Department of Management

Academia after virtue: An Inquiry into the Moral Character(s) of Academics

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  • Daniela Pianezzi, University of Essex
  • ,
  • Hanne Nørreklit
  • Lino Cinquini, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Pisa

An extensive literature has focused on the impact of new public management (NPM) oriented structural changes on academics’ practice and identity. These critical studies have been resolute in concluding that NPM inevitably leads to a degeneration of academics’ ethos and values. Drawing from the moral philosophy of Alasdair MacIntyre, we argue that these previous analyses have overlooked the moral agency of the academics and their role in ‘moralizing’ and consequently shaping the ethical nature of their practices. The paper provides a new theoretical understanding of NPM-oriented reforms in light of the virtue ethics approach, thereby directing the attention to the moral character and moral agency of academics. Our analysis of interviews collected in the business department of a Danish university provides an example of how individuals have divergent ethical understandings of these structural changes and enact/resist pre-defined social roles in different ways. While in some cases the NPM agenda of the institutions has triggered internal moral conflict and a crisis of moral character, in other cases the new logic resonates with academics’ values and evaluative standards. Partially departing from the theoretical ground of MacIntyre (1981), we conclude that academics can play a crucial role in shaping the morality of NPM-oriented institutions and in transforming these settings into suitable contexts for the cultivation of virtues.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Pages (from-to)571-588
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

    Research areas

  • Identity, Moral agency, Moral character, NPM, Performance, University

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