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 

Abstract

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. 

References

Baier, A. 1985. ‘What do women want in moral theory’, Nous, 19, 3-56. Baier, A. 1986. ‘Trust and antitrust’, Ethics, 96, 231-260.

Bremer, J.A. 2008. ‘How global is the Global Compact?’, Business Ethics: A European Review, 17(3), 227-244.

Cudd, A. ‘Contractarianism’, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Fall 2008 Edition. Available online at: <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ contractarianism/>

Donaldson, T. 1982. Corporations and morality. Engelwood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Donaldson, T. 1993. ‘Constructing a social contract for business’, in T.I. White, (Ed.) Business ethics: a philosophical reader. New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 167-187.

Donaldson, T. and Dunfee, T.W. 1999. Ties that bind: a social contract approach to business ethics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Donaldson, T., and Preston, L.E. 1995. ‘The stakeholder theory of the corporation: concepts, evidence, and implications’, Academy of Management Review, 20(1), 65-91.

Freeman, R.E. 1984. Strategic management: a stakeholder approach. Boston: Pitman.

Freeman, R.E. 1994. ‘The politics of stakeholder theory: Some future directions’, Business Ethics Quarterly, 4, 409-421.

Freeman. R.E and Philips, R.A. 2002. ‘Stakeholder theory: A libertarian defense’, Business Ethics Quarterly, 12, 331-349.

Freeman, R.E. 2008. ‘Ending the so-called “Friedman-Freeman” debate’ in Agle, B.R., Donaldson, T., Freeman, R.E., Jensen, M.C., Mitchell, R.K. and Wood, D.J. ‘Dialogue towards superior stakeholder theory’, Business Ethics Quarterly, 18, 159-190.

Friedman, M. 1962. Capitalism and freedom. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Goodpaster, K.E. 1991. ‘Business ethics and stakeholder analysis’, Business Ethics Quarterly, 1, 53-73.

Institute of Directors, 2010. ‘The King Report on governance for South Africa (King III)’, Institute of Directors, 1 March 2010.

Jones, C., Parker, M., and Ten Bos, R. 2005. For business ethics. Oxon: Routledge.

Koehn, D. 2001. ‘Should we trust in trust?’, American Business Law Journal, 34, 183-203.

Marcoux, A. (2008) ‘Business Ethics’, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Fall 2008 Edition. Available online at: <http://plato.stanford. edu/entries/ethics-business/>

Mitchell, R.K., Agle, B.R. and Wood, D.J. 1997. ‘Towards a theory of stakeholder identification and salience: Defending the principle of who and what really counts’, Academy of Management Review, 22(4), 853-886.

Narveson, J. 1988. The libertarian idea. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Narveson, J. 2003. ‘The contractarian theory of morals’, Aufklaerung und Kritik, Sonderheft 7/2003, 100-122.

Painter-Morland, M. 2006. ‘Redefining accountability as relational responsiveness’, Journal of Business Ethics, 66, 89-98.

Pfeffer, J. 1981. Power in organizations. Marshfield, MA: Pitman.

Rawls, J. 1993. Political liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press. Rawls, J. 1999. A theory of justice, rev. ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Salancik, G.R. and Pfeffer, J. 1974. ‘The base and use of power in organizational decision-making: The case of universities’, Administrative Science Quarterly, 19, 453-473.

Shaw, W.H. 2011. Business ethics 7th ed. Belmont: Thomson Wadsworth. Weber, M. 1947. The theory of social and economic organization. New York: Free Press.

Published
2014-07-23
Section
Articles