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P H I L O S O P H Y F O R B U S I N E S S ISSN 2043-0736
Issue number 35
7th February 2007
I. 'The Face Outside: Starting Point, Reversal, Realistic Utopia' by
II. 'Are Business Ethics Really Improving?' by Simon Webley
III. 'Open Plan Offices: an alternative perspective' by Alan Byrne
Is 'capitalism with a human face' an unrealistically utopian ideal; or is it an
urgent, achievable and realistic challenge? In her uncompromising article, Mar
Peter-Raoul lays out the moves that have to be made -- the 'starting point' and
'reversals' -- that would enable us to enjoy our present economic freedoms while
at the same time seeking to better the lot of those outside the affluent
consumer world. Ultimately, 'agape' -- or benevolent love -- 'must subvert
avarice as the new paradigm'.
Simon Webley is Research Director of the Institute of Business Ethics. Opinion
polls in the UK suggest that the answer to his question is, 'yes'. A
significantly larger percentage of respondents, compared to three years ago,
'think that British business behaves very or fairly ethically'. In his article,
he analyses the reasons for this shift in public perception and offers a
cautiously optimistic view of future trends.
The aim of the Philosophy for Business e-journal is to consider all aspects of
business practice or theory that might be viewed from a philosophical
standpoint, and not just ethics. I was therefore delighted to receive Alan
Byrne's article on 'open plan offices' which, with the help of no less a
philosopher than Michael Foucault, helps us to see the deeper implications of
this increasingly pervasive practice.
I. 'THE FACE OUTSIDE: STARTING POINT, REVERSAL, REALISTIC UTOPIA' BY
'The most vulnerable members of society should have a
special claim on your attention.'
Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations
We have all seen the pictures -- the ravished faces of refugees, the famished,
the tortured faces in Iraq, the diseased, the addicted, the prostituted, the
impoverished, the imprisoned, laboring children, street children, sexually
enslaved children, the 32,000 children dying each day. Our world's refuse.
Politically and economically, the expendable, the disappearing trace of a human
face, the expenditure of raw, unregulated capitalism. The invisible hand renders
invisible the human soul of the face outside.
This paper asks, for all the faces outside of political and economic parity,
what choices lie before the affluent world? I will consider the moral
implications of the faces on the other side of capitalist prosperity, and
toward the hope of a realistic utopia will suggest a starting point, a reversal
of values, and will outline the tasks of realizing, at least in the short term,
capitalism with a human face.
Unrestrained greed and self-giving grace are found everywhere but like the
biblical wheat and weeds they grow together until the final reckoning. At the
matrix of the world -- in that free moment of the world's soul -- citizens,
whether Senators, CEOs, street cleaners, or college professors -- choose,
however the mix, between avarice and grace. In both capitalism and politics
there is a region of possibility where the choice is made for sheer
self-interest or for social good, and more likely for a weighted mix -- on one
side or the other. In the history of capitalism, the choice of the 'human face'
is rarely made without serious struggle by unionizers, reformers, and oppressed
peoples themselves. In the Western democracies, though still with structures of
economic hardships, those with heart have achieved crucial economic advances,
including ending twelve-hours-a-day child labor, passing legislation for
minimum wage, and regulating work conditions. In the U.S. significant gains
against poverty can be attributed to the work of advocates for Social Security,
the Earned Income Tax Credit, the G.I Bill, school lunch subsidies, W.I.C.
Still with all the advances, it is a minimum wage, not a living wage, health
benefits tied to industry, not universal health care, poor schools for the
poor, not the well-funded schools supported by the suburbs, virtual
segregation, not broad integration. Rather than a share in American abundance
34 million U.S. citizens live poor and marginalized lives; 43 million do not
have health insurance. American affluence, itself, was built on exploitation of
the working poor, slavery, the long exclusion of people of color, and, in its
very beginnings, the slaughter of native peoples.
Europe has achieved a somewhat more humane economy, measured in working hours,
child-care, health care, subsidized housing, accessible education, and a better
quality of life for more of its citizens. They have moved closer to what a Dutch
text calls 'an economy of care.' But who has paid the price of this humanization
made possible by the affluence of European capitalism? Upon a dark history of
slavery and exploitative colonialism, Europe built its economy. (see end note)
Thus, as in American capitalism, European capitalism has a forgotten face --
the face of the enslaved African, the humiliated East Indian, the native South
African removed from centuries-held land and relegated to Bantustans, the
Latin American face, diseased, oppressed, murdered. Today, a new face, the
darker immigrant face appealing for work -- is fast becoming 'the face outside'
of European prosperity. And outside U.S. borders impoverished laborers risk
their lives to reach hot, breaking field work, and other menial, miserable
The starting point for the possibility of capitalism with a human face is
three-fold. The first is remembering history with its legacy of suffering and
lost possibilities, with its sacrificing the conquered to power and profit. The
new starting point must give sustained attention and consideration to those
still bearing the effects of past inhumane capitalism and to those being
crushed under its wheels today. Economic planning and practices should reverse
past and present policies to now favor those on the other side, the outside of
American-European prosperity. Labor practices, trade agreements, and aid should
be nuanced and porous enough to support local efforts, individual enterprise,
mobility of opportunities, and economic parity among participating nations. The
hard truth is that today corporate decisions are made far away from third world
assembly lines and work hours stretching through the night to meet demand.
