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Leaving the Road to Abilene: A Pragmatic Approach to Addressing the Normative Paradox of Responsible Management Education

Dirk C. Moosmayer (), Sandra Waddock (), Long Wang (), Matthias P. Hühn (), Claus Dierksmeier () and Christopher Gohl ()
Additional contact information
Dirk C. Moosmayer: Nottingham University Business School China
Sandra Waddock: Boston College
Long Wang: City University of Hong Kong
Matthias P. Hühn: University of Navarra
Claus Dierksmeier: Institute for Political Science
Christopher Gohl: Global Ethic Institute at the University of Tübingen

Journal of Business Ethics, 2019, vol. 157, issue 4, 913-932

Abstract: Abstract We identify a normative paradox of responsible management education. Business educators aim to promote social values and develop ethical habits and socially responsible mindsets through education, but they attempt to do so with theories that have normative underpinnings and create actual normative effects that counteract their intentions. We identify a limited conceptualization of freedom in economic theorizing as a cause of the paradox. Economic theory emphasizes individual freedom and understands this as the freedom to choose from available options (a view that can be characterized as quantitative, negative freedom). However, conceptualizing individuals as profit-maximizing actors neglects their freedom to reflect on the purposes and goals of their actions (a qualitative, potential view of freedom). We build on the work of pragmatist philosopher John Dewey, who distinguishes between habitualized and creative problem-solving behaviors (theory of action), conceptualizes knowledge construction as a process of interdependent scientific social inquiry (epistemology), and understands actors as having the freedom to determine what kind of people they wish to be (ethics). We apply pragmatist theory to business education and suggest equipping students with a plurality of theories, supplementing neoclassical economics with other economic perspectives (e.g., Post-Keynesian, Marxist, ecological, evolutionary, and feminist economics) and views from other disciplines (e.g., sociology, psychology, and political science) on economic behavior. Moreover, we suggest putting students into learning situations that require practical problem solution through interdependent social inquiry (e.g., using cases and real-world business projects), encouraging ethical reflection. In doing so, we contribute by linking the problematic conceptions of freedom identified in economic theorizing to the debate on responsible management education. We conceptualize a pragmatist approach to management education that explicitly re-integrates the freedom to discursively reflect on the individual and societal purpose of business activity and thereby makes existing tools and pedagogies useful for bringing potential freedom back into business.

Keywords: Values; Self-interest; Freedom; Pragmatism; Dewey; Learning; PRME; Business education (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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