Excusing Corporate Wrongdoing and the State of Nature

Academy of Management Review (forthcoming)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Most business ethicists maintain that corporate actors are subject to a variety of moral obligations. However, there is a persistent and underappreciated concern that the competitive pressures of the market somehow provide corporate actors with a far-reaching excuse from meeting these obligations. Here, we assess this concern. Blending resources from the history of philosophy and strategic management, we demonstrate the assumptions required for and limits of this excuse. Applying the idea of ‘the state of nature’ from Thomas Hobbes, we suggest that corporate actors would be excused from duties if complying with them threatened their vital interests. We show how this excuse is not available for most individuals within firms; instead, it is an excuse perhaps available to firms themselves, but only given substantive assumptions about corporate personhood. For those willing to make these assumptions, we apply the competitive advantage construct to delimit the scope of this excuse. We suggest that firms are excused from fulfilling an obligation when complying leads to a competitive disadvantage, as this imperils the firm’s vital interests. After revealing why this excuse does not generalize, we conclude by considering when we should reform the market to avoid the legitimacy of this excuse.

Links

PhilArchive

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Corporate moral responsibility in health care.Stephen Wilmot - 2000 - Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 3 (2):139-146.
Corporate Responsibility.R. Edward Freeman & Patricia H. Werhane - 2005 - In R. G. Frey & Christopher Heath Wellman (eds.), A Companion to Applied Ethics. Oxford, UK: Blackwell. pp. 552–569.
Moral Responsibility, Shared Values, and Corporate Culture.James Dempsey - 2015 - Business Ethics Quarterly 25 (3):319-340.
From Corporate Moral Agency to Corporate Moral Rights.Avia Pasternak - 2017 - Law and Ethics of Human Rights 11 (1):135-159.
Collective moral agency and self-induced moral incapacity.Niels de Haan - 2023 - Philosophical Explorations 26 (1):1-22.
Odi et Amo? Hobbes on the State of Nature.Andrés Rosler - 2011 - Hobbes Studies 24 (1):91-111.
The Decomposition of the Corporate Body.Matthew C. Altman - 2011 - In Kant and Applied Ethics. Oxford, UK: Wiley‐Blackwell. pp. 217–240.
The two faces of personhood: Hobbes, corporate agency and the personality of the state.Sean Fleming - 2017 - European Journal of Political Theory (1):147488511773194.

Analytics

Added to PP
2024-02-12

Downloads
159 (#116,062)

6 months
159 (#18,142)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author Profiles

Paul Garofalo
University of Southern California
Kenneth Silver
Trinity College, Dublin

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

Group agency: the possibility, design, and status of corporate agents.Christian List & Philip Pettit - 2011 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by Philip Pettit.
Force and freedom: Kant's legal and political philosophy.Arthur Ripstein - 2009 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Dark Ghettos: Injustice, Dissent, and Reform.Tommie Shelby - 2016 - Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

View all 66 references / Add more references