Working the grey zones

Feminist ethics, organizational politics

Authored by: Sheena Vachhani

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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Conventionally there has been a separation between ethics and politics in organization theory, one in which each has been constructed as a distinct academic domain. As Parker (2003: 188) notes, ‘within the domain of ethics, the questions and problems that pertain to politics are made distant. And, within the domain of politics, ethics is an irrelevant matter that can be legitimately bracketed with others kinds of conversations.’ When there is recognition of a connection, ethics are seen as either a way to morally evaluate political action or are perceived as a restraint to the politics of organization (Cavanagh et al., 1981; McMurray et al., 2011). Ethico-politics arise from a variety of ethical positions manifest in political actions and where ethics mobilize and direct politics (Parker, 2003). Set against the spotlight and moral outrage of a number of corporate scandals, organizations as entities or assemblages replete with power become a key site for analysing these relationships. As Parker (2003) argues, business ethics has privileged moral philosophy and failed to address broader questions of politics and why certain sets of beliefs, often associated with market managerialism, are reproduced with such enthusiasm. In addition, the reliance of business ethics on certain versions of moral philosophy has an ideological function. ‘By commission or omission, this is an area of thinking that seems to prefer to keep its sights lowered, and hence avoids seeing some pressing problems concerning the justice, freedom, rationality and democracy of modern forms of organizing’ (Parker, 2003: 198).

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