Jane Jacob’s book, Systems of Survival, discusses two types of ethical or value systems governing our working lives, with each one the complete foil of the other. These two systems describe the framework by which we operate day to day, procuring our needs and securing our own territories. It is interesting to note that while the two systems in question are polar opposites, there are several instances where organizations use a combination of the two.
However, it is worth mentioning that while the two are indeed different, both, as products of their own unique environment, are equally necessary and valid to the circumstances in which they arise and within the context of their use. There are times when one system leverages another for its own advantage. The two systems are Guardian Moral Syndrome and the Commercial Moral Syndrome. From their names alone, it is easy to guess their differences from one another. The first model, the Guardian Moral Syndrome, generally refers to people or agencies that are protective or defensive in nature.
Examples of guardians are the military and the police, organizations which employ force in order to achieve its goals. The Commercial Model Syndrome is used by commercial or business entities. The commercials use trade in order to advance its interests. The main argument of Jacobs’ book is that our world uses only two methods to acquire resources and those are to trade in an atmosphere of symbiosis, or take another’s resources by force under the pretense of a variety of reasons. As Paquet & Gilles explains, “Guardian moral syndrome underpinning hierarchical system, and commercial moral syndrome underpinning market-type organizations.(1999, p. 35)
In this regard, this paper will try to differentiate the two systems more clearly by citing two famous personalities who embody each system or model and try to explain their actions in light of the values that define each system. Guardian Moral Syndrome: George W. Bush It is perhaps unfortunate to be the President of the United States at the time when the September 11 World Trade Canter attack took place. Imagine the burden of responsibility, made more difficult to bear with the whole world watching your every move. George W.
Bush, the current President of the United States made the decision to retaliate and take an offensive stance against terrorism, saying that it was a necessary move to protect his country. Soon after the 9-11 attacks, the United States, backed by its international allies waged a war on Afghanistan to free the country from the iron grip of the Taliban rule. By doing so, Bush redefined the concept of terrorism from nameless, stateless entities, to one that is closely associated with the country that is giving them safe passage (Moens, 2004, p. 164).
A country that harbors a terrorist shares in the sin and will suffer the consequences of doing so. Up to now, even the face of growing dissent, Bush has continued its war against terrorism. After Afghanistan, Bush went on to attack Iraq and weed out Saddam Hussein. While he was successful at bringing Hussein down, the long drawn out war in Iraq is hugely unpopular in the United States. Bush is receiving increasingly heated criticism from his own country. From receiving the highest approval rating immediately following the 9-11 attacks, his ratings plummeted to a level lowest in recent history.
According to Sammon, Bush defends his position by saying that terrorism is not a criminal offense, but an act of war. (2006, p. 25). It is very plain to see how Bush is exhibiting the Moral Guardian Syndrome. He does not hesitate to use force to advance his own cause. Perhaps encouraged by the success of the Afghanistan campaign, he truly believes that he can rid the world of terrorists. Values such as exert prowess, take vengeance, deceive for the sake of task, be fatalistic, can be seen in Bush’s leadership style.
Primarily, it is the unflinching willingness to use physical force that defines Bush’s presidency. In order to protect his territory and resources, he embraces force and stands his ground. The use of military might to exact vengeance and uphold a way of life holds true with the Guardian Moral Syndrome. In fact, the need for righteous revenge was what galvanized the United States soon after the World Trade Center was attacked, killing thousands of people. Bush capitalized on his country’s united call for justice in order to indefinitely maintain his war against terrorists and extremists.
He protects his turf by actively seeking out and eliminating those who threaten his territory and he does so with firm belief in his cause. Bush personifies the guardian moral syndrome because the use of righteous force governs his thoughts and actions. He remains faithful to the cause and is more than willing to pay the price for his advocacy and beliefs. Commercial Model Syndrome: Sir Richard Branson Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson is the owner of the Virgin group of companies. He was born in Surrey, England and is currently the fifth richest man in the United Kingdom.
Branson is a high school dropout because his dyslexia was getting in the way of his learning. His teachers, who did not know any better at that time thought he was a slow learner. Whatever shortcomings Richard had in his academic life, he made up with his entrepreneurial spirit, Richard has always been enterprising, venturing into businesses at a young age. He was 21 years when he opened his first record store in 1971. In the 1980’s, Branson’s Virgin record label grew rapidly, spurred primarily by his flamboyant and competitive style. What started out as a small record store is now a globally-recognized brand.
A big part of Branson’s early success was the choice of name for his business, but foremost was his passion and faith for what he is doing. He was focused and had his eye on the goal from day one. He leveraged his small successes in order to take on grander undertakings. Fridson describes Branson’s success. “The unconventionality reflected in Branson’s managerial style is a personality trait that made him a highly successful innovator throughout his career. ” (1999, p. 226) Branson breaks the mold of the traditional successful businessman (Nelson and Quick, p. 111).
Nevertheless, he is still remains to be a classic example of the commercial moral syndrome and is a good case in point. Among all the values embodied by the commercial moral syndrome, Branson is the epitome of optimism. He had explicit faith in his own success, and the positive expectations he had for himself became a self-fulfilling prophecy, as evidenced by his Virgin conglomerate. Aside from his optimism, Branson is also industrious and efficient, and does not balk at the competition. However, it should be noted that among all of Branson’s traits as a businessman.
He best embodies the qualities of the commercial moral syndrome with his willingness to innovate. Among the precepts of the commercial moral syndrome says that one should be open to inventiveness and novelty. There should be a willingness to try something new and keep redefining the current state of things. Branson, for all his successes, could have just chosen to rest on his laurels and enjoy the fruits of his hard work. But the need to raise the bar keeps him on the top of his game. This perhaps is the hallmark of every great businessman.
The willingness to create something new, and accept the risks that go with it are what sets the Branson from the rest of the crowd and is perhaps the main reason for his success. Branson acquires resources and riches by engaging in business under a free market economy, and he expands on his territory by using what he has earned as funds in order to acquire more. He enters into agreements and partnerships to diversify and knows how to invest productively and is optimistic even as he takes calculated risks. Branson is a model for the commercial moral system because he represents all the best that this system embodies.
He is perhaps one of the best arguments for this model. Branson has proved that with the right attitude, anyone can be successful businessman, even a school drop-out like he is. Indeed the concept of a dichotomy in business and government entities is dictated by the circumstances wherein they are being used. One model or syndrome is not necessarily better over the other because they were made for entirely different reasons. Guardian precepts are designed to strengthen the individual against fear and weakness, but it should be tempered with a strong sense of fairness and justice.
The best guardians are that person who, while believing in the necessity of force, exhausts all peaceful means before using it. Force should always be a last resort, and must never be used to advance any selfish interests. Conversely, commercial precepts are designed for the accumulation of wealth under a free market environment. But it success in a commercial model should be tempered with civic responsibility and the willingness to give back to the community and help those who have not been so fortunate in life. The two people mentioned in this paper does embody the qualities of each system.
They are operating within their own zones and are successful in their own right. However, I believe that the world is far too complex to be condensed into a black and white model. While there is no doubt that Jacobs has great insights on how we act to survive and keep our turf, most things in life are not as clearly defined. Depending on the situation, we can be guardians or commercials, or a bit of both. And while the two people discussed here typify one model or another, there is no saying how long will they stay that way and how will they act if their life circumstances were any different, or if something changes in their environment.
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