Toward a General Theory of Responsibility and Irresponsibility

Proceedings of the International Association for Business and Society 23:48-59 (2012)
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Abstract

This paper seeks to make a contribution toward a general theory of responsibility and irresponsibility. Such a theory, or framework or model, addresses therelationship between responsibility and irresponsibility. The motive for the effort is that the literature on business ethics, corporate citizenship, and corporate social responsibility combines negative prohibitions with positive requirements and at both individual and organizational levels of action. A prohibition takes the form “do not” expressed in laws and ethics. A requirement takes the form “should” or “ought” expressed in theories of responsibility and stakeholder engagement. Armstrong (1977) points out that actually preventing harm may be socially much more valuable than promoting contribution.

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