Plato’s programme for establishing his ideal state involved propagating two foundation myths for it, described by Socrates as a “noble lie”, which were designed to persuade its citizens to embrace the classes of society to which they had been assigned, and their roles within them, contentedly and in harmony with their fellow citizens. Because most citizens were judged incapable of understanding the truth about the most important matters, the rulers of the ideal state were authorised to tell them whatever stories, true or false, would induce them to behave well. Advocates of the management of corporate culture similarly emphasise the potency of story-telling and myth-making in inducing employees to adopt the beliefs, values and assumptions that corporate leaders consider desirable for both corporate performance and employee wellbeing. There are similarities between Plato’s programme for his ideal state and the programmes recommended by advocates of the management of corporate culture. There are also similarities between them in the ethical questions that they raise. Do corporate leaders have the moral authority to shape people’s beliefs, values and assumptions in the ways that these programmes entail? Are the outcomes to which those programmes lead really beneficial for all those who are affected by them? Even assuming that those outcomes are beneficial, how likely are the strategies proposed for realising them to be successful? Literature that explores these ethical issues is sparse, and this paper argues that it is doubtful whether any of these questions can be answered decidedly in the affirmative.
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Shaw, D. Plato’s “Noble Lie” and the Management of Corporate Culture. Philosophy of Management (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40926-021-00168-y
- Corporate culture
- “Noble lie”