Journal of Business Ethics 88 (S4):665 - 683 (2009)
AbstractSocial norms are an important input for ethical decisions in any business context. However, the cross-cultural discovery of extant social norms presents a special challenge to international management because norms may be inscrutable to outsiders. This article considers the contribution of Integrative Social Contracts Theory (ISCT) to the analysis of social norms in business ethics. It questions the origins and dynamics of norms from a sociological perspective, and identifies a tension between prescriptive efforts to make norms obligatory and positivist accounts that describe norms as evolving and unstable. In the presence of dynamic and incomplete norms, managers can either deliberate with stakeholders to make norms flexible or codify norms to make them rigid. This essay argues that deliberation is the only reliable method for anticipating emergent norms
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