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Manufacturing Morals

The Values of Silence in Business School Education

Manufacturing Morals

The Values of Silence in Business School Education

Corporate accountability is never far from the front page, and as one of the world’s most elite business schools, Harvard Business School trains many of the future leaders of Fortune 500 companies.  But how does HBS formally and informally ensure faculty and students embrace proper business standards? Relying on his first-hand experience as a Harvard Business School faculty member, Michel Anteby takes readers inside HBS in order to draw vivid parallels between the socialization of faculty and of students.

 In an era when many organizations are focused on principles of responsibility, Harvard Business School has long tried to promote better business standards. Anteby’s rich account reveals the surprising role of silence and ambiguity in HBS’s process of codifying morals and business values. As Anteby describes, at HBS specifics are often left unspoken; for example, teaching notes given to faculty provide much guidance on how to teach but are largely silent on what to teach. Manufacturing Morals demonstrates how faculty and students are exposed to a system that operates on open-ended directives that require significant decision-making on the part of those involved, with little overt guidance from the hierarchy. Anteby suggests that this model—which tolerates moral complexity—is perhaps one of the few that can adapt and endure over time.

Manufacturing Morals is a perceptive must-read for anyone looking for insight into the moral decision-making of today’s business leaders and those influenced by and working for them.

248 pages | 18 halftones, 1 line drawing, 2 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2013

Economics and Business: Business--Business Economics and Management Studies

Education: Higher Education

Sociology: Occupations, Professions, Work


“Michel Anteby’s spare but well-chosen words offer an up-close and personal look at the inner workings of what many call the West Point of American capitalism. Theory and reflexivity intermingle as the quotidian manners and mores, rituals and routines absorbed by junior faculty members at the school are put forth and sharply interrogated. Manufacturing Morals is a deft reimagining of organizational silence as sometimes a message, a provocation, a comfort, or an excuse.”

John Van Maanen, MIT

“In this first-rate organizational ethnography, Michel Anteby describes the ethos of a premier institution and how it shapes the worldviews and moral rules-in-use of its faculty, staff, and students.”

Robert Jackall, author of Moral Mazes: The World of Corporate Managers

Manufacturing Morals demolishes conventional notions about business and morality as separate spheres. With Michel Anteby as our expert guide we are taken into an extraordinary journey of how Harvard Business School constructs its complex moral world. With exquisite style, subtle arguments, and fascinating observations, Anteby lays out a new theory of organizational morality. A crucial contribution to the sociology of organizations and culture.”

Viviana A. Zelizer, author of Economic Lives: How Culture Shapes the Economy

“Delivering a fine-grained ethnographic analysis of the Harvard Business School, Michel Anteby powerfully reveals how this consequential institution does its work. His elegant writing carefully uncovers how the organizational culture combines a logic of profit maximization with moral concerns. This book is a must read for business students and faculty and for social scientists interested in higher education, evaluation, and the making of the American upper and upper middle classes.”

Michèle Lamont, author of How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgment

"Anteby’s Manufacturing Morals is the first [book] I’ve seen that describes HBS from a professor’s point of view. Anteby, an associate professor of organizational behavior, turns his experience of being hired by and teaching at HBS into an ethnographic study that explores how the ’way we do things around here’ is communicated to the faculty—a highly skilled and highly independent workforce. In doing so, he’s written a book that works on several levels."

Strategy + Business

“If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a faculty member at Harvard Business School, Manufacturing Morals is the place to start….It’s notoriously difficult to study elites, but Anteby intrepidly pulls the veil.”

American Journal of Sociology

Table of Contents

Introduction   Routinizing Morals 

One                 A Footbridge to the World        
Two                 Reshaping Academic Purity
Three              Preaching in Silence
Four                (Un)Scripted Journeys 
Five                 Doing What Others Don’t 
Six                   Selecting Faculty in the Proper Spirit

Conclusion     Vocal Silence 

Appendix       Data and Methods 


The Academy of Management: George R. Terry Book Award

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