Radical Passivity: Rethinking Ethical Agency in Levinas: 20 (Library of Ethics and Applied Philosophy)

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Newman, Railing against the suffering and injustice invoked by state rule and the rules of states, political anarchism works under a conviction that both collectively and individually people would be better off without such power-laden intrusions Marshall, Levinas himself relates his own conception of ethical anarchy to this as follows:. The notion of anarchy we are introducing here has a meaning prior to the political or anti-political meaning currently attributed to it.

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It would be self-contradictory to set it up as a principle in the sense that anarchists understand it. Anarchy cannot be sovereign, like the arche. It can only disturb the state; but in a radical way, making possible moments of negation without any affirmation. The state then cannot set itself up as a Whole. But, on the other hand, anarchy can be stated. Yet disorder has an irreducible meaning, as refusal of synthesis.

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Levinas, []: n3. Ethical anarchism is thus political not because it necessitates a particular political and ideological position anarchist or otherwise but rather because it undermines the authority of any such position by calling it into question. While Levinas states that his ethical anarchy is prior to the political meaning attributed to anarchism, that does not mean that anarchism cannot be reconsidered in relation to that prior relation; in other words it is possible to read Levinas, as a non-anarchist, in an anarchist tradition Jun, Translated organizationally, this means that what might be stimulated by ethical anarchism is not just about the internal re-organization of managerial action, but rather a disturbance of organizational order — of assumed organizational sovereignty — that arrives from the outside, from ethical anarchy.

This disturbance, as a feature of the life of organizations, serves to contest the corporation through resistance and critique Fleming and Spicer, Suggested is an ethically-based demand to decenter assumed power through disturbance by bringing forth the trace of ethical anarchy.

In the context of globalized capitalism it is indeed the case that the power of corporations vies with that of states for political domination on a global scale, such that corporations can increasingly be seen as political rather than just economic institutions. If there are ethical grounds that invoke the disturbance of political power then corporate power cannot and should not be excluded as an object to be disturbed. The idea of disturbance is key in that ethical anarchy as present in proximity is that which interrupts the hubris of rational and conscious order reflected in and organized by the ego.

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Having reached this point, we can say that the disturbance of ethical anarchy is not foreign to political anarchy. By implication activity derived from ethical anarchism would be that which provokes a continuous questioning of and resistance to the awesome power of the contemporary corporation. This suggests the absolute ethical necessity of resistance to corporate power, anti-organizational protest, and political dissensus.

Such a requirement is not to be based on an idea that we might be graced, deus-ex-machina, by a new form of self-management where all forms of oppression dissipate; no fantastical utopias. Instead it involves a recognition that the space between sovereign organization and anarchic ethics must be maintained. Politically, this favors dissensus as a practical ethico-politics over utopianism as an impossible dream.

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These reasons relate to how all organizational action would be under ethical scrutiny in a drive against corporate sovereignty. This calls for a business ethics that rather than seeking to gain the consent of business to adopt it, is based on dissent from the outside. Such ethics is located in the democratic process especially as it relates an understanding of radical democracy characterized by the non-violent expression of political differences and a preparedness to engage in political conflict Mouffe, Business ethics does not need moralistic managers or do-gooding CEOs, it needs a civil society that will disturb corporate power in the name of ethical anarchism, and that is in opposition to the imposition of sovereign corporate power justified by neoliberalism.

While it is clearly the case that the focus of much recent politics is on consensus based engagement it is through political dissensus that this can be realized Mouffe, In one manifestation this is the role taken up by political activists and protestors against neoliberalism Graeber, But the seeds are present too in more general realms of civil society, ethical anarchism can emerge through both radical and liberal politics.

In each case what is disturbed is the normalization of corporate greed and the arrogance of corporate freedom afforded by neoliberalism. In terms of tax avoidance the ethical affront is to a corporation that believes it can rise above civil society to take what it wants without responsibility for contributing in the ways that others have to. The pursuit of the self-interest of the corporate self is the ethos in question.

The close relations between corporate power and the contemporary democratic state for example, in Britain however suggest that the capacity of the state to adequately disturb corporate power are limited. What is important though, and what would no doubt attract the attention of political parties, is that these are not matters just of minority or radical politics, but are of concern to many citizens. It might even be seen if such matters become the subject of debate in University classrooms or on the ephemeral pages of academic journals.

These are but a few brief examples, but they serve to illustrate that business ethics reaches its apogee in the public sphere, in democracy, and it is here that it can be best developed and potentially even radicalized. It is in this sphere that business ethics must be located as a form of disturbance to corporations.

Rethinking Ethical Agency in Levinas

It is in this sphere that it should be practiced and researched. If we remove the normative dimensions, it seems that Milton Friedman was partly right: the primary responsibility that business takes is to make profits, although the question of whether this is done within ethical custom is questionable. One direction is to expect businesses themselves to embrace a broader set of social responsibilities and ethical demands as if moved by the goodness of their corporate hearts. The evidence that this might happen is wafer thin see Fleming and Jones, But outside of the clutching hands of business, business ethics can be conceived of as materializing in a politics of resistance to organizations Pullen and Rhodes, that is exercised in the context of a radical democracy formed through dissent Ziarek, This is a vision of radical democracy that attests to the ethical demand to disturb authoritarian and exploitative institutions without assuming that the state is the center of democracy Newman, It is in civil society itself, in our collective relations, that ethical anarchism is to be found and hence where political action in response to it emerges in one way or another.

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Ethical anarchism, business ethics and the politics of disturbance

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