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.
- Moral distance
- Ethical violence