Integrative social contracts theory: Hype over hypernorms [Book Review]

Journal of Business Ethics 26 (2):101 - 110 (2000)
Applying social contract theory to business ethics is a relatively new idea, and perhaps nobody has pursued this direction better than Thomas Donaldson and Thomas W. Dunfee. Their "Integrative Social Contracts Theory" manages to combine culturally sensitive decision making capacities with trans-cultural norms by setting up a layered system of social contracts. Lurking behind their work is a concern with the problems of relativism. They hope to alleviate these problems by introducing three concepts important to the ISCT: "authentic norms," which clarify culturally specific norms, "priority rules," which determine the rules of engagement when authentic norms clash, and "hypernorms," which measure the value of authentic norms against a thin set of universally upheld values. This paper traces the genealogy of these hypernorms and challenges their value for the ISCT. It argues that well-conceived priority rules can do everything hypernorms can, and can do so more simply.
Keywords Donaldson and Dunfee  hypernorms  "Integrative Social Contracts Theory"  priority rules  relativism  Taylor  Walzer
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