Contractarianism and personalisms in a dialogue on the ethical foundation of CSR

Corporate social responsibility is largely debated amongst management science and business ethics scholars, but only a few of consistent theoretical foundations have been provided for it. Typically these are suggested within the stakeholder approach to the theory of the firm, but the same stakeholder approach - in so far as it is mainly descriptive - does not provide an ethical foundation per se. In this paper two theories are discussed as possible but alternative CSR ethical foundation. The social contract, which gives an ethics & economics account for the stakeholder approach, and the Personalist model of CSR as worked out in some recent works by Helen Alford - within the Maritain's new Thomist tradition. After a defense of ethical individualism from some Thomist allegations, this paper presents the contractarian theory of CSR from both the 'normative' (as a multi-fiduciary model of corporate governance and objective function based of the stakeholders' agreement) and 'implementation' point of views (in which the idea of "conformity-with-the-ideal preferences" is developed). These features are able of answering the allegations that contractarianism would consider only instrumentally (and hence not ethically) CSR and that its motivational bases are weak in so far as it does not include a notion of good. On the contrary a parallelism between Maritain's personalism and the idea of "conformity with the ideal", understood as the behaviorist implementation theory corresponding to the social contract under the veil of ignorance, is suggested. As far as the Personalist and New Thomist foundation of CSR is concerned, its superiority over other communitarian attempts to provide a theoretical ground for business ethics is acknowledged. In fact personalists avoid the typical apologetic view of the corporation itself as the basis for the ethical virtues of its members. But this result is obtained only by means of the peculiar concept of ideal community to which relational persons are ordered within the personalist view. This needs metaphysical assumptions that today social sciences and philosophy may not be ready accept by fiat . Contractarianism, in the version here defended, dispenses with such assumptions, at the same time providing a not less satisfying foundations for CSR. keywords: Stakeholder theory, corporate social responsibility , social contract, conformity, reciprocity, Social Chatolic Thought.
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