Business schools hark the goods of leadership, statistics, corporate law and
many of the ins and outs of 'successful' business practices, but rarely raise
the moral implications of poorly paid workers on whom profits are based. The
documentary 'Rich Countries, Poor Women' shown on Bill Moyers' program NOW
makes the point that poor women in the global marketplace are subsidizing
corporate profits. Critical theorist Maxine Greene finds little done to
problematize 'third word' work. 'Little attention is paid,' she writes, to
'third world' workers, and few, if any 'provocative questions are posed'
(Greene, 13-14). In remembering our history of faces left outside, we must also
bring into view today's poorly paid peons of the world's work-force.
Secondly, on the track to a humanized economy we must take stock of exactly
where we are -- both the weal and woe. This means a 'to the roots' analysis of
structures, social conditions, the world-as-is. It means taking stock of
assets, gains, and what works for people's well-being. And it means asking why
are 840 million of the planet's people in abject poverty? Why is there an
obscene disparity between those with means to an education, meaningful work,
and comfortable conditions, and those with few if any means at all? Taking
stock is asking unrelenting, insistent questions and mapping the facts; it is
going to the roots of structural reasons for social and economic injustice, and
lifting these facts from obscurity to visibility.
Thirdly, to humanize the world, to quote Paul Knitter in Subverting Greed, is
'to tap the wellspring of humanity's intrinsic spirituality' (Knitter xiv). To
gather together the world's wisdom from Socrates' pursuing virtue over pursuing
wealth, to the injunction of every world-wide religion to care for the poor, to
the radical economic reversal of Jesus -- sell all you have and give it to the
poor -- is to provide, as articulated by the late Harvard scholar, Vittorio
Falsina, 'an ethical compass to reorient the process of globalization toward a
more human, sustainable, peaceful globalization' (ix).
In the process of reclaiming the spiritual core of life, we might remember that
all through history religion has 'helped shape institutions and policies' (163).
It is time, claims Knitter, to bring into conversation these two global powers:
the market and global religions' (1). There are many examples of religion
actively working for social and economic justice. A seminal example is the U.S.
Catholic Bishops' 1984 Letter on the Economy. Before composing the Letter, the
Bishops met throughout the country with members of parishes, listening to their
witness and learning of the economic realities of their lives. The Letter calls
for a recovery of spiritual values and for analysis and advocacy on behalf of
those oppressed by today's capitalist structures. The Letter's vision is that
of the common good. In keen agreement, theologian John Kavanaugh writes,
hardness of heart 'abetted by an ideology of individualistic
capitalism...ignores the common good of civil society and denies the moral
claims that our common humanity makes upon us' (Kavanaugh 17). The poor, he
laments, 'are easily pushed beyond the margins of our moral community' (16).
Another example of society and religion joining forces is featured in the
National Catholic Reporter of May 7, 2004. In an article entitled, 'Faith
groups aim to create uproar for the uninsured,' Arthur Jones writes of a
coalition of religious groups tackling the problem of America's medically
uninsured, who call this issue 'a burden on the conscience of America' (Jones
8). Jones quotes Diocesan officer Garland Pohl, 'The job of the US religious
communities is to raise the consciousness of America toward having a
In the 1960s, speaking out of his black church spirituality, Martin Luther
King, Jr., as had Malcolm X out of his Muslim tradition, raised the question of
And one day we must ask the question, 'Why are there forty
million poor people in America?' And when you begin to ask
that question, you are raising questions about the economic
system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask
that question, you begin to question the capitalistic
economy. And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've
got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We
are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life's
marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an
edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It
means that questions must be raised. You see, my friends,
when you deal with this, you begin to ask the question,
'Who owns the oil?' You begin to ask the question, 'Who
owns the iron ore?' (Washington/ King 248)
Knitter believes that even with so much evidence to the contrary humankind
naturally reaches out to help the threatened. This natural tendency may be
inactive, even encrusted with selfishness, but he tells a story to show the
persistence of inner caring. A child is sitting on the edge of a well and
starts to fall in. Wouldn't any passerby, he asks, reach out to save h/ er? 'We
naturally,' he holds, 'find ourselves reaching out to help. The suffering of
others touches and calls forth something within ourselves, something that
defines our humanity' (Knitter 2). He concludes that today 'the child perched
precariously on the edge of the well...has multiplied to become the millions of
human beings facing the threat of economic poverty, homelessness, and disease'
(2). The starting point toward capitalism with a human face is to remember our
past forgotten faces and to become aware of those on the edge of the well today
threatened with disaster. With an awakened conscience, the task is to embark on
the work of transformation.
