The Public Interest

What is "business ethics"?

Peter F. Drucker

Spring 1981

BUSINESS ETHICS” is rapidly becoming the “in” subject, replacing yesterday’s “social responsibilities.” “Business ethics” is now being taught in departments of philosophy, business schools, and theological seminaries. There are countless seminars on it, speeches, articles, conferences and books, not to mention the many earnest attempts to write ‘buusiness ethics” into the law. But what precisely is “business ethics”? And what could, or should, it be? Is it just another fad, and only the latest round in the hoary American blood sport of business baiting? Is there more to “business ethics” than the revivalist preacher’s call to the sinner to repent? And if there is indeed something that one could call “business ethics” and could take seriously, what could it be?

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