Skip to main content
School of Business and Management

14th Annual Conference of the European Business Ethics Network

12 April 2011 - 13 April 2011

Time: 1:00 - 1:00am

Business Ethics and Public Engagement

Tuesday 12th - Wednesday 13th April 2011
School of Business and Management, Queen Mary, University of London

Keynote speaker: Paul Mason, BBC Newsnight Economics Editor and author of Live Working or Die Fighting and Meltdown

‘Exemplary intellectuals move both within and outside the academy,’ says Dr. Cornel West.Dr. West’s own efforts at performing as a critical public intellectual  have led him recently to say that he would prefer to be working in a crack house than in the White House, perhaps indicating the extremes to which an intellectual must go to be both public and critical. In recent years some have responded to this difficulty by adhering to Michel Foucault’s notion of the specific intellectuals as a mode of engagement below the radar of the conventionally public. For the alter-globlization forces, the term ‘movement intellectual’ also indicates an engagement with something other than the traditionally defined and delimited public sphere. Still others have like Naomi Klein, Arundhati Roy, and our key note speaker for 2011, Paul Mason, have found ways to blend journalism and scholarship, activism and investigation.

One would think that a global recession brought on by unethical lending practices in developed countries and super-exploitation in developing countries would provide a stage for business intellectuals to engage in public debate, if not devise their own strategies for how to stage such an encounter effectively. But how many scholars of business ethics in the academy have found voice in the public and political spheres, or made spheres of their own? How many scholars of business ethics could be said to move both within and outside the academy today? Within the academy, how many of us could be said to move in such a way that ethics has come to infuse the academy? Beyond the academy, how many of us could be said to move in such a way that our ethical writings influence the discussion of economic and fiscal policy?

The evidence is that the mainstream media, political parties, trade unions, and even social movements tend not to turn to scholars of business ethics, but to economists, policy specialists, and each other for answers to the ethical questions confronting economic and fiscal policy today. Why is this? And should we care? Perhaps the most valuable intervention of the business ethics scholar is as a teacher in the lecture hall and seminar room. Perhaps the business ethics scholar should be precisely that, a scholar, concentrating on research, writing, and publication. Perhaps this lack of publicity allows us to avoid the contradictions faced by scholars like Dr. West. Or does limiting oneself to these activities in times like these amount to a kind of political quietism, or worse, a not so subtle careerism? Indeed is it possible to intervene today in the corporate media, in the moneyed atmosphere of politics, or in the board rooms of high finance and transnational corporations? Is it naïve to imagine such an intervention, or professional arrogance to suggest such an intervention would be worthwhile? What of the price of intervention? How many business ethics scholars would be willing speak out publicly against their own business schools and colleagues where the curriculum and research of these schools lack core commitment to business ethics? How many of of us would speak out against the industries and corporations we study, knowing it might mean the end to access, or worse, the beginning of a lawsuit? How many of our institutions would stand behind us?

This conference will confront both the limits and the possibilities of public and political engagement for business ethics scholars, practitioners and students. What strategies already exist for intervention? What conversations are already ongoing in the public and political spheres? What of alternative conceptions of intervention, of engagement with movements, or in specific issues and areas of expertise? What about ethics in the counter-public sphere, the undercommons, or in the very creation of a new public sphere. At a time when business schools claim either to have already addressed ethical issues or to be responding appropriately to new ethical issues, can pedagogy itself be a public intervention? And what of journalism, media, and new media? Does public engagement require inventive strategies of dissemination? Or should we be relying on a traditional notion of professional knowledge, currently returning to fashion in the business schools? Is public engagement at the national level doomed to reproduce uneven development and the extremes of globalization? Is global engagement possible or desirable? Is engagement an individual or collective act? These questions will be central to this year conference.

View Conference Programme [PDF 115KB] (to save, right click and select 'save target as')

Conference bookings and information can be found at:

For general enquiries please contact:
Ade Alele
Events and Dissemination Administrator, School of Business and Management
020 7882 8577

Conference Organisers:
Rowland Curtis,
School of Business and Management, Queen Mary, University of London

Emma Dowling,
School of Business and Management, Queen Mary, University of London

Stefano Harney, 
School of Business and Management, Queen Mary, University of London

Back to top