Organization theory and business ethics are essentially the positive and normative sides of the very same coin, reflecting on how human cooperative activities are organized and how they ought to be organized respectively. It is therefore unfortunate that—due to the relatively impermeable manmade boundaries segregating the corresponding scholarly communities into separate schools and departments, professional associations, and scientific journals—the potential symbiosis between the two fields has not yet fully materialized. In this essay we make a modest attempt at establishing further connectivity by surveying the terrain covered by the two disciplines jointly, as if the boundaries between them did not matter. We commence by providing a concise overview of the organization theory discipline for interested non-specialists from the field of business ethics. Next, we proceed to point out four research themes commonly investigated by members of both communities, and also a variety of organization-theoretical perspectives on each. In the final part of this essay we explore what organization theory has to offer business ethics, and what the boundaries of that potential contribution are. We warn skeptical readers in advance that the spirit and tone of our essay is most definitely upbeat, as we are convinced that the potential for symbiosis between the two fields is vast and inspiring, even though it has only been unleashed partially and incidentally thus far.

business erthics, organization theory
ERIM Article Series (EAS)
Business Ethics Quarterly
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

Heugens, P.P.M.A.R, & Scherer, A. (2010). When Organization Theory Met Business Ethics: Toward Further Symbioses. Business Ethics Quarterly, 20(4), 643–672. Retrieved from