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The Conflict of Ethos and Ethics: A Sociological Theory of Business People’s Ethical Values

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  • Lydia Segal

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  • Mark Lehrer

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    Abstract

    This article develops a sociological theory of ambivalence to explain several puzzling and contradictory ethical attitudes of business people: (1) a simultaneous disposition to comparatively more self-interested and more charitable behavior than many other occupational groups and (2) a moderate level of receptiveness to inculcation of moral principles through social channels such as higher education. We test the theory by comparing the way that business students rate the ethical acceptability of various ethically challenging scenarios with the way that criminal justice students rate these same scenarios. We also explore the malleability of ethical views by measuring differences between the responses of sophomores and seniors. The data generally support hypotheses based on a theory of ambivalence. At the same time, however, we also report on findings that suggest alternative explanations to ambivalence. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2013

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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s10551-012-1359-6
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Business Ethics.

    Volume (Year): 114 (2013)
    Issue (Month): 3 (May)
    Pages: 513-528

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    Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:114:y:2013:i:3:p:513-528

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    Web page: http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=100281

    Related research

    Keywords: Sociological ambivalence; Corporate charity; Ethical values; Malleability;

    References

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    1. Jaepil Choi & Heli Wang, 2007. "The Promise of a Managerial Values Approach to Corporate Philanthropy," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 75(4), pages 345-359, November.
    2. Claus Frederiksen, 2010. "The Relation Between Policies Concerning Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Philosophical Moral Theories – An Empirical Investigation," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 93(3), pages 357-371, May.
    3. Kaikati, Jack G., 1977. "The phenomenon of international bribery," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 25-37, February.
    4. David Fritzsche & E. Oz, 2007. "Personal Values’ Influence on the Ethical Dimension of Decision Making," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 75(4), pages 335-343, November.
    5. Robert H. Frank & Thomas Gilovich & Dennis T. Regan, 1993. "Does Studying Economics Inhibit Cooperation?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(2), pages 159-171, Spring.
    6. David Jones, 2009. "A Novel Approach to Business Ethics Training: Improving Moral Reasoning in Just a Few Weeks," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 88(2), pages 367-379, August.
    7. Eddy Ng & Ronald Burke, 2010. "Predictor of Business Students’ Attitudes Toward Sustainable Business Practices," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 95(4), pages 603-615, September.
    8. Burroughs, James E & Rindfleisch, Aric, 2002. " Materialism and Well-Being: A Conflicting Values Perspective," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(3), pages 348-70, December.
    9. Ailian Gan, 2006. "The Impact of Public Scrutiny on Corporate Philanthropy," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 69(3), pages 217-236, December.
    10. Ponemon, Lawrence A., 1992. "Ethical reasoning and selection-socialization in accounting," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 17(3-4), pages 239-258.
    11. William E. Shafer & Richard S. Simmons, 2008. "Social responsibility, Machiavellianism and tax avoidance: A study of Hong Kong tax professionals," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 21(5), pages 695-720, July.
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