1. 1. In “The Sociological Imagination”, Mills states that “In so far as an economy is so arranged that slumps occur, the problem of unemployment becomes incapable of personal solution” (Mills 10). What does he mean by this and dhow does his example relate to the significance of the article?

In his article, Mills defines the sociological imagination as the ability to see things socially and understand how the individual affects society as a whole. His examples allow the reader to gain an understanding about the structure of society, and how the individual interacts with his or her surroundings. The example stated about unemployment seems to explain the concept of individuals affecting society as a whole. Years ago layoffs only affected a small amount of people, allowing society to be aware but not actively pursue a solution. With the increasing job loss in times of economic recession, the combined individuals who are no longer considered “working class” have a collective greater effect on society. In essence, the significance of the article is to understand the great paradox: although the individual may not directly affect society, society can directly affect the individual. Instead of adhering to the “personal situation and character of a scatter of individuals”, we now look for a solution to alleviate the plight of the entire society (Mills 10). This demonstrates that key societal behavior can cause the most change in the culture and development of a society.

2.     In “Managing Business Ethics”, divorcing business from ethics results in distrust on each player in a business catastrophe. What is the significance of reputation after a business scandal and how does this relate to the concept of cynicism.

In his “Theory of Moral Sentiment”, Adam Smith indicates that humans are inherently moral beings who strive to “do the right thing because it is the right thing to do”, regardless of praise received from our actions (Trevino & Nelson 3).  Rushworth Kidder extrapolated on this sentiment, and specifies how capitalism itself will only succeed when supplemented by morally just decisions in business. When unethical decisions are made, not only can this result in profit loss, but the reputation of the corporation, the employees, and even the country is affected as well. The article talks in depth about the financial crisis of 2008 and the problems that led to its demise. With the contributions of, and not limited to, individuals (Alan Greenspan), corporations (General Motors and Fannie Mae) and government (President George W. Bush), the United States continues to suffer the consequences of a  poor reputation. It is the businesses, government, and people that hold the reputation of our nation. If an unhealthy amount of cynicism comes into play, we would not only sacrifice our financial security, but our relations with other nations as well.

 3.     Why is there such a dichotomy in the difference in how ethically people predict they’ll act, and what they actually do?

This journal explains that the majority of business failure comes not from a villain in business practices, but by decent people who make ethically questionable decisions in times of stress or pressure. We may not plan to be unethical, but in certain cases the result explains otherwise. The authors of the journal discuss how we hold an optimistic mirage of ourselves, and are inherently good people doing unjust things without knowing at the time. Although our brains works extremely hard to continue seeing ourselves in a positive light, there are a plethora of pressures that lead individuals to do things they wouldn’t normally do (after more reflection). When an ethical lapse does present itself, it is usually under the circumstances of a clear disparity between right and wrong.

http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/08-012.pdf

 

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About Steph P.

Business Government and Society

5 responses »

  1. cjt017 says:

    In regard to question three you mentioned that we “are inherently good people” do you really believe that? I mean we have seen criminals like Madoff, Lehman brothers and corporations like Apple, Nike and many others exploit the plight of individuals in foreign countries. I don’t think this is a problem of sudden pressure causing people to do something wrong but rather inherent greed in people that causes them to want more than they have. This in turn adversely affects other individuals.

    • srp008 says:

      Yes, obviously there are people in our society, namely in business, who do use means of exploitation to achieve success. Although not in every case, I do agree with Adam Smith’s notion that people inherently strive to do the right thing. I was skeptical of the journal I read, but then I considered it from another angle. If I was entirely removed from the situation, and judging someone else engaged in certain behavior, I would see it to be wrong. But if I were in the midst of the situation at hand, I would focus more on the aspects of the problem, not so much what would make it unethical. Essentially, sometimes we tend to view our unethical behavior as morally just, in context.

  2. ajc028 says:

    Your third question actually reminds me of what I wrote about in my blog post, because it deals with how people want to behave versus how they actually behave. I think you raise a good point. That even ethical people can find themselves in unethical situations. It reminds me of the article I read called “Why we lie” which mentions why people put locks on their doors when, in fact, locks would do very little to stop someone who truly wanted to break into your house. In the article, it is mentioned that locks are put on doors not to stop the 1% of the population who would never think to steal, nor the 1% of the population who will always want to steal, but rather to stop the 98% of our population who might be tempted to open your door if there was not lock. We are only human, and everyone faces temptation towards an unethical decision at some point, even if we do not start out thinking that way.

    • srp008 says:

      That locked door example is precisely what I was referring to. I completely agree about the temptation aspect, and sometimes in that situation we may not make the most ethical decision even though we believe we are ethical at heart. Your comment also got me thinking how sometimes we are given decisions to make that prompt us to be unethical. Organizations for instance, set financial goals for their companies to reach. In order to reach these goals (and not face some sort of penalty if we don’t), we are more likely to act unethically. When we set a goal and face some sort of pressure to reach it, there is a strong likelihood we would engage in behavior that we would have previously deemed unethical. I’m not saying we should not set goals, or it is okay to act unethically to achieve success, I’m just inferring that there are explanations to people’s actions that come with goal-setting.

  3. ems033 says:

    I think the points you bring up in question number three were interesting. I agree people tend to look for the best reflection of themselves, even often at times when they shouldn’t. I agree, that, at least, most people are inherently good. I think the idea of a decent person making an ethically questionable choice in a moment of stress or pressure is telling of that person. Perhaps it does not necessitate that that person is ‘bad,’ but simply is not good with pressure. For this reason, however, we should all strive, I think, to better ourselves and better prepare ourselves for those stressful encounters.

    As we are discussing ethics, I think that the role of religion could pay a role here too. At least some religious practices, from what I’ve heard and seen, are meant to ‘train’ one’s moral character in order to prepare them for such situations, so that in the face of adversity and stress, one may still act properly and ethically. Perhaps this is getting lost as our society downplays religion and its roles in society because of what some claim are “irrational” beliefs held by those institutions. Maybe there is more to be learned than the ‘stories’ of God, through the story of God? I’m not religious, so I can say for sure. But perhaps worth considering if anything else in our society has replaced the role of religion in forming our moral compass or whether we will also give that up to the government, for it to influence and decide. Or will Society decide together, as a community, what is ethical and what is not?

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