For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Practices, governance, and politics: Applying MacIntyre’s ethics to business"

by Sinnicks, Matthew (2014)


This paper argues that attempts to apply Alasdair MacIntyre’s positive moral theory to business ethics are problematic, due to the cognitive closure of MacIntyre’s concept of a practice. I begin by outlining the notion of a practice, before turning to Moore’s attempt to provide a MacIntyrean account of corporate governance. I argue that Moore’s attempt is mismatched with MacIntyre’s account of moral education. Because the notion of practices resists general application I go on to argue that a negative application, which focuses on regulation, is more plausible. Large-scale regulation, usually thought antithetical to MacIntyre’s advocacy of small-scale politics, has the potential to facilitate practice-based work and reveals that MacIntyre’s own work can be used against his pessimism about the modern order. Furthermore, the conception of regulation I defend can show us how management is more amenable to ethical understanding than MacIntyre’s work is often taken to imply.

Key Passage

For MacIntyre a practice is the first of three stages in his conception of a virtue, the second and third being the narrative unity of a human life and an account of what he calls a moral tradition respectively. So while there is more to virtues than practices, indeed virtues are ultimately grounded in distinctive human needs and capacities so that they contribute to our flourishing qua human beings (MacIntyre 1999, see especially chapter 7), MacIntyre holds that practices provide a basis for the virtues. (p.230)


Alasdair Macintyre, Macintyre, Business Ethics, Moral Theory, Practice, Moore, Governance, Politics


On MacIntyre

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