Adam Smith, Moral Motivation and Business Ethics
Article [Version of Record]
Is part ofÉthique et Économique / Ethics and Economics ; vol. 10, no 1
Publisher(s)Université de Montréal. Centre de recherche en éthique de l'UdeM.
This paper shows how Adam Smith’s concept of moral motivation applies to business ethics and ethical consumption. Moral motivation for Smith is embedded in his moral psychology and his theory of virtue, particularly in terms of socialization and our social interactions and in his view that people always seek approval for their conduct, either though actual or ideal spectators. It follows that right conduct depends on the spectator’s awareness of one’s conduct. Thus concerning business ethics, transparency and accountability are essential, as opposed to anonymity which is detrimental. Applying Smith’s theory of motivation to consumption entails two further points: One, information concerning business conduct without consumers seeking it and acting accordingly will only have a limited effect. Two, people’s concern for the propriety of their action can and should include consumption, such that purchasing behavior becomes a moral issue rather than a mere economic one.