Ties that Bind: A Social Contracts Approach to Business Ethics

Front Cover
Harvard Business School Press, 1999 - 306 pages
By whose standards should business be judged? As the world of commerce expands to include a diverse mix of countries, cultures, and institutions, the answer to this question grows increasingly complicated. Some cultures emphasize individual property rights, while others favor cooperative behavior and societal sharing. Corporate leaders face ethical dilemmas everywhere, and as businesses cross international boundaries, the challenges escalate.

Ties That Bind, written by two leading thinkers in the field of business ethics, offers a new approach to resolving today's most pressing debates about business behavior among diverse groups of people. Drawing from classic political philosophy and leading-edge social contract theory, Donaldson and Dunfee present a much-needed framework for making sensitive ethical judgments about economic and business behavior.

The authors-widely acclaimed for their landmark work with Integrative Social Contracts Theory (ISCT)-suggest that we must reconcile the "empirical" approach to business ethics, which stems from existing business practices, with the "normative," which reflects hypothetical contracts between economic participants.

To illustrate the implications of their ISCT method, Donaldson and Dunfee address practical issues, from gender conflicts and bribery to host country relations and selling derivatives on Wall Street. They cite examples from well-known companies, including AT&T, Levi-Strauss, and Royal Dutch/Shell, throughout.

Building on the fundamentals of respect and tolerance, Ties That Bind is an inspiring guide to the new social contracts for business, one that reflects the rich mix of cultural and religious attitudes in our global society.

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