Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 101, Issue 2, pp 263–283 | Cite as

The Freedom–Responsibility Nexus in Management Philosophy and Business Ethics

  • Claus DierksmeierEmail author


This article pursues the question whether and inasmuch theories of corporate responsibility are dependent on conceptions of managerial freedom. I argue that neglect of the idea of freedom in economic theory has led to an inadequate conceptualization of the ethical responsibilities of corporations within management theory. In a critical review of the history of economic ideas, I investigate why and how the idea of freedom was gradually removed from the canon of economics. This reconstruction aims at a deconstruction of certain axioms of neoclassical economics that hamper contemporary efforts in integrating ethics firmly into management education. I intend to show by these deconstructive endeavors that a constructive use of the idea of responsible freedom could correct and complement the current quantitative focus in business theory through qualitative orientations. I argue that with the help of qualitative success criteria, the strategic integration of the tenets of both business ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility into business practice can be advanced by further research.


freedom responsibility business ethics Corporate Social Responsibility management theory economics homo economicus humanistic management 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Arena Christina, 2007. The High-Purpose Company. Smithsonian Books/Collins, New York, 2007.Google Scholar
  2. Argyris, Chris. “Some limits of rational man organizational theory.” Public Administration Review 33 (May/June), 1973: 253-267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Austin, James. Stevenson, Howard. Wei-Skillern, Jane. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Backhaus, J. and R. Hansen: 2000, ‘Methodenstreit in der Nationalökonomie‘, Journal for General Philosophy of Science 31(2), 307–336.Google Scholar
  5. BCG (The Boston Consulting Group): 2009, The Business of Sustainability. Imperatives, Advantages, and Actions. Published Online in Cooperation with the MIT Sloan Management Review, at
  6. Bentham, J.: 1789/1996, An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (J. H. Burns and H. L. A. Hart, Eds.) (Oxford University Press, Oxford).Google Scholar
  7. Bentham, J.: 1954, Economic Writings, Vol. 3 (George Allen and Unwin, London).Google Scholar
  8. Bentham, J.: 1970, Of Laws in General (H. L. A. Hart, Ed.) (Clarendon Press, Oxford).Google Scholar
  9. Bergmann, B. (1989). ‘Why do most economists know so little about the economy? in S. Bowles, R. Edwards and W. Shepherd (eds.), Unconventional Wisdom conventional Wisdom: Essays in Honor of John Kenneth Galbraith. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Company, pp. 29–37.Google Scholar
  10. Boettke, P. J.: 1997, ‘Where did Economics Go Wrong? Modern Economics as a Flight from Reality’, Critical Review 11(1 Winter), 11–64.Google Scholar
  11. Bostaph, Samuel. The Methodological Debate Between Carl Menger and the German Historicists, Atlantic Ecoomic Journal, Volume 6/Number 3, Dezember 1978, 3-16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Boulding, Kenneth. “Economics as a Moral Science.” American Economic Review 59 (1), 1969: 1-12.Google Scholar
  13. Brodbeck, K.-H.: 2000, Die fragwürdigen Grundlagen der Ökonomie, Eine philosophische Kritik der modernen Wirtschaftswissenschaften, Darmstadt 2000 (reprint 2007).Google Scholar
  14. Cartwright, N.: 2006, ‘From Causation to Explanation and Back’, in B. Leiter (ed.), The Future for Philosophy (Clarendon Press, Oxford).Google Scholar
  15. Chamberlain, Edward. “An experimental imperfect market.” Journal of Political Economy 56, 1948: 95-108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Chytil, V.: 1941, Vom Begriff des Ganzen. Eine wirtschaftsphilosophische Betrachtung. Prag.Google Scholar
  17. Clark, J. B.: 1899, The Distribution of Wealth (Macmillan, New York).Google Scholar
  18. Cockfield, G., Firth, A., and Laurent, J. (2007). New perspectives on Adam Smith’s The theory of moral sentiments, Cheltenham, UK; Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  19. Crisp, Roger. “Persuasive Advertising, Autonomy, and the Creation of Desire.” Journal of Business Ethics 6, 1987: 413-418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dasgupta, Partha. “What do economists analyze and why: value or facts?” Economics and Philosophy, 21, 2005: 221-278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dierksmeier, C.: 2003, ,Über den gegenwärtigen Stand der Wirtschaftsphilosophie‘, Archiv fÜr Rechts- und Sozialphilosophie 3, 551–561.Google Scholar
