Responsible Management: Understanding Human Nature, Ethics, and Sustainability

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Beck identifies here two barriers to, but also opportunities for, imagining sustainability as a political and ethical orientation. How, as part of our conceptual construction of responsibilities and of political action, do we acknowledge pay heed to, take care of, represent, recognise the otherness of nature and of the future? The link between concern for the future and concern for the earth is at the heart of sustainability thinking. In sustainability thinking, a sense that the future matters takes on a specific weight, mediated by a rethinking of the relationship between humanity and nature that challenges many now-traditional modernist narratives of material human progress.

Yet how far does this bring nature as such into our ethics and politics, and under what framing? Does the concept of sustainability enter onto the scene at the cost of misrecognising the otherness of nature, that is, of framing nature solely in terms of its instrumental value for humans? This concern is mirrored by a similar concern about how sustainability frames the future in ways that still remain within the limitations of modernist ways of thinking, in which the future is imagined solely in terms of the continuation of present projects, which are then projected into the future in a way that colonises future possibilities.

An important distinction can be made here between two ways of orienting thought and action towards the future, between the future-for-the-present and the present-for-the-future Adam and Groves The easiest way to understand the idea of the future-for-the-present is through the example of future discounting, in which economic calculations are based on an assumed discount rate which ensures that the value of future benefits and costs is progressively reduced, such that it appears to make economic sense to seek to realise the benefits of a decision as soon as possible, and to push costs further into the future for others to bear.

A central question about the relationship between sustainability and futurity, then, is to what extent sustainability thinking—as well as being potentially instrumental and, therefore, anthropocentric—is also present-centric.

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The very idea of sustainability may, therefore, be ethically and politically suspect. First, because it may prematurely curtail attempts to understand why nature matters in itself as well as for us , and second because it may fail to acknowledge how the recognition of whose values matter now is shaped by power inequalities, before then consolidating these inequalities by calling for the ongoing conservation of present values for the future.

In particular, concern for the future is often translated into the language of posterity, evoked by images of children. However, such images have particular political significance, insofar as they frame concern for the future in a form that privileges the perspective of heterosexual parents as the sole legitimate one Johns-Putra , and thus make it harder to publicly represent other possible framings of future-oriented concern, particularly in a present where political cultures are commonly structured by heterosexism and other forms of oppression Seymour At the same time, the intermediate object of care here—nature, conceived of as that fundamental ground on which posterity will continue to depend—is also domesticated and drawn out of its unknowability into a frame of concern that filters care through the image of imagined descendants de Shalit Domestication threatens to cross into instrumentalization, however.

If nature is conceived of as that which sustains us—or our children and their children—does this not mean that we will given the limits on our attention and practical capabilities only care for whatever in nature we can currently identify as useful? In either case, what is valorised is the survival of what is valued in and for the present. The future—and nature—are defined through and for the present. Alternatively, concern for the future or for the natural world may be expressed through a different temporal framing, the present-for-the-future.

The future is no longer defined for the present; instead, the present is questioned for the future. Some suggest, however, that the limits of ethical concern here are once again ultimately limited to human survival: the addressee of apocalyptic narratives remains, it is argued, the individual human subject, politically privileged by present political rationalities, whose continuity must be assured Fagan In this paper, I map out some aspects of the historical emergence of these distinct ways of framing the future and nature, and show how they relate to each other as specific ways of enacting a temporal relation between present, past and future.

I argue that these positions tend to rest on implicit misrepresentations of the relation between self and other and, therefore, between human subjects and nature. At the same time, recent critiques of the alleged anthropocentrism of these positions such as those made by Fagan commit, I suggest, errors of their own.

As an alternative to both these dominant ways of understanding sustainability and to critiques thereof, I suggest that a genealogy of concern for the future and for nature that draws on phenomenological, development-psychological and feminist traditions of thinking about attachment and care can provide a distinct basis for thinking about sustainability. It allows the otherness of nature and of the future into the sphere of concern as necessary ingredients of any concernful engagement with the world, without at the same time positing either as purely other, as pure, unknowable alterity.

This characteristically modern prometheanism is also reflected in more avowedly political and utopian ideas of an open future Adam and Groves , which centre on secularised promises of continually refounding community around a vision of a better world.


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A new ethical and political concern with the future, with ending the past and instituting something new and unheard of in its place has been invoked as a defining modern mode of temporality, in intellectual history Schneewind but also in sociology Giddens Modernity is thus seen as unique because of its orientation towards the future, rather than towards the past.

This periodisation simultaneously constructs and excludes from the community of modernity Osborne other communities, such as the medieval and the ancient, on the basis of their divergent past-oriented or cyclical temporalities. This modernist construction of the future is dependent on ideas of the transformability of the world, which reproduce idealist assumptions about the relationship between imagination and material nature Adam and Groves They draw upon particular historically-contingent knowledge practices. Nature becomes gridded by calculative rationalities, defined as fuel for universal human ascent.

