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Retrieving Business Ethics from Political Philosophy

VIEWS: 7 PAGES: 14

Academic business ethics is in the thrall of normative political philosophy. As a consequence, the content of academic business ethics is anomalous in the history of moral reflection on commerce, irrelevant to the vast majority of business people in the world, and too grandiose to address fruitfully doing business ethically at the level most business is done. Business ethics can be retrieved by refocusing on the activity of doing business, elucidating principles of action that are modest in aim and in which the business person can have a corresponding confidence. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]

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									                                The Journal of Private Enterprise 24(2), 2009, 21-33

Retrieving Business Ethics from Political
Philosophy

Alexei M. Marcoux*
Loyola University Chicago


Abstract
Academic business ethics is in the thrall of normative political philosophy.
As a consequence, the content of academic business ethics is anomalous in
the history of moral reflection on commerce, irrelevant to the vast majority
of business people in the world, and too grandiose to address fruitfully doing
business ethically at the level most business is done. Business ethics can be
retrieved by refocusing on the activity of doing business, elucidating
principles of action that are modest in aim and in which the business person
can have a corresponding confidence.

JEL Code: M14
Keywords: Business; Contract; Ethics; Normative; Philosophy; Political

I. Introduction
    My title commits me to convincing the reader of three
propositions. First, business ethics as an object of university teaching
and research has been captured by or is in the thrall of another academic
discipline, normative political philosophy. Second, this is a harmful or
at least suboptimal state of affairs about which business people,
university academics, the public at large, or some combination of
these should be concerned. Third, there exists a compelling alternative
to business ethics’s capture by or thrall with normative political
philosophy toward which business people, university academics, the



* I wish to thank Loyola University Chicago and its Graduate School of Business
for a period of sabbatical leave contributing to the research and completion of this
paper. Thanks are due also to Liberty Fund, Inc. for favoring me with a resident
scholarship during Fall 2008, facilitating the paper’s completion. My thanks go
finally to Nicholas Capaldi and Doug Rasmussen for helpful comments on an
earlier draft, to Doug Rasmussen again for organizing the symposium out of which
this paper emerges, and to the editors of this journal for reasons too obvious to
mention. Responsibility for errors is mine.

                                        21
22      A. M. Marcoux / The Journal of Private Enterprise 24(2), 2009, 21-33

public at large, or some combination of these should seek to move
bus
								
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