Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 136, Issue 4, pp 687–697 | Cite as

Order Ethics: Bridging the Gap Between Contractarianism and Business Ethics

  • Christoph LuetgeEmail author
  • Thomas Armbrüster
  • Julian Müller


Contract-based approaches have been a focus of attention in business ethics. As one of the grand traditions in political philosophy, contractarianism is founded on the notion that we will never resolve deep moral disagreement. Classical philosophers like Hobbes and Locke, or recent ones like Rawls and Gaus, seek to solve ethical conflicts on the level of social rules and procedures. Recent authors in business ethics have sought to utilize contract-based approaches for their field and to apply it to concrete business dilemmas. However, the application of contractarianism to management contexts can cause difficulties. Our article discusses this conceptual problem of contractarian business ethics and presents the idea of order ethics as an alternative. Order ethics, as we argue, can make a difference by conceptually bridging the gap between contractarianism and business ethics.


Business ethics Constitutional economics Contractarian business ethics (CBE) Contractualism Liberalism Political philosophy 



The authors would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christoph Luetge
    • 1
    Email author
  • Thomas Armbrüster
    • 2
  • Julian Müller
    • 3
  1. 1.Chair of Business EthicsTechnical University of MunichMunichGermany
  2. 2.Chair of ManagementUniversity of MarburgMarburgGermany
  3. 3.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany

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