In Search of Individual Responsibility: The Dark Side of Organizations in the Light of Jansenist Ethics

Journal of Business Ethics 101 (S1):61-70 (2011)
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Abstract

In showing how the bureaucratic space negatively influences the moral conscience of managers, Robert Jackall’s sociological writings have pointed up one of the darkest sides of organizations. In fact, in the business ethics literature there is much to support Jackall’s pessimistic contentions, suggesting that bureaucracy can rob individual managers of their sense of responsibility. How then can this space for individual freedom, so essential in re-establishing responsible management, be recreated? In order to answer this question, we propose to interpret Jackall’s Moral Mazes ( 1988 ) from the standpoint of Blaise Pascal’s Jansenist ethics and conception of humankind. Our discussion here of Pascal’s “reason of effects,” his theory of “double thought” and his distinction between respect and esteem takes Jackall’s analysis forward and opens new lines of thought about managerial responsibility. The article concludes with some thoughts on further research in the field of business ethics arising from Pascalian anthropology or what we call here “skeptical humanism.”

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