Journal of Business Ethics 86 (4):429-449 (2009)

Despite the so-called ‘paradigm wars’ in many social sciences disciplines in recent decades, debate as to the appropriate philosophical basis for research in business ethics has been comparatively non-existent. Any consideration of paradigm issues in the theoretical business ethics literature is rare and only very occasional references to relevant issues have been made in the empirical journal literature. This is very much the case in the growing fields of cross-cultural business ethics and undergraduate student attitudes, and examples from these fields are used in this article. No typology of the major paradigms available for, or relied upon in, business ethics has been undertaken in the wider journal literature, and this article addresses that gap. It contributes a synthesis of three models of paradigms and a tabulated comparison of ontological, epistemological and methodological assumptions in the context of empirical business ethics research. The author also suggests the likely (and usually unidentified) positivist paradigm assumptions underlying the vast majority of empirical business ethics research published in academic journals and also argues for an increased reliance on less positivist assumptions moving forward.
Keywords cross-cultural business ethics  empirical business ethics research  ontologies  epistemologies and methodologies  paradigm analysis  paradigm typologies  undergraduate student attitudes
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DOI 10.1007/s10551-008-9856-3
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