Reclaiming the System: Moral Responsibility, Divided Labour, and the Role of Organizations in Society

ISBN : 9780198830405

Lisa Herzog
336 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Oct 2018
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The world of wage labour seems to have become a soulless machine, an engine of social and environmental destruction. Employees seem to be nothing but 'cogs' in this system - but is this true? Located at the intersection of political theory, moral philosophy, and business ethics, this book questions the picture of the world of work as a 'system'. Hierarchical organizations, both in the public and in the private sphere, have specific features of their own. This does not mean, however, that they cannot leave room for moral responsibility, and maybe even human flourishing.

Drawing on detailed empirical case studies, Lisa Herzog analyses the nature of organizations from a normative perspective: their rule-bound character, the ways in which they deal with divided knowledge, and organizational cultures and their relation to morality. The volume examines how individual agency and organizational structures would have to mesh to avoid common moral pitfalls and develops the notion of 'transformational agency', which refers to a critical, creative way of engaging with one's organizational role while remaining committed to basic moral norms. The volume goes on to explore the political and institutional changes that would be required to re-embed organizations into a just society. Whether we submit to 'the system' or try to reclaim it, Herzog argues, is a question of eminent political importance in our globalized world.


1 Introduction: Subjects and Systems
Part I: Moral Responsibility in Challenging Contexts
2 Moral Responsibility, Socially Embedded
3 Moral Norms in Social Contexts
4 Organizations: Hierarchies of Divided Labour
Part II: The Moral Challenges of Organizational Life
5 Rules and Their Discontents
6 The Use of Knowledge in Organizations
7 The Responsibility for An Organizational Culture
8 Self and Role - Transformational Agency in Organizations
Part III: The Role of Organizations in Society
9 Organizations in Society - A 'Non-Ideal' Approach
10 Organizations in Society - How Good Can It Get?

About the author: 

Lisa Herzog is Professor of Political Philosophy and Theory at the Hochschule fur Politik of the Technical University of Munich. She works at the intersection of political philosophy and economic and social issues, focussing on the history of political and economic ideas, normative questions around markets, business ethics, and ethics in organisations. Her publications include Inventing the Market. Smith, Hegel, and Political Theory (OUP, 2013), and Just Financial Markets? Finance in a Just Society (editor, OUP, 2017).

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