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Ethical decision making: eight perspectives on workplace dilemmas

Research output: Book/Report/ProceedingsCommissioned report

Published
Publication date08/2015
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherCIPD Publishing
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Work is fundamental to all our lives. It’s a central arena in which we understand and shape our lives and ourselves. We inhabitants of modern state-capitalist societies spend far more of our lives at work than, for example, hunting and gathering peoples, and our work is also distinctive in kind: most of us work as employees in bureaucratic organisations which divide labour into distinct specialisms, and especially into head (supervisory, planning) and hand (order-
following, menial) work. The historically peculiar volume and nature of modern work makes it a pressing ethical problem for us. Contemporary moral and political philosophy has had surprisingly little to say directly about work. But work vividly raises questions which are central to philosophical ethics: about the justice of institutional processes and structures, about giving people what they deserve, about choosing and following rules, about collective decision-making and self-command, about living well, about rights, about what kind of person each of us should aspire to be, and about how individuals relate to our larger contexts in the world and over time. We can therefore bring philosophical approaches to those questions to bear on the subject of work. The guiding question of this review is: what ways of thinking about work does philosophical ethics offer? This question is distinct from a question we won’t address: why should I do what ethics requires? The review describes ways people can and do think, but doesn’t attempt to show that it makes sense to think in these ways, or to decide between or criticise different ways of thinking.