Contractualism and Deontology Frameworks in Business Ethics

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.

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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 universal and general.

Contractarian rules are specific and apply to people who have accepted them previously. The common perspective is that the positions they occupy are as a result of reasoned deliberation, without necessarily sourcing in emotion. Both frameworks attributed to hypothetical states of nature in which people coolly reason among them, which sets of rules will be minimally essential for the life or projects that they are about to board. Kohlberg stage three rigins is more soberly viewed as compromising and it’s core of integrated social contract theory to that dominance wholly depends much on a very problematic strength of inner morality of contracts. Van Oosterhout et al (2006) attempts to advance their ambition to stigmatize other contract theoreticians as distress from “contractual follies”. He further clarifies that the four “contractual follies” all displays deception, defeasance, mellifluous alliteration and defection. This is unusual happy linguistic fluke.

Writers give the occasional baseless assertion amongst an otherwise heavily argued and stranded citation text. Discourse manipulation is beyond more vocal cosmetics and very critical to the writers’ thesis. Contractualism and contractarianism, entails prior commitments to individualism, freedom, private property rights and possibility of free market exchange. The approach involves dedication to reasonableness and basic institutions, acknowledging foundational and privileged role of reasoned and voluntary human responsibility.

Before Van Oosterhout, contractualism was originally explained by Dunfee & Donaldson (1994) as lying in the middle of ethical relativism and ethical absolutism in a manner that combines private contracts with deeper societal contracts. It recognizes the power of such key trans-cultural truths as the idea that all humans be worthy of respect. It resides in a ‘moral free space’ where fiscal communities and nations have their own customs entail ‘flagrant neglect of core human values’.

The lowest content of a global social contract is as a result of state of nature and comprises of the civil rights of individuals to voice within and exit from any group and compatibility with internationally accepted hyper norms recognized by philosophies, religion and cultural beliefs around the world. , mainly for businesses; firms should practice adequate safety rules and health for their workers and give them the right to know the risks of doing relevant jobs; business obligations should be honored in a spirit of fairness and honesty; and no lies should be told.

An early version of contractualism regards corruption as wrong, since religion and laws generally condemns it, and because it violates the hyper-norm of civic good taking priority over individual gain. According to Van Oosterhout (2006), ‘Desolation’ is the state of solitude said to be experienced by businesses which are not able to find contracting partners on the basis of their bounded rationality, the problem in fact being that there is no contract at all, when perhaps there could have been one. Deception’ is the misuse of information symmetry by deliberate efforts to misguide, no objection about that and is already established in contract law. ‘Defeasance’ is the problem of context of the contract unforeseeably shifting so significantly that the original consent may not be taken to apply in the new conditions. The word defeasance strongly means fault. ‘Defection’ covers all utilization of post contract information, such as free riders, managerial organization cost including conduct and subcontracting underperformance.

Deontology can be referred as a twisted, inexplicable mockery of consequentialism; it relies on things that do not happen after the act judged to judge the act. This leaves facts about times before and during the act to determine whether the act is right or wrong. This may include: The agent’s epistemic state, either actual or ideal e. g. thinking that some act would have a certain result; the reference class of the act e. g. it being an act of murder, lying, theft, etc; the historical facts e. g. sworn a vow or making a promise; the counterfactual view e. g. hat would happen if others performed the same act more often than they actually do; Features of people affected by the act e. g. preferences, moral rights, relationship to the agent; Agents intentions e. g. meaning well or deliberately acting or accidently or maliciously. Individual deontological theories may have different profiles, just like different consequentiality theories. Some theories can be generated using the above criteria. Kohlberg’s paradigm describes six stages in an individual’s moral evolution potential. A moral and immoral individuals are off the scale altogether.

At stage one, a person behaves ethically only to the extent the she or he panics the punishment for wrong doing. At stage two, fear is supplemented by pleasure as good deeds are rewarded, as well as bad behavior is punished. At stage three, ‘need to belong’ is the driving force that ensures good behavior by compliance with group norms. At stage four, the group has expanded to become all of society that is the country race or homeland. At stage five, the person or individual has thought about his or her moral values.

Reference list

Dunfee, T. W and Donaldson T. J. 1994. Towards a Unified Concept of Business Ethics: Integrative Social Contracts Theory, Academy of Management Review. Kohlberg, L. 1978. “The Cognitive developmental approach to Moral Education”, in P. Scharf, (ed. ), Reading in Moral Education, Winston Press Minneapolis. Van Oosterhout, J. H, Heugens P. and Kaptein, M. 2006. “The internal Morality of Contracting advancing the Contractualist Endeavour in Business Ethics”, Academy of Management Review. Weber, M. 1926. Politik Als Beruf (Politics as Vocation), Munich and Leipzig, NY.

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