Edited by Oliver Laasch, Roy Suddaby, R. E. Freeman and Dima Jamali
Chapter 49: Using the past responsibly: what responsible managers and management academics can learn from historians professional ethics
The “uses of the past” approach emerges as a promising avenue to blend history and management theory. This research considers an organization’s past as a contested symbolic space, which organizational and social actors shape and renegotiate for their diverse interests. However, while a growing number of studies describe and theorize on such productions and uses of historical narratives in the present, there is little literature addressing ethical questions and implications. This chapter looks at the ethics of the uses of the past to advance responsible uses of the past and counter its abuse. We do so by drawing on scholarly and professional norms of historians and expand their scope to the domain of the management community of practice. First, based on professional norms, we provide definitions and present (ir)responsible uses of the past as a matter of moral integrity. Second, based on scholarly norms, we outline processes and practices of responsible uses of the past, which stresses a reflexive responsibility to engage in communicative activities when crafting, circulating, and revising historical narratives. Third, by turning our attention to management academics, we distinguish between scholarly and professional responsibilities to begin a discussion on the ethical responsibilities of “uses of the past” and other management academics. In all, this chapter explores the intersections of academic and managerial communities of practice to enable mutual learning towards more responsible uses of the past.
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