Synthesis on Ethical Foundations Of An Enterprise
By: Rufino A. Santos III
For many years people in "business" have had the reputation of needing to be ruthless in order to succeed. We've all heard remarks and jokes that perpetuate such stereotypes and caricatures, to the effect that there is no such thing as an honest person in business.
Such comments would not be made unless there were at least some truths behind them on many occasions. We all know examples of people in business who have done things we consider dishonest, repugnant and socially irresponsible, all for the sake of personal monetary or material gain and, in many cases, ‘got away with it’ as far as the law is concerned.
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Many have vaguely defined ethics and relatively connect to business or to an enterprise. However, confusions and unclear implications have gradually weaved the concept which leads to numerous perceptions in every situation. In fact, educational institutions even failed to construct a sound and profound explanation on linking two different entities, ethics and business.
In the field of business ethics as academic field, Norman Bowie dates the birth of business ethics as November 1974, with the first conference in business ethics, which resulted in the first anthology used in the new courses that started popping up thereafter in business ethics.12 Whether one chooses that date or some other event, it is difficult to identify any previous period with the sort of concerted activity that developed in a short period thereafter. In 1979 three anthologies in business ethics appeared: Tom Beauchamp and Norman Bowie, Ethical Theory and Business; Thomas Donaldson and Patricia Werhane, Ethical Issues in Business: A Philosophical Approach; and Vincent Barry, Moral Issues in Business. In 1982 the first single-authored books in the field appeared: Richard De George, Business Ethics; and Manuel G. Velasquez, Business Ethics: Concepts and Cases. The books found a ready market, and courses in business ethics both in philosophy departments and in schools of business developed rapidly. As they did, the number of textbooks increased exponentially.
For centuries, ethics has been among the great, deep subjects of philosophical study and debate, but only in the 20th century did the modern idea of what we now call “business ethics” truly emerge. Private enterprises have become powerful creators of wealth in today’s world, but this power has, at times, been abused. So, there’s a clear social need to investigate and influence the ethical foundations of these enterprises.
With the study on ethical foundation, this will give a way to create a clear connection between ethics and an enterprise. It is imperative to delve deeper into the early years of ethics thinking to unravel the authentic connotation of ethics in relation to businesses or companies.
As history advances the changes in the social norms of society effect what is considered appropriate ethical behavior in the marketplace. For example, until the time that feudalism was practiced, that system was considered normative and ethical. When feudalism was abandoned, the ethical sensibilities of the culture changed and what was acceptable behavior during feudal times was abhorred later.
The same can be said of slavery. In cultures where slavery was practiced, it was the norm, and it was impossible to say it was unethical. However, as society advanced and people spoke up, the immorality of slavery became self-evident.
Today the issues of business ethics that are actively being debated are the ethical questions which arise in a post-colonial and post-world war reality. Companies began to focus on their ethical...