Journal of Business and Psychology

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 9–23 | Cite as

The problem of business ethics: Oxymoron or inadequate vocabulary?

  • Jon M. Shepard
  • Jon Shepard
  • Richard E. Wokutch
Special Issue Articles


Recently critics have faulted American business schools for failing to impart to their students an understanding of ethics and its role in business. In this paper, we agree and attribute this situation, at least in part, to the need for a vocabulary of ethics and a failure to communicate Adam Smith's moral orientation to capitalism. So long as business schools fail to recognize explicitly that Smith, whoseThe Wealth of Nations serves as an intellectual backdrop for business school curricula, did in fact provide a place for ethics in capitalist economic relations (indeed, some would argue a dominant place), they will continue to advocate implicitly the theory of amorality in business—the idea that ethics has no place in business. By examining Smith's ethical arguments we can explicate the moral underpinnings of stakeholder analysis, a currently popular approach to management decision-making.


Social Psychology Business Ethic Social Issue Business School School Curriculum 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jon M. Shepard
    • 1
  • Jon Shepard
    • 2
  • Richard E. Wokutch
    • 1
  1. 1.Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityUSA
  2. 2.Yale Law SchoolUSA

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