Metrics such as population growth, average life expectancy, or gross domestic product GDP formed elements around which governance regimes that enshrine governance by numbers gained legitimacy. As states increasingly took responsibility for the health and education of their citizens, the legibility and, moreover, the standardisation of their territories become more important.

Qualitative differences between settlements and regions had to be rendered recordable, comparable and commensurable in terms of universal metrics Scott The contribution of industry and technological innovation to ensuring material betterment also gradually became more important. Expectations of material improvement in quality of life reached a head in the period after WWII within industrialised nations. At the same time, however, earlier challenges Bonneuil and Fressoz to the hegemony of conceptions of material progress were being repeated.

Concerns about the unforeseen and unwanted consequences of technological and economic development and particularly their impact both on the biosphere and non-industrialised nations were widely voiced. The experiences of people of colour and other groups living near polluting infrastructure were articulated through movements for environmental justice Schlosberg and Carruthers The emergence of discourses of sustainable development and environmental management can be understood against this backdrop.

The knowledge practices of ecologists, zoologists, botanists and others became enrolled within this governance project, to standardize knowledge practices for measuring and comparing impacts of collective human activity upon the natural world.

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The biophysical world is no longer simply raw material for human progress, but becomes conceived of as a complex entity, still set over against humanity and thus isolable as an object of management but posited as an ensemble of essential support systems Goodland As environmental impacts are transboundary in nature and occur within complex systems, they point towards the creation of global governance institutions, like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Beck The more complex and daunting the project of drawing nature into the sphere of governance became, the more the need for legibility became urgent.

As a result, the need for governance by numbers became ever more central to establishing a politics of the environment. Robert Solow responded to the moment of reflexive modernisation by defending the accumulation of capital as the best way of ensuring that future generations inherited enough resources to fulfil their needs.

Importantly, he argued that capital here could include natural resources, financial resources but also technological resources substituted for natural ones Solow In other words, the development of technology should be seen as a way of providing additional resources that may replace and even improve on natural ones in some cases Northcott Such views are accompanied by an estimate of the social discount rate that should be applied to expected costs and benefits of policies, given the assumption that people in the future will be better off thanks to continued material progress.

Complementary views are also expressed by some proponents of conservation, where conservation is seen as the preservation of natural capital for the benefit of people now and in the future Pinchot , 76— Bryan G. Continuation of current trends towards material growth is seen as both natural and desirable, but this simply enshrines present pattern of consumption as unquestionable so long as the future is like the present, but more so, characterised by ever-increasing levels of economic activity Fioramonti The move Solow recommends therefore projects futures from the perspective of the present, based on the continuation of past trends and the preservation of present interests.

Other attempts to present a managerial solution to the unintended consequences of narratives of progress run into similar difficulties, even if they are explicitly critical of the kinds of position defended by Solow. More recent and contested, as we shall see in the next section conservation narratives often seek to preserve what formerly may have been defined as natural capital by identifying productive powers of non-human nature that have economic value insofar as they contribute to human wellbeing, a value which can be speculatively totalled in order to achieve a degree of considerability for nature Costanza et al.

In this way, it is hoped that planning futures could incorporate economic relationships within a broader context of productive relationships that sustain natural systems, rather than enforcing the separation between inert non-human nature and a human economy geared to material progress measured in terms of financial value productivity. Valuing ecosystems in this way can be seen, however, as still part of commodification, with the effective pricing of nature extending property rights further over it, rather than curtailing such developments.

Conservation narratives have thus been interpreted as modulating, but not ultimately restraining the drive to treat nature as an inert input. And even if economic valuation is just one input into a broader, more qualitative valuation, some object that this still defines the value of nature predominantly through the lens of human interests. Nature is only made to matter insofar as it materially supports the survival of our descendants.

Elements of natural systems that appear to have no material value for our own survival do not matter. Even if we shift from a Faustian to a managerial view of nature, we thus remain caught within a set of social relations through which the meaning of nature is framed Bookchin Even if questions regarding responsibility shift focus to include the non-human world, sustainability remains a human-centred concept, concerning the conservation of what we believe matters to our survival.

The future is extrapolated from what we know of the past data, trends and present interests. From modernist progress narratives to sustainable management narratives, the future remains framed for the present—a present future Adam and Groves The emergence of management narratives was also coeval with the emergence of more radical narratives regarding our relationship to nature—and to the future.

While both these kinds of narratives had historical antecedents Bonneuil and Fressoz , something novel about their late 20th century forms was the conditions in which they emerged, a cultural moment of what I called earlier after Beck reflexivity towards the fundamental assumptions that underlie modernity.