Toward capitalism with a human face, at least three reversals must happen. 1.
the invisible must become visible, 2. economic democracy must replace
unrestrained global capitalism, 3. agape must subvert avarice into a new
First reversal: The invisible must become visible. Citizens must come to know
-- beyond abstraction and rhetoric -- the real experience of those closed out
of a fair share of the world's resources. Two examples of a transformation of
consciousness when confronted with the actual suffering of those usually
invisible are the first-hand experiences of Bobby Kennedy and Paul O'Neill.
Attorney General Bobby Kennedy during the 1960s was taken by Marian Wright (now
Edlelman, and today Executive Director of the Children's Defense Fund) to
Mississippi that he might see for himself the effects of poverty in the South.
Visiting shacks and asking children what they had had to eat for lunch that day
he learned that they hadn't eaten lunch and didn't know when they would eat.
Visibly unsettled, he remarked before cameras that if you are doing reasonably
well in America you don't expect this kind of poverty. Going further, he said
that it seemed that surely America could provide for all its citizens.
A second example of change of perspective is that of Treasure Secretary Paul
O'Neill. As did Bobby Kennedy's, his perspective shifted through personal
encounter with a usually hidden reality. While with the George W. Bush
administration, he agreed to travel to Africa with singer-activist Bono and see
for himself the human cost of AIDS on that continent. This longtime financial
expert began to see the stinginess of U.S. resources in overcoming the scourge
and another side to policies and economic realities he had helped shape. Though
other reasons are cited, it wasn't long before he was out-of-pace (path?) with
the administration, and resigned. For both Bobby Kennedy and Paul O'Neil the
personal encounter with those over whom they had economic power made the
For most students pursuing opportunities for achieving their dreams, the child
on the edge of the well is not in view. Decision-making skills are deemed
important for students in higher education but there is little education going
on as to the drastic toll in health, energy, and opportunity on those
disadvantaged by these decisions. Greene remarks, 'Little...is done to render
problematic a reality that includes homelessness, hunger, pollution, crime,
censorship, arms build-ups...even as it includes the amassing of fortunes,
consumer goods of unprecedented appeal.' She continues, 'In the face of all
this...Confronting some of the most tragic lacks in American society, some of
the saddest instances of dehumanization,' students are offered 'career
ladders,' board certification,' 'decision-making power' (Greene 12-13).
What then is the task of education if it is to recover its original mission of
training students for service and responsible citizenship, today, global
citizenship? Pedagogically, how does academe make visible the obscured world on
the other side of world markets? To students insular and unaware, what would
render real the child tottering toward tragedy? There is perhaps no more
effective way to introduce students to the real world and responsible
citizenship than through academically-based community service, also known as
praxis. This pedagogy -- the integration of curricula and civic action together
with critical analysis and reflection -- powerfully engages both consciousness
and conscience in its encounter with those experiencing hardship and pain.
Reaching out to those precariously positioned in our economy through the praxis
of active citizenship is an occasion for analysis, tough questions, and
to-the-roots -- even revelatory -- learning. As students come face to face with
disadvantaged folks in their communities, they encounter a reality nearly always
outside of -- obscured by -- their prior experience. In sum, they come face to
face with the face outside.
With students across the country -- and in other countries as well --
participating in academically-based praxis, what does this mean for a world of
both excruciating poverty and excessive wealth? As sensitized students move
into political, cultural, and corporate structures will their training in
responsible citizenship impact their spheres of power? Will the poor have
entered their consciousness, become visible? Beyond this likely influence of
praxis-oriented pedagogy, would corporate officers dong business today in
Thailand, India, Guatemala, and other poor places be troubled if they could be
brought to see their workers earning so little that they cannot send their
children to school or feed them well. They may already know this economic
reality in the abstract, but like Bobby Kennedy and Paul O'Neil, would seeing
the raw reality for themselves, the harsh result of their corporate
money-making, move them toward transforming their economic policies?
The second reversal -- economic democracy must replace unrestrained,
unregulated global capitalism. As in political democracy, economic democracy is
constituted by an economic bill of rights that ensures fair remuneration for
time worked, responsible hours and decent work conditions, the opportunity to
meet one's material and physical needs, and of great importance, a voice in the
economic decisions that affect one's working life. Benjamin R. Barber, political
theorist and advocate for required College community service, remarks that there
is no other system better in creating wealth than capitalism. But this system
only works reasonably well in the West because it is reigned in by democratic
institutions. 'It is not capitalism,' he writes, 'but unrestrained capitalism
counterbalanced by no other system of values that endangers democracy' (Barber
1995, 295). This same capitalism, he maintains, tied to democratic institutions
in the West, is set loose in the world with 'no regulations, no human face'
(Barber Address). And the result is exploited labor, a wild capitalism
committed only to profit and economic power, not to the economic well being of
'expendable' workers. For Barber, the transformation of conditions of work
awaits 'the trans-valuating of our civic and moral systems' (1998, 146). The
task is for our institutions of learning to produce citizens with a new vision
of economic justice and able to analyze the political, economic structures of
an unleashed capitalism, able to participate 'in turning America into a global
partner of other peoples...' (Barber address). Pedagogically, it is to educate
students to the hard work of furthering political and economic democracy.
