The Conditions of Our Freedom: Foucault, Organization, and Ethics

Business Ethics Quarterly 18 (3):299-320 (2008)
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Abstract

The paper examines the contribution of the French philosopher Michel Foucault to the subject of ethics in organizations. The paper combines an analysis of Foucault’s work on discipline and control, with an examination of his later work on the ethical subject and technologies of the self. Our paper argues that the work of the later Foucault provides an important contribution to business ethics theory, practice and pedagogy. We discuss how it offers an alternative avenue to traditional normative ethical theory that both converges and diverges with other extant alternatives. By situating ethics as practices of the self, and by demonstrating the conditions under which freedom in organizations can be exercised, Foucault’s ethics attempt to connect an understanding and critique of power with a personal project of self. He therefore provides a theory of subjectivity that potentially informs a reshaping of contemporary virtue ethics theory, value-based management, and business ethics teaching.

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