In corporations we trust? A critique of contractarian- based corporate social responsibility models

  • Minka Woermann Department of Philosophy, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
Keywords: Complexity, Corporate social responsibility, Relative power, Social contract theory, Stakeholders, Trust, Voluntary agreements 


This paper presents a philosophical critique of contractarian-based corporate social responsibility mod- els. Specifically, attention is given to Freeman’s (and Philips’s) justification for voluntary agreements between corporations and their stakeholders. The critique is conducted at the hand of the claim that the social contract is a helpful tool for circumscribing the obligations of contracting parties, and that these derived obligations form a trust relation between the contracting parties. By analysing the logic of these relations, an argument is developed for why the structural conditions necessary to inspire trust in contracts are not met in the case of certain corporate-stakeholder relations. 


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