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Ethics and OR: Operationalising discourse ethics


  • Mingers, John


Operational researchers help managers decide what they ought to do and yet this is generally evaluated in terms of efficiency or effectiveness, not ethicality. However, the combination of the tremendous power of global corporations and the financial markets, and the problems the world faces in terms of economic and environmental sustainability, has led to a revival of interest in ethical approaches. This paper explores a relatively recent and innovative process called discourse ethics. This is very different from traditional ethical systems in taking ethical decisions away from individuals or committees and putting them in the hands of the actual people who are involved and affected through processes of debate and deliberation. The paper demonstrates that discourse ethics has strong connections to OR, especially in the areas of soft and critical systems, and that OR can actually contribute to the practical operationalisation of discourse ethics. At the same time, discourse ethics can provide a rigorous discursive framework for "ethics beyond the model".

Suggested Citation

  • Mingers, John, 2011. "Ethics and OR: Operationalising discourse ethics," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 210(1), pages 114-124, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ejores:v:210:y:2011:i:1:p:114-124

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    10. Kunsch, P. L. & Springael, J. & Brans, J. -P., 2004. "The zero-emission certificates: A novel CO2-pollution reduction instrument applied to the electricity market," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 153(2), pages 386-399, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Meinard, Y. & Cailloux, O., 2020. "On justifying the norms underlying decision support," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 285(3), pages 1002-1010.
    2. Diekmann, Sven, 2013. "Moral mid-level principles in modeling," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 226(1), pages 132-138.
    3. Ormerod, Richard J. & Ulrich, Werner, 2013. "Operational research and ethics: A literature review," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 228(2), pages 291-307.
    4. Mark Edwards & Nin Kirkham, 2014. "Situating ‘Giving Voice to Values’: A Metatheoretical Evaluation of a New Approach to Business Ethics," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 121(3), pages 477-495, May.
    5. Tavella, Elena & Pedersen, Søren Marcus & Gylling, Morten, 2012. "Adopting a Farming Systems Research Approach to carry out an economic and environmental analysis of food supply chains," International Journal of Agricultural Management, Institute of Agricultural Management, vol. 1(4), pages 1-13, July.
    6. Mingers, John, 2015. "Helping business schools engage with real problems: The contribution of critical realism and systems thinking," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 242(1), pages 316-331.
    7. Johnson, Michael P. & Midgley, Gerald & Chichirau, George, 2018. "Emerging trends and new frontiers in community operational research," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 268(3), pages 1178-1191.
    8. Wang, Wei & Liu, Wenbin & Mingers, John, 2015. "A systemic method for organisational stakeholder identification and analysis using Soft Systems Methodology (SSM)," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 246(2), pages 562-574.
    9. Paul Edwards, 2015. "Critical social science and emancipation: II, development and application," Industrial Relations Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 46(4), pages 275-292, July.
    10. Tavella, Elena & Hjortso, Carsten Nico, 2012. "Enhancing the Design and Management of a Local Organic Food Supply Chain with Soft Systems Methodology," International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, International Food and Agribusiness Management Association, vol. 15(2), pages 1-22, May.


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