Barber sees community service in the university as a training ground for this
democracy (Goldberg 50). 'If our nation is to repossess its civil soul,' he
remarks, 'it needs to recapture the central civic responsibilities of public
schools' (Barber 1998, 230). Since 9/ 11, efforts to transform a rapacious
capitalism and to achieve global economic justice have become for Barber a
second front against terrorism, one, he believes, that will most likely
determine its outcome. Financier and philanthropist George Soros shares
Barber's point-of-view. 'It is not enough to wage war on terrorism,' he writes,
'people also need a positive vision of a better world ahead' (Soros, back cover).
The third reversal -- agape must subvert avarice into a new paradigm. The
values of fraternity, liberty, unity, dignity, compassion and conscience must
challenge capitalism's raw, self-interest. It is imperative that a reversal of
values -- from greed to grace -- makes space -- perhaps sacred space -- for
agape over avarice. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed agape to be the 'unifying
force at the center of the universe' (Ansbro 36). But agape, fraternity, and
unity are weakened when a concentration of wealth is in the hands of a few and
the many are without the means or opportunity to support themselves and their
children. The imperative of agape is the imperative of economic justice and the
transformation of corporate values. A shift in consciousness -- and practice --
toward socio-economic justice, a greater sharing of capitalist profits, and a
shift in the bottom line to include worker well-being must become the new
corporate-civic paradigm. Happily, with all the continuing greed in the
corporate world, this shift in paradigm seems already appearing on the horizon.
Emerging examples are plentiful. Toward this new vision is the work of CIVICUS,
a world alliance for citizen participation. With the purpose of strengthening
civil society, the organization has launched a Corporate Engagement Task Force
to increase 'stronger partnerships among corporate, government, and civil
society initiatives' (CIVICUS 1). Already CIVICUS has set in motion the process
of civic/ corporate partnership. It is still the case that most corporate/ civic
partnerships are based on a donor-client relationship, but CIVICUS is working
toward a gradation of relationships: first, interaction, second, engagement,
and third, civic-corporate partnership. Scandinavian countries have already
structured the workable example of business/ labor/ and government partnership
-- each realizing that their own prosperity depends on the prosperity of the
A precursor of CIVICUS is the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility who
has been working for thirty years for corporate social responsibility. It's
associated members 'press companies to be socially and environmentally
responsible' (http://www.nonviolenceusa.org link to ICCR).
Recently, a loose coalition across many social contexts came together for an
International forum on globalization. Offering trenchant criticism of the
corporate world and the Bretton Woods institutions, they articulated 'a new
vision of an alternative global society' (Reuther 16). Starting in Seattle in
1999, a new vision has been brought to the streets by awakened activists as
they too protest the policies of the Bretton Woods Institutions -- the IMF and
the World Bank -- that have hurt rather than helped those of the poor most in
Perhaps most promising toward a new paradigm for corporate values is the new
global trend of social entrepreneurs who are mixing capitalism with conscience.
Combining market savvy and social expertise they are pragmatically taking on big
problems. J.B. Schramms, a divinity school graduate founded College Summit to
work with low-income high school students with B or C averages to continue
school and go on to college. He says, 'And getting that kid who's the first in
his family to go to college effectively ends poverty in that family' (Eaken
B7). Writing of this phenomenon of social entrepreneurs in a New York Times
article, Emily Eakin gives several examples of 'social capitalists' at work:
the Bangladeshi economist, Muhammad Unus who 'transformed the concept of
micro-credit making millions of successful small loans to poor people through
his Grameen Bank'; William Drayton, founder of Ashoka, to fund and give
professional support to other social entrepreneurs, is called 'the social
entrepreneur of social entrepreneurship' (B7). He believes new 'social
entrepreneurship to be 'the most important historical force at work today'
(B8). A first annual awards contest for Social Capitalists cited organizations
'using the disciplines of the corporate world to tackle daunting social
problems' (B8). Recently released is an Oxford University text by the
journalist of social innovation, David Bornstein, How to Change the World:
Social Entrepreneurship and the Power of New Ideas' (B8). He says, 'True social
entrepreneurs are 'transformative forces,' relentless in the pursuit of their
vision' (B8). A final example of bringing together business expertise and
social good is the work of George Soros, a successful financier in global
markets. Setting up a network of foundations he has funded those in Eastern
European countries who are initiating efforts to establish democracy and an
open society. He remarks, 'Financial markets do not tend toward equilibrium,
[they] need a visible hand to...keep them from going off the rails' ...Nor are
they competent to ensure social justice. These 'public goods' can only be
provided by a political process' (Soros 6).
