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Governance and Virtue: The Case of Public Order Policing

Abstract

For Aristotle, virtues are neither transcendent nor universal, but socially interdependent; they need to be understood chronologically and with respect to character and context. This paper uses an Aristotelian lens to analyse an especially interesting context in which to study virtue—the state’s response when social order breaks down. During such periods, questions relating to right action by citizens, the state, and state agents are pronounced. To study this, we analyse data from interviews, observation, and documents gathered during a 3-year study of riot policing in the U.K. In doing so, we contribute by joining a number of other conversations within JBE, suggesting detailed empirical examination of this context is useful in opening up considerations relevant to ‘virtue’ elsewhere. This extreme context helps us raise interesting and empirically informed questions that can encourage future theoretical and empirical contributions to virtue in business ethics. One such question is on the role of habituation in virtue, which is not just the inculcation of a reflex or automaticity, but can also refer to a trained and developed tendency to behave in the right way, for the right reasons, at the right time. Whilst we stop short of a simplistic alignment of habituation and virtue, we show ways in which it can inform understanding of both courage and phronēsis.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We use 'riot police' for concision and to aid accessibility, in fact 'public order police' or, 'police carrying out a public order role' could be more accurate alternatives. Within the U.K. unlike in many European countries, police are generalists and public order is the responsibility of most officers who share a common base of training. Public order itself is very varied and complex encompassing many different kinds of individual and collective phenomena and riots are comparatively rare.

  2. 2.

    We examined the 30 most cited papers in the Journal of Business Ethics (JBE), whose authors referred to 'virtue(s)' in the title of their paper; as well as similarly titled full papers (in print) in JBE in 2013. Thirty were chosen as likely to yield a representatively large body of work, and a size large enough to allow us to read each paper carefully and independently, as well as to allow enough comparisons to test significance of classification outcomes. We also included six 2013 papers separately, to try to account for the fact that recently published papers will not have garnered citations yet, and because there was a special issue in JBE in this time given over to the practice of virtue (Fontrodona et al. 2013). Inter-rater reliability on coding for 'primary data,' 'secondary data,' 'theoretical paper,' 'cross-sectional,' and 'longitudinal' was all (p < 0.001) using a binomial distribution. Of 36 highly cited papers on 'virtue' in the Journal of Business Ethics, only eight use primary empirical data (Batson et al. 2006; Beadle 2013a, b; Chun 2005; Lau and Wong 2009; Murphy 1999; Robinson et al. 2013; Shanahan and Hyman 2003). Most discussions of virtue are conceptual (Alves and Moreira 2013; Arjoon 2000; Chismar 2001; Dierksmeier 2013; Gowri 2007; Hartman 2011; McAdams and Koppensteiner 1992; Melé 2009; Nicholls 2010; Parkan 2008; Sethi 1994; Whetstone 2001). Two papers analyse secondary data using recognizedly systematic methods: econometrics (Cai et al. 2011) and content analysis (Chun 2005), most either review secondary data or use it more illustratively (Crossan et al. 2013; Hadreas 2002; Jennings 1991; Koehn 2013; Limbs and Fort 2000; McCracken et al. 1998; Marchese et al. 2002; Parkan 2008). Several papers focus on kinds of case (e.g. Bertland 2009; Cavanagh and Bandsuch 2002; Crockett 2005; Hartman and Beck-Dudley 1999; Romar 2002), at times these are quite detailed and context-specific (Drake and Schlachter 2008), but cases are also often explicitly introduced as anecdotal, 'let’s consider a true story' (Crockett 2005, p. 199), 'look at what happened to a friend of mine' (Kurzynski 1998, p. 76), or for teaching purposes (Mintz 1996). When data are collected, it is cross section (Batson et al. 2006; Beadle 2013a, b; Chun 2005; Lau and Wong 2009; Murphy 1999; Robinson et al. 2013; Shanahan and Hyman 2003); an exception—with secondary data—being Cai et al. (2011). At the same time, virtue scholars are likely to agree that to apply a virtue lens to a specific setting requires an account of context, tradition, history, and social forces. It is more than a determination of what is appropriate action, or the solution to a quandary (McCracken et al. 1998), it requires attention to particular complexities that influence our considerations of whether something is likely to enhance the development of virtuous character. These elements—attention to history, tradition, situated complexity, and development of character—are necessary to arrive at a contextualized analysis. The brief review above focuses on JBE. This can be justified in the sense JBE publishes more work on virtue than any other business journal, and more empirical papers in business ethics, so such an analysis is more likely to reflect the practices of a sizable community of researchers. Still, it does not take account of discussions (including empirical work) on virtue in cognate journals such as Business Ethics Quarterly (Beadle and Knight 2012), Public Administration (Morrell and Harrington-Buhay 2012), and Organisation Studies (Nielsen 2006). Also, we do not claim to have comprehensively evaluated uses of virtue ethics in JBE since virtue scholars do not necessarily incorporate virtue in the title (e.g. Koehn 1998; Morrell and Clark 2010; Sison and Fontrodona 2013). Even so, this step is enough to substantiate a general point that in talking about 'virtue'; at the level of our discipline, there may be more scope for theoretical development based on detailed empirical analysis of what virtue means in a particular setting. Our analysis suggests only 8 of these 36 papers use primary data, only 2 analyse secondary data using recognizedly systematic methods. Only one has a longitudinal design, and this is at a very high level of abstraction. It seems that the methods and data we use are not very often socially and temporally complex in the way virtues are.

  3. 3.

    Here we use 'story' and 'narrative' interchangeably, which is not to deny that it can be helpful to differentiate between the two (see Gabriel and Griffiths 2004).

  4. 4.

    We are grateful to an anonymous reviewer on this point.

  5. 5.

    We are grateful to an anonymous reviewer on drawing our attention to this passage.

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Morrell, K., Brammer, S. Governance and Virtue: The Case of Public Order Policing. J Bus Ethics 136, 385–398 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-014-2522-z

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Keywords

  • Aristotle
  • Governance
  • Habit
  • Police
  • Riot
  • Virtue