For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"MacIntyre and Business Ethics"

by Beabout, Gregory R (2020)

Key Passage

To a significant extent, MacIntyre’s criticisms of the Weberian manager are written in a tone that challenges, sometimes in a mode that is strident or even shrill: “Wake up!” MacIntyre aims to awaken his reader to the degree to which the manager’s life requires pretense and duplicity while undermining the ability to join with others in a quest for worthwhile goals.  “The manager treats ends as given, as outside his scope; his concern is with technique, with effectiveness in transforming raw materials into final products, unskilled labor into skilled labor, investment into profits.” In other words, the manager operates as if there is a sharp distinction between facts and values. Questions of purpose are considered to be non-factual values. The manager purports to restrict his or her activity “to the realms in which rational agreement is possible—that is, of course from their point of view to the realm of fact, the realm of means, the realm of measurable effectiveness.” The manager claims a refusal to engage in moral debate. Unconcerned with questions of deep purpose, the manager’s task, then, is to marshal the resources of an organization to accomplish a given end. To achieve this, the manager acts under a guise, pretending there are worthwhile reasons for pursuing specific given ends, but this appeal to reasons that are “good” is a value claim that directly contradicts the manager’s value-neutrality. Unable to provide reasons for any given ends, managers are left with the problem of cajoling those they lead and manipulating them to accomplish a given end through the lure of external goods, thereby cultivating in oneself and in others habits of consumptive acquisitiveness. So, despite the pretense of moral neutrality, the bureaucratic manager actually is a manipulator. Further, the manager claims to have technical expertise in the organization of large-scale social projects, though this claim-to-expertise is a façade. MacIntyre argues that there is no such knowledge, and hence the claim to such expertise is a sham. The manager, according to MacIntyre, is an embodiment of the emotivist self, “able to stand back from any and every situation in which one is involved, from any and every characteristic that one may possess, and to pass judgment from a purely universal and abstract point of view that is totally detached from all social particularity.” In this mode, MacIntyre seems to present a choice: either participate in the social order of advanced capitalism (and thus live in a manner that is deceptive and empty) or choose to practice the virtues (and thus live in a manner that is subversive). (p.217)


Macintyre, Business Ethics. Weber, Management, Weberian Manager


On MacIntyre

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