Applying Care Ethics to Business ( Hamington & Sander-Staudt, ed. 2011) is a multidisciplinary collection of original essays that explores the intersection between the burgeoning field of care ethics and business. It is the first book-length analysis of business and economic cases and theories from the perspective of care theory.
Assuming that care ethics is a comparatively young moral framework with many components yet to be discovered and worked out, the authors of this book agree that care ethics yields new insights into ethical business and offers a unique opportunity to rethink corporate responsibility and business ethics. Several essays explore how caring skills, virtues and ways of knowing may be employed in business context to enhance economic relations, while others explore questions of economic distribution, and contest traditional assumptions underlying contemporary business theories and practices.
However, applying care ethics to business is not without problems. Care ethics provides a novel approach to business relations, but its idealism and demandingness may lead to be skeptical of its appropriateness as a business ethic. As a more ‘feminine’ value, care seems out of place in the ‘masculine’ world of business. Accordingly, achieving care in business sounds good, but realistically may be overly naive and idealistic in the context of business relations, construed as they are as inherently aggressive, self-promotional, brutal, and profit driven. Nevertheless, the authors believe that care is not entirely incompatible with the goal of profit. Care ethics opens the possibilities for various economic systems to be rendered more compatible with the goals of care without slipping into naivety or utopian pursuits.
The authors of this book express their belief that, because business is ultimately relational, an ethics of care provides an innovative and needed moral framework for guiding business. Far from being an inappropriate ethic when applied to business, an ethic of care is shown to recommend styles of comportment, principles for decision making, and attention to practical dynamics that are much needed in an age of expanding, and often impersonal, economic dealings. In the age of global business, interdependencies become more visible, and the intersections between economic trade and care relations become pronounced. The world of business possesses unique responsibilities, and offers much potential for achieving just and compassionate care relations in the broadest sense.
Searching for synergies between ethics of care and business is in no ways obvious. They appear as two opposing, irreconcilable frameworks and logics. The essay ‘ care and loyalty in the workplace’ , written by Oxley and Wittkower, in which the significantly related concepts of wether one can be loyal to a corporation and how a corporation can be said to ‘deserve’ loyality is explored, is arguable. Understanding loyalty in business as a kind of care, and as an analog to relationships of friends and family, is a bridge to far and should be further explored.
Bernadette Van den Heuvel, Staffmember elderly care Zorgnet Vlaanderen Belgium