Accounting for immorality: . 1. Individual pressures2. Systemic pressures. 1. Individual pressures to immorality. . . Humans evolved in such a way that they seek interaction with others in an organizational context. We live, work, and play in organizations.- Religions- Businesses- Shops- Clubs.
1. IMMORALITY AC 351 Business Ethics
Lecture 8 (Week 9)
Lecturer: Tom Vine Introduce the theme; connect to previous weeks; explain that some of the media used in the lecturer is disturbingIntroduce the theme; connect to previous weeks; explain that some of the media used in the lecturer is disturbing
2. Accounting for immorality: 1. Individual pressures
2. Systemic pressures
3. 1. Individual pressures to immorality
4. Humans evolved in such a way that they seek interaction with others in an organizational context. We live, work, and play in organizations.
5. Experimenting with organisation, ethics and (in)humanity Reading Milgram (1974) Volunteers to take part in what they were told was a study of the ‘effect of punishment on memory and learning’.
Volunteers instructed to administer increasingly high electric shocks to a protesting victim: 15 volt to 450 volt.
Protests involved demands to be released, agonized screams, complaint of heart conditions, then silence….
Psychiatrists predicted less than 0.1% would administer high shock levels.
7. Results of the Milgram Experiments “Many subjects will obey the experimenter no matter how vehement the pleading of the person being shocked, no matter how painful the shocks seem to be, and no matter how much the victim pleads to be let out. This was seen time and again in our studies and has been observed in several universities where the experiment was repeated.” (Milgram 1974:5)
(62.5% in the experiment where voice feedback from the ‘learner’ was heard)
8. The Holocaust ‘Mass murder demands organization. Repeated killing is… an activity with all the distinguishing features of work’
(Sofsky, 1997: 111)
9. What do we know about the Holocaust? ‘Many believe, by default, rather than deliberation, that the Holocaust was an interruption in the normal flow of history’ (Bauman, 1989: viii, underlining added)
The usual explanation of the Holocaust is that it was a reversion to barbaric behaviour. Bauman says, to the contrary, that the Holocaust was made possible by precisely those features of society that make it "civilised". Indeed, the Holocaust can be understood as a uniquely modern phenomenon.
* What made the Holocaust possible?
* How did Hitler convince hundreds of thousands of his citizens to assist in the extermination of six million other people?
10. Understanding the Holocaust Zygmunt Bauman’s contribution:
Provides continuity, unlike fury associated with the mob
Subordination / power structures (See also: Milgram)
Dehumanization / Moral Distancing
Separation of tasks (Taylorism)
Dehumanization of subjects (see next slide)
‘Standing at the fences of Auschwitz, looking at these emaciated skeletons… who could believe these were really people?’ (Peter Marsh, cited in Bauman 1989: 103)
11. The Distancing of Moral Responsibility
Concentration (in ghettoes)
Exploitation and Starvation
12. Moral distancing in today’s organizations: Specialization – Taylor’s approach to task separation continues to dominate much commercial activity today. Knowledge too becomes fragmented, and might allow unscrupulous executives to make immoral decisions unbeknown to their colleagues
Multinationals – as organizations grow ever larger, the decision makers become further and further removed from their activities on the ground
Globalization – as companies transcend international borders cultural barriers may impede the communication of necessary (ethical?) information
13. Further Questions for consideration:
1. The Holocaust is often described as a ‘total failure of human values’. Since we have now explained the Holocaust in terms of the vernacular associated with modernity and managerial functions, does this mean that – and given our continued engagement with Enlightenment values – a genocide of this scale may be repeated?
2. It has been argued that Nazi ideology did premise itself on an ethical framework. There is significant evidence to suggest Christian Ethics were used to justify the annihilation of the Jews (see: Kahl, 1971). Might other ethical frameworks be used to justify the Holocaust? Can you see examples where businesses might – paradoxically - use ethical frameworks to justify ethically-questionable actions?
14. 2. Systemic pressures to immorality
15. Organisation, corporation and immorality Reading Bakan (2004) Critique of the ‘corporation’ as the large organisational form.
most powerful/ prevalent organisational form; ability to combine capital of unlimited number of people; separation of ownership from management; limited liability but unlimited chance of gain.
