Ethics in global business and in a plural society

Journal of Business Ethics 44 (1):23 - 36 (2003)
The contemporary confluence of globalization and ethical pluralism is at the origin of many ethical challenges that confront business nowadays, both in practice and in theory. One of the challenges arising from the development of globalization has to do with respect for cultural diversity. It is often said that the success of economic globalization tends towards social and cultural homogeneity. To the extent that cultural diversity is usually seen as a valuable reality, that global trend seems to contradict our efforts to respect ethical pluralism, both personal and cultural, within society. In this paper I argue that (a) ethical minimalism, despite its emphasis on tolerance and justice, does not take pluralism seriously into account in present-day society, and (b) ethical minimalism is not suited to balancing the homogenizing trend of globalization. Certainly ethical norms are necessary, but by no means are they sufficient in themselves to encourage either justice or tolerance; nor are they sufficient to inspire and encourage good practices and sound regulations. Instead, virtue-based ethics has the capacity of inspiring and encouraging good practices. Particularly, virtue-based ethics is able to inspire a serious dialogue about ethical and legal issues both in the public arena and within organizations.
Keywords authenticity  ethical pluralism  globalization  human nature  liberal-communitarian debate  minimalist ethics  natural law  practical reason  practical truth  rationality  virtue ethics
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