Pragmatic storytelling, ethics and politics of late modern capitalist enterprises

Authored by: David M. Boje , Rohny Saylors

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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The purpose of this chapter is to develop pragmatic storytelling approaches. These approaches are applied to understanding the varied ethics and politics of late modern capitalist enterprises. We will present four alternatives to the vulgar pragmatist ethics and politics of ‘whatever works’. Too often vulgar pragmatism is used to justify the costs of the liberal/laissez-faire/free market capitalistic narrative. For readability we refer to the liberal/laissez-faire/free market capitalism narrative simply as liberal capitalism. Throughout this chapter we present four alternatives to vulgar pragmatic storytelling. These alternatives are critical, ontological, post-positivist and epistemic (COPE) pragmatisms. Our thesis is that COPE pragmatic storytelling occurs in combinations across the ethics and politics of late modern capitalist enterprises. We begin the chapter with ways Karl Marx’s storytelling framed pragmatic ethics and politics of organizations. We compare Marx with Adam Smith’s and Herbert Spencer’s models of pragmatism and thus industrial. We will use examples from Wells Fargo to illustrate vulgar pragmatic storytelling. This lets us situate the COPE alternatives to politics and ethics of organizational storytelling. We conclude that COPE provides a way out of the duality of Marxism versus liberal capitalism.

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