Ever wondered about how people in Western and Eastern societies think about ethics? Our research tidbits this week provide rewarding insights.

Virtue ethics between East and West
Virtue ethics is widely recognised as one of three major approaches in contemporary moral philosophy and arguably the most influential normative theory in business ethics. Despite its rich pedigree in Western and Eastern philosophy, most work in contemporary virtue ethics is part of the Western tradition.

The purpose of this Thematic Symposium is to foster dialogue between Western and Eastern conceptions of virtue in business and engage them with questions about the nature, justification, and content of the virtues in each tradition.

This Editorial offers a brief introduction to the problem, a summary of Western and Eastern varieties of virtue ethics, an overview of the six articles included in this Thematic Symposium, and a section with five common themes for further exploration and future collaborative research (namely, the centrality of rites and rituals, the normative status of social relationships and organisations, role modelling, the analogy of families and communities to define the business corporation, and the definition of social responsibilities).

Miguel Alzola, Alicia Hennig & Edward Romar. 2020. Virtue ethics between East and West.


Read this article online for free

Journal of Business Ethics, 165(2), 177–189.

Business ethics, Confucianism and the different faces of ritual
Confucianism has attracted some attention in business ethics, in particular as a form of virtue ethics. This paper develops ideas about Confucianism in business ethics by extending discussion about Confucian ideas of ritual.

Ritual has figured in literature about organisational culture, but Confucian accounts can offer additional ideas about developing ethically desirable organisational cultures. Confucian ritual practice has diverged from doctrine and from the classical emphasis on requirements for concern and respect as parts of ritual.

Despite some differences of emphasis amongst early writers, classical texts like the Analects and Mencius allow for the importance of ritual as opportunity for interpersonal encounter. These are texts that bring out the flexibility and context-sensitivity of ritual, with associated implications about the need for care and attention to other individuals. They eschew ritual as unthinking repetition, in favour of ritual as meaningful expression. The mutual awareness such ritual can engender is an important part of human existence. Such ritual is a means to solving coordination problems through common knowledge, as opposed to unthinking routine.

Undue routinisation can be one problem with organisational ritual, while another can be use of ritual as a means of oppressive control. In organisations, ritual should satisfy general requirements of concern and respect, and should maintain opportunities for mutual encounter.

The difference between arrangements which do or do not offer such opportunities may suggest lines of development for virtue ethics in business.

Chris Provis. 2020. Business Ethics, Confucianism and the Different Faces of Ritual.

Journal of Business Ethics, 165(2), 191–204.

Aristotelian and Confucian ethical perspectives on family and business
Not only individuals and firms, but also families engage in business as a social activity and this is true beyond the case of family businesses. Cultural differences in the way families are construed might influence the way they do business. There are different types of families, and among these are those described by Aristotelian and Confucian traditions, representing the West and the East respectively.

The literature on virtue in business has been dominated by a Western—mainly Aristotelian—tradition (Ferrero and Sison in Bus Ethics Eur Rev 30(1): 8–24, 2014), neglecting the role of the family and focusing on the individual. In this paper, the authors seek to fill this gap by explaining differences and similarities in the normative evaluation of certain family-related business attitudes and practices, in light of Confucian and Aristotelian virtue ethics standards.

After comparing the structure, organisation and dynamics of Aristotelian and Confucian families, the authors shall draw some inferences regarding “virtuous” or excellent business practices—such as nepotism, bribery, gift-giving and guanxi and attitudes—on codified rules or written norms.

For this analysis the authors shall make use of Aristotelian and Confucian ethical accounts as well as inputs from Family Science applied to organisations, which provides conceptual categories to compare the two traditions. Thus the authors hope to contribute not only to the comparative study of Aristotelian and Confucian virtue ethics in business, but also to the understanding of the distinctive role of families, raising cultural awareness for what may be considered virtuous business practices according to the Aristotelian and Confucian traditions.

Alejo José G. Sison, Ignacio Ferrero & Dulce M. Redín. 2020. Some Virtue Ethics Implications from Aristotelian and Confucian Perspectives on Family and Business.

Journal of Business Ethics, 165(2), 241–254.

Virtue ethics between East and West in consumer research
This literature review systematically synthesises studies that link consumer research to differences and similarities in virtue ethics between the East and the West, with a focus on early Chinese and ancient Greek virtue ethics.

These two major traditions provide principles that guide consumer behaviour and thus serve as a background to comparatively explain and evaluate the ethical nature of consumer behaviour in the East and the West. The paper first covers Eastern and Western theoretical and normative approaches of virtue ethics in the field of consumer research. The subsequent systematic literature review then synthesises empirical works in this field.