It is possible that the new anticipated paradigm will shift values of
capitalism to a greater commitment to the public good. Change happens. At
different times in history, people paid to watch the 'antics' of the mentally
ill; it was thought that women were not mentally strong enough for higher
education; a comic could portray a 'drunk' and people would laugh; when first
proposed social security was derided. Surrounding ourselves either privately or
corporately with luxury while others pick through garbage to find discarded food
may one day become an embarrassment. Though it is also possible that the
economic world will change for the worse, a vanguard of activists, scholars,
and politicians have already set the tracks toward a more humane vision. As
capitalism is increasingly a global reality, the opportunity -- also global --
for pressing for an international economic democracy becomes a golden chance --
and choice -- to transform the system of a calculating, and even cruel,
capitalism to one more equitable and committed to the common good. The extreme
abuses in poor countries (and still in pockets of the first world) were once
the widespread abuses of today's affluent economies.
A rightful share and the participation of everyone in the world's goods, both
political and material -- food, land, medicine, shelter, decent work,
education, political freedom, participatory democracy -- is the governing goal
of a realistic utopia, the vision of a transformed capitalism, more fairly
distributive, meeting human need. This humanistic view is not new. The standard
ratified by the world community for this 'utopia' was worked out more than 50
years ago, in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Note Article 25:
1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate
for the health and well-being of himself and of his family,
including food, clothing, housing and medical care and
necessary social services, and the right to security in the
event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old
age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his
2. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care
and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of
wedlock shall enjoy the same social protection.
As economies remember history's exploited face, this Article as well as the
whole Declaration and the U.N. Covenant on Economic Rights must also be
remembered and retrieved. Both the forgotten face of colonialism and
unrestrained capitalism, and past and present efforts to humanize and reverse
this economic travesty, must become the starting point, the retrieval, and the
effort toward a realistic utopia. Not as an end in itself, a more distributive
capitalism must ever continue toward a structurally just and humane society on
track towards a political, economic, and participatory democracy.
I will conclude with key concepts for realizing a realistic utopia and a
summary three-fold task.
Seek clarity in the vision of a realistic utopia and infuse this vision into
world consciousness; spread abroad the vision of global economic justice and a
participatory democracy for all the world's peoples.
The tracks to this vision must be the means that lead to its realization not to
other ends. Author Chandra Muzaffar in Subverting Greed writes, 'however
formidable the obstacles, religions in pursuing their commitment to social
justice and human dignity, should never resort to means that undermine their
own moral foundation. For in the ultimate analysis, it is apparent that the
unjust global economy and the greed that is inherent in it can only be
'subverted' through a profound spiritual transformation of the self' (Knitter,
Recognize the Gandhian concept of soul-force and realize the possibility within
each of us, in biblical terms, 'to bring down strongholds.' Soul-force is the
spiritual power -- as real as physical power -- of nonviolent action, of acting
within a certain grace, a generosity of spirit, and an activated natural
tendency to reach out to those on the edge of the well. It is the power that
comes from being willing to suffer and even die in the struggle against tyranny
Work at whatever site. If economic transformation comes it will come because of
concerned people throughout society working towards this transformation, from
whatever site they find themselves. Each person has gifts and opportunities to
offer to the cause of transformation. In a non-violent effort there is a place
for each one's contribution and each contribution counts.
Know the truth of power and structures and concealed realities; engage in
continuous and rigorous analysis. In sociologist Otto Maduro's words, know how
we have gotten to where we are and know what possibilities exist for
transforming some part of this reality.
Become scholar-activists for the long haul, locating ourselves alongside those
who bear the consequences of corporate greed. From this location -- in
proximity -- analyze structures and policies, bringing critical thought to bear
on the struggle.
A summary three-fold task, borrowed in part from Subverting Greed:
'evolve a shared universal spiritual and moral ethic to under-gird the global
economy' (Knitter, 154).
translate 'such an ethic into tangible institutions and concrete policies'
become scholar-practitioners publicly commenting on, clarifying, and
challenging root causes of public misery, thus contributing to increased public
And finally, let us practice unity, grace, and agape among the world's people
until the faces outside become our own faces, their hopes our own hopes, their
suffering our suffering, making their invisibility visible. And from whatever
site, let us see ourselves as global citizens, creating among us a realistic
Note -- Dr. Glen Martin, President of the International Philosophers for Peace
(IPPNO) reminded me of this fact.
John J. Ansbro. Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Making of a Mind, Maryknoll, N.Y.:
Orbis Books, 1983.
Benjamin R. Barber. Address, 'The Second Front Against Terrorism,' University
of Maryland, September 17, 2001.
___________Barber. The Aristocracy of Everyone: The Politics of Education and
the Future of America, New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
___________Barber. Jihad vs. McWorld: Terrorism's Challenge to Democracy, New
York: Ballentine Books, 1995 with post 9/ 11 Introduction.
___________Barber. A Place for Us: How to Make Society Civil and Democracy
Strong, New York: Hill & Wang, 1998.
CIVICUS. Promoting Corporate Citizenship: Opportunities for Business and Civil
Society Engagement, editor, Laurie Regelbrugge, CIVICUS, 1999.
Emily Eaken, 'How to Save the World? Treat It Like a Business,' The New York
Times, December 20, 2003.
