Understanding Ethics in Practice

Business Ethics Quarterly 2 (2):223-244 (1992)
Abstract
Business ethics is an eclectic blend of intellectual traditions that seeks to examine the question of "what should I do in my businessrelationships." This paper attempts to widen this discussion by proposing an alternative view of the nature of ethical behaviour: ethical behaviour as a situated social accomplishment. From an ethnomethodological perspective, norms and rules have the status of interpretive aids whieh are used to negotiate an acceptable meaning for a situation; norms and rules are constituted by, and in part constitute, the situations in which they occur. While most work in business ethics has tended to reify ethical practices, this paper stresses the contingent and situational nature of ethical decision making. In addition to presenting an ethnomethodological perspective, this paper discusses the methodological ramifications of this perspeetive through an examination of three ethnographic studies of situated rule usage
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