Modern Western Ethics

Business is a network of processes and transactions existing to create wealth and value (White, 2010). This network is conducted through an interconnected web of individuals, and organizations, guided by leaders and managers who accomplish the organizational goals through other individuals. The business enterprise is embedded in the larger framework of the interconnectedness and interaction of individuals in society and reflects many of the characteristics of that society. Central to interactions within society are positive and/or ideal behavioral norms or ethics. The ethical standards and expectations of society are reflected in the ethical standards and expectation of business enterprises. As a business leader or manager, it is critical …show more content…
All societies have expected and ideal codes of behavior. The roots of modern western ethics derive from ancient civilizations and have existed even before written communication and are clearly evident in the earliest examples of literature taken from oral traditions. For example, the transmission of ethical principles can be found in the epic poetry of the ancient Mesopotamia and ancient Greece, in Gilgamesh and Homer’s Odyssey. In these epic poems, heroes embody the highest ethical principles of their respective societies. These ethical principles mirror many of the basic ethical principles still found in western society today. Ancient Greek philosophers formally articulated ethics and morals. In Plato’s Republic, Book VI, Socrates basis ethics on the idea that greatest good is the transcendent "form of good itself". Essentially, that good for the inherent value of good itself was the ethical path for individuals and society as a whole. Aristotle later argued that leading a virtuous life lead to happiness and success and that this state of virtuous prosperity is the highest achievement of …show more content…
Smith is frequently quoted in an effort to demonstrate the idea that self-interest is the force behind business ethics. His ‘‘invisible hand’’ quote (WN, IV.ii.9) and his assertion that ‘‘it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.’’ (WN, I.ii.2) are quoted many times in relation to theories such as principal-agent theory and transaction cost theory (Gonin, 2014); the reality is Smith’s butcher/brewer/baker is, first and foremost, a citizen who shows interest both in prosperous business and in the welfare of fellow community members (Gonin, 2014). Smith viewed ethics in business as both a function of self-interest and as an outgrowth of concern for society as a whole. As the specifics of what constitutes ethical behavior evolves, leaders must understand the ethical expectations of the time and the society they operate within, and act and lead within that ethical framework.
Central to the application of ethical practices in business is the role of leaders and managers. Senior leaders and key department managers are instrumental in the ethical activities of organizations. An important

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