Articulations of ethics: energy worlds and moral selves

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This chapter introduces the notion of ‘regimes of ethics’ to explore the diverse ways that ethics is articulated in corporate capitalism, particularly in industries that are involved in the extraction of natural resources such as oil and gas. I show how companies draw on corporate social responsibility frameworks as public-facing demonstrations of ethics for stakeholder engagement, while also generating greater company loyalty and pride among employees. While corporate social responsibility (CSR) provides an explicit corporate strategy, the professional codes of ethics that apply to engineering practices in the USA specifically anchor ethics in individual decision-making. Animated by a generally conservative, if not stultifying, ethos, engineering ethics sees practices such as whistleblowing and breaking ranks as epitomising individual ethical action. Co-existing with and sometimes challenging these two formal regimes of ethics are also industry actors’ own moral convictions. This third regime of ethics draws on my ethnographic research in the oil and gas industry in Colorado, USA. By discussing these various articulations of ethics, my aim is to take seriously formal rules and codes as well as industry actors’ own ethical sensibilities. I suggest that rather than existing as entrenched hardened moral worlds, these multiple and competing regimes of ethics indicate the underdetermined nature of ethical life.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave handbook of the anthropology of technology
EditorsMaja Hojer Bruun, Ayo Wahlberg, Rachel Douglas-Jones, Cathrine Hasse, Klaus Hoeyer, Dorthe Brogård Kristensen, Brit Ross Winthereik
Place of PublicationSingapore
PublisherSpringer Nature Singapore
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9789811670848
ISBN (Print)9789811670831, 9789811670862
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2022


  • Corporate capitalism
  • Energy ethics
  • Ethics and morality
  • Oil and gas


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