Professor Dan Crãciun’s latest work published by Editura ASE Bucharestaddresses to the students from the Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest, who study economics in English. It is a textbook, not a treatise on business ethics. Its main purpose is to present briefly and clearly the main topics of this discipline, in a way that can be instructive both theoretically and practically. That is why most of the concepts and abstract principles are illustrated with relevant case studies.
Contrary to commonsense beliefs, the ethical aspects of business activities cannot approach directly, assuming that we all are familiar with general ethics or moral philosophy. The basic concepts and principles of ethics are not trivial, common knowledge. On the contrary, even the concept of ethics is confuse and controversial.
Accordingly, the first chapter deals with several popular meanings of ethics, analyzing both the connections and the differences between ethics and other components of spiritual and social life, such as feelings and emotions, religious faith, traditional customs or legal regulations.
The second chapter seeks to prove that the very concept of business contains intrinsic ethical implications, most of them connected with the key element of business – profit.
One topic that induces serious confusions and errors in business ethics concerns the complementary relation between law and morality. Many business leaders hold that ethical business reduces to legality; any claim that business should keep more than the enacted legal regulations is, in their view, superficial and inconsistent. The author tried to deny this position with various arguments – some of them presented in the second chapter, others developed in the third chapter, which deals with the specific of moral norms and values. Analyzing the basic theoretical models of values, a special attention is paid to cultural and ethical relativism, which tends to become the dominant axiological perspective of our times.
The fourth chapter presents the most influential ethical theories – utilitarianism, Kantian duty ethics, and Aristotelian virtue ethics. Each one of them builds a conceptual framework and an analytical pattern, which might help in finding strong arguments for the best ethical decision under specific circumstances.
The fifth chapter tackles probably the most important and no less controversial topic of the so-called “enlightened self-interest.” Based on the logical analysis specific to the game theory, the self-interest approach holds that one shrewd, intelligent business leader should keep ethical standards since “Good ethics is good business.”
The sixth and last chapter deals with corporate responsibility, presenting the pros and cons in connection with this tricky topic, trying to argue that, within certain limits, we have reasons to speak of corporate responsibility, which contains several forms or levels – economic, legal, ethical, and discretionary or philanthropic.
A second volume will approach the most significant specific issues in business ethics, such as ownership and management; business and employees; business and customers; environmental issues; international business ethics and global market economy.