The End of History, Specters of Marx and Business Ethics

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More often than not, business ethics textbooks have included sections on “the great economic debate,” that is, the discussion of capitalism as a total system, of the criticisms against it and of the proposed alternatives. The reason for such sections is fairly obvious: at some point one has to consider whether or not all the particular problems of employment, of product quality, of environment, of regulation and so on prove beyond solution without a radical change in the basic institutions of society. Since the collapse of real socialism as an alternative in the period 1989–1991, it has become increasingly difficult to have this discussion. Yet we cannot do without the critique of capitalism even if the answer may be that no other economic system is viable at this moment in history. My interest in this paper is to explore how we might now engage in this critique. Francis Fukuyama's “The End of History?” (1989) and Jacques Derrida's Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International(1993) provide a framework for this renewed engagement.

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