Positive Social Identity: The Quantitative Analysis of Ethics, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Positive Social Identity

The Quantitative Analysis of Ethics, 1st Edition

By Nick Duncan


252 pages

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pub: 2017-05-22
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Despite considerable work the answer to basic questions such as ‘what are our ethics and our moral norms now?’ ‘Have they changed since last year?’, ‘If so why?’ remain surprisingly illusive.

This book argues that progress towards answering these questions is possible through a grounded analytical account of the cultivation of ethics and moral norms in social groups, in particular places and times.

Departing from the evolutionary theory of why we gain value from pro-social behaviour, we argue that a coherent thread exists for how we do so through evolved social capacities that are united in the pursuit of a Positive Social Identity.

Drawing on a unique quantitative dataset from Sierra Leone this book offers a theoretical framework and a preliminary guide to the systematic quantitative analysis of ethics and moral norms and how these may relate to the long term success of organisations.

The results directly challenge a ‘one-size-fits-all’, universal understanding of both ethics and moral norms both within and between organisations. The costs and challenges influencing the development of ethics and moral norms and their ultimate conception of pro-sociality vary dramatically according to situation. Nowhere is this more starkly illustrated than between economically developed and developing countries.

In analysing the relationship between agency and situation, the role of diversity, conflict, inefficiency and failure to cooperate prove to be essential components of the solution of social dilemmas on which Positive Social Identity depends.


'Blending insights from psychology, organisational theory and economics, Nick Duncan provides a powerful account of the ethical basis of organisational change. This book will be an important reference for scholars interested in understanding why and how organisations change.'

Kunal Sen, Professor of Development Economics, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, UK

'Like some before him, Nick Duncan is not reluctant to ask the difficult questions regarding how and why we, humans, often but often not act in altruistic, positive and empathetic ways. Unlike many before him, however, he eschews simple reductionist answers. Instead, he develops a complex theory of ethical behaviour that builds on insights from evolutionary biology, identity theory, descriptive ethics and organizational theory emphasising the importance of social and organizational contexts and situations that we encounter in our lives. In this way, he is able to account for how humans can be both social and anti-social, moral and amoral. This is a probing and profound book that deserves to be read very widely by everyone who is concerned about the big moral issues of our age.'

Yiannis Gabriel, Professor of Organizational Theory, University of Bath, UK and University of Lund, Sweden

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Evolutionary Motivations Towards Pro-Social Moral Norms

Chapter 2 The Social Brain and Moral Self-Identity

Chapter 3 Situation and Transformation in the Resolution of Social Dilemmas

Chapter 4 Intrapersonal Identity Positivity

Chapter 5 Positive Social Identity

Chapter 6: A Situational Model of Positive Social Identity

Chapter 7: A Situational Analysis of Positive Social Identity

Chapter 8: Conclusion: The Distinct Importance of Positive Social Identity


Appendix 1: Data Collected

Appendix 2: Correlation between Indicators of PSID Pro-social Behviour and Social Resources

Appendix 3: Equations Used for Graph Level Indicators


About the Author

Dr Nick Duncan has directed both commercial and NGO organisations with activities in over 20 countries. Nick has specialised over the last 15 years in corruption, anti-corruption and organisational ethics. During this period, he has specifically focussed on issues of measurement, both as a practitioner and researcher. He has published, and lectured internationally on these subjects.

Nick is currently lead consultant at Strategic Organisational Ethics in Cambridge UK.

About the Series

Law, Ethics and Governance

Law, Ethics and Governance
Recent history has emphasised the potentially devastating effects of governance failures in governments, government agencies, corporations and the institutions of civil society. 'Good governance' is seen as necessary, if not crucial, for economic success and human development. Although the disciplines of law, ethics, politics, economics and management theory can provide insights into the governance of organisations, governance issues can only be dealt with by interdisciplinary studies, combining several (and sometimes all) of those disciplines. This series aims to provide such interdisciplinary studies for students, researchers and relevant practitioners.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / General