Ethics Book Club: Anthro Vision by Gillian Tett

Tuesday 24 May 2022

Anthro vision

Author: Ethics Steering Committee 

In her book Anthro-Vision, A New Way to See in Business and Life, Gillian Tett explains the relevance of an anthropological approach to tackling real world problems, such as epidemics.  She discusses how her background as an anthropologist helps her analyse the finance sector and, specifically, helped her foresee the 2007-08 Financial Crisis.

The work provides several valuable insights.  It explains the interaction between external rules with existing cultural norms.  Specific examples to illustrate this are drawn from the Ebola epidemic, but similar interesting issues arise in the interaction of financial regulation with finance sector working culture. 

Also discussed are some of the challenges experienced by different groups when they are working together, particularly if each group has distinct cultures, understanding and social norms.  When we reflect on our roles in financial services, we often experience these conflicts first-hand.  For example, in a role focused on forming partnerships between Government and investors, the conflict around completing a deal can exist (for example, the challenge between "doing a deal" if you're an investor vs. finding the best policy solution as the Government advisor).  This may or may not involve doing a deal, or at least not doing a deal with a specific party.  Another common clash is the desire to progress rapidly vs. the need to build broad stakeholder consensus. 

From an ethical standpoint, the key insight is that ethics should be assessed in the context of a culture, rather than viewing ethical values as absolute.  This contributes to ethical debates such as: "if you personally don't think a deal is a good idea, under what circumstances could you ethically still recommend it to your organisation / investors? "


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