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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Oldenbourg June 25, 2016

Uncertainty and attribution of personal responsibility in organizations

  • Cristina Besio EMAIL logo
From the journal Soziale Systeme


Modern society complicates the attribution of responsibility to individual actors. However, processes of attributing responsibility remain a frequent occurrence - also in the context of organizations. How can we explain this phenomenon? This contribution endeavors to describe processes of attributing moral responsibility to reveal some of the functions and problems these processes produce and to explain why they assume a new role in modern society. The focus lies on highly uncertain situations as crucial moments in which organizations resort to morality. The article introduces two examples for the forms in which the attribution of moral responsibility is manifested: the first is the figure of the »scapegoat«, which is typically activated after catastrophes. The second is the figure of the »firm founder«, which provides an important reference for highly uncertain innovation processes. By activating these figures, organizations can portray themselves as moral actors and acquire, at least for a while, the internal and external backing necessary to continue operating. This is vital in the short term, but can be dangerous over time, because morality sets high expectations but gives little specific advice for action in complex systems.

Online erschienen: 2016-6-25
Erschienen im Druck: 2015-11-1

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