1. What is the main difference between ‘Troubles’ and ‘Issues’ as seen in the context of Mills’ work, and how can the Sociological Imagination be used to merge these two distinct thoughts?


The breadth of a problem, along with the perception people have towards it, is the main difference between ‘troubles’ and ‘issues’ in the context of The Sociological Imagination. ‘Troubles’ effect the individual, or a small collection of individuals, while ‘issues’ deal with society as a whole. The method with which these problems are dealt with also reflects this, as ‘troubles’ call on the individual to create a solution, while ‘issues’ require a larger audience to deal with the matter. The dilemma with creating these two separate problem solving entities, however, is that the ‘troubles’ of individuals often coincide with the ‘issues’ of his or her society. In an attempt to merge these two separate ways of thinking about a problem, Mills proposed the Sociological Imagination, a method that allows the individual to locate himself in the greater societal issue at hand, offering a new perspective on their individual trouble. Mills states that in order to begin building a Sociological Imagination a person must look at their individual troubles through the lens of the structure of their society, their society’s place in human history, and types of people currently prevailing within that society. By asking these questions they can broaden their way of looking at a problem, and create a larger scope of solutions both on an individual level and on a greater scale.


2. What reasons do Trevino and Nelson give to support their claim that business ethics is more than a fad? 


In Managing Business Ethics, Trevino and Nelson discuss the rising trend in ethics, and how it is much more than a short-term fad in the business community. They state that their main reason for believing in business ethics is that it is necessary for business to thrive and grow. That without ethics in the workplace, the market would eventually collapse. They begin this train of thought by discussing Adam Smith’s first book, The Theory of Moral Sentiment, in which he rests all of his assumptions about capitalism on the basic principle that humans are empathetic and, in general, desire human love and companionship. That capitalism cannot exist properly without this underlying assumption. Certainly, this statement appears to be true, as Trevino and Nelson’s examples of unethical behaviour in the workplace almost always resulted in stalls in the market. Their first example is Enron, where the unethical behaviour of both the company’s executives and employees and outside bankers and auditors, led to a barrier for the financial industry. The same unethical behaviour, they said, led to the most recent Great Recession, because lenders gave out loans larger then borrowers could pay back. If ethical business practices were in play during this time, people would have been able to pay back their loans, and the economy would have continued to grow. This interconnection between ethical behaviour and a healthy marketplace is the primary reason why ethics is more than a business fad, and will continue to percolate classrooms and boardrooms alike.


3. If ethics are a social norm and necessary for a thriving marketplace, why are courses, rules, and regulations necessary?


The answer for this lies in the fact that ethics are in an almost entirely gray zone. Yes, there are certain things that are completely wrong and completely right, but for the most part, ethics are based on the individual and made in the moment of decision. This creates the need for ethics to be taught through courses, rules, and regulations for two main reasons. First, while individuals each have their own moral code, a base of rules needs to be established for a business to function. In an article entitled “Corporate Ethics: Right Makes Might,” it was stated that in a survey about ethics conducted in 2000, 43% of people said they felt they did not have a strong ethical influence from their boss. This is caused by conflicting ethical codes. The variation in ethical codes can lead to confusion, and can cause people to get pressured into performing tasks they might not feel comfortable doing. For this reason, it is necessary to set up and establish a base set of rules for business ethics. The second reason it is necessary is to eliminate the temptation of unethical behaviour. Humans, by their very nature, are programmed to test the limits of the gray zone, but in doing so, can potentially cause harm to other people. Rules and regulations in business serve the same purpose as someone putting a lock on their door. In the Wall Street Journal, three types of people are described. It is said that there is one percent of the population that will never try and open a door and steal something, one percent who will always try, and 98 percent who might be tempted if there was no lock on the door. A lock will not keep out the one percent of the population who truly want to steal. The purpose of a lock on a door is to keep honest people honest, just as rules and regulations keep ethical businessmen ethical.



2 responses »

  1. srp008 says:

    To address your third question, I found it interesting that you asked why we need this “code of ethics”. I want to take it a step further and speculate that another reason we need a rule book of sorts, is to address the changing nature of humans. Morality a few hundred years back was a completely different definition to what it is now. Traditional morality (say Ten Commandments era) seemed to be either “good” or “bad”. However, modern society regularly confronts situations in which the original binary cannot suffice. Additionally, the credible views of both “good” and “bad” have been sufficiently challenged, notably by the shifts in society prompted by digital media. It almost seems as if we need to push the boundaries of morality, and update our code-book that will be adequate for our time.

  2. ems033 says:

    In your second response you stated that “the same unethical behavior, [as enron] they said, led to the most recent Great Recession…” I think this is among the most interesting ethical questions there is– I hope we touch on this at some point in class –because I feel like the question we never ask was whether it is unethical to accept something you don’t have the ability to pay for. One could suggest, quite easily, that the Great Recession was caused by a large group of people who took on debts they could not pay and entered into agreements they did not understand. When I walk into a Bank, I know that they are their to make money – not to teach me. With all the available resources on the internet and through the government, one might consider the possibility that these people should have done some research before signing their name to such deeds and deals.

    But I agree with the next part, had people “been able to pay back their loans … the economy would have continued to grow.” And lastly, I’d like to suggest, that if we are going to avoid placing the responsibility on those who lived beyond their means, then I suggest we look at the government’s housing programs and the fed’s extremely low interest rates before we look at the Banks. Had the interest rates not been so low, and money not been so cheap, perhaps they wouldn’t have had the same incentive to sell those “bad loans” to people who would take them, even though they couldn’t pay them.

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