Vicki Goldberg, 'The Soup-Kitchen Classroom,' The New York Times Magazine,
September 27, 1992.
Maxine Greene. The Dialectic of Freedom, N.Y.: Teachers College Press, 1988.
Arthur Jones, 'Faith groups aim to create uproar for uninsured,' National
Catholic Reporter, May 7, 2004.
John F. Kavanaugh, 'The Ethical and Spiritual Dimensions of the Poor,'
Vincentian Chair of Social Justice, Volume 5, 1999 Presentations, Dimensions of
Poverty and the Common Good, St. John's University.
Otto Maduro. Religion and Social Conflicts, Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1982.
Paul F. Knitter & Chandra Muzaffar, editors. Subverting Greed: Religious
Perspectives on the Global Economy, Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2002.
Rosemary Radford Ruether, 'Global capitalism a new challenge to theologians:
Christians must envision alternative society,' National Catholic Reporter,
February 7. 2003.
George Soros. George Soros on Globalization, New York: Public Affairs, 2002.
James Melvin Washington, editor. A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of
Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: Harper & Row, 1986.
The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Editos, Walter Laqueur
and Barry Rubin, Human Rights Reader, Revised, N.Y.: New American Library,
1989. Also see the Untied Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social
and Cultural Rights (1966).
(c) Mar Peter-Raoul 2007
Assistant Professor, Religious Studies
Co-Projectkeeper, Marist Praxis Project for Public Citizenship
Marist College School of Liberal Arts
II. 'ARE BUSINESS ETHICS REALLY IMPROVING?' BY SIMON WEBLEY
The man/ woman in the street considers that British business is behaving more
ethically than it was three years ago.
Ipsos MORI have been asking a question about this for the Institute of Business
Ethics since 2003. The latest results show that 58% says that they think that
British business behaves very or fairly ethically compared with 48% three years
Why is this? A number of reasons suggest themselves.
First, companies of all sizes are paying much more attention to the way they do
their business. The main expression of this is the propagation of a code of
ethics within their organisations which gives staff guidance on how to react to
ethical dilemmas in the workplace and in the boardroom.
For two decades, the Institute of Business Ethics has surveyed large UK
companies as to whether they have such a code. In 1987, 18% of the larger
companies stated that they had one. Today more than ninety of the FTSE 100 and
60% of the FTSE 350 have them.
This is one consequence of the major ethical (and legal) scandals in the UK of
the 1990s -- Barings Bank, Guinness/ Distillers, Robert Maxwell and the Mirror
Group. These signalled to the private sector that unless it put its house in
order, the general public would demand legislation to compel an acceptable
standard of corporate behaviour.
There followed the setting up by the CBI, the London Stock Exchange and
Institute of Chartered Accountants of England & Wales, of a series of
influential Committees which set out standards of corporate governance. Today,
the Combined Code, which incorporates their main recommendations and is based
on the principle of 'comply or explain', is regarded as the gold standard.
UK companies responded to the well publicised bad behaviour among their peers
by moving this topic up the boardroom agenda. One recommendation from the
Committee chaired by Sir Adrian Cadbury made business ethics central to good
governance. It stated that:
It is important that all employees should know what
standards of conduct are expected of them. We regard it as
good practice for boards of directors to draw up codes of
ethics or statements of business practice and to publish
them both internally and externally.
This approach was in sharp contrast to reactions in the United States to the
scandals that dominated the financial pages in the media in the early years of
this century. One of the legacies of Enron, WorldCom and the other high profile
corporate irresponsibility was not only the detailed regulatory regime
introduced by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (2002), but the emergence of a corporate
culture based on compliance rather than 'doing what is right'.
At the recent Ethics & Compliance Officers Association conference in Salt Lake
City, one session was entitled, 'Has compliance driven out ethics -- and should
we care?' It was well attended and concluded that so far it had not but there
was a danger that it could. Those present certainly thought we should care! The
main bulwark which sustains a values and ethics approach is a clause in the
revised (2004) US Sentencing Guidelines which states that:
An organization shall promote an organizational culture
that encourages ethical conduct and a commitment to
compliance with the law.
In the United Kingdom, the concepts of ethics and compliance are more in
balance and it is well understood that, should self regulation fail, the law
will take over.
Another reason for the perception that business behaviour is improving is that
there is growing transparency about corporate practices. No longer is the
shareholder seen as the only stakeholder that matters. Many Annual Reports
contain more information than is statutory required and are often supplemented
by a corporate responsibility report setting out details of a company's
policies and practices regarding environmental policy and social
responsibilities. In other words, their approach to corporate ethics is more
explicit for instance through websites and stakeholder dialogues, than it was
at the beginning of the decade.
This increase in corporate openness is partly due to the growing sense amongst
the public that they can make a difference to business and affect their
behaviour -- perhaps in ways that they do not feel so empowered in other areas
of life, such as politics. Businesses are increasingly responsive to their
customers and the customers know it.
