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Four Design Criteria for any Future Contractarian Theory of Business Ethics

Authors
Disciplines
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science

Abstract

Four Design Criteria for any Future Contractarian Theory of Business Ethics Ben Wempe ABSTRACT. This article assesses the quality of Inte- grative Social Contracts Theory (ISCT) as a social con- tract argument. For this purpose, it embarks on a comparative analysis of the use of the social contract model as a theory of political authority and as a theory of social justice. Building on this comparison, it then develops four criteria for any future contractarian theory of business ethics (CBE). To apply the social contract model properly to the domain of business ethics, it should be: (1) self-disciplined, i.e., not aspire results beyond what the contract model can realistically establish; (2) argu- mentative, i.e., it should seek to provide principles that are demonstrative results of the contractarian method; (3) task-directed, i.e., it should be clear what the social contract thought-experiment is intended to model; and (4) domain-specific, i.e., the contractarian choice situa- tion should be tailored to the defining problems of business ethics. KEY WORDS: contractarianism, Integrative Social Contracts Theory, theories of business ethics The project for an Integrative Social Contracts Theory (ISCT) seeks to develop norms for corporate morality on the basis of a social contract model (Donaldson and Dunfee, 1999, 2000a, b; Dunfee, 2000). Analogous to classical contract theorists such as Hobbes and Locke, who used the contract model to specify conditions under which the national state can legitimately exercise its power, ISCT seeks to specify the conditions for socially responsible cor- porate conduct on the basis of a social contract model especially adapted for this purpose. ISCT arguably is the most promising approach to business ethics currently available. But, as will be set out in thisarticle, ISCT can be shown to be relatively eclectic in its rendering of the social contract argu- ment. To make this case, we draw upo

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