Ethics For Professionals in a Multicultural World

By David E. Cooper,

2004, Pearson Education Inc.

ISBN 0-13 183093-7

This is a manual for professionals and students who worry about the trend in the business world that confuses profitability with ethical success. Cooper shows us the logic hidden behind our moral constructs, and how these, because they are frequently the result of "story-telling" and hand-me-down theory, can help us resolve our ethical, moral and other dilemmas in a cross-cultural conundrum.

Using the works of Hannah Arendt, Adam Smith and Jurgen Habermas, to support what is ultimately a very technical case, Cooperís entire work is an academically daunting construct, cemented together by a drawings, and historical, legal and military anecdotes. For example, Cooper argues that contracts theory in law --which holds that contracts are between two autonomous individuals, whereby the public is excluded from judging the result Ė is fundamentally flawed. To illustrate, he gives this example: A son asks his father about business ethics. The father gives the example of an elderly woman who overpays for her milk and bread by $100. The son, replies: "Oh, so itís about doing the right thing ?" Yes, the father explains further, itís about whether you ought to tell your business partner about the sudden profit in the store. Thus, while profit is a good thing, Cooper argues, itís not the only value, and yet goodness seems inherent in us, since the boy came up with the right answer the first time.

The book is logically and academically impeccable (each of the ten chapters has at least two pages of broad-ranging bibliographies, and the index and glossary are both exhaustive). Moreover, this work of modern philosophy appears unshakeable in its credentials (Habermas, we learn, is still very much à la mode). But, in the end, it is also sadly sterile and lends no support to its title: a "multicultural world" which concept does not once re-appear in the work. Rather, Cooper examines such historical deviations from morality as the "My Lai" massacre in the Vietnam war -- where over 600 children, women and old men were shot by U.S. troops-- without so much as an example of Vietnamese sources, interpretations of justice or historical perspective.

For example, Cooper asks: "But, in pluralistic societies, disputes between majorities and minorities and between governmental power and private preferences will in fact complicate the relationship between the formal assumptions in the law and the reality of the lives of citizens. So, given that there is a need for consistency required by equal treatment according to general laws, how can we also promote the kind of fairness needed to respect each personís unique historical circumstance?
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