Using Foucalt to analyse ethics in the practice of problem structuring methods

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As a new generation of problem-structuring methods (PSM) develops in operational research (OR) practice, the issue of ethics needs attention. This paper aims to contribute to examining ethics in the practice of problem structuring. The paper argues that PSM could influence ethical reflection but the scope of new developments is limited, as it is also the scope of ethical codes or norms in OR. Ethics needs to be understood as a continuous development by individuals in relation to existing frameworks and codes. This view of ethics is inspired by Michel Foucault's ideas on power and ethics. Using Foucault's ideas, two main areas of inquiry are suggested to enhance critical reflection about ethics: (a) individualization of forms of ethics, and (b) possibilities and constraints of ethics in power relations. Using these two areas, practitioners reflect on the ethics of their practice and relate it to their own ethical development
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1027-1034
JournalJournal of the Operational Research Society
Issue number9
Early online date5 Oct 2005
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2006


  • ethics
  • problems structuring methods
  • power
  • Foucault
  • self-reflection
  • Critical systems thinking

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