  22. Dierksmeier, C.: 2007, ,Qualitative oder quantitative Freiheit?‘, Rechtsphilosophische Hefte XII, 107–119.Google Scholar
  23. Dierksmeier, C.: 2009, ‘A Requisite Journey: From Business Ethics to Economic Philosophy’, in Humanism in Business, edited by The Humanistic Management Network (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge), pp. 68–83.Google Scholar
  24. Dierksmeier, Claus/Pirson, Michael, Oikonomia versus Chrematistike. Aristotle on Wealth and Well-Being. Journal of Business Ethics, Volume 88, Issue 3(2009), pp. 417.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. diZerega, G.: 1997, ‘Market Non-Neutrality: Systemic Bias in Spontaneous Orders’, Critical Review 11(1 Winter), 121–144.Google Scholar
  26. Douglas, Heather E., “Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal”,U. of Pittsburgh Press, 2009.Google Scholar
  27. Drascek, M./Maticic, S., What Managers Could See in the Philosophical Block of Free Will‘?, Journal of Business Ethics, Volume 81, Number 1, 2008, 1-14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Elkington, John. Hartigan, Pamel. The Power of Unreasonable People. How Social Entrepreneurs create Markets that change the World, Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston 2008.Google Scholar
  29. Fehr, E., U. Fischbacher and M. Kosfeld: 2005, Neuroeconomic Foundations of Trust and Social Preferences. Discussion Paper No. 1641. IZA, Bonn, Germany.Google Scholar
  30. Friedman, Milton. Essays in Positive Economics, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953.Google Scholar
  31. Friedman, Milton. Capitalism and Freedom. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press 1962.Google Scholar
  32. Friedman, M.: 1970, ‘The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Its Profits’, New York Times Magazine, New York, pp. 32–33.Google Scholar
  33. Galbraith, J. K.: 1958, The Affluent Society (Houghton Mifflin Company, New York).Google Scholar
  34. Galbraith, J. K.: 1967/1986, The New Industrial State (Houghton Mifflin, Boston).Google Scholar
  35. Galbraith, John Kenneth. The Economics of Innocent Fraud: Truth for our Time. New York: Houghton Mifflin Books, 2004.Google Scholar
  36. Gioia, D. A.: 2002, ‘Business education’s role in the crisis of corporate confidence’, Academy of Management Executive 16(3), 142-144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Gioia, D. A.: 2003, ‘Teaching Teachers to Teach Corporate Governance Differently’, Journal of Management & Governance 7(3), 255-262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Goshal, S.: 2003, ‘Business Schools Share the Blame for Enron’, Financial Times, 17 July 2003.Google Scholar
  39. Goshal, S.: 2005, ‘Bad Management Theories Are Destroying Good Management Practices’, Academy of Management Learning and Education 4(1), 75-91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Haney, L. H.: 1949, History of Economic Thought, 4th Edition (Macmillan, New York).Google Scholar
  41. Harrison, E. F. (1995). The managerial decision-making process, Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  42. Hayek, Friedrich August von. Constitution of Liberty, University of Chicago Press, 1970.Google Scholar
  43. Hayek, F. A. v.: 1952, The Counter-Revolution of Science (Free Press, Glencoe).Google Scholar
  44. Heilbroner, R. L. (1953). The worldly philosophers: the lives, times, and ideas of the great economic thinkers, New York,: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  45. Heilbroner, Robert (1979) “Modern Economics and a Chapter in the History of Economic Thought”, History of Political Economy. 11(2):192-198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Jensen, M.: 1993, ‘The Modern Industrial Revolution, Exit, and the Failure of Internal Control Systems’, The Journal of Finance, Vol. 48, pp. 831–880 (Papers and Proceedings of the Fifty-Third Annual Meeting of the American Finance Association, Anaheim, CA, 5–7 January, 1993).Google Scholar
  47. Jensen, M. and K. J. Murphy: 1990a, ‘Performance Pay and Top-Management Incentives’, Journal of Political Economy 98, 225–264.Google Scholar
  48. Jensen, M. and K. J. Murphy: 1990b: ‘CEO Incentives – It’s Not How Much You Pay, But How’, Harvard Business Review 68, 138–153.Google Scholar
  49. Jevons, W. S.: 1871/1970, The Theory of Political Economy (Penguin Books, Marmondsworth).Google Scholar
  50. Jevons, W. S. (1874). The principles of science : a treatise on logic and scientific method, London: Macmillan and Co.Google Scholar
  51. Keynes, J. M.: 1923, ‘A Tract on Monetary Reform’, in Collected Writings, Vol. IV (Macmillan, New York).Google Scholar
  52. Keynes, J. M.: 1936/1997, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (Prometheus Books, New York).Google Scholar
