This chapter focuses on the normative importance of what attitudes our actions express to others. Business is not conducted in a vacuum – rather, it is conducted against a background schema of social meaning. This chapter argues that the public meaning of our actions, what our actions express, is normatively important. The piece imports familiar norms regarding expressions from interpersonal morality to business ethics, such as those surrounding insult, blame, and gratitude. It argues that many of ethicists’ gripes across a range of business ethics topics – from disproportionate compensation to immoral investing – can fruitfully be analyzed from an expressive perspective.
For comments and suggestions on different parts of the chapter, I would like to thank Brian Berkey and Alan Strudler. For a number of fruitful discussions on the topic, I thank Vikram Bhargava, David Dick, and Carson Young.
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