The Good Worker and the Moral Metabolism of the American Corporation Restricted; Files Only

Messner, David (Summer 2021)

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A crisis in American corporate conduct and character has deepened over the past generation, disconnecting corporate actors from moral goods at the heart of our society as a whole. Changes in the political, regulatory, and social landscape have exacerbated this crisis. But telling and costly examples of corporate moral failure provide evidence of their internal problems, and point toward the need for practical and structural efforts within corporations to transform their character in step with better public policy to change their conduct. This inquiry diagnoses leading symptoms of such moral failure as a disorder of systemic processing of inputs into action. It explores how the public understands the purpose and conduct of corporations. It marshals resources from theological and philosophical ethics as well as sociology and studies of business management to identify core values and methods to transform corporations in practice and to restructure their arrangement. It probes the moral experience and ideals of corporate leaders and managers, maps their moral conflicts, and weighs their strategies to resolve conflict. It recommends best practices for individuals and institutions to shape more participatory corporate decision-making and inspire more virtuous corporate character to help them pursue diverse moral goods in common and work together for a better society.

Table of Contents



INTRODUCTION                                                                                                             1

·        The Motivating Questions

·        Overview of the Dissertation

·        Intended Audiences


Chapter I: A Moral Crisis in Corporate America                                              9

·        An Evident Public Crisis

·        Revisiting the Market’s “Invisible Hand”

·        Seeking the Root Causes of Moral Failure

·        The Reasonableness of “Corporate Morality” and “Worker’s Virtue”

·        Corporate Metabolic Syndrome: A Metaphor for Systematic Business Ethics

·        Contemporary Exemplars of Corporate Moral Crisis

(Volkswagen, Facebook, Purdue Pharma, and Starbucks)

·        A Typology of Corporate Moral Failure

(Blocked Exchanges, Unfair Trade, and Externalities)


CHAPTER II: The Changing Corporate Reality and Imaginary                  64

·        The Importance of Corporations to Society

·        Environmental Changes that Affect the Corporation

·        The Public Imaginary and Expectations of the Corporation

·        Corporate Consciousness from the Top: The CEO Imaginary

·        Corporate Consciousness Throughout: Thinking, Feeling, and Trusting

·        Toward Rehabilitation of the Corporation: Mind, Body, and Soul


CHAPTER III: Marshalling Resources for Transformation                        128

·        Expanding the Resources for Practical Ethics

·        Joining Something Larger: Religious Resources (Individual Faith at Work

and Scriptural Principles of Human Dignity, Interconnectedness, and Wealth)

·        Theological Resources: The Responsible Self in Organizational Life

·        Philosophical Resources: Virtues, Practices, and Communities

·        The Agenda for Exploration, Experimentation, and Formulation



CHAPTER IV: Lived Experience of Moral Systems at Work                        179

·        A Story of Relationships: “Don’t Be a Rat Bastard”

·        Field Research: Purpose and Design

·        Moral Cases and Conflicts Highlighted by Industry

·        Worker Relationships and Shared Knowledge

·        Leading for the Better

·        Connections to Customers and Stakeholders

·        Engaging Deeper Values


CHAPTER V: The Good Worker and the High Moral Metabolism Corporation                                                                                                                     243

·        The Opportunity for Corporate Reformation and Moral Revitalization

·        The Collective Duty of Expectation and Imagination

·        Practical Excellence: A Guide for the Good Worker

·        Best Practices of Virtue Formation and Ethical Conduct by Corporations

·        The Call for Understanding and Imagination


BIBLIOGRAPHY                                                                                                             268

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