Since only a few papers adopt a cross-cultural consumer research perspective, one of the main aims of this review is to encourage scholars to pursue both theoretical and empirical cross-cultural consumer research on virtue ethics. To this end, the paper closes by suggesting some fruitful directions for future research to stimulate this relatively under-researched area.

Guli-Sanam Karimova, Nils Christian Hoffmann, Ludger Heidbrink & Stefan Hoffmann. 2020. Virtue Ethics Between East and West in Consumer Research: Review, Synthesis and Directions for Future Research.

Journal of Business Ethics, 165(2), 255–275.

Inclusiveness and emptiness of Gong Qi in a Sino-Japanese corporation
This article introduces a non-Anglophone concept of gong qi (communal vessel, 公器) as a metaphor for ‘corporation’. It contributes an endogenous perspective from a Sino-Japanese organisational context that enriches mainstream business ethics literature, otherwise heavily reliant on Western traditions.

The authors translate the multi-layered meanings of gong qi based on analysis of its ideograms, its references into classical philosophies, and contemporary application in this Japanese multinational corporation in China. Gong qi contributes a perspective that sees a corporation as an inclusive and virtuous social entity, and also addresses the elusive, implicit, and forever evolving nature of organisational life that is rarely noticed.

The authors propose gong qi can be applied in other organisations and wider cultural contexts to show a new way of seeing and understanding business ethics and organisation. Rather than considering virtue as a list of definable individual qualities, the authors suggest that the metaphor of gong qi reveals how virtue can be experienced as indeterminate, yet immanently present, like the substance of emptiness. This, then allows us to see the virtue of immanence, the beauty of implicitness, and hence, the efficacy of gong qi.

Wenjin Dai, Jonathan Gosling & Annie Pye. 2020.The Inclusiveness and Emptiness of Gong Qi: A Non-Anglophone Perspective on Ethics from a Sino-Japanese Corporation.


Read this Open Access article online for free

Journal of Business Ethics, 165(2), 277–293.

How would Confucian virtue ethics for business differ from Aristotelian virtue ethics?
Confucianism is potentially relevant to business ethics and business practice in many ways. Although some scholars have seen Confucian thought as applicable to corporate social responsibility (Wang and Juslin in Journal of Business Ethics 88(3):433–451, 2009) and to corporate governance (Low and Ang in International Journal of Business and Management 8(4):30–43, 2013), only a few business ethicists (Koehn in Local insights, global ethics for business. Amsterdam, Rodopi, 2001a; Business Ethics Quarterly 11(3):415–431, 2001b; Journal of Business Ethics 116(4):703–715, 2013; Romar in Journal of Business Ethics 38(1–2):119–131, 2002; Lam in The Analects, Penguin Classics, London, 2003; Chan in Journal of Business Ethics 77(3):347–360, 2008; Woods and Lamond in Journal of Business Ethics 102(4):669–683, 2011) have taken seriously the possibility that Confucius may have important insights to offer regarding virtue ethics, which has now become the most popular normative theory as evidenced by the number of recent articles published in business ethics journals (Alzola in Business Ethics Quarterly 25(3):287–318, 2017).

This paper aims to help rectify this oversight. The paper focuses on several distinctive aspects of Confucian ethics, discussing both how Confucius’ approach differs from Aristotelian virtue ethics in significant ways and how these key differences suggest numerous directions for future research.

Daryl Koehn 2020. How Would Confucian Virtue Ethics for Business Differ from Aristotelian Virtue Ethics?

Journal of Business Ethics, 165(2),  205–219

From harmony to conflict: MacIntyrean virtue ethics in a Confucian tradition
This paper explores whether MacIntyrean virtue ethics concepts are applicable in non-Western business contexts, specifically in SMEs in Taiwan, a country strongly influenced by the Confucian tradition.

It also explores what differences exist between different polities in this respect, and specifically interprets observed differences between the Taiwanese study and previous studies conducted in Europe and Asia. Based on case study research, the findings support the generalisability of the MacIntyrean framework.

Drawing on the institutional logics perspective and synthesising this with MacIntyrean concepts, the paper explains the differences between the studies largely by reference to the Confucian tradition operating at both the micro-level within firms and at the macro-level as a means of harmonising the potentially competing institutional logics to which firms are subject. The recent weakening of this tradition, however, suggests that increased conflict may characterise the future.

Irene Chu & Geoff Moore. 2020. From Harmony to Conflict: MacIntyrean Virtue Ethics in a Confucian Tradition.


Read this Open Access article online for free

Journal of Business Ethics, 165(2),  221–239.