The Ipsos MORI survey also asked the general public what ethical issues needed
addressing. They chose 'employees being able to speak up about wrong doing' and
'environmental responsibility' as the two most important with 'discrimination in
the treatment of people' ranked third. The importance of allowing people to
speak up about unethical behaviour is reflected in the fact that more and more
people are doing it. As a result, not only are companies better at monitoring
themselves, they are also being better monitored by their staff and customers.
Although the Ipsos MORI survey gives some grounds for optimism, there is little
room for complacency. In IBE's National Survey: Ethics at Work published last
year, a quarter of respondents said they had noticed dishonest or fraudulent
practice at their place of work and only a quarter of these said they had
reported it. Programmes like BP's OpenTalk which covers their world wide
workforce have had a measurable effect on uncovering unethical behaviour. In
their 2005 Sustainability Report they state that 634 cases were raised
-- double the rate in 2004.
As in all ethical questions there are no black and white solutions. Speakup
policies that ensure confidentiality have to take into account privacy rights
-- currently a major issue in continental European countries.
There is a further matter of concern. In the first nine months of 2006, at
least twenty five UK companies have been reported as being involved in some
form of unethical behaviour -- and most of them had explicit ethics policies.
There appears to be a gap between adopting corporate ethical values --
integrity, responsibility and openness -- and their becoming embedded in the
company's bloodstream. In a new report to mark the Institute of Business
Ethics' first twenty years -- Making Business Ethics Work -- it is suggested
that three aspects of the topic need more attention: ethics training for all
employees; better, more user-friendly codes, and explicit ethical leadership at
the top. This last point is seen as especially important. No code or training
will be effective if corporate leaders themselves do not demonstrate and
sustain the highest standard of ethical behaviour. A significant proportion of
incidents of reported unethical practice originate in boardrooms.
The public's view of business conduct will go on improving if these matters are
(c) Simon Webley 2007
Institute of Business Ethics
III. 'OPEN PLAN OFFICES: AN ALTERNATIVE PERSPECTIVE' BY ALAN BYRNE
This article seeks through dialogue to provide a different understanding of
open plan offices.
Margaret has worked with Ferenz community bank for over twenty years as a line
manager. Upon commencing work with Ferenz, Margaret was given her own office,
which she had managed to keep until six months ago. To improve communications
and relationships between supervisors and staff, senior management decided to
adopt an open plan office for all employees, except senior management who would
retain their offices. All non-supervisory staff had been in open-plan offices
since Margaret had joined and she never gave it a second thought. But things
were different now and Margaret was feeling decidedly uncomfortable in her new
Frank is an architect, who recently has undertaken a course in philosophy. His
particular interest is in the philosophy of architecture. Frank has just come
from the library where he has been studying Michael Foucault, taking advantage
of some study leave. He has agreed to meet with his friend Margaret for a
coffee at Cafe Manta. What follows is an extract from their conversation.
Margaret: You know Frank I'm really fed up with this open plan. It's like my
whole life is everybody else's business. I might as well put post-it notes on
the general notice board announcing who I am seeing, where I am going and what
I am doing outside of office hours. There's just no privacy. I feel exposed
without my office. I can't believe that the rest of the staff have put up with
this for so many years, I guess they're just use to it at this stage. I feel
like I have given up some freedom. These open plan areas are extremely well lit
with nowhere to hide and in many respects you feel like a goldfish in a bowl.
Everybody can see into your work area, see what you are doing and view what is
on your computer screen. I only now realize how privileged I was to have an
office for so many years.
It's note worthy that senior management have retained their offices; in fact as
part of the re-organisation of the office area they re-positioned their offices
so they oversee their staff who are in the open plan areas. The partition
heights have also been reduced to further eliminate any invisible areas. I'm
not so sure about open plan anymore, now that I'm really experiencing it for
the first time.
Frank: Sorry to hear that things are not going so well for you Margaret.
Perhaps you should let senior management know of your concerns?
Margaret: No way Frank. All that will happen is I will be seen as being a
negative person, who never said anything when so many other staff were working
in an open plan area and now is just unable to cope.
Frank: Fair enough I guess. It's a pity that in this day and age so many people
find it hard to speak up. I would bet that many of the staff that have
experienced open plan for so many years have similar opinions to yourself, but
have accepted that because of their lowly power position they should keep their
mouths shut. From talking to some friends this definitely seems like a safe
policy. If you speak up and criticize you may be stigmatized from there on.
However I believe you should examine your experience further and perhaps pass
on some insights which may change how open plan is understood. Socrates is
credited as saying that the unexamined life is not worth living. Socrates was a
proponent of critical thinking. He wanted to wake up those citizens around him
and shake them out of their slumber; make them see things a different way.
Maybe if we understood open plan in a different way we could make changes that
Margaret: Sounds interesting Frank. So what do you think about open plan?
Frank: To be honest Margaret I had not considered the implication of such
workplace design until reading some of the work of Michael Foucault . Having
read an interview given by Michael Foucault , I now come to describe open-plan
as yet another form of control by the most powerful in the organisation,
enforcing the role of the master. You are subjected to ongoing surveillance
both from the most and least powerful.
