module specification

FE5053 - Economics and Ethics (2018/19)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2018/19
Module title Economics and Ethics
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 15
School Guildhall School of Business and Law
Total study hours 150
5 hours Assessment Preparation / Delivery
105 hours Guided independent study
40 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Unseen Examination 40%   A 40 minute in class test on the content of the module to week 6
Coursework 60%   n 2,500 word essay
Running in 2018/19
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Spring semester City Tuesday Morning

Module summary

The module aims

To stimulate students’ intellectual awareness and appreciation of the range of implicit and explicit ethical challenges posed by everyday economic activity. To understand the relation between how economists have come to understand the nature of economic agency, the role of principals and the development of institutions and organisations in both private and public sectors.

To provide a firm foundation of knowledge of the different ethical debates relevant to the workings of economic systems, and to develop the sensibility and logical skills to enable the student to discern the moral implications of economic choices.

To develop in students the ability to apply ethical principles in the solution of specific theoretical and applied problems in economics. To understand the moral content of the specific assumptions that guide the construction of economic theory.
To develop in students the moral awareness of economic behaviours that will be of value in employment and self-employment, and to appreciate what would be appropriate responses to both general and specific issues confronted both in everyday life and at work.

To generate in students an appreciation of the economic and welfare dimensions of wider social, political and environmental issues.

The module also aims to develop students' skills, in particular: academic study skills; subject research; applied analysis; critical thinking; to develop their literacy and promote problem solving. To provide education and training in the ethical issues raised, so to understand the meaning and significance of the idea of an ethical stance.

To develop in students an ability to interpret real world economic events whilst being aware of the ethical implications in the formulation and application of economic concepts, theories, ideas and tools, and the construction and use of a range of types of evidence.

To contribute to the employability, a fuller grasp of the implications for ethical stances within the internationalisation and equality agendas.


Introduction to significance of ethical awareness, morality, consciousness, knowledge, privacy, prejudice, and jurisprudence. Acquiring morality. Rules versus consequentialism, virtue ethics, and pragmatic ethics. Happiness and goodness. ‘Greek’ Ethics. Axiological Ethics (Value mapping). Ethical Intuitivism. Ethical Naturalism. Smith and sympathy, freedom and justice. Profits, distribution, wealth. LO1

Bentham and Utilitarianism. Locke and Hedonism. Hume and approbation. J S Mill. Modern Economists’ mixed methodologies. LO2

Agency. The ethics of employment: equal pay, salary scales, zero hours contracts, the gig economy, minimum wage. LO1
Employment rights: equal opportunity, ’well-being’ at work, sickness and maternity rights, holidays, dismissal. LO1
Ageism: pension rights, disabilities, illness and euthanasia. LO2
Racism and sexism in the workplace. ‘Glass ceilings’, quotas, pregnancy, child care, abortion. Existential Ethics. LO2
Trade Unions: decision making participation at work. LO3
Animal rights, environmental rights. LO2
Public health: social welfare, Kant’s moral philosophy. LO2
Crime and punishment: Fines, suspensions, demotions, redundancy and dismissal. Imprisonment. Prisoners’ rights and work. Death penalty. LO3
Transparency: accountability, private rights, whistle blowers, stakeholders. LO2
Corporate Social responsibility, stakeholders’ rights: LO2

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Students’ learning centres on formal direct contact time with the teaching team plus reflective independent learning. Formal contact time is normally 3 hours per week. Lectures are around 2 hours which deliver core subject knowledge in development economics and emerging markets. During the 1 hour seminar, the emphasis is on student learning through participation, problem solving, examination of case studies, oral presentations and consequent formative feedback.

Students are expected to read material advised in the teaching sessions in preparation for subsequent seminars, discuss the moral dilemmas of choices chosen in attempts to solve economic problems.

Analysing case studies, significant articles, contemporary events, the students will use economic analysis, conduct research, write, plane and prepare for their individual coursework.

The contact time with teaching teams is organised around a range of learning activities including problem solving, oral presentations, and analysis of articles and papers especially current events as case studies. Students are required to engage with research published in high level academic journals and international organisations, participate in class discussions, carry out presentations, analyse case studies, reflect on their learning and prepare for coursework.

Professional and transferable skills are developed in lectures and seminars and through independent directed learning and assessment. Skills development is enhanced through working cooperatively solving economic problems, discussion of journal articles. Individual presentations during seminars review and discuss a range of economic development issues faced by both governments and international organisations.
Initiative and independence is developed progressively through the module such that students are required to take greater responsibility of their work.

