Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the current gap between the subjects of business ethics and pre‐1960 management theory. Design/methodology/approach – In an attempt to achieve the objective of the paper, the business ethics content of three leading management theorists during the first half of the 1900s is examined: Frederick Taylor; Chester Barnard; and Peter Drucker. Findings – The paper concludes that there are significant business ethics content as well as ethical implications in the writings of each of the three management theorists. Research limitations/implications – The analysis focused on only three, albeit significant, management theorists. A more complete discussion would have included other important management theorists as well. Practical implications – The analysis suggests that management theory should not be taught without discussing both the business ethics implications and the business ethics content inherent in the theory. In addition, failure on the part of business ethics academics to understand early management theory, the ethical ramifications of such theory, and the business ethics issues explicitly discussed by leading management theorists, may lead to teaching and research in a subject without a proper theoretical foundation. Originality/value – The paper attempts to address a gap in management literature by demonstrating some of the linkages between business ethics and business management thought, and thereby be of value to management theorists as well as business ethicists in their teaching and research efforts.
Journal of Management History – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jan 16, 2007
Keywords: Business ethics; Management theory