Print ISBN: 978-1-64265-283-3
# of Pages: 600
# of Volumes: 2
Print List Price: $295
e-ISBN: 978-1-64265-284-0
eBook User Price: $295
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Defining Documents in American History: Business Ethics

October 2019


Defining Documents in American History: Business Ethics offers an in-depth analysis of 67 primary source documents at the foundation of the study of business ethics. These include letters, newspaper accounts, book excerpts, speeches, political debates, testimony, firsthand accounts, memoirs, court rulings, legal texts, legislative acts, excerpts from both fiction and nonfiction books, and dialogues from dramatic works.

More and more, the specific ethics policies that have many businesses and corporations developed in the 1970s and ‘80s are not enough today. Transparency related to sources and materials, pricing strategies, and the public good are crucial for the success of any business.

The material in this two-volume reference work is organized into five sections, and each section begins with a brief introduction that defines questions and problems underlying the subjects addressed in the historical documents.

  • Early Efforts & Failings features excerpts from various authors that are considered influential by many businesses, along with documents and cartoons related to business debacles including Black Friday, Tammany Hall, and the Credit Mobilier Scandal and civil service reform.
  • Moving toward the Modern highlights documents and past works that focus around various work environments, behavior, safety, and power in business and workforce, such Sherman Antitrust Act meant to stem anticompetitive behavior, working conditions in Chicago’s meatpacking industry described in The Jungle.
  • Crisis & Renovation includes significant writers such as Stuart Chase and his calls to protect the environment, along with discussing pivotal events such as the stock market crash in 1929 that led to the Great Depression.
  • Enterprise & Ethics in the Late Twentieth Century includes publications about the dangers of DDT, the auto industry’s disregard of consumer safety, and more.
  • Big Business & Big Government Today evaluates ethical implications of business practices such as the Bernie Madoff “Ponzi” schemes, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Equifax’s data breach and more.

These documents provide an overview of business ethics and how it affects all of society, from the heads of corporations in industries like oil, energy, social media, food, and transportation to the workers that produce the goods and services to the consumers of those goods and services. They present a wide array of legal and moral opinions, descriptions of the effects that business ethics can play in the national and global economy, and they take a closer look at the way that business ethics relates to politics.

Each historical document is supported by a critical essay, written by historians and teachers, that includes a Summary Overview, Defining Moment, Author Biography, Document Analysis, and Essential Themes. An important feature of each essay is a close reading of the primary source that develops broader themes, such as the author’s rhetorical purpose, social or class position, point of view, and other relevant issues. Each essay also includes a Bibliography and Additional Reading section for further research.

The detailed document analysis begins with early essays instrumental in the creation and development of the field of business ethics and continues to 2019 by examining issues relevant right now, from harassment and discrimination to technology and privacy. This two-volume set includes in-depth chapters that provide a thorough commentary of significant primary source documents, including:

  • John Stuart Mills: Utilitarianism
  • Ralph Nader Unsafe at any Speed
  • Sarbanes-Oxley Act
  • “Facebook, Big Data, and the Trust of the Public”
  • Wells Fargo account fraud scandal

This volume in the Defining Documents series is rounded out by three Appendices:

  • Chronology arranges all documents by year
  • Web Resources is an annotated list of websites that offer valuable supplemental resources.
  • Bibliography lists helpful articles and books for further study.

About the Series

The Defining Documents series provides in-depth commentary and analysis of the most important primary source documents in the United States and the world. The Defining Documents series is perfect for students, those researching a particular era, or anyone interested in world history. 

View a Full List of Defining Documents Titles