More radical narratives recognise within this moment a deeper crisis, and accordingly alter their orientation towards the future and towards nature. Often, such narratives take on an apocalyptic form, employing prophetic language bolstered by scientific data on potential destructive trajectories of socio-technical and biophysical change. Futures that disrupt or completely erase the possibility of modernist progress are imagined. Biospherical collapse due to runaway climate change, biodiversity loss through species extinction, human population growth beyond supportable levels and other worst case scenarios are projected.

Further, they typically embody the other central meaning of apocalyptic narrative, that of judgement as well as revelation Northcott Dystopian future presents are constructed in the form of scenarios to shine a light on what is wrong with the present, mirroring in the process some trends in science fiction literature.

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Such narratives limn what might appear to be fundamental flaws in the relationship between humans and nature. The meaning of the present is here defined through future possibilities, not the other way around. Science fiction has been interpreted as reflecting aspects of the present, but also employing the estranging device of some novum typically technological innovation that enables certain aspects of the familiar world to be reflected in a future mirror, revealing unacknowledged truths about the present Kitchin and Kneale From this perspective, life itself in its multiplicitous expressions has intrinsic value, and no form of life including humans can be assigned superior moral value, no matter what capacities it possesses.

The human power to transform the world does not in itself grant humans any right to do so. What does mark humans as special is their ability to perturb the webs of mutual interdependence that constitute the biosphere, creating destructive consequences that also eventually rebound back upon them. Humans therefore require nothing less than a cultural revolution in consciousness, one which promotes humility in the face of nature, to avoid destroying themselves and possibly also the rest of life on Earth.

The concept of sustainability is the result of a reflexive push back from within modernity against modernity itself. Sustainability acknowledges but also tames the threat of apocalypse, offering the promise of refounding a coming global political community on a renewed narrative of qualitative. Things may continue to get better—so long as we are careful.

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Deeper reformation or even overthrow of present habits, practices and institutions is called for by other narratives, as in stories of apocalypse or the perspectives of deep ecology. But in either case, straining to represent the present for the future, as responsible to the future, can be seen as returning, once again, to representing the future as a continuation of the present by other means. Fagan argues that apocalyptic narratives necessarily fall short of recognising the otherness of the future and the significance this has for any ethical and political discourse of futurity in the present.

Uncertainty, she proposes, will thus become the material for ethics, rather than a barrier to it. I wish now to revisit this argument in responding to the problem on which this paper has focused—the ways in which sustainability appears to reproduce certain features anthropocentrism and present-focus of modernity while also claiming to escape its limitations.

Independently, Johns-Putra and Fagan point out how sustainability discourses respond to the reflexive moment within modernity by seeking to reform the culture of modernity itself. Kemi wrote this book to serve as a valuable tool to complement courses on ethics, responsibility, leadership, human behavior in organizations, customer service, and sustainability-most of which tend to ignore their human nature dimensions.

Inside, you'll be provided an indepth understanding of human nature and its uniqueness and complexity, which can greatly enhance your managerial skills for achieving business success in today's world. You will be empowered to better manage yourself, others, and the environment. This book also provides a foundation for developing ethical sensitivity and corporate social responsibility. There is a clear and present danger that managers may tend to focus primarily on financial success in different key dimensions-operational quality, financial strategy, workforce motivation, cost-cutting strategies, etc.

Future leaders and shapers of sustainable organizations and societies cannot afford to have such a knowledge gap. Product details Format Paperback pages Dimensions 61 x 90 x 4mm Other books in this series. Add to basket. Redefining Success Patricia M. Responsible Management Kemi Ogunyemi. Brand new: lowest price The lowest-priced brand-new, unused, unopened, undamaged item in its original packaging where packaging is applicable.

Condition: New. See details. See all 2 brand new listings. Buy It Now. Add to cart. Be the first to write a review About this product. About this product Product Information Does a manager in today's world need to know anything about freedom? Or about instrinsic goods? Or even about educating emotions? Kemi wrote this book to serve as a valuable tool to complement courses on ethics, responsibility, leadership, human behavior in organizations, customer service, and sustainability-most of which tend to ignore their human nature dimensions.

Inside, you'll be provided an indepth understanding of human nature and its uniqueness and complexity, which can greatly enhance your managerial skills for achieving business success in today's world. You will be empowered to better manage yourself, others, and the environment. This book also provides a foundation for developing ethical sensitivity and corporate social responsibility. There is a clear and present danger that managers may tend to focus primarily on financial success in different key dimensions-operational quality, financial strategy, workforce motivation, cost-cutting strategies, etc.

Ethics and Sustainability: Human Resources Management- Professional Development 401