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Dr. George Bragues' published work is one for the books

Corporations have to be not only worried about the bottom line, but they also now have to be concerned with how they are viewed socially.

George Bragues


University of Guelph-Humber Assistant Vice-Provost Dr. George Bragues has published a chapter in the “The Routledge Companion to Business Ethics.

 The essay, “Theorists and Philosophers on Business Ethics” is a summary of how business has been viewed throughout the history of western philosophy since the ancient Greeks and how the different currents of thought continue to be expressed even today in contemporary business ethics debates.

The reference book, edited by Eugene Heath, Byron Kaldis and Alexei Marcoux, is sectioned into eight thematic units: business ethics, explorations of practical management issues, feminist perspectives and more.

Dr. Bragues says his interest in business ethics, a specialized field within philosophy, emerged out of his undergraduate and graduate studies during which he explored the connections between commerce and morality. Today, there are journals and courses devoted to the topic.

“People have come to recognize business is not somehow outside of moral judgment and does not operate in a special realm of its own,” said Dr. Bragues. “Commerce these days is no longer only about profit and loss. Corporations have to be not only worried about the bottom line, but they also now have to be concerned with how they are viewed socially.”

The emergence of social media allows customers and stakeholders nowadays to communicate with each other easily. This means companies have to be wary of the ethical implications of their actions especially since they are under constant public scrutiny, he explained.

“Writing the chapter was synoptic and took me a couple of weeks,” Dr. Bragues said. “I’m quite proud of this one, as Routledge is a prestigious academic publisher and I am included with some heavy-hitters in the field.”

In his essay, Dr. Bragues argues there are four distinctive transformative stages that occurred during the course of history and defined the way noted philosophers perceived the activity of a business.

Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Aristotle and Plato viewed business as a suspicious and contemptible activity. Their views establish the first phase.

During the 18th century, there was a noticeable shift in the attitude. “Pro-business” thinkers such as John Locke, Adam Smith, and David Hume believed the trade was advantageous to the common good, provided there was a strong justice system to regulate its working. These philosophers defined the second stage.

The philosophies of Karl Marx and Jean-Jacques Rousseau influenced the third stage of transformation, as outlined in Dr. Bragues’ work in the Companion. Marx and Rousseau thought business was beyond redemption.

The present scenario constitutes the fourth phase. Businesses appear to enjoy acceptance of the masses as long as the activity fulfills moral criteria. Unlike the previous stages, the current scenario is not defined by any one or two towering thinkers. In fact, there are no overarching philosophical figures driving the thought process now”, Dr. Bragues explains.

“We’re now witnessing a situation where business and philosophy are able to work together,” Dr. Bragues said. “That union may not be ideal or perfect as there’s always a thought about whether a business is going to be enslaved by the dictates of philosophy or vice versa. In this stage, both of them get their say and allow each other to coexist.”

“The Routledge Companion to Business Ethics” a reference guide, can be accessed at the University of Guelph-Humber’s library.