A Critical Perspective of Integrative Social Contracts Theory: Recurring Criticisms and Next Generation Research Topics

Journal of Business Ethics 68 (3):303-328 (2006)


During the past ten years Integrative Social Contracts Theory (ISCT) has become part of the repertoire of specialized decision-oriented theories in the business ethics literature. The intention here is to (1)␣provide a brief overview of the structure and strengths of ISCT; (2) identify recurring themes in the extensive commentary on the theory including brief mention of how ISCT has been applied outside the business ethics literature; (3) describe where research appears to be headed; and (4) specify challenges faced by those who seek to reform ISCT. Key themes in the critiquing literature relate to (a) the identification process for hypernorms; (b) justification of the recognition of hypernorms; (c) proposals for considering meso or meta norms; (d)␣clarification of the relationship between stakeholder concepts and ISCT; (e) problems with potentially unoccupied moral free space; (f) sources of ethical obligation within the ISCT framework; and (g) the potential role for concepts of stakeholder dialogue and engagement.

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