Strengthening “Giving Voice to Values” in Business Schools by Reconsidering the “Invisible Hand” Metaphor

Mollie Painter-Morland, Rosa Slegers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The main contention of this paper is that our ability to embed a consideration of values into business school curricula is hampered by certain normative parameters that our students have when entering the classroom. If we don't understand the processes of valuation that underpin our students' reasoning, our ethics teaching will inevitably miss its mark. In this paper, we analyze one of the most prevalent metaphors that underpin moral arguments about business, and reveal the beliefs and assumptions that underpin it. By revisiting the content of Adam Smith's "invisible hand" metaphor, we show that the moral content of the metaphor has been significantly misconstrued through its subsequent reception in economic theory. The "Giving Voice to Values" (GVV) pedagogy aims to enable students to act on their tacit values and address the rationalizations that they may encounter for not acting on these values (Gentile in Giving voice to values. How to speak your mind when you know what's right, Yale University Press, Yale, 2010a; Discussions about ethics in the accounting classroom: student assumptions and faculty paradigms, Darden Business Publishing, 2010b. ; Educating for values-driven leadership across the curriculum: giving voice to values, Business Expert Press, New York, 2013). We believe our analysis can strengthen the employment of GVV in three ways: (1) understanding tacit blockages to moral action, i.e., how students' belief in the moral efficacy of the invisible hand could undermine their own sense of moral duty; (2) addressing common rationalizations that may emerge from different assumptions about morally appropriate courses of action in the workplace; and (3) resolving values conflicts on how to act. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)807-819
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Adam Smith
  • Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Giving Voice to Values
  • Metaphor
  • Moral education
  • PRME


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