“Moral Distance” in Organizations: An Inquiry into Ethical Violence in the Works of Kafka

Christian Huber, Iain Munro*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


In this paper, we demonstrate that the works of Franz Kafka provide an exemplary resource for the investigation of “moral distance” in organizational ethics. We accomplish this in two ways, first by drawing on Kafka’s work to navigate the complexities of the debate over the ethics of bureaucracy, using his work to expand and enrich the concept of “moral distance.” Second, Kafka’s work is used to investigate the existence of “ethical violence” within organizations which entails acts of condemnation and cruelty purportedly in the name of ethics. Kafka’s work provides insight into the processes of moral distancing across a range of organizational contexts including highly formal as well as more informal settings. The paper enriches the concept “moral distance” by identifying the existence of facilitators of moral distance beyond the mechanisms of formal rationality that have been the focus of existing studies. We argue that Kafka’s intense portrayal of “ethical violence” points to an aporia at the very heart of organizational ethics.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)259-269
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Moral distance
  • Ethical violence
  • Kafka
  • Bauman
  • Literature
  • Bureaucracy

Cite this