Creating an Effective Business Ethics

Is Virtue Ethics up to the Challenge?
  • Arran Gare
  • Cristina Neesham
Living reference work entry
Part of the Handbooks in Philosophy book series (HP)


While business ethics as an academic field of inquiry is flourishing, indicating an appreciation of the importance of ethics to the functioning of business and the economy, the philosophical discipline of ethics that underpins work in this field is in crisis. As Alasdair MacIntyre argued, the dominant moral philosophies that have emerged with modernity have rendered normative ethics fundamentally ineffective in improving human behaviors in society. In response to this failure, building on MacIntyre’s attempt to revive a pre-modern, Renaissance-inspired conception of ethics that focuses on the cultivation of virtues, Robert Solomon sought to found business ethics on the cultivation of virtue and character. This chapter examines the failures and potential of Solomon’s virtue ethics project, in three steps. Firstly, it evaluates the place of business ethics in the culture of modernity. Secondly, it outlines a philosophical understanding of human action that combines elements of symbolic interactionism with Pierre Bourdieu’s notion of habitus. Thirdly, it reinterprets the history of ethics and its modern avatars based on this understanding. Finally, to overcome the modern crisis in business ethics, we propose a revival of Solomon’s virtue ethics project that should challenge the fundamental assumptions of the culture of modernity about human nature and human action, and should actively promote Solomon’s conception of business professionalism as a framing model for the dominant business habitus of our time.


Business ethics Virtue ethics Modernity Theory of action Symbolic interactionism Habitus Homo economicus Business professionalism 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Swinburne University of TechnologyMelbourneAustralia

Section editors and affiliations

  • Cristina Neesham
    • 1
  • Rob Macklin
    • 2
  1. 1.Swinburne University of TechnologyMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.University of TasmaniaHobartAustralia

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