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Unredistributable Corporate Moral Responsibility

Jan Edward Garrett
Journal of Business Ethics
Vol. 8, No. 7 (Jul., 1989), pp. 535-545
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25071933
Page Count: 11
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Unredistributable Corporate Moral Responsibility
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Abstract

Certain cases of corporate action seem especially resistant to a shared moral evaluation. Conservatives may argue that if bad intentions cannot be demonstrated, corporations and their managers are not blameworthy, while liberals may insist that the results of corporate actions were predictable and so somebody must be to blame. Against this background, the theory that sometimes a corporation's moral responsibility cannot be redistributed, even in principle, to the individuals involved, seems quite attractive. This doctrine of unredistributable corporate moral responsibility (UCMR) is, however, ultimately indefensible. I show this in several steps. After first locating UCMR in the context of the evolving debate about corporate moral agency, the paper reexamines cases cited in defense of UCMR and takes up the attempt to defend it by identifying corporate moral agency with corporate practices. A further section explores the claim that UCMR is a convention distinct from, yet compatible with, traditional "natural" notions of responsibility. The final section develops a notion of combined akratic agency to provide an alternate explanation, compatible with rejection of UCMR, of the phenomena which make the doctrine attractive.

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