Business ethics versus economics: The ideological foundations of the debate

Michael G. Goldsby, Brian Burton, Peter Grana, Christopher P. Neck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to address the current debate between business ethics and economics by examining the underlying ideologies of each side. Design/methodology/apprach - It is our intention in this article to examine the stories business ethicists and economists utilize to explain how the world works. A two dimensional model is employed to accomplish this goal by plotting the two sides' different theories of human nature on one axis and the two sides' different theories of society on the other axis. Findings - This article provides a framework for assisting practitioners and scholars/teachers in better understanding the origins and causes for the debates that take place on complex issues regarding the economic domain. Research limitation/ implications - A limitation of this article is that while it offers better understanding of positions, it does not offer guidance to the reader in crafting future strategies. Space does not warrant doing so in this article; however, it is an important issue. Practical implications - The framework in this article can be utilized to help managers and students understand the debate between business ethicists and economists, help them to examine and form their own positions, and be better prepared to take part in debates that promote societal progress. Originality/value - While scholars have described the current debates well, little coverage has been placed on how the debate arose. By knowing how past and current positions were developed, it is our hope that more informed frameworks addressing developing social issues can be developed in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-83
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Organizational Analysis
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Business ethics
  • Economics
  • Human nature
  • Society

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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