A Philosophical Foundation for Corporate Social Responsibility: Lessons from Kant's Transcendental Idealism as an Exercise in Life Against Kelsen's Formalistic Legal Theory as an Exercise in Logic.




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Purpose The modern social and political order is characterised by a range of disparate moralities which lead to a plethora of interpretations and competing perspectives as to what ought to be the appropriate ethical template for corporate social responsibility. The possibility of uniting these disparate threads into a unified whole is explored by addressing the complex philosophies of Immanuel Kant and his alleged successor, Hans Kelsen; paying particular attention to their contrasting views of the proper foundations of public consensus towards establishing an idealised moral community of corporate actors.

Design/methodology/approach The research is library-based and suggests that philosophy (in this instance, Kant’s moral philosophy and Kelsen’s general theory of law and state, for example) is able to offer an alternative rational and morally grounded ethics of law and governance; pertinent to the effective governance of corporate behaviour and moral management practices.

Findings Central concepts, characteristic of both the Kantian and Kelsenian philosophical methodologies, have the capacity to act as a positive influence on the development of effective CSR mechanisms for assuring greater accountability. In addition, it is suggested that by prescribing ethically appropriate corporate behaviour as a first consideration, such philosophical frameworks are capable of providing a powerful disincentive against corporate crime.

Originality/value The paper is interdisciplinary and (in an era of mistrust, global financial impropriety and other corporate misdemeanours) explores the utility of a philosophical approach towards articulating the conditions for imposing a moral duty incumbent upon all corporate actors in addressing the practical and conceptual needs of their shareholders and wider society.




Shaw, J.J.A. and Shaw, H.J. (2014) A Philosophical Foundation for Corporate Social Responsibility: Lessons from Kant's Transcendental Idealism as an Exercise In Life against Kelsen's formalistic legal theory as an Exercise In Logic. In: Ethics, Governance and Corporate Crime: Challenges and Consequences, D. Crowther, R. Said and A. Amran (eds), Emerald Group Publishing Developments in Corporate Governance and Responsibility Series, pp. 177-212


Research Institute

Centre for Urban Research on Austerity (CURA)