Business Ethics and Extant Social Contracts

Business Ethics Quarterly 1 (1):23-51 (1991)
Abstract
Extant social contracts, deriving from communities of individuals, constitute a significant source of ethical norms in business. When found consistent with general ethical theories through the application of a fiItering test, these real social contracts generate prima facie duties of compliance on the part of those who expressly or impliedly consent to the terms of the social contract, and also on the part of those who take advantage of the instrumental value of the social contracts. Businesspeople typically participate in multiple communities and, as a consequence, encounter conflicting ethical norms. Priority rules can be devised to resolve such conflicts. The framework of extant social contracts merges normative and theoretical research in business ethics and specifies a domain for empirical studies
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