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Friday, August 2, 2013

Halliburton: Organizational Culture and Ethics

Human beings are moral agents. Generally speaking, we have consciences and a sense of ought, which according to David Hume is not derived from what is. In other words, ethical principles are not obtained from describing some object or situation. Organizations consisting of human beings do not have consciences; nor are companies able to have a sense of ought that is not reduced to monetary terms. Such terms being empirical, they cannot get to ought anyway. The illusion that corporations are themselves moral agents comes from the failure to distinguish an organization itself from not only its human members, but also its culture. While it may seem that an organizational culture is distant from the people who inhabit the organization, as if culture were somehow based at the organizational level, culture is simply a way of saying that most people in a group share certain basic beliefs, values and ways of behaving. Beliefs, values and conduct pertain to persons. Physiologically, the brain thinks, values, and conducts the rest of the body. There is no “organizational brain.” Rather, culture refers to a critical mass proportion of persons having something in common. This does not mean that the “something” exists apart from, or "above," the persons.

The full essay is in The full essay is in Cases of Unethical Business: A Malignant Mentality of Mendacity, available in print and as an ebook at Amazon.com.