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The Emergence of Business Ethics [Hardcover]

Morgen Witzel

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Book Description

Oct. 15 2002 1843710137 978-1843710134 Facsimile edition
Debates about the ethics of business seem to belong particularly to the later 20th/early 21st century - but in fact the field has a long and rich history. Two figures from around the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries set the tone for much of our modern thinking: Jeremy Bentham argued for the basic moral rightness of business, while Robert Owen, acknowledging that rightness, turned the focus instead towards the social responsibility of business to employees. Later writers and business leaders such as Edward Cadbury, Ida Tarbell, Henry Dennison and Edward Filene would link these two ideas: the right of businesses to exist and trade depended partly on how well they met their responsibilities to their workers and their customers. The first volume in this collection consists of writings on business from a religious perspective - showing how the entrenched "moral opposition" to business persisted - while the second volume contains works by secular writers like Bentham and Owen. Here we see the birth of the idea that business ethics is a matter of personal responsibility for the businessman, rather than a matter of social regulation. Volume 3 is Cadbury's "Sweating", an attack on the continuing abuses he saw in other companies, and Ripley Hitchcock's "Morals in Modern Business". In Volume 4, Edward Pace's "Trade Morals", the debate moves to the ethical behaviour of companies in the marketplace. Volume 5 is Ida Tarbell's "New Ideals in Business" in which she sees a new and more responsible corporate America emerging. Edgar Heermance's "The Ethics of Business" makes up Volume 6. The seventh volume includes two important works by the manufacturer, Dennison, and the retailer, Filene. Both were widely respected as examples of the new kind of corporate leader of whom Tarbell had written - commercially successful yet ethically and socially aware. These two works sum up the ethical position of many business leaders in the period between the world wars. The final volume includes pamphlets, essays, journal articles and chapters from the modern period, c. 1890-1925. Here we see emerging the idea of business ethics as we know it today.

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About the Author

Morgen Witzel is Honorary Senior Fellow at the University of Exeter, UK. He is editor-in-chief of

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