Business ethics : exploring the field and contextualising its contemporary appeal
The research is concerned with accounting for the contemporary forms of discourse and practice of business ethics. Through a review of the literature concerning both business ethics and organisational culture it is argued that each literature expresses the contemporary uncertainty regarding how organisational practices and management may be analyzed and understood. A case study of Sheffield Business School indicates that the interest in "managing" organisational culture, along with the contemporary interest in business ethics, can be viewed as reflecting the uncertainties arising from the increased influence of the free market economy upon both business organisations and other organisational forms. It is argued that both the Business School as a cultural artifact, and the contemporary concerns with organisational culture and business ethics reflect the complexities and the uncertainties confronting individual actors living in an era characterised as one of Reflexive Modernity. With regard to business ethics, it is contended that there is a need to locate the phenomenon within an analysis of the socio-economic milieux of Western society. A postmodernist analysis is rejected on the grounds that the concept itself can be located within a Durkheimian analysis which applies the concept of anomie. By drawing attention to the effects of the free market upon other spheres of social life, it is argued that Durkheim provides an appropriate conceptual framework for the analysis of business ethics. That is, business ethics can be viewed as being both an expression of, and reaction to, contemporary anomie. This is also reflected in controversies regarding the parameters of business ethics, and the methodological difficulties encountered in researching the phenomenon. By providing a non-rejectionist critique of free market business behaviour, a Durkheimian analysis of business ethics provides a means of analyzing future developments within the business community and the role of the free market within society, as well as the implications for individual behaviour.