing on research with dialogue members he concludes that organisationsthat care about ethics cannot rely on abstract moral codes and rules. He argues that they need Socratic dialogue as an instrument if their managers are to shape moral guidelines they both agree upon and can apply in practice. And he shows how dialogue can foster in managers the readiness to give an account of their actions, a readiness implicit in the idea of moral action itself. Thus Socratic dialogue can help create a culture in which morally accountable action is the rule, not the exception, and in which the responsibility to give an account of one’s actions has its rightful place.
5. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Jeremy Moon Business Social Responsibility: A Source of Social Capital?
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The widespread association of business with maximising profit has tended to obscure its social dimension. Indeed some writers doubt whether business can ever be socially engaged and others claim that it should not. This paper seeks to show that besides seeking profit businesses can properly practise socialresponsibility, defined as involving themselves in their communities and engaging in non-profit activities. It explores the ways in which business social responsibility can contribute to social capital, the resources created by social bonds which members of a society can draw upon and which make it possible to achieve otherwise unattainable ends.
6. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Ashly Pinnington Charles Handy: The Exemplary Guru
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Among many managers Charles Handy might well be described as a ‘world class’ management thinker. He is certainly the first British management author to have achieved international guru status. The author of widely-commended management best-sellers and MBA set texts, known through broadcasting andmanagement videos, he has presented himself more recently as a self-styled ‘social philosopher’. But just how philosophical is he? Does he offer genuinely new ideas? And what explains his vast appeal? Ashly Pinnington considers three works from Handy’s social philosopher period. He argues that they are conservative and focused on the interests of managers and business owners rather than employees or society as a whole. Like a mediaeval friar seeking converts, Handy uses mythic structures and exempla to invest his claims and propositions with plausibility and authority. Drawing on research into management gurus as a phenomenon, Ashly Pinnington concludes that when we read authors like Handy we should attend not merely to the ‘philosophy’ but also to the way narrative techniques are used in conveying ideological and moral messages.
7. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
James McCalman But I Did It for the Company! The Ethics of Organisational Politics
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Organisational politics traditionally gets a ‘bad press’. It has generally been under-researched mainly because of concerns about image. Managers dislike discussing subjects such as organisational politicking, believing that it reflects badly on themselves as managers and on their organisation and they cling to apurely rationalist model of decision-making. Sometimes, even the presence of politics is denied. But, as this paper argues, while some managers may claim to have no taste for politics they readily engage in it and justify it. The processes of managing organisational change more often than not result in conflict andresistance, requiring political engagement in response. This paper analyses political activities in the context of change, using an ethical decision-tree to examine practical cases. It presents them in the managers’ own terms and assesses them against three criteria: utility, rights and justice. The findings raise questions about how managers themselves construe ethical behaviour and about the adequacy of the criteria they use. There is room for further research in this area and analysis of the ethical frameworks used to evaluate what managers do.
8. Philosophy of Management: Volume > 1 > Issue: 3
Richard McKenna, Eva E. Tsahuridu Must Managers Leave Ethics at Home? Economics and Moral Anomie in Business Organisations
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Why is it that some business managers appear to behave differently in private and at work? How, if at all, are the decisions managers make affected by the nature of their organisations? What impact do organisational values have on the moral autonomy of managers? A research project into these questions is now under way in three disparate Australian business firms and this paper sets out the premise underlying it. For purposes of research the general premise is that the moral character of a business influences the moral judgements and actions of its members. More specifically, it is suggested that the economic paradigm renders a business organisation amoral rather than moral or immoral, and as a result moral responsibility comes to be assigned to individual members. However, the socio-cultural nature of such firms interferes with the ability of managers to exercise moral autonomy. Governed as it is by the market or laws of economics, the amoral organisation is likely to transform its members into individuals without moral standards.