Integrating Ethics, Social Responsibility and Governance: A Green Economics Perspective: Towards Ethics, Philosophy & Culture for the 21st and 22nd Centuries (Paperback)Tore Audun Hoie (author), Miriam Kennet (author), Professor Michael Benfield (author), Tore Hedin (editor), Michelle S. Gale D'Oliveira (editor)
Paperback 420 Pages / Published: 04/11/2013
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All over the world people are searching for answers and explaination of their place in the world in the 21st century. This book is an attempt to raise some of the issues and to provide some solutions or pointers as to where those solutions might lie. One of the Editors, Miriam Kennet having just returned from visiting Athens, is currently involved in rethinking some of the philosophical positions of early writers on ec0nomics. Western philosophy is epitomised by the classical Greek period which produced very clear thinking and Socratic style debate. However in Athens democracy did not extend to women or slaves and so most of the population was entirely disenfranchised. This lack of empowerment has continued to come down to us as a disdain for poverty and a wish to be rich among significant proportions of the population and concerned Socrates at the time and his insistence in worrying about it may have contributed to his untimely death for his ideas. This and is very clearly discussed in Alain de Botton's exciting philosophical work The Consolations of Philosophy. (2000).As the continuous pursuit of riches is really no l0nger viable in the 21st century as we come up against the exhaustion of our finite planet's resources, we must find ourselves a new ethic in order to allow us to understand our place and our role in the globalised economy. The lack of such an ethic is perhaps creating malaise which is manifesting itself in a mismatch between the rulers and the ruled and in an age of revolution not unlike the 1848 revolutions, during which many countries experienced political unrest. Even the European Union, in many respects a " civilising " force is under particular threat as a specific target of nationalist and populist scapegoating and so it is vital to create an ethic, a code and a feeling of belonging to the whole human family, as we face external threats together, from climate change, sea level rise and general depletion of and damage to the very resources on which we depend, as well as internal threats from over population. Ethics is at once about the moral aspects of philosophy, for which the green movement has been at the forefront of offering life style changes for people to absorb their changed situation.There is also a need for an ethics related to culture and the " way we do things" and a new ethic -" based on the " truth of our situation " enabling us to face for example climate change is very much needed as people are currently so scared as to be in denial.De Botton argues that an appeal to the dictates of reason is the answer . (P42 De Botton 2001). It is significant that one of the mot influencial philosophers who ever lived was sacrificed by a crowd of men who equated knowledge and thought with a lack of vigour in military campaigns and also how much of ancient Greece's " philosophical and historical output" was concerned with wars. At the Green Economics Institute, we are interested in the most efficient way to run our economy, at all levels and so it is fascinating to revisit Xenophon (Xenophon BC ...)who from the literature appears to have invented the science of Economics as we know it. Even there it is a shame that more was not said about economics but rather its in the shadow of responses to war.It may well be that the philosophers job- and particularly that of the " ethics philosophers job" is to make people re - examine their most intimately held beliefs and norms and to drag them into a new age. In which case philosophers may never be popular because they are saying what people dont want to hear and which cuts against their most comfortingly held beliefs. De Botton argues that a strong need for the affection from others is what we all crave and this may well be something that philosophers in particular in a time of rapid environmental and social change can never achieve. If they do achieve it then their work may well be largely redundant. It is certainly true that many great thinkers in science and philosophy have been imprisoned and many have been put to death accused of being a danger to the status quo which to a certain extent they are. We can argue that in respect of climate change only Noah escaped this threat and turned out to be proven right. A powerful allegory about how trusting ones views on truth should be relied upon no matter how much mockery one receives from other people.In compiling this book we were overwhelmed by responses, as people clearly are searching for meaning and for answers. The responses and the need we have discussed with people from many countries and we think these may fall into several categories. One is an " ethic " or way of behaving like a code- in the same kind of style as for example Hamurabi, Sargon,Moses, Gilgmesh or Napolean. These interestingly turn out to be of varying degrees of inclusiveness, for example some very helpful to women and others not at all. It seems people do want some kind of universal ethic, for humanity- as its enlarged neighbourhood now involves. It is perhaps the lack of this which can spread extremist tendencies around the globe so quickly especially among young people People perhaps like to have the certainty of how to behave but also the symbolism of how to belong. The idea of in groups and out groups is very strong -a post tribal feeling reflected in the west with very strong glue like adherence to football clubs and in both the ability to don the symbolic clothing of belonging is significant and makes a statement about the wearer.As local small scale consumption, production and supply breakdown, people are seeking a replacement of that symbolism of a feeling of belonging and so they find it in any way that seems available. We have been struck how much people are seeking this comfort. We think that some of this comes from the rapid changes in the 20th century and the building of the technological revolutions on 2 foundations, one is neo liberal economics and the other an appeal to or cover of dispationate enlightenment reason. However, these are false premises, as the enlightenment was not always a period of dispationate reason, on the contrary it was ushered in with the utmost revoluti0nary violence and strong feelings and could be used falsely to aruge that ideas such as main stream economics were finally ideology and values free- which in fact nothing is or can be. Secondly the ideas of the end of history,(Fukiyama) the end of boom and bust and the general taming of nature, "there is no such thing as society" (Thatcher)- the idea that humankind is in charge, a steward of the natural world.At the turn