All Theses, Dissertations, and Capstone Projects

Year of Award



Master of Business Administration (MBA)


College of Business & Professional Studies

Degree Program



Business Administration


Literature Review, Business Books, Success, Ethics, Utility


"Success" has become one of the most popular subjects in America during the 1980s. Numerous books and articles have been written on the subject from a variety of perspectives, but very little reflection has been done about the underlying ethical assumptions of success literature. Such relection is needed if Americans are fully to understand the implications of the success "systems" they choose to follow.

The major ethical models provide a framework for analysis of success literature. These include the teleological theories of ethical egoism/hedonism, utilitarianism, and restricted egoism; the deontological models of theologism and Kantianism; and moral relativism. A representative selection of popular success books provides a cross-section of ethical perspectives. Because of the highly practical nature of the works examined, their ethical positions are often implicitly rather than explicitly stated. Success! and Molloy's Live for Success are egoistic in approach. The Master-Key to Riches, The Double Win, The Positive Principle Today, and Good Guys Finish First, present, with varying degrees of internal consistency, a deontological/theologistic approach. In Search of Excellence is predominantly utilitarian. The Official Guide to Success contains both theologistic and egoistic elements. The analysis of these works shows that, contrary to some popular beliefs, Americans are not purely materialistic in their definitions of success, but embrace other values as well. However, the works do tend to point to an American bias for action over reflection, and are not always even internally consistent. These facts suggest a need for more careful reflection by Americans on the meaning of success.

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