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Globalization and the Ethics of Business

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 January 2015


In addressing the theme of this special issue of Business Ethics Quarterly on business ethics in the new millennium, I want to focus not on business ethics as an academic field of study but rather on ethics in business. By ethics in business I mean the standards for ethical conduct that are generally recognized in business and the ways in which these standards are established. Ethics in business in this sense is, at least in part, what the field of business ethics studies.

Copyright © Society for Business Ethics 2000

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I would like to thank Jean Boler for her comments on this article.

1 A good memoir uses the focused events of a life to connect to larger issues. The dangers of the memoir are not hard to see. One must reveal enough to make it personal and honest. Yet, one must not reveal so much that it becomes a vaguely disguised “mommy dearest” or an imitation of Toad in the Wind in the Willows. Toad, when he was full of himself, was known to say things like “I am the great and wonderful Toad” and “Oh, what a clever Toad am I.”

2 I will not discuss the internal working of the AACSB.

3 Pet rocks were sold in the 1970s(?) as Christmas gifts. They were small rocks that came with directions for care and feeding.

4 There is much more to this; see my text, referred to later in this article.

5 Consider, for example, the Donaldson and Preston article that distinguishes between descriptive, instrumental, and normative stakeholder theory, the ongoing debate about the normative core of stakeholder theory, and the most recent Academy of Management Review (vol. 24, no. 2, April 1999), which takes up these issues. Once again, we see the integration of normative and descriptive elements.

6 I’m not sure if Donaldson and Dunfee ever make this claim, but they could.

7 While I spoof some of the major developments in the stakeholder literature, I do not discount their importance. The insights we have gained from it are crucial to a full understanding of business. But no matter how powerful an hypothesis is, it is still an hypothesis: it needs a theory to connect it to the rest of the world.

8 I am assuming that readers are acquainted with the main principles of ISCT.

9 In the model I develop, close personal relationships encompass friends and family, groups are classified at the same level as organizations, and governments are treated as markets.

10 The reader may notice that three of the four elements of the model are themselves constituted by relationships. This adds a level of complexity I cannot address here.

11 Note that this is not an ad hominem.