School of Management
Royal Holloway University of London

The Centre for Research into Sustainability

RHUL Hosts Visiting Scholar from South Africa

Minka Woermann, who is a lecturer in philosophy and business ethics in the Department of Philosophy at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, is currently visiting Royal Holloway’s School of Management. The visit constitutes part of a six-month study leave period, which she has been granted by her home institution in order to work on her doctoral dissertation, entitled ‘Critical complexity: deconstruction, complexity theory and the ethics of business’. During her stay at Royal Holloway, she will liaise specifically with Dr Laura Spence and Dr David Bevan on matters pertaining to the possibility of a deconstructive business ethics.

Research Goals

The overarching goal of her doctoral project is to illustrate the value of Derridean insights for business ethics. Rather than present a substantive account of what a ‘Derridean ethics’ might entail, she intends on systematically addressing some of the recent criticisms of Derrida in the business ethics literature. This will be done in the hope of presenting a more nuanced reading of Derrida’s ethical position. As a secondary goal, Minka will also attempt to show why a deconstructive ethics is an example of a complex ethics. Such a move will allow for a fresh interpretation of a deconstructive business ethics, and may help in addressing some of the problems that arise when trying to apply Derridian insights to business ethics issues.  

In broad strokes, Minka will show that a critical complexity perspective presents us with not only a descriptive position, but also with a normative position. The gist of her argument is that if we concede that the world is epistemologically complex, then there can be no a priori ethical schemes (which can be unproblematically applied to ethical problems in business) (cf. Morin, 2005). As such, she argues that all our decisions and actions should be undertaken with an attitude of modesty and critical reflexivity, so as not to loose sight of the political and ethical dimensions that constitute these decisions and actions (cf. Cilliers, 2005). This conclusion resonates well with a Derridean position. This is because deconstruction itself is undertaken in the name of ethics and politics. Without this normative motivation, deconstruction – as the act of accounting for some of the qualitative differences (i.e. the complexity) that escapes our conceptual models – would be a senseless exercise.

In explaining why a deconstructive ethics is an example of a complex ethics, Minka will introduce a new language for thinking about these Derridean insights – one which is not as tainted by the ongoing controversy regarding the value of Derrida’s work.

Seminar at Royal Holloway

Minka will present her understanding of a critical complexity perspective in a seminar entitled ‘Corporate identity, responsibility, and the ethics of complexity’, which will be held on the 28th of October at 12:30, Royal Holloway (room ABLT3). In the seminar, she will specifically investigate the implications of a complexity view of corporate identity formation for our understanding of responsible corporate practices. Minka will begin the seminar by unpacking the main insights gleaned from a complexity understanding of identity formation. These insights will then be translated into the language of social systems, with the aim of determining the nature of corporate identity specifically. Lastly, the implications that this complexity understanding of corporate identity formation hold for business ethics will be elaborated upon.

The analysis in the last part of the seminar will provide both a challenge to the traditional understanding of moral responsibility within the context of business ethics, and an attempt to overcome the weaknesses of this traditional understanding. This latter issue (i.e. re-inscribing moral responsibility) will be addressed by taking cognisance of the normative implications associated with a process of identity formation in work practices. Of particular concern and interest is how identities are demarcated in practice. As such, the analysis will center on the boundary questions that we ask (or do not ask) of ourselves as corporate members; as well as the implications that such questions hold for how we view ourselves and our ethical responsibilities within the context of corporate practices.  

Links

» Dr Laura Spence (staff profile)
» Dr David Bevan (staff profile)

Minka will be at Royal Holloway until the middle of November. For any further information, please do not hesitate to contact her at minka@sun.ac.za