Advancing Integrative Social Contracts Theory: A Habermasian Perspective

20 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2010

See all articles by Dirk Ulrich Gilbert

Dirk Ulrich Gilbert

University of Hamburg

Michael Behnam

Loyola University Chicago

Date Written: 2008


We critically assess integrative social contracts theory (ISCT) and show that the concept particularly lacks of moral justification of substantive hypernorms. By drawing on Habermasian philosophy, in particular discourse ethics and its recent application in the theory of deliberative democracy, we further advance ISCT and show that social contracting in business ethics requires a well-justified procedural rather than a substantive focus for managing stakeholder relations. We also replace the monological concept of hypothetical thought experiments in ISCT by a concept of practical discourse to better govern business activities on the macro-level of organizational actors such as firms, governments, and NGOs.

Keywords: Integrative Social Contracts Theory, Habermasian Philosophy, Deliberative Democracy

JEL Classification: M14, M19

Suggested Citation

Gilbert, Dirk Ulrich and Behnam, Michael, Advancing Integrative Social Contracts Theory: A Habermasian Perspective (2008). Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 89, No. 2, pp. 215-234, 2009, Available at SSRN:

Dirk Ulrich Gilbert (Contact Author)

University of Hamburg ( email )

Allende-Platz 1
Hamburg, 20146

Michael Behnam

Loyola University Chicago ( email )

16 E Pearson St
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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