The Disinheritance of Management Ethics: Rational Individualism in Barnard’s The Functions of the Executive
This chapter analyzes Chester Barnard’s new justification for management ethics to explicate its basic assumptions, social implications, and claims to legitimacy. It explores the role that all four moral justifications play in Barnard’s management ethics as well as several other key assumptions. The chapter shows that there are themes central to all of Barnard’s attempts to create a new justification for management ethics. Barnard’s new ethics is an attempt to replace the moral authority of the Judeo-Christian tradition with a belief system based on the rational superiority of the individual executive. The chapter demonstrates that once the wide range of Barnard’s statements are considered, it will be clear that he replaces the idea of a moral heritage with a new faith in rational individualism as the foundation for management ethics. It argues that Barnard’s theory of management ethics has no clear and stable moral position, but ambiguously relies on the rational problem-solving “abilities” of individual executives.