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19-01-2018 | Original Paper

Beyond Profit and Politics: Reciprocity and the Role of For-Profit Business

Journal:
Journal of Business Ethics
Author:
Brookes Brown

Abstract

Standard accounts of reciprocal citizenship hold that citizens have a duty to participate in politics. Against this, several business ethicists and philosophers have recently argued that people can satisfy their obligations of civic reciprocity non-politically, by owning, managing, or working in for-profit businesses. In this article, I reject both the standard and the market accounts of reciprocal citizenship. Against the market view, I show that the ordinary work of profit maximization cannot take the place of traditional political activity. Yet contra the standard political account, I show that a special class of the actions we perform in our work as employers and employees in for-profit companies can fulfill our obligations of reciprocity. Business ethicists must therefore develop a more nuanced account of the relationship between for-profit business endeavors and the debts we owe fellow citizens who undertake burdensome political work to our benefit.

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