Contractualism and Deontology Frameworks in Business Ethics

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Many issues in business ethics focus on the meaning and scope of the notion; duty of care. The recent claims of Contractarianism in the Academy of Management Review are analyzed critically and found wanting to a high degree. Kohlberg’s paradigm shares the inadequacy of contractarianism, Kohlberg (1978) is a universalist and therefore a recognizably ethical moral framework that shares with contractarianism the drawbacks of a problematic, a priority rationality in terms of its exclusively ethical judgments. The care theory has recently depicted to have begun to gain universalist credentials it previously lacked and not to be subject to the limitations of other two paradigms in some key aspects; but that it still carries a conceptual development to do in order to become a practical framework for global business ethics.

Weber (1926) argued that most people’s moral decisions are guided by one of two quite different personal frameworks; the ethnics of conviction or responsibility. Conviction covers what one believes to be right, but is normally trumped by responsibility which is what one actually does, on the rationalization of needing to keep the family fed. Conviction resonates with justice, responsibility resonates with care. This doesn’t mean that ethics of conviction indicates lack of responsibility, or ethics of responsibility a lack of conviction. This shows the divide between private and public life, between our office and family, Kohlberg’s framework resolves this in favour of the public and private. Contractarianism has the conviction ethic that honouring agreements is generally good, but also bears the responsibility ethic that moral commitments arise only from contractual privities between specific individuals including those signing marriage contracts. Contractarian theories are usually placed at only stage five of Kohlberg’s six stage paradigm; at stage six are deontic ethical frameworks illustrated by Kant’s unconditional imperative. Deontic rules are...
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