Lying in Business: Insights from Hannah Arendt’s ‘Lying in Politics’

P. Eenkhoorn, J.J. Graafland

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The famous political philosopher Hannah Arendt develops several arguments why truthfulness cannot be counted among the political virtues. This article shows that similar arguments apply to lying in business. Based on Hannah Arendt’s theory, we distinguish five reasons why lying is a structural temptation in business: business is about action to change the world and therefore businessmen need the capacity to deny current reality; commerce requires successful image-making and liars have the advantage to come up with plausible stories; business communication is more often about opinions than about facts, giving leeway to ignore uncomfortable signals; business increasingly makes use of plans and models, but these techniques foster inflexibility in acknowledging the real facts; businessmen fall easily prey to self-deception, because one needs to act as if the vision already materializes. The theory is illustrated by a case study of Landis that grew from a relative insignificant into a large organization within a short period of time, but ended with outright lies and bankruptcy.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTilburg
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Publication series

NameCentER Discussion Paper


  • Lying
  • deceit in business
  • Hannah Arendt
  • image-making
  • self-deception
  • accounting fraud
  • politics and business
  • Landis


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