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Integrative Social Contracts Theory

A Communitarian Conception of Economic Ethics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2008

Thomas Donaldson
Georgetown University
Thomas W. Dunfee
The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania


Difficult moral issues in economic life, such as evaluating the impact of hostile takeovers and plant relocations or determining the obligations of business to the environment, constitute the raison d'etre of business ethics. Yet, while the ultimate resolution of such issues clearly requires detailed, normative analysis, a shortcoming of business ethics is that to date it has failed to develop an adequate normative theory.1 The failing is especially acute when it results in an inability to provide a basis for fine-grained analyses of issues. Both general moral theories and stakeholder theory seem incapable of expressing the moral complexity necessary to provide practical normative guidance for many business ethics contexts.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995

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