“We’re Just Geeks”: Disciplinary Identifications Among Business Students and Their Implications for Personal Responsibility

Maribel Blasco*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This research shows how business students’ disciplinary specializations can affect their sense of personal responsibility by providing rationalizations for moral disengagement. It thereby conceptualizes business students’ disciplinary specializations as a key dimension of the business school responsibility learning environment. Students use four main rationalizations to displace responsibility variously away from their own disciplinary specializations, to claim responsibility as the prerogative of their specialization, and to shift irresponsibility onto disciplinary out-groups. Yet despite their disciplinary identifications, students largely rationalized that their sense of responsibility was an individual matter that was unlikely to be affected by contextual influences, and they attributed irresponsible behavior to incorrigible ‘bad apples.’ A theoretical model is offered which illustrates these dynamics by combining Bandura’s social cognitive theory with social identity theory. The research is based on secondary data, specifically focus-group interviews conducted with undergraduate students at a major Scandinavian business school in connection with the implementation of the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) initiative. The implications for management education include the need to strengthen students’ ‘disciplinary reflexivity,’ and to explicitly address the tension between students’ disciplinary solidarities and their faith in their own individual moral infallibility.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)279–302
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022


  • Moral disengagement
  • Moral reasoning
  • Personal responsibility
  • Disciplines
  • Business students
  • Management education

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