'Business Ethics of the Street: Corporate Sovereignty and The Politics of Disturbance'

Series Name School of Management
Speaker Professor Carl Rhodes
Type Lectures & Talks
Starts at Nov 05, 2013 05:30 PM
Ends at Nov 05, 2013 06:30 PM
Venue Ken Edwards Building, Lecture Theatre 1
Open To Public
For Bookings Contact 0116 252 2320

For 21st century corporations developing ethical codes, implementing corporate social responsibility programs, conducting ethical audits, and advocating good corporate governance are all part of normal business.  These practices of business ethics are best understood as control strategies that attempt to render corporations immune from external threat – especially the threat of being labelled as unethical.  The sad irony is that by employing ethics to bolster organizational sovereignty the very meaning of ethics, understood as openness to being questioned by others, is muted.

The business ethics favoured by the corporate world serves as a stand in for what Jacques Derrida calls the ‘reason of the strongest’ – the particular variety of rationality that powerful corporations deploy to retain or even bolster their strength by incorporating and neutering opposition. In contrast to such a ‘sovereign business ethics’ this presentation will outline the possibilities of an ‘anarchic business ethics’.

Developed in relation to the work of Emmanuel Levinas, anarchic business ethics is founded on the idea that our engagement with other people exceeds our capacity to know them in categorical terms such that exposure to and responsibility for another person is without basis on a founding principle or arche. A very different understanding of business ethics arises – one where ethics does not imply the development of new ways of organizing that might be morally ‘better’ than the ones that came before them but instead, to borrow from Howard Caygill, invites a ‘politics of disturbance’ characterised by critique, resistance and opposition to the self-interested sovereignty of business and to the pretence of corporate immutability in the name of capitalism. Such conditions are an occasion to welcome dissensus as an ethically necessary political engagement with organizations that yokes business ethics to a horizon of radical democracy. By this account business ethics does not need moralistic managers or do-gooding CEOs, but rather a civil society that will disrupt corporate power and immunity.  This is a business ethics of the street, not of the boardroom. A business ethics of the citizen, not of the executive.

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