Wealth, Commerce, and Philosophy: Foundational Thinkers and Business Ethics

University of Chicago Press
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The moral dimensions of how we conduct business affect all of our lives in ways big and small, from the prevention of environmental devastation to the policing of unfair trading practices, from arguments over minimum wage rates to those over how government contracts are handed out. Yet for as deep and complex a field as business ethics is, it has remained relatively isolated from the larger, global history of moral philosophy. This book aims to bridge that gap, reaching deep into the past and traveling the globe to reinvigorate and deepen the basis of business ethics.

Spanning the history of western philosophy as well as looking toward classical Chinese thought and medieval Islamic philosophy, this volume provides business ethicists a unified source of clear, accurate, and compelling accounts of how the ideas of foundational thinkers—from Aristotle to Friedrich Hayek to Amartya Sen—relate to wealth, commerce, and markets. The essays illuminate perspectives that have often been ignored or forgotten, informing discussion in fresh and often unexpected ways. In doing so, the authors not only throw into relief common misunderstandings and misappropriations often endemic to business ethics but also set forth rich moments of contention as well as novel ways of approaching complex ethical problems. Ultimately, this volume provides a bedrock of moral thought that will move business ethics beyond the ever-changing opinions of headline-driven debate.
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About the author

Eugene Heath is professor of philosophy at the State University of New York, New Paltz. He is the author or coeditor of several books, including Morality and the Market and Adam Ferguson. Byron Kaldis is academic dean of the School of Humanities and professor of European philosophy at the Hellenic Open University in Greece. He is the author of several books including Holism, Language, and Persons and editor of the Sage Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Social Sciences.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Jun 2, 2017
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Pages
464
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ISBN
9780226443997
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Business Ethics
Business & Economics / Economics / Theory
Philosophy / Ethics & Moral Philosophy
Philosophy / General
Philosophy / Social
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Finding a job used to be simple. You’d show up at an office and ask for an application. A friend would mention a job in their department. Or you’d see an ad in a newspaper and send in your cover letter. Maybe you’d call the company a week later to check in, but the basic approach was easy. And once you got a job, you would stay—often for decades.

Now . . . well, it’s complicated. If you want to have a shot at a good job, you need to have a robust profile on LinkdIn. And an enticing personal brand. Or something like that—contemporary how-to books tend to offer contradictory advice. But they agree on one thing: in today’s economy, you can’t just be an employee looking to get hired—you have to market yourself as a business, one that can help another business achieve its goals.

That’s a radical transformation in how we think about work and employment, says Ilana Gershon. And with Down and Out in the New Economy, she digs deep into that change and what it means, not just for job seekers, but for businesses and our very culture. In telling her story, Gershon covers all parts of the employment spectrum: she interviews hiring managers about how they assess candidates; attends personal branding seminars; talks with managers at companies around the United States to suss out regional differences—like how Silicon Valley firms look askance at the lengthier employment tenures of applicants from the Midwest. And she finds that not everything has changed: though the technological trappings may be glitzier, in a lot of cases, who you know remains more important than what you know.

Throughout, Gershon keeps her eye on bigger questions, interested not in what lessons job-seekers can take—though there are plenty of those here—but on what it means to consider yourself a business. What does that blurring of personal and vocational lives do to our sense of our selves, the economy, our communities? Though it’s often dressed up in the language of liberation, is this approach actually disempowering workers at the expense of corporations?

Rich in the voices of people deeply involved with all parts of the employment process, Down and Out in the New Economy offers a snapshot of the quest for work today—and a pointed analysis of its larger meaning.

The big economic story of our times is not the Great Recession. It is how China and India began to embrace neoliberal ideas of economics and attributed a sense of dignity and liberty to the bourgeoisie they had denied for so long. The result was an explosion in economic growth and proof that economic change depends less on foreign trade, investment, or material causes, and a whole lot more on ideas and what people believe.

Or so says Deirdre N. McCloskey in Bourgeois Dignity, a fiercely contrarian history that wages a similar argument about economics in the West. Here she turns her attention to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe to reconsider the birth of the industrial revolution and the rise of capitalism. According to McCloskey, our modern world was not the product of new markets and innovations, but rather the result of shifting opinions about them. During this time, talk of private property, commerce, and even the bourgeoisie itself radically altered, becoming far more approving and flying in the face of prejudices several millennia old. The wealth of nations, then, didn’t grow so dramatically because of economic factors: it grew because rhetoric about markets and free enterprise finally became enthusiastic and encouraging of their inherent dignity.

An utterly fascinating sequel to her critically acclaimed book The Bourgeois Virtues, Bourgeois Dignity is a feast of intellectual riches from one of our most spirited and ambitious historians—a work that will forever change our understanding of how the power of persuasion shapes our economic lives.
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