Moral memory: Why and how moral companies manage tradition [Book Review]

Journal of Business Ethics 72 (4):395 - 409 (2007)
Recent research on the role of ethics in the organizational culture literature found practically the whole literature reduced to a debate between ethical rationalism and ethical relativism. The role of the past in the form of tradition to maintain and improve moral reflection is completely missing. To address this gap in the literature on the level of practice, the concepts of moral memory and moral tradition are applied to data on 22 companies that have long-standing moral practices. In this way, the practice of moral traditions can be explored with recent conceptual advances and a list of best practices delineated. Moral memory is the recollection of and attachment to the succession of past events and experiences that maintains moral tradition. Moral tradition is the continuing transmission and reception of related moral themes through multiple generations of employees. It is found that companies that maintain moral traditions tend to develop “family” cultures with considerable compassion for workers as persons who have non-economic needs and rights. These companies also temper the role of leadership, insisting that leaders are responsible for and are evaluated by the company’s moral traditions. Finally, moral traditions are essential mechanisms through which companies paradoxically both stimulate and limit competitive behavior.
Keywords moral memory  moral tradition  moral culture
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