Ethical Praxis and the Business Case for LGBT Diversity: Political Insights from Judith Butler and Emmanuel Levinas

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Gender, Work and Organization, 2017, 24 (5), pp. 533 - 546
Issue Date:
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© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd This paper critically reconsiders debates about the business case for workplace diversity as exemplified in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activism. These debates have long suggested that there is an oppositional distinction between justifying diversity on self-interested business grounds and justifying it on the grounds of ethics, equality and social justice. This has led to an impasse between ethically driven diversity theory and activism, and the dominant business case approach commonly deferred to in managerial practice. As a way of mediating this impasse the contribution of this paper is to demonstrate how ‘ethical praxis’ can be deployed both despite and because of non-ethically motivated approaches to ethics in business. Drawing on Judith Butler's and Emmanuel Levinas's considerations of the relationship between ethics and the practice of justice, it is argued that critiques of the business case for diversity rely on a pure ethics that does not adequately recognize its connection to lived politics. Conversely, support for the business case evinces a politics that has failed to remember its origin in ethics. The paper positions ethical praxis as a political intervention undertaken in the name of ethics and uses this to suggest that the business case, despite its ethical poverty, holds potential to create real opportunities for justice in organizations.
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