In recent years, questions of ‘character’ have become increasingly prominent in a range of policy contexts, from education to social welfare and from business to healthcare. What unites these various contemporary paens is an assumption that building ‘character’ is a crucial component of ethics and that it holds the key to establishing and maintaining virtuous conduct; moreover, that the cultivation of ‘character’ is at best under-valued and at worst actively undermined and denigrated in any number of contemporary economic and organizational practices. In this paper, we seek to interrogate key aspects of this upsurge of interest in ‘character’ as it has been articulated in particular recent and on-going debates about the reform of organizational life. We argue that this ‘turn’ suffers precisely from an abstraction and lack of contextual specificity – not simply in relation to questions of ‘character formation,’ but also in regard to matters of organization, and indeed the relationship of the one to the other – that severely curtails both its ethical reach and explanatory power.
Bibliographical notePublished online: 9. July 2018
- Ethics of office
- Virtue ethics