chapter  4
25 Pages

Management Ethics Without the Past: Rationalism and Individualism in Critical Organization Theory

WithSteven P. Feldman

This chapter explores a conceptual framework to analyze the role of the past in the establishment and maintenance of moral conduct, with special attention to the relationship between moral commitment and criticism. It describes a historical and cultural analysis of the modern attitude toward the past and aims to develop a concept of moral tradition to analyze critical organization theory’s ethical assumptions and implications. The chapter argues that moral traditions are essential for providing stability, continuity, and coherence for ethical beliefs. Management ethics requires moral constraints rooted in historical memory. Critical organization theorists hope to substitute democratic process as the ethical form of politics, but a democracy of untutored individuals does not necessarily guarantee ethical decision-making. A society-humanity dichotomy is set up as an uncriticized foundational assumption that is both the source of their anti-tradition and anti-culture animus, and of their ahistorical rationalism and individualism.