Business Ethics Quarterly 9 (4):659-672 (1999)

By combining normative philosophy and empirical social science, we craft a research framework for assessing differential expectations embodied in normative conceptions of the economic social contract in the United States. We argue that there are distinctviews of such a contract grounded in individualist and communitarian philosophical ideologies. We apply this framework to organizational downsizing, postulating that certain human resource practices, in combination with the respective ideological orientations, will affect perceptions of the justice of downsizing policies.Living up to one’s word is a decisive measure of moral character. Within the microsocial realm of the family, promises and commitments derive their social force and cultural meaning from the idea that love or biology binds people together in an absolute way. But outside of this world, in the larger society, the only thing binding people together is a sense that there is a social contract, a set of common obligations held collectively by society as a whole. But today’s workers say no one seems to care whether these promises are kept
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