Beyond Empiricism: Realizing the Ethical Mission of Management

Business and Society Review 117 (3):329-356 (2012)
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Abstract
Research into the proper mission of business falls within the context of theoretical and applied ethics. And ethics is fast becoming a part of required business school curricula. However, while business ethics research occasionally appears in high‐profile venues, it does not yet enjoy a regular place within any top management journal. I offer a partial explanation of this paradox and suggestions for resolving it. I begin by discussing the standard conception of human nature given by neoclassical economics as disseminated in business schools; showing it is a significant obstacle to an accurate conception of ethics and how this limits consideration of sustainability and corporate social responsibility. I then examine the scope of the top management journals, showing how their empirical and descriptive focus leaves little room for ethics, which is an essentially conceptual and prescriptive discipline. Finally, I suggest avenues for research into the ethical mission of business, generally—and sustainability and CSR, in particular—by appeal to the precepts of Harvard Business School’s Master’s in Business Administration ethics oath modeled on the medical and legal professions
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Archival date: 2017-12-14
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