Leadership, ethical sovereignty and the politics of property

Authored by: Edward Wray-Bliss

The Routledge Companion to Ethics, Politics and Organizations

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  June  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415821261
eBook ISBN: 9780203566848
Adobe ISBN: 9781136746246


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In After Virtue (1985) Alasdair MacIntyre posited the manager to be the dominant moral character of our times (p. 74). The idea of the manager furnishes society with a central cultural and moral ideal (p. 29), that of a subject position defined by procedural calculation, technical proficiency, manipulative power and (assumed) moral neutrality. The manager is a figure that “treats ends as given, as outside his scope; his concern is with technique, with effectiveness in transforming raw materials into final products, unskilled labour into skilled labour, investment into profits” (p. 30), a social role that, when performed correctly by the incumbent, does not and is not able to engage in moral debate (ibid.). The manager, then, is the carrier of one dimensionality (Marcuse, 1964), of the dominance of procedural over substantive rationality (Weber 1930[2001]; Bauman, 1989), of the dehumanization of bureaucracy (Weber, 1930), of managerialism (Parker, 2002) through every capillary of the social body. A heroic figure to some in the 1980s – the rationalistic, efficiency-minded saviour of public institutions stumbling under the weight of inefficiency, restrictive practices and governmental interference – now ubiquitous and taken-for-granted, their story would seem to be the triumph of the calculative, manipulative and technical over the ethical.

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