Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 83, Issue 4, pp 595–614 | Cite as

Business Ethics and Moral Motivation: A Criminological Perspective



The prevalence of white-collar crime casts a long shadow over discussions in business ethics. One of the effects that has been the development of a strong emphasis upon questions of moral motivation within the field. Often in business ethics, there is no real dispute about the content of our moral obligations, the question is rather how to motivate people to respect them. This is a question that has been studied quite extensively by criminologists as well, yet their research has had little impact on the reflections of business ethicists. In this article, I attempt to show how a criminological perspective can help to illuminate some traditional questions in business ethics. I begin by explaining why criminologists reject three of the most popular folk theories of criminal motivation. I go on to discuss a more satisfactory theory, involving the so-called “techniques of neutralization,” and its implications for business ethics.


character deviance moral motivation techniques of neutralization white-collar crime 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of TorontoTorontoCanada

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