Ethical theory in business ethics: A critical assessment [Book Review]

Journal of Business Ethics 8 (7):521 - 533 (1989)


How is ethical theory used in contemporary teaching in business ethics? To answer this question, we undertook a survey of twenty-five of the leading business ethics texts. Our purpose was to examine the ways in which normative moral theory is introduced and applied to cases and issues. We focused especially on the authors' views of the conflicts and tensions posed by basic theoretical debates. How can these theories be made useful if fundamental tensions are acknowledged? Our analysis resulted in a typology, presented here, of the ways in which normative theory, and the difficulties within it, are handled in business ethics texts. We conclude that there is a serious lack of clarity about how to apply the theories to cases and a persistent unwillingness to grapple with tensions between theories of ethical reasoning. These deficiencies hamper teaching and ethical decision-making.

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