Ethics and Economics

Item Type Book Section

Revised edition of the chapter under the same title in "Ethics in the Economy: Handbook of Business Ethics", ed. by L. Zsolnai, 2002.

Business ethics is more than just ‘applied ethics.' There is no domain which is ‘free' from normative presuppositions, and mainstream economics is nothing more than a strongly normative ‘ideal theory' of rational action. The primary task of ‘integrative business ethics' is therefore to reflect on the form of economic reasoning, the critique of economic reason.

This chapter provides a specific perspective on the ‘emancipation' of economic
rationality from moral philosophy; a process mirroring the disembedding of the economy from society in what Karl Polanyi called the ‘great transformation.' Today, there is a growing real-life ex erience of the problematic consequences of this disembedded, ‘ethics-free' economic rationality. In this situation, integrative economic ethics asks for a new ethical foundation for economic reason itself.
The fundamental tasks of integrative economic ethics are to critique ‘economism,'
including economic determinism and economic reductionism, as well as to rethink basic ethical aspects of economic reason. Pertinent issues include the meaning of economic ‘rationalization' with regard to the good human life and the legitimacy of the politicoeconomic order with regard to a just and well-ordered society of free and equal citizens.

The fundamental difference between ‘market freedom' and ‘citizens' freedom' has to be pointed out, which amounts to the difference between economic and republican liberalism.

In integrative economic ethics three loci of socioeconomic responsibility are
distinguished: the citizens in their different roles (citizens' ethics), the companies
(corporate ethics), and the state in its function of defining the juridical and institutional framework of economic activities (regulatory ethics).

Authors Ulrich, Peter
Editors Zsolnai, Laszlo
Projects Ulrich, Peter; Patry, Eric; Spitzeck, Heiko; Baur, Dorothea; Thielemann, Ulrich & Fearns, James (2004) Integrative Economic Ethics: Foundations of a Civilized Market Economy [fundamental research project]
Language English
Keywords economism, ethical reason vs. economic rationality, integrative economic ethics, socio-economic rationality
Subjects business studies
HSG Classification contribution to scientific community
Refereed No
Date 2013
Publisher Peter Lang
Place of Publication Bern/Oxford
Volume revised 4th Edition 2013
Page Range 7-34
Number of Pages 28
Title of Book Handbook of Business Ethics - Ethics in the New Economy
ISBN 978-3-0343-0914-1
Depositing User Prof. em. Peter Ulrich
Date Deposited 18 Feb 2013 14:37
Last Modified 27 Feb 2016 17:40


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Ulrich, Peter: Ethics and Economics. In Zsolnai, Laszlo (ed.): Handbook of Business Ethics - Ethics in the New Economy. Bern/Oxford : Peter Lang, 2013, S. 7-34.

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