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Friday 14 December 2018, 2:00pm to 5:00pm
This research workshop features two papers presented by Hugo Letiche, Geoff Lightfoot and Simon Lilley from Leicester University and Dean Pierides, University of Stirling.
Paper 1: Hugo Letiche, Geoff Lightfoot and Simon Lilley (Leicester University)
Paper 1: Rethinking the Ontology of the Corporation, Rethinking Ethics
The discipline of Business Ethics is replete with discussion over how and when corporations can and should act ‘ethically’. The ‘should the corporation act ethically’ version of the argument plays out around endorsement of and challenge to Milton Friedman’s seminal contributions (most succinctly made in The New York Times, 1970). The ‘can the corporation be ethical’ version of this argument has most visibly proceeded around those who support and challenge the seminal contribution of Peter French (1979). We contend that both sides of both versions of the argument suffer from appearing to take for granted the ontology of the corporation, with the argument then turning around how the object simply posited can or should exercise ethical responsibility. We argue in this paper that this ontological assumption is at best naïve and partial; at worst, simply wrong. We thus wish to rethink the ontology of the corporation more productively and we do so via a reading of Graham Harman’s object oriented ontology, an example of what has come to be known as speculative realism. Harman’s radical appropriation of insights from Heidegger lead him to consider all causation to be necessarily vicarious for he sees it as taking place between objects that are themselves forever in partial retreat and thus never completely knowable or apprehendable by us or other objects. What does take place between Harmanian object is a relatedness enabled by partial representatives of those objects in retreat. This is thus not a relativist argument but rather a call for modesty and a disavowal of our traditional hubris, leading not to a rule bound version of ethics but a radically processual awareness of ethics as always and forever relational.
Paper 2: Dean Pierides (University of Stirling)
Paper 2: No Alarms and No Surprises? From an Object-oriented Analysis of Emergency Management to the Management of Knightian Uncertainty
Recent events and transformations in Anglo-American organisations and institutions have led to managerial decision-making settings that are increasingly characterised as uncertain. In this presentation, I will share some preliminary ideas about whether, and if so how, an object-oriented approach can contribute to what managers might do with objects under these conditions. Drawing on my previous research in the area of emergency management, I will first explain how objects can cause or mediate surprises, then, building on this analytic approach I will consider how managers might handle this generative capacity that all objects have. The key challenge is clearly stated in the work of economist Frank Knight who argued that managers making decisions under these conditions, by definition, do not have any knowledge of ends or potential outcomes. Problems of this kind are about to be “brought back in” to organisation and management theory, a move that is bound to disrupt commonly held theoretical assumptions across a range of research traditions. The object-oriented approach described here is well-placed to make a unique contribution to forthcoming discussions about Knightian uncertainty.
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