of the Millenium, the force of the Asian Tunami which affected people in many countries of the world awoke us from that belief. It suddenly became much clearer that nature is in chage and will always remain so and we disrespect it at our peril. The extreme flooding of New Orleans delivered a similar message as did the flooding of New York and the return of big freezes. We are not and never can be in charge of nature and its powerful forces. In that respects the very ancient civilisations were actually correct. Strangely worshipping the sun, the moon, thunder and the sea makes much much more sense today than worshipping shopping and big bonuses and posh jobs. We need a radical rethink. No one is suggesting a return to paganism, however a healthy respect for nature and its forces, expressed in other ways, really is important and needs to be reinforced amongst our economists and our political leaders. It is clear that many people in many countries are worried about population growth, and displacement of people's and immigration.They are scared and its true that in the case of Europe its entire personality and history was changed during the age of huge migrations around the 5th century as peoples moved eastwards to form what we understand today as the barbarian invasions. This movement is however driven in many cases by poverty in the home country and a wish for a better life but also by the advance of climate and environmental change for which at present there has been no official ethic as to how to deal with it. On the contrary some of the richest men on the planet have chosen to put their efforts into denial and an industry aimed at producing false science and telling the public what they want to hear, which is that is no change is happening and the scientists are all wrong, rather than helping people understand it and to modify their behaviour to cope or even to slow down the pace of change. When we add to this the various technological revolutions achieved in the 20th century, oil, cars, space, internet then its clear that ethics, moralism, philosophy took very much a back seat and suddenly in the new world order people are desperate for a feeling of belonging and continuity.Once again they are turning to ethics and morality in huge numbers and anyone offering this is much sought after. Hence this book is coming unexpecetedly for us at a point of need for moral reasoning and moral philosophy or ethics on the part of many people. It is significant that when we ask people about the huge industry of ethical investment people often dont know what ethics is all about or what it means or is trying to do. They think it is vaguely about " good" or the "good life" described by Aristotle but beyond that, they have no idea. This book is an attempt to begin to answer some of those questions and to begin to give a context for some of those decisions.It is certainly true that the idea of linear and gradual progression has been challenged by the ideas of science and Global Environmental Change. For me that understanding came when it became clear that the monsoon in India suddenly changes from one year to the next- one day it carries sea water and the next it changes course and is dry rather than drier.The philosophy of Black Swan events (Taleb) is very fitting for examining the drastic effects of climate change or increased seismology or even the health effects of nuclear power. The effects do not safely ramp up slowly, the so called " frog in a kettle" syndrome applies. We are all lulled into a false sense of security, much like the birds fed every day by the farmers wife, and they trust her to keep feeding them and don't realise she is doing it because one day she will kill and eat them. We need to consider the science that supports the Black Swan hypothesis rather than the former idea of gently ramping up climate change. A change in the UK weather to the new position of the jet stream is producing more extreme weather and events. A change in the climate in many countries is non linear and dramatic with more extreme events as more energy is used by the atmosphere to create more and more strong and destructive hurricanes for example. This book is divided into 3 areas, firstly it discusses and different ways Ethics and questions of ethics, codes of ethics, past present and future have been answered before in the past and around different societies.The second part of the book investigates, explores and critiques concepts of Corporate Social Responsiblity and also other areas of social responsibilities and other ways of affecting social change. It explores the social dilemas of responsible behaviour given current knowledge. The effects on people and on labour are explored by Ietto Gilies in her economics books. This is a new way of examing the output of trade and economics. (Ietto Gilies) and which has been very influential in the development of green economics. Similarly stakholder theory is discussed and often corporate social responsibility has been described as the "instrumental arm of stakeholder theory". (Feedman 1994 and O Carrol) However this is a problem as the aim of stakeholder theory is always to help and to conserve the firm rather than the people. These ideas might be described as a theory or method, loading the dice against the people and towards the power elites in what Foucault would criticise as an institutional power inbalance. On the other hand, its probably better to have them and to have firms at least considering their effects than not worrying about them at all.The book then explores some common dilemas about the Ethics in relation to everyday practises and daily life including green and contemporary issues and debates about the basics of life -food, health, energy, climate, transport.The book also examines aspects of our relationship with nature. For example is it still ok to eat meat given that we are now certain that other species feel pain and fear and chimps even have culture which was assumed to be a specifically human trait. If culture is no longer uniquely human then do we actually have a unique and special place in the world or was that an erroneous and conceited assumption. If not what is our place in the world amongst other species? Finally we discuss the issue of Economics Governance and some of the Green Economics ideas and literature movements as well as more practical financial possibilities around at the moment. This book refines and nuances the debate about what an ethics for the 21st century would look like and the contested views about the role of corporations and how to work to ensure they produce results which benefit society as a whole.It discusses stakeholder theory, corporate social responsibility and ethical entrepreneurship and strategies for change.It provides a Green Economics Perspective on Ethics, Social Responsibility and Economics Governance.
Publisher: The Green Economics Institute
Number of pages: 420
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