Re-evaluating the realist conception of war as a business metaphor

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The state of war is a popular metaphor employed by many business writers seeking to explain the imperatives of strategic decision-making. It is a metaphor which draws on a “realist” characterisation of war as a Hobbesian state of nature devoid of a moral dimension. However, the work of Walzer (1977) has demonstrated that rules of war, established over generations and across cultural divides, play a significant role in the conduct of warfare. Through identifying and analysing rules of war in parallel with ethical dilemmas in business life, such as whistleblowing, it is possible to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the war metaphor in place of simplified, state of nature realism. This alternative version of the war metaphor is a useful means of introducing students to Aristotlean virtues as well as challenging their preconceptions about the nature of business activity. Copyright © 1999 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-35
JournalTeaching Business Ethics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1999


Macfarlane, B. (1999). Re-evaluating the realist conception of war as a business metaphor. Teaching Business Ethics, 3(1), 27-35. doi: 10.1023/A:1009753807317


  • Aristotlean ethics
  • Corporate strategy
  • Ethical relativism
  • War analogy
  • Whistleblowing


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