ABSTRACT:In this address I argue that different perspectives on the normative foundations of corporate responsibility reflect underlying disagreements about the ideal arrangement of tasks between market and state. I initially recommend that scholars look back to the “division of moral labor” inspired by John Rawls’ seminal work on distributive justice in order to rethink why, and to what extent, corporations take on responsibilities normally within the purview of government. I then examine how this notion is related to recent theoretical work (...) in the field of business ethics. I thereafter turn to provide a brief outline of an alternative view that sees corporations as having responsibilities in so far as markets are sites of delegated oversight over the production of social goods that might otherwise be administered by the state. (shrink)
One common justification for the pursuit of profit by business firms within a market economy is that profit is not an end in itself but a means to more efficiently produce and allocate resources. Profit, in short, is a mechanism that serves the market’s purpose of producing Pareto superior outcomes for society. This discussion examines whether such a justification, if correct, requires business managers to remain attentive to how their firm’s operation impacts the market’s purpose. In particular, it is argued (...) that the value of efficiency, despite views to the contrary, cannot be fully separated from the planning and intentions of business managers as long as those managers direct their firms in an ethically responsible fashion. This position is inspired by, and serves as a supportive clarification of Joseph Heath’s so-called “market failures approach” to business ethics. (shrink)
While the ethics of technology is analyzed across disciplines from science and technology studies, engineering, computer science, critical management studies, and law, less attention is paid to the role that firms and managers play in the design, development, and dissemination of technology across communities and within their firm. Although firms play an important role in the development of technology, and make associated value judgments around its use, it remains open how we should understand the contours of what firms owe society (...) as the rate of technological development accelerates. We focus here on digital technologies: devices that rely on rapidly accelerating digital sensing, storage, and transmission capabilities to intervene in human processes. This symposium focuses on how firms should engage ethical choices in developing and deploying these technologies. In this introduction, we, first, identify themes the symposium articles share and discuss how the set of articles illuminate diverse facets of the intersection of technology and business ethics. Second, we use these themes to explore what business ethics offers to the study of technology and, third, what technology studies offers to the field of business ethics. Each field brings expertise that, together, improves our understanding of the ethical implications of technology. Finally we introduce each of the five papers, suggest future research directions, and interpret their implications for business ethics. (shrink)
Should we conceive of corporations as entities to which moral responsibility can be attributed? This contribution presents what we will call a political account of corporate moral responsibility. We argue that in modern, liberal democratic societies, there is an underlying political need to attribute greater levels of moral responsibility to corporations. Corporate moral responsibility is essential to the maintenance of social coordination that both advances social welfare and protects citizens' moral entitlements. This political account posits a special capacity of self-governance (...) that corporations can intelligibly be said to possess. Corporations can be said to be "administrators of duty" in that they can voluntarily incorporate moral principles into their decision-making processes about how to conduct business. This account supplements and partly transforms earlier pragmatic accounts of corporate moral responsibility by disentangling responsibility from its conventional linkages with accountability, blame and punishment. It thereby represents a distinctive way to defend corporate moral responsibility and shows how Kantian thinking can be helpful in disentangling the problems surrounding the concept. (shrink)
Does effective moral judgment in business ethics rely upon the identification of a suitable set of moral principles? We address this question by examining a number of criticisms of the role that principles can play in moral judgment. Critics claim that reliance on principles requires moral agents to abstract themselves from actual circumstances, relationships and personal commitments in answering moral questions. This is said to enforce an artificial uniformity in moral judgment. We challenge these critics by developing an account of (...) principle-based moral judgment that has been widely discussed by contemporary Kantian scholars. In so doing we respond to some basic problems raised by so-called “moral particularists” who voice theoretical objections to the role of principles as well as to contemporary business ethicists who have criticized principle-based moral judgment along similar lines. We conclude with some future areas of research. (shrink)
In the wake of recent corporate scandals, this paper examines the claim made by John Boatright that business ethics, as it is currently conceived, “rests on a mistake.” Ethics in business should not be achieved through managerial vision, discretion or responsibility; rather, ethics should shape the design of institutions that regulate business from the outside. What ethicists should advocate for, according to Boatright, are moral markets not moral managers. I explore the empirical and normative dimensions of his claim with special (...) attention paid to the extent to which Boatright’s development of the economic theory of the firm supports his position. I conclude by suggesting some reasons why moral markets and moral management are compatible frameworks for corporate reform. (shrink)
This volume provides an updated examination of the role that moral and political philosophy can play in addressing problems in business ethics. The essays contained within its pages represent the work of new scholars and address a wide array of foundational issues such as distributive justice within firms, human rights, ethical challenges of international business, the role of virtue in business management, entrepreneurship and the relationship of markets and market actors with democratic institutions.
An introduction to the March, 2005 symposium “The Political Theory of Organizations: A Retrospective Examination of Christopher McMahon’s Authority and Democracy” held in San Francisco as part of the Society for Business Ethics Group Meeting at the Pacific Division Meetings of the American Philosophical Association.
In a recent critique of the so-called “market failures approach” to business ethics Abraham Singer maintains that business firms have ethical responsibilities to voluntarily restrain their profit-seeking activities in accordance with the demands of justice. While I ultimately share Singer’s intuition that the MFA has overlooked the importance of justice in business ethics, I argue that he has not presented a fully adequate case to explain why justice-related responsibilities should be assigned to business firms. I conclude by offering a brief (...) – and supportive – alternative to his position. (shrink)
An introduction to the March, 2005 symposium "The Political Theory of Organizations: A Retrospective Examination of Christopher McMahon's "Authority and Democracy" held in San Francisco as part of the Society for Business Ethics Group Meeting at the Pacific Division Meetings of the American Philosophical Association.