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What language games capabilities are required by members of boards to ensure effective governance and ethical decision making?: A study of the lived experience of a Greenpeace director from the perspective of the philosophy of Richard Rorty

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posted on 2022-03-28, 10:17 authored by Barry Edwin Rafe
This paper has been inspired by a series of events related to my directorship of Greenpeace Australia Pacific. The paper will explore the role of language games at a board level and will draw on Richard Rorty's notion of the role of re-description and irony in working across different language games. Organisations are composed of multiple language games. Whilst there has been much academic research on organisational language games, they have not been explored in detail at the board of directors level. There is also a moral dimension to director duties and the broader community will judge the behaviour of an organisation against a set of externally established language games. I have argued that, in a modern liberal democracy like Australia, directors need to accept that the organisations they direct are moral agents and the actions of these organisations need to be justified to all stakeholders impacted in terms that these stakeholders will accept. My claim is that to meet their responsibilities to stakeholders and the broader community, all directors on a board require first, a well-developed moral intuition with an appreciation of the moral perspectives of various stakeholders impacted by the actions of the organisation they direct. Second, directors need to understand the language games used by other relevant stakeholders and be able to re-describe justifications in ways that all stakeholders would understand and accept. I am using the anti-foundationalist philosophy of Richard Rorty because he recognises that individuals view the world through their personal final vocabularies. Rorty provides the tools to understand how to move between language games, and also, how organisations as moral agents can create new vocabularies that can pave the way for a better world. Rorty provides us with a framework within which to map out a set of language game competencies for members of boards.


Table of Contents

Section 1 Introduction -- Section 2 Autoethnographic introduction: raising the question of the thesis in the context of practice -- Section 3 Literature review -- Section 4 Rorty's pragmatism -- Section 5 Section 5 - Director responsibilities, the moral dimension -- Section 6 Director capabilities -- Section 7 Application of capabilities to personal experience


Bibliography: pages 66-68 Theoretical thesis.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Macquarie Graduate School of Management

Department, Centre or School

Macquarie Graduate School of Management

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Steven Segal


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1 online resource (68 pages)

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