UNIT 21 ETHICAL CONCERNS IN PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION
Structure 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 21.5 21.6 21.7 21.8 21.9 Learning Outcome Introduction Ethics: Meaning and Relevance Evolution of Ethical Concerns in Administration Context of Ethics and its Significance for Public Administration Issue of Ethics: Foci and Concerns Pertinence of a Code of Administrative Ethics Nature of Work Ethics Towards New Dimensions of Ethics Obstacles to Ethical Accountability
21.10 Future Perspective 21.11 Conclusion 21.12 Key Concepts 21.13 References and Further Reading 21.14 Activities
21.0 LEARNING OUTCOME
After reading this Unit, you will be able to: • • • • • Discuss the meaning of the term ‘ethics’ Bring out the evolution and context of ethics and relate it to public administration Throw light on the foci and concerns pertaining to the issue of ethics Understand the nature of work ethics and the necessity to evolve a Code of Ethics; and Analyse the obstacles to ethical accountability
‘Ethics’ is a difficult term to define. The meaning, nature and scope of ethics have expanded in the course of time. ‘Ethics’ is integral to public administration. In public administration, ethics focuses on how the public administrator should question and reflect in order to be able to act responsibly. We cannot simply bifurcate the two by saying that ethics deals with morals and values, while public administration is about actions and decisions. Administering accountability and ethics is a difficult task. The 1
levels of ethics in governance are dependent on the social, economic, political, cultural, legal-judicial and historical contexts of the country. These specific factors influence ethics in public administrative systems. This Unit will discuss the meaning, evolution, foci and concerns of ethics. It will bring out the different dimensions of ethics and their relevance for public administration. The significance of an ethical code for administrators will be analysed and the nature of work ethics will be discussed. This Unit will also examine the obstacles to ethical accountability.
21.2 ETHICS: MEANING AND RELEVANCE
‘Ethics’ is a system of accepted beliefs, mores and values, which influence human behaviour. More specifically, it is a system based on morals. Thus, ethics is the study of what is morally right, and what is not. The Latin origin of the word ‘ethics’ is ethicus that means character. Since the early 17th century, ‘ethics’ has been accepted as the “Science of morals; the rules of conduct, the science of human duty.” Hence, in common parlance, ethics is treated as moral principles that govern a person’s or a group’s behaviour. It includes both the science of the good and the nature of the right. The ethical concerns of governance have been underscored widely in Indian scriptures and other treatises such as Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagvad Gita, Buddha Charita, Arthashastra, Panchatantra, Manusmriti, Kural, Shukra Niti, Kadambari, Raja Tarangani, and Hitopadesh. At the same time, one cannot ignore the maxims on ethical governance provided by the Chinese philosophers such as Lao Tse, Confucius and Mencius. In the Western philosophy, there are three eminent schools of ethics. The first, inspired by Aristotle, holds that virtues (such as justice, charity and generosity) are dispositions to act in ways that benefit the possessor of these virtues and the society of which he is a part. The second, subscribed to mainly by Immanual Kant, makes the concept of duty central to morality: human beings are bound, from a knowledge of their duty as rational beings, to obey the categorical imperative to respect other rational beings with whom they interact. The third is the Utilitarian viewpoint that asserts that the guiding principle of conduct should be the greatest happiness (or benefit) of the greatest number (Hobson, 2002). The Western thought is full of ethical guidelines to rulers, whether in a monarchy or a democracy....
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