August, 2009

Doing the Right Things: The Private Sector Response to Hurricane Katrina as a Case Study in the Bourgeois Virtues

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Supposedly self-interested and profit-seeking firms engage in behavior that could only be understood in terms of putting their employees and communities ahead of their corporate self-interest. Major American companies from Marriott to McDonald's to Wal-Mart undertook major and minor acts of bourgeois virtue and contributed in a significant way to the recovery from Hurricane Katrina. Managers and senior leaders used the language of ethics and virtue, rather than that of narrow self-interest or profit maximization, in describing what they expected from employees, and employees used similar language to describe their own behavior. "Doing the right thing" was central to their response. What constituted "doing the right thing," how the very nature of large capitalist enterprises made doing "right" possible, and how doing "right" improved conditions after Katrina is explored in this working paper.

Citation (Chicago Style):

Horwitz, Steve. "Doing the Right Things: The Private Sector Response to Hurricane Katrina as a Case Study in the Bourgeois Virtues." Working Paper, Mercatus Center at George Mason University, 2009.