Varieties of Goodness at Work: The Relationship between Business and Morality

Inquiry 55 (4):405-430 (2012)
Abstract What do we mean to say when we call some person a good business manager? And where do the criteria flow from by which we judge people good business managers? I answer these questions by drawing on von Wright's distinction between several varieties of goodness. We can then discriminate between instrumental, technical and moral senses of the expression ?to be a good business manager?. The first two senses presume that business managers have a characteristic task or that they engage in typical activities. It is natural to specify this task and these activities by appealing to goods and to the good of a business. These goods may then be identified as goods for people. Insofar as the welfare of people is of moral value, we obtain a morally loaded account of business management. I argue against this account and plead for a more sober understanding of economic goods and of the good of a business. The latter can be understood in analogy to the good of an individual person, but is largely determined by the goals of the founders and owners. Economic goods are things that are wanted by some people and thus exchanged on markets. If this is so, then there is no direct conceptual path from instrumentally or technically good business managers to morality even though there are certain affinities. To conclude, I trace the consequences for our understanding of business ethics
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DOI 10.1080/0020174X.2012.696352
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Per Sundman (2000). The Good Manager – a Moral Manager? Journal of Business Ethics 27 (3):247 - 254.

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