Moral Disengagement in the Corporate World
Bero, Lisa A.
Accountability in Research 2009 January-April; 16(1): 41-74
We analyze mechanisms of moral disengagement used to eliminate moral consequences by industries whose products or production practices are harmful to human health. Moral disengagement removes the restraint of self-censure from harmful practices. Moral self-sanctions can be selectively disengaged from harmful activities by investing them with socially worthy purposes, sanitizing and exonerating them, displacing and diffusing responsibility, minimizing or disputing harmful consequences, making advantageous comparisons, and disparaging and blaming critics and victims. Internal industry documents and public statements related to the research activities of these industries were coded for modes of moral disengagement by the tobacco, lead, vinyl chloride (VC), and silicosis-producing industries. All but one of the modes of moral disengagement were used by each of these industries. We present possible safeguards designed to protect the integrity of research.
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