  53. Khurana, R.: 2007, From Higher Aims to Hired Hands. The Social Transformation of American Business Schools and the Unfulfilled Promise of Management as a Profession (Princeton University Press, Princeton).Google Scholar
  54. Kimakowitz, E. v. and M. Pirson, C. Dierksmeier, H. Spitzeck and A. Wolfgang (eds.): 2010, Humanistic Management in Practice (Palgrave Macmillan Publishers, Basingstoke).Google Scholar
  55. Kirchgässner, G.: 1991, Homo oeconomicus. Das ökonomische Modell individuellen Verhaltens und seine Anwendung auf Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften (J.C.B. Mohr, Tübingen).Google Scholar
  56. Knight, F. H.: 1921/1971, Risk, Uncertainty and Profit (Harper, New York) (Reprinted Chicago/London, 3).Google Scholar
  57. Lagrange, J. L.: 1788, Mécanique analytique (Desaint, Paris).Google Scholar
  58. Lantos, G. P. and S. Cooke: 2003, “Corporate Socialism Unethically Masquerades as ‘CSR’: The Difference Between Being Ethical, Altruistic, and Strategic in Business,” Strategic. Direction 19(6), 31–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Lippke, Richard. “Advertising and the Social Conditions of Autonomy.” Business & Professional Ethics Journal 8 (4), 1989: 35-58.Google Scholar
  60. Lowe, A. (1977). On economic knowledge : toward a science of political economics, White Plains, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe.Google Scholar
  61. Lucas, R. E. On the Mechanics of Economic Development, Journal of Monetary Economics 22(1998), 3-42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Marcuse, H.: 1964, One-Dimensional Man. Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society (Beacon Press, Boston).Google Scholar
  63. Marglin, S.: 1999, ‘John Kenneth Galbraith and the Myths of Economics’, in H. Sasson (ed.), Between Friends: Perspectives on John Kenneth Galbraith (Houghton Mifflin, Boston).Google Scholar
  64. Margolis, J. D. and Walsh, J. P.: 2003, “Misery Loves Companies: Rethinking Social Initiatives by Business”, Administrative Science Quarterly 48 (2), 268-305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Maritain, J.: 1947, The Person and the Common Good (Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York).Google Scholar
  66. Marshall, A.: 1890, Principles of Economics (Macmillan and Co., London) (Quotations follow the 8th edition from 1920).Google Scholar
  67. Marshall, A.: 1897, ‘The Old Generation of Economists and the New’, The Quarterly Journal of Economics 11, 115–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Matten, D. and Moon, J.: 2004, ‘Corporate Social Responsibility Education in Europe’, Journal of Business Ethics 54(4), 323-337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. May, K.: 1947, Technical Change and Aggregation, Econometrica 15, 51–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. McCloskey, Donald. Knowledge and Persuasion in Economics. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Menger, C.: 1871, Grundsätze der Volkswirtschaftslehre. Erster Allgemeiner Theil (Wilhelm Braumüller, Wien).Google Scholar
  72. Menger, C.: 1883, Untersuchungen Über die Methode der Sozialwissenschaften und der Politischen Ökonomie insbesondere (Duncker and Humblot, Leipzig).Google Scholar
  73. Mirowski, P. (1988). Against mechanism : protecting economics from science, Totowa, N.J.: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  74. Mirowski, P. (2002). Machine dreams : economics becomes a cyborg science, Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  75. Mises, L. v.: 1931a, Die Ursachen der Wirtschaftskrise (Mohr, Tübingen).Google Scholar
  76. Mises, L. v.: 1931b, The Economic Causes of the Crisis (reprinted Auburn 2006).Google Scholar
  77. Mises, L. v.: 1940, Nationalökonomie (Wirtschaft und Finanzen, Genf).Google Scholar
  78. Net Impact: 2007a, New Leaders, New Perspectives: A Net Impact Survey on MBA Student Opinions on the Relationship Between Business and Social/Environmental Issues (San Francisco).Google Scholar
  79. Net Impact: 2007b, New Leaders, New Perspectives II: A Net Impact Survey on Undergrad Student Opinions on the Relationship Between Business and Social/Environmental Issues (San Francisco).Google Scholar
  80. Net Impact: 2008, Business as Unusual (San Francisco).Google Scholar
  81. Neurath, O.: 1931, ‘Soziologie im Physikalismus‘, Erkenntnis II, 393–431.Google Scholar
  82. Nguyen, H.: 2000, Do Humanistic Values Matter? Academy of Management Best Paper Proceedings. ODC, New Orleans, pp. A1–A6.Google Scholar
  83. Niehans, J.: 1980, A History of Economic Theory. Classic Contributions 1720–1980 (Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore).Google Scholar
