The banking sector has been under public scrutiny since the credit crisis of 2007/8, and a range of diagnoses and cures have been offered, particularly in terms of regulatory and financial structures. In the public media, much comment has been made about ethics in the sector, but this has provoked surprisingly little response from academic researchers. This thesis explores the crisis in banking as a moral one, taking Alasdair MacIntyre’s account of virtue ethics as a framework for understanding the careers of Scottish banking leaders. The method used for the study is narrative, and depends both on MacIntyre’s philosophy of tradition-constituted enquiry, and on Hans-Georg Gadamer’s hermeneutics. Conversations were held with ten leaders of Scottish banking whose careers typically span between 25 and 40 years, and the record of those conversations forms the primary data set for the research. The resulting narratives are frank, rich descriptions of deeply felt changes in a particular mode of working life. This was a way of life characterised up until the 1980s by a well-defined status within local communities, professional expertise and a well-ordered tradition. The deregulation of banking and subsequent structural and technological changes to retail banking services eroded that professional tradition, and replaced it with new modes of work dominated by institutional priorities of sales, profit and growth, rather than by an ethic of professional expertise and customer service. The thesis finds that there are structural barriers to the recovery of a professional ethic in banking. It offers new perspectives on the work of Alasdair MacIntyre, particularly in the application of his idea of traditions to mainstream economic activity. It also explores common ground between Gadamer and MacIntyre, proposing ways in which both philosophers can enhance our pursuit of qualitative empirical research.
|Publication status||Accepted/In press - Jul 2014|