Corporate versus individual moral responsibility

Journal of Business Ethics 46 (2):143 - 150 (2003)
Abstract
There is a clear tendency in contemporary political/legal thought to limit agency to individual agents, thereby denying the existence and relevance of collective moral agency in general, and corporate agency in particular. This tendency is ultimately rooted in two particular forms of individualism – methodological and fictive (abstract) – which have their source in the Enlightenment. Furthermore, the dominant notion of moral agency owes a lot to Kant whose moral/legal philosophy is grounded exclusively on abstract reason and personal autonomy, to the detriment of a due recognition of the socio-historical grounds of moral social conduct.I shall argue that an adequate theory of responsibility is needed, which does not only take into account individual responsibility, but also collective and corporate responsibility, capable of taking into consideration society and its problems. Furthermore, corporations are consciously and carefully structured organisations with different levels of management and have clearly defined aims and objectives, a central feature upon which I shall be focussing in this paper.
Keywords agency  corporate moral agency  individual  individualist  moral responsibility  nominalists  realist
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