  84. Nozick, R.: 1974, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (Basic Books, New York).Google Scholar
  85. Pfeffer, J., 2005, ‘Why Do Bad Management Theories Persist? A Comment on Goshal’, Academy of Management Learning & Education 4(1), 96-100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Pigou, A. C.: 1962, The Economics of Welfare (Macmillan, London).Google Scholar
  87. Robbins, L.: 1932, An Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science (New York University Press, New York).Google Scholar
  88. Robinson, Joan. Economic Philosophy. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, UK, 1962.Google Scholar
  89. Rudner, Richard, “The scientist qua scientist makes value judgments”, Philosophy of Science (1953) 20: 1-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Sahlins, Marshall. Stone Age Economics. New York: Aldine Transaction, 1972.Google Scholar
  91. Samuelson, Paul. (1938). A Note on the Pure Theory of Consumers’ Behaviour. Economica 5:61-71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Samuelson, P.: 1947/1983, Foundations of Economic Analysis, enlarged ed. (Harvard University Press, Boston).Google Scholar
  93. Schmidtz, David. Diminishing Marginal Utility and Egalitarian Redistribution, The Journal of Value Inquiry 34: 263–272, 2000.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Schmoller, G. v.: 1883, ‘Zur Methodologie der Staats- und Sozialwissenschaften‘, Schmollers Jahrbuch für Gesetzgebung, Verwaltung und Volkswirtschaft 7, 976–977.Google Scholar
  95. Schmoller, G. v.: 1893/1949, Die Volkswirtschaft, die Volkswirtschaftslehre und ihre Methode (reprinted Frankfurt).Google Scholar
  96. Schumpeter, J. A. (1954). History of economic analysis, New York,: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  97. Sen, A.: 1998, Development as Freedom (Oxford University Press, Oxford).Google Scholar
  98. Sen, A.: 1999, ‘Galbraith and the Art of Description’ in H. Sasson (ed.), Between Friends: Perspectives on John Kenneth Galbraith (Houghton Mifflin, Boston), pp. 139–146.Google Scholar
  99. Sen, A.: 2002, Rationality and Freedom (Harvard University Press, Cambridge).Google Scholar
  100. Shackle, George and Sherman, Lennox. Epistemics and Economics. A Critique of Economic Doctrines. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972.Google Scholar
  101. Smith, A.: 1759. The Theory of Moral Sentiments (A. Millar, London).Google Scholar
  102. Smith, A.: 1776, The Wealth of Nations (Methuen and Co., Ltd., London).Google Scholar
  103. Spiegel, Henry William, “The growth of Economic Thought”, Duke University Press, 1971.Google Scholar
  104. Stigler, George and Becker, Gary. “De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum.” American Economic Review 67 (2), 1977: 76-90.Google Scholar
  105. Sundaram, K. Anat and Inkpen, Ndrew. “The Corporate Objective Revisited.” Organization Science 15(3), 2004: 350-363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  106. Ulrich, Peter. Integrative Economic Ethics. Foundations of a Civilized Market Economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  107. Veblen, T.: 1898, ‘Why is Economics not an Evolutionary Science?’, Quarterly Journal of Economics 12, 373–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  108. Viner, J.: 1991, In D. A. Irvin (ed.), Essays on the Intellectual History of Economics (Princeton University Press, Princeton, Google Scholar
  109. Waligorski, Conrad. The Political Theory of Conservative Economists. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1990.Google Scholar
  110. Walras, Léon. économique et méchanique, 1909, Bulletin de la Societe Vaudoise de Sciences Naturelles, Vol. 45, 313-324.Google Scholar
  111. Warke, Tom, Mathematical fitness in the evolution of the utility concept from Bentham to Jevons to Marshall, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Vol. 22, Number 1, 2000, 5-27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  112. Weber, M.: 1904, ‘Die “Objektivität” sozialwissenschaftlicher und sozialpolitischer Erkenntnis‘ Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik 19 Band, 503–574.Google Scholar
  113. Weber, M.: 1918, ‘Der Sinn der “Wertfreiheit” der soziologischen und ökonomischen Wissenschaften‘, Logos 7, 451–502. (Reprinted from Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Wissenschaftslehre, by J. Winckelmann, 1988, Tübingen: Mohr.)Google Scholar
  114. Wieser, F. v.: 1884, Über den Ursprung und die Hauptgesetze des wirthschaftlichen Werthes (Hölder, Vienna).Google Scholar
  115. Young, J. T. (2009). Elgar companion to Adam Smith, Cheltenham, Glos, UK; Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy DepartmentStonehill CollegeNorth-Easton (Boston)U.S.A.

Personalised recommendations