Skip to main content Accessibility help

Moral Responsibility, Shared Values, and Corporate Culture

  • James Dempsey (a1)


Although it is unremarkable to hear a corporate culture described as ethical or unethical, it remains quite unclear what such a claim means or how it may be justified. I begin by addressing these two questions by offering an account of corporate culture as the intrinsic values that are shared by organisation members and that underpin organisational goals. I then employ this analysis to offer a new account of how moral responsibility is generated and distributed in business organisations. Since certain corporate values, or culture, will predictably promote wrongdoing by members, all those who participated in that culture will acquire a degree of moral responsibility for the wrongdoing that results. They are, we may say, complicit in the wrongdoing because they helped facilitate it. This is because, by sharing values in the way that creates corporate culture, organisation members give each other reasons for acting in line with those values.



Hide All
Banerjee, Neela. 2002. “ENRON’S MANY STRANDS: CORPORATE CULTURE; At Enron, Lavish Excess Often Came Before Success.” New York Times, February 25.
Bovens, Mark. 1998. The Quest for Responsibility: Accountability and Citizenship in Complex Organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly. Vol. 20. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cameron, Kim S., and Quinn, Robert E. 2011. Diagnosing and Changing Organizational Culture: Based on the Competing Values Framework. Jossey Bass.
Christiano, Tom. 2004. “Authority.” In Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Zalta, Edward N.
Dawson, Rosie. 2013. “Archbishop of Canterbury Welby Warns of Bankers ‘Lynch Mob.’” BBC Website. July 22.
Donaldson, Thomas, and Dunfee, Thomas W. 1999. Ties That Bind: A Social Contracts Approach to Business Ethics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Duff, A. 1998. “Responsibility.” Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Gilbert, Margaret. 1987. “Modelling Collective Belief.” Synthese 1.
Gilbert, Margaret. 1992. On Social Facts. Princeton University Press.
Gilbert, Margaret. 2005. “Shared Values, Social Unity, and Liberty.” Public Affairs Quarterly 19(1): 2549.
Gilbert, Margaret. 2008. A Theory of Political Obligation: Membership, Commitment, and the Bonds of Society. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Gilbert, Margaret. 2010. “Culture as Collective Construction.” In Soziologische Theorie Kontrovers: Kölner Zeitschrift Für Soziologie Und Sozialpsychologie. Sonderhefte.
Goodpaster, Kenneth E. 2007. Conscience and Corporate Culture. Oxford: Blackwell.
Hart, H. L. A. 1968. Punishment and Responsibility. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Hume, David. 1965. “Of the Original Contract.” In Hume’s Ethical Writings, edited by MacIntyre, Alasdair. London: University of Notre Dame Press.
Kadish, S. H. 1997. “Reckless Complicity.” The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 87(2): 369.
Lepora, Chiara, and Goodin, Robert E. 2013. On Complicity and Compromise. OUP Oxford.
Luban, David. 1988. Lawyers and Justice: An Ethical Study. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Masters, Brooke. 2012. “What Went Wrong with a Benchmark Rate?” The Financial Times, June 12.
Nagel, Thomas. 1979. “Moral Luck.” In Mortal Questions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sagiv, Lilach, and Schwartz, Shalom H. 2007. “Cultural Values in Organisations: Insights for Europe.” European J. of International Management 1: 176.
Salz, Antony. 2013. The Salz Review: An Independent Review of Barclays’ Business Practices.
Schafer, Daniel, and Marriage, Madison. 2014. “Seven Banks Face New Forex Market-Rigging Claims in Lawsuit.” The Financial Times, February 12.
Sinclair, Amanda. 1993. “Approaches to Organisational Culture and Ethics.” Journal of Business Ethics 12: 6373.
The BBC. 2013a. “Barclays Bank Chief Antony Jenkins to Waive Bonus.” BBC Website. February 1.
The BBC. 2013b. “BP Oil Spill Trial Told It ‘Put Profits over Safety.’” BBC Website. February 25.
The BBC. 2013c. “Barclays’ Salz Review Blames Bank Culture.” BBC Website. April 3.
Vincent, Nicole. 2011. “A Structured Taxonomy of Responsibility Concepts.” In Moral Responsibility: Beyond Free Will and Determinism, edited by Vincent, Nicole, van de Poel, Ibo, and van den Hoven, Jeroen, 254. Dordrecht, NL: Springer Netherlands.
Williams, Bernard. 1981. “Moral Luck.” In Moral Luck: Philosophical Papers 1973–1980. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Moral Responsibility, Shared Values, and Corporate Culture

  • James Dempsey (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.