‘Corporation’ banned in England in 1720 - 1825.
Believed (by Adam Smith and others) to be a recipe for corruption and scandal; lack of personal responsibility for other people’s money; lack of accountability.
corporations as legal ‘persons’, mandated to pursue selfish interests (Dodge vs. Ford 1916), externalises all negative consequences/ costs…
devoid of moral restraint, all the personally traits of a ‘psychopath’ (Bakan 2004, Chapter 2).
(See Fromm 1956/ 2006: chapter 5 for a more thorough diagnosis of our ‘sick’ society)
16. Managerialism, voluntarism and the free market: An illustrative case study Herald of Free Enterprise:
“On the 6th March 1987 the Roll on/Roll off passenger freight ferry Herald of Free Enterprise under the command of Captain David Lewry sailed from Number 12 berth in the inner harbour at Zeebrugge at 18:05 G.M.T. the Herald was manned by a crew of 80 hands all told and was laden with 81 cars, 47 freight vehicles and three other vehicles. Approximately 459 passengers had embarked for the voyage to Dover, which they expected to be completed without incident in the prevailing good weather…The Herald passed the outer mole at 18:24. She capsized about four minutes later… …Water rapidly filled the ship below the surface level with the result that not less than 150 passengers and 38 members of the crew lost their lives. Many others were injured…The Herald capsized because she went to sea with her inner and outer bow doors open.” (Richardson and Curwen 1995:559)
17. Managerialism, voluntarism and the free market: Kings Cross Underground Fire:
“On 18th November 1987, the fire began at about 19:25. Since the escalator was running, the fire was carried up to other sites near the top as flames spread beneath the treads where there was grease and detritus… As a result the fire erupted into the ticket hall at about 19:45 preceded or accompanied by thick black smoke…The first London Fire Brigade personnel reached the ticket hall about 19:43 only two minutes before the flashover. It was too late for them to do anything. Between 19:30 and 19:45 not one single drop of water had been applied to the fire which erupted into the tube lines ticket hall causing horrendous injuries and killing 31 people.”
(Richardson and Curwen 1995: 558-559)
BBC report on the fire (1987)
18. What is the role for Business Ethics?
19. Selected Bibliography Bauman Z (1989) Modernity and The Holocaust, Cambridge: Polity
Bauman Z (2000) Modernity, Racism, Extermination in Back L & Solomos J (eds.) Theories of Race and Racism: A Reader, London: Routledge
Giddens A (1990) The Consequences of Modernity, Cambridge: Polity
Kahl J (1971) The Misery of Christianity: A plea for a Humanity without God, Pelican: Middlesex
Milgram S (1974) Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View, London: Tavistock
Sofsky W (1997) The Order of Terror: The Concentration Camp, Princeton: Princeton University Press
Bakan (2004) The Corporation London: Constable
Fromm, E. (1956/ 2006) The Sane Society London: Flamingo.
Parker, M. (2002) Against Management. Polity; Cambridge.
Richardson, B. and Curwen, P. (1995) ‘Do free-market governments create crisis ridden societies?’ Journal of Business Ethics 14:551-560
Bauman, Z. (1989) Modernity and the Holocaust. Cambridge. Polity.
du Gay, P. (2000) In Praise of Bureaucracy London: Sage.
Gerth, H. and Mills, C. W. (1946) From Max Weber New York: Oxford University Press
Glover, J. (2001) Humanity: A moral history of the twentieth century London: Pimlico.
Jones, C.; Parker, M. and ten Bos, R. (2005) For Business Ethics London: Routledge.
Kant, I. (1991) The Metaphysics of Morals. trans. Mary Gregor, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Knights, D. and Roberts, J. (1982) ‘The Power of Organization or the Organization of Power’ Organization Studies 3 (1): 47-63.
Milgram, S. (1974) Obedience to Authority: An experimental view New York: Harper.
Thompson, P. and McHugh, D. (1995) Work Organisations: A Critical Introduction Basingstoke: MacMillan.