Sub-theme 29: Ethico-Politics and Organization [merged with sub-theme 50]

Carl Rhodes
Macquarie University, Australia
Pasi Ahonen
University of Essex, UK
Mrinalini Greedharry
Laurentian University, Canada

Call for Papers

This sub-theme seeks to synthesise and extend existing research on ethics in organizations by explicitly focussing on 'ethico-politics' as that arena where ethics reflexively informs political action in and against organizations. The term ethico-politics is employed to redress the conventional separation of ethics and politics in organizational theory.

We seek papers that consider the ways that both ethics and politics can be conceived and connected, and the different domains to which those conceptions have been researched. In terms of ethics this might include various ethical traditions, as well as the discursive deployment of ethical terminology in organizational settings. In relation to politics it could range from large scale political structures and processes as they relate, for example to geo-politics, party politics and activism, through to micro-political behaviour such as that manifesting in shifting subjectivities in organizations themselves. The sub-theme seeks to unite these many possibilities with a focus on how ethics are and can be reflexively drawn on to inform and justify the exercise of power in relation to organizations.

Ethico-politics can arise from a variety of ethical positions and manifest in many different political actions. In one sense an organization's rights to exercise power in accordance with the values and desires of a managerial elite can be evoked as a justification for responsible organizational action across all aspects of organizational functioning. Such justification has been formulated in terms of the development and enforcement of an 'ethics of organization' or 'organizational ethics' that attends to how ethics can translate into action in the complex institutional contexts in which members of organizations find themselves. Less formally ethico-politics is also at play in all dimensions of business activity in that such activity can be claimed as being ethically informed or justified.

Ethico-politics can also be practiced through forms of resistance that oppose and/or destabilize normalized organizational actions and arrangement. As much as an ethics of organization might promise a means by which managers can effectively manage ethics, studies of ethico-politics in organizations can also productively focus on the ways such forms of management might actually inhibit ethical behaviour through processes of cultural normalization or ethical docility. Such an approach suggests a mistrust of organizational ethics understood as being beholden to a legislative, authoritative, or instrumental impetus that might limit or prevent ethically informed behaviour.

A focus on ethico-politics, while not always named as such, is central to the possibility not just of evaluating the moral righteousness of organizations, but also of questioning the legitimacy of organizational action at all levels and contesting taken for granted organizational power inequalities. This is a context where the ethical impetus leads to concrete political action. We thus invite papers that explore this connection as it relates to organizational action, management practice, business functioning and different forms of resistance and opposition to organizations.


Carl Rhodes is Professor of Management and Organization Studies at Macquarie University, Australia. His research focuses on critically interrogating the narration and representation of organizational experience in practice and popular culture, with a particular concern with the possibilities for organizational ethics and responsibility.
Pasi Ahonen is Lecturer in Management at Essex Business School, University of Essex, UK. His research interests include history, memory and organizations and diversity and its management.
Mrinalini Greedharry is Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Laurentian University, Canada. Her research interests include postcolonial theory and the history of literary pedagogy.