Margaret: I can relate to that. For example all our internet access is
monitored, albeit with our consent. If you don't consent, you don't use it.
It's like having someone looking over your shoulder.
Frank: The surveillance I am referring to Margaret is visual rather than
electronic and is supported by open plan architecture. As you said, the most
powerful have retained their offices which are positioned in close proximity to
the staff working under them. This bears a striking resemblance to what Michael
Foucault commented on, the Panopticon which was originated by the famous
English philosopher and the father of utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham. Foucault
came across Bentham's Panopticon whilst studying the problems of the penal
system in his own work Discipline and Punish: The birth of the Prison which I
have been reading (takes a copy of the many dog eared book from his bag). I
will read you what it says. The Panopticon is described by Foucault as follows:
A perimeter building in the form of a ring. At the centre
of this, a tower, pierced by large windows opening on to
the inner face of the ring. The outer building is divided
into cells each of which traverses the whole thickness of
the building. These cells have two windows, one opening on
to the inside, facing the windows of the central tower, the
other, outer one allowing daylight to pass through the whole
cell. All that is needed is to put an overseer in the tower
and place in each of the cells a lunatic, a patient, a
convict, a worker or a schoolboy. The back lighting enables
one to pick out from the central tower the little captive
silhouettes in the ring of cells. In short the principle of
the dungeon is reversed; daylight and the overseers gaze
capture the inmate more effectively than darkness, which
afforded after all a sort of protection.
Compare this to the well lit cubicles you share with your fellow workers, where
you are totally exposed to any passing person and more immediately to those
people around you.
Margaret: Well now that you mention it, I have had occasion in the past to
re-locate a work colleague due to intermittent surveillance by a senior
management person who over a period of time covertly took note of the staff
members' computer screen, while passing by their work space, and decided they
were not being productive enough.
Frank: Well Margaret there is an alternative view of the Panopticon which I
will read for you. According to Foucault, Jean Jacques Rousseau had a dream:
...of a transparent society, visible and legible in each of
its parts, the dream of there no longer existing any zones
of darkness, zones established by the privileges of royal
power or the prerogatives of some corporation, zones of
disorder. It was the dream that each individual, whatever
position he occupied, might be able to see the whole of
society, that men's hearts should communicate, their vision
be unrestricted by obstacles, and the opinion of all reign
What Bentham had in mind was visibility organized entirely around a dominating,
overseeing gaze. The visibility serves a power. However the French revolution
found a humanitarian intention in the Bentham project. Foucault describes it as
The new aspect of the problem of justice, for the
revolution, was not so much to punish wrongdoers as to
prevent even the possibility of wrong-doing, by immersing
people in a field of total visibility where the opinion,
observation and discourse of others would restrain them
from harmful acts.
Bentham's project aroused interest because,
...it provided a formula applicable to many domains, for
formula of 'power through transparency', subjection by
Foucault refers to the power of a person's gaze,
An inspecting gaze, a gaze which each individual under
its weight will end by interiorizing to the point that he is
his own overseer, each individual thus exercising this
surveillance over, and against, himself.
It is my experience as an architect that with open-plan, places of darkness are
removed and the overseen become the overseer negating much of the need for the
dominant overseer. Ever noticed how hardly anybody can pass by your workstation
without looking in? Thus this becomes a very economic form of surveillance. The
enslaved monitor the enslaved, reducing the cost to the master. But is such an
observation merely an illusion of power?
Margaret: In my experience Frank there can be and is resistance. The Staff
learn who to trust and not, regarding their words and actions accordingly. I've
often noticed how conversations change depending on who is within ear shot. Some
senior managers were greeted by a wall of silence save for the clicking of
Frank: Such efforts take from the staff themselves and others, much of their
potential to contribute to an enjoyable business world. They cannot grant
freedom to others, if not to themselves first. Listen Margaret how you describe
open-plan in your workplace is how you will experience it. Your description will
create the reality you share in interaction with others.
Margaret: So how would you describe it Frank?
Frank: For myself, I can see that open planning can be a leveller, a democratic
symbol that can contribute towards the emancipation of slave and master. However
where differences in physical work conditions persist, the democracy so
described, is diminished. If as you say in your office all but the senior
management are subject to open-plan work areas, then divisions will persist and
the dominant will maintain their rule and surveillance.
Margaret: Given what you have said about open-plan offices coupled with my own
experience, I am convinced they are about control of the staff, ensuring
compliance with senior management determined observable behaviours. The problem
is that open-planning has become a convention which is unquestioned in
application. It is part of an embedded ideology that privileges senior
Frank: Well perhaps you can encourage senior management to consider installing
places of darkness for the staff, where they can conduct private business out
of the gaze of the public eye. A fully equipped office you can book? Or maybe
they can be persuaded to give up their own offices, a democratic symbol? Either
way maybe now you are better armed to generate discussion and perhaps some
Margaret: A la Socrates?
(c) Alan Byrne 2007