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Unformatted text preview: A Conflict Case Approach to Business Ethics Johannes Brinkmann Knut J. Ims ABSTRACT. Departing from frequent use of moral conflict cases in business ethics teaching and research, the paper suggests an elaboration of a moral conflict approach within business ethics, both conceptually and philo- sophically. The conceptual elaboration borrows from social science conflict research terminology, while the philosophical elaboration presents casuistry as a kind of practical, inductive argumentation with a focus on para- digmatic examples. KEY WORDS: case approach, casuistry, conflict man- agement, ethics teaching, moral conflict Introduction Business ethics as an academic field has two main functions. On the one hand it challenges self-satis- fied business people by inviting moral criticism and self-criticism of business practices. On the other hand, business ethics is potentially helpful when it comes to analyzing, handling and preventing con- flict in business contexts, with a focus on moral aspects (cf. as drafts of such a perspective French and Allbright, 1998, pp. 177–178, with further references, or Brinkmann, 2002b, pp. 161–162). This paper suggests taking a better look at such a potential conflict management function of business ethics. The use of moral conflict cases in business ethics teaching and research Moral conflict cases are the most popular way of teaching business ethics, consisting of more or less complex and authentic conflicts without an easy self- evident solution. Business ethics casebooks are readers of business life, of conflict histories and issues (see e.g. Beauchamp, 1997; Donaldson and Gini, 1995; Harvey et al., 1994; Hoffman et al., 2001; Jennings, 2002). While full-format cases are meant as representatives of real-life conflict complexity, teaching sometimes (and research normally) uses less representative and more focused short versions of conflict cases, often called ‘‘scenarios’’ or ‘‘vignettes’’ (see e.g. Bain, 1994; Brinkmann, 2002a; Chonko, 1995; Peck et al., 1994; Weber, 1992). Such con- flicts or dilemmas, short ones or long ones, real ones or constructed ones are normally designed as a hopeless choice between contradictory responsibili- ties where at least one stakeholder will be hurt. The follow-up question is usually in the format of ‘‘what would you do if you were person X?’’ or ‘‘which conflict party would you side with, and how would you justify your choice?’’ or ‘‘identify and clarify main issues, parties and stakeholders, options and wisest solutions’’. Cases and case teaching market ethics as useful tools for analyzing and handling understandable and interesting moral conflict stories, trigger standpoint Johannes Brinkmann is professor at BI, the Norwegian School of Management in Oslo Several of his articles have appeared in the Journal of Business Ethics, Teaching Business Ethics, Business Ethics: A European Review. He has also published two business ethics books (in Norwegian, 1993 and 2001).two business ethics books (in Norwegian, 1993 and 2001)....
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This note was uploaded on 03/23/2012 for the course ECONOMICS eco 403 taught by Professor Talatafza during the Spring '10 term at Aachen University of Applied Sciences.
- Spring '10