Dignity in western versus in chinese cultures: Theoretical overview and practical illustrations

Daryl Koehn*, Alicia S M LEUNG

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

    15 Citations (Scopus)


    Dignity is an important concept in ethics. Human rights organizations justify rights by appealing to human dignity. Prominent politicians have cited the need to protect human dignity and urged the founding of international institutions. The concept of human dignity is often used to evaluate and critique the ethics of select practices. In addition, the idea of dignity is used as a universal principle to ground universalist business ethics. This paper argues that there are substantial differences between the ways in which the West and China construe human dignity. Having documented these major differences, we consider two cases to show how the differences might "cash out" in actual business practice. Instead of relying upon a nonexistent universal concept of human dignity, we suggest that it is respectful and sound to seek to identify the many goods (teamwork, initiative, autonomy, respect for elders) that differing parties see at play in the case at hand and then to try to come up with ways to realize as many of these goods as possible.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)477-504
    Number of pages28
    JournalBusiness and Society Review
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Business and International Management
    • Industrial relations
    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Strategy and Management


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