The role of law in models of ethical behavior

Journal of Business Ethics 77 (4):451 - 461 (2008)
In attempting to improve ethical decision-making in business organizations, researchers have developed models of ethical decision-making processes. Most of these models do not include a role for law in ethical decision-making, or if law is mentioned, it is set as a boundary constraint, exogenous to the decision process. However, many decision models in business ethics are based on cognitive moral development theory, in which the law is thought to be the external referent of individuals at the level of cognitive development that most people have achieved. Other theoretical bases of ethical decision models, social learning, and experientialism, also imply a role for law that is rarely made explicit. Law is a more important aspect of ethical decision-process models than it appears to be in the models. This paper will derive explicit roles for the law from the cognition, experientialism, and social learning theories that are used to build ethical decision-making models for business behavior.
Keywords business ethics  business law  cognitive moral development  ethical decision models  experientialism  social learning
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