The module makes extensive use of ‘blended learning’ through use of virtual learning environment platforms (WebLearn) where module handbook, lecture slides, seminar questions, coursework brief, assessment and grading criteria, past exam papers, guideline answers to past exam papers, journal articles, research reports and other relevant learning materials are provided. Links to other online resources, government data bases and videos are also available on WebLearn.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
(1) demonstrate a broad knowledge and a systematic understanding of the origins and development of the moral and ethical  positions of  the theories used in political economy as a social science;
(2) demonstrate a broad knowledge and a systematic understanding of the evolved  ethical principles of economic behaviour and compare and contrast these with the conceptions on which  modern economic theories  are based;
(3) apply principles of behaviour to the question of adequate organisational structures; demonstrate communication, self-management, and time-management skills.

Assessment strategy

The in-class test will require students to write answers to questions addressing the underlying principles or issues presented in the subject matter taught preceding the test. The formative assessment arising from this test will support students in developing their further study.

Students will be encouraged to make presentations that will show their progress in this task, as well as opening up their work to the constructive criticism of their colleagues. These presentations are not part of the formal assessment but will promote a dialogue between staff and students to promote a shared understanding of the basis on which academic judgements are made.

This will develop their ability to work effectively in groups and allow them to learn the benefit of collaboration with colleagues, so developing an understanding of, and the necessary skills to demonstrate good academic practice.

Their knowledge and understanding will be further developed and tested with the submission of an essay as the second component of the summative assessment.



Core Text:

MacIntyre. A. 1967 (later eds. to 2000) A Short history of Ethics. Free online

Blackburn.S. Ethics a very short introduction:  2001 OUP
Tackles the major moral questions surrounding birth, death, happiness, desire and freedom, showing us how we should think about the meaning of life.

Other Texts:

Aristotle The  Nichomachean Ethics  Various publishers. Free online

Blond, P., 2010. Red Tory.   Faber
In the face of current economic and political crises, a polemic by a social conservative calling for a return to pre-monopoly conditions, a reverse to an idealised small scale economy.

Mackie J.L., 1990 Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong Penguin. Books
This is a ‘subjectivist’ or ‘sceptical’ account of moral values.
Part 1 is free to read online at

Moore. G.E. Principia Ethica . 1903  Free online
Notes on this can be found at

Russel. B. A History of Western Philosophy   1945   Free Online at

Sandel . M.J. 2010 (Pbk) Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? FSG Books
Starts with the problem of ‘price gauging’ in Florida after Hurricane Charley in 2004 – Chapter 1, 14 pages on

Sidgwick J 1907 ( 7th E) The Method of Ethics   Free online
see review in

de Waal, F., 2006.  Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved. Princeton University Press, Princeton. 

Mackenzie, D. 2006  Engine not a Camera: How Financial Models Shape Markets.

Seddon, J., 2008. Systems Thinking in the Public Sector  Triarchy Press

Smith, Adam (1986) [1776], The Wealth of Nations.  Free online

Smith, Adam (1976) [1759], The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Free online

Wilson, D. and Dixon, W. 2011 A History of Homo  Economicus: The Nature of the Moral in Economic Theory. Routledge


Bruni, L., and Sugden, R., 2007. ‘The Road not Taken: How Psychology was Removed from Economics, and How it might be Brought Back.’ Economic Journal, 117 pp. 146-173.
Currie, G., Knights, D. , and Starkey, K.,  2010. ‘Introduction’ British Journal of Management Vol. 21, S1-S5
Dixon, W. and Wilson D., 2010. ‘Thomas Chalmers: the market, moral conduct and social order’ History of Political Economy 42(4) pp. 723-746.
Ferraro, F., Pfeffer, J. and Sutton, R.I., 2005. ‘Economics Language and Assumptions: How Theories can Become Self-Fulfilling’ Academy of Management Review Vol. 30, No. 1, 8-24.
Ghosal, S., 2005, ‘Bad Management Theories are Destroying Good Management Practices’ Academy of Management Learning and Education vol.4 No.1  pp. 75-91.
Smith, V., 2010. ‘What would Adam Smith think?’ Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organization 73 pp. 83–86
Wilson, David, and William Dixon 2009 'Performing economics: a critique of T&L', International Review of Economics Education 8:2 pp.91-105
Wilson, D. and Dixon, W. 2010 'Performing the Recession' Studie Note di Economia 15:3 pp. 347-362

Electronic Databases:

Social Media Sources: Ted Talks on Ethics and Business
on Right and wrong