Readers of Business Ethics Quarterly will be grateful to Professor Hartman for this very fine paper. He has, at last, advanced the dialogue on organizations. Instead of the usual attack on Peter French, et al., Hartman has introduced the notion of the commons as a heuristic device to get at the moral dimension (or lack thereof) or organizations. And unlike much of what goes on in business ethics, he has avoided the usual utilitarian/deontology/Rawlsian approaches. Instead he has depended on work of Frankfurt and Aristotle to introduce the notions of second-order desires, virtue, and community, all of which, at the very least, enriches the notion of an organization and the scope of its moral point of view.
I cannot respond to all the arguments in the paper, and I found myself surprisingly in agreement with much of it. However, agreement is not one of the virtues of a commentator. So I shall comment on two points: first on what I shall label Hartman’s communitarian approach, and second, on the notions of exit, voice, and loyalty.
In response to what is sometimes called “individualism” in ethics which, Hartman alleges, takes “time-honored moral principles as foundational and try[s] to figure out what communal or organizational arrangements best encourage people to treat one another according to them,” Hartman argues that a more propitious approach in organizational ethics is to “try to say something about what a good community looks like, and then see how a good community requires people to treat each other.” It turns out that a good community is, minimally, one in which “the commons is preserved, and [where] there is enough consensus that people are able to have extended conversations about morality from which moral progress may emerge.”