Yours truly, the freelancer is collaborating with a senior professor to write a text-book on Business Ethics for Indian students. The idea came while the learned Professor brought my attention to the poor quality of textbooks (in most cases) that students are condemned to read. Here is the preface of that yet to be written book :
Young students who study business courses in India are generally young and the core objective for them to enroll into these courses (sometimes quite expensive) is to get a better job or to borrow from Mill – to be in a better station in life. The methodology deployed to teach ‘core business subjects’ like Marketing, Organizational Dynamics, and Corporate Finance are taught cannot be used in toto to teach Business Ethics effectively and in an interesting manner.
The purpose of this textbook, if is to be told in the most simple manner is to make the topic interesting and engaging for students of a particular age, background and cultural context.
The methodology followed in the book tries to make the study of Business Ethics as a lively and exciting thing and also to demonstrate to the students that ancient teachers and writers of Ethics were not dealing with some ‘dead and dated’ issues but something which are just dressed in contemporary dresses. As soon as we remove the veneer of our contemporary time, we find them remarkably similar to the issues raised and discussed by the thinkers, centuries and sometimes millennia ago. This discovery itself can cause sufficient delight in the mind of a young student.
In most of the surveyed textbooks, we find that the book talks about history of Ethics more like a historical commentary to be remembered rather than an integral part of business since a time long back where both business and ethics can trace their origin.
It is also surprising that in many core business topics, case studies and debate are common but most of the Business Ethics textbooks appear to have remained in a pedagogical time-warp where a young student cannot be too much chastised for declaring the whole subject as some kind of ‘benign preaching’.
It is the secondary purpose of this book to make the subject intellectually exciting for those young students who are just entering life as business professionals or are upgrading their skills to take more responsible positions in their career.
The book is structured with theory and practice. Selected writings are produced, followed by Cases related to the area the writings cover. The essay can be a pre-class reading and Case Study can be the class-work where groups debate and also do role-play. The teacher’s role will be to contemporize the writing and bring the tension and dilemmas involved. We have followed the content structure of a classic in this subject – Ethical Issues in Business, edited by Thomas Donaldson and Patricia Werhane.
Another aspect of Business Ethics books for Indian students is being ‘distant’ and ‘alien’ because of lion’s share of the case material being of companies of non-Indian origin. This is not an insurmountable lack for some hard sciences like physics or mathematics. However, for business ethics, the same cannot be said. It is for the simple reason that just like culture has a deep influence on the ways and direction of conduct of business, by implication, culture of a place determines many aspects which are core to the subject of business ethics, both in terms of studying it as a subject and also applying these studies in practice.
The plan is to make the book interesting for young students. Another understated purpose is to have the students get a critical look at the fundamental business concepts – both of theory and practice.
The problem of business ethics is the same what Plato discussed two thousands of years back – ‘Until philosophers are kings of business’