John Rawls' Ethical Theory as a Foundation for Corporate Governance

Akiode, O.M (2015-06)

A Thesis Submitted to the School of Postgraduate Studies, University of Lagos

Thesis

This study argues the thesis that a rethinking and modification of John Rawls’ ethical theory is imperative to enable it evolve social consciousness and alignment that will make it applicable to social relations with emphasis on corporate governance. Rawls’ ethical theory – Principle of Justice as Fairness - is predicated upon the need to evolve principles of social justice through a just procedure such as an Original Position, to which rational persons will consent. This theory has been criticized by many scholars such as Robert Paul Wolff, Thomas Pogge, Joel Feinberg, Kenneth Arrow, Leonard Choptiany, Thomas Baldwin, and Michael Frazer. The distinctive approach of this research is to fill the lacuna left by previous critics, rework the Original Position by replacing the ‘veil of ignorance’ with ‘instrumental reasoning’ coupled with ‘empathic understanding of the other’ and take to logical conclusions some of his propositions. The methodology employed is a combination of conceptual analysis and hermeneutic analysis of Rawls’ propositions. The critical finding of this research shows that for Rawls’ Principle of Justice as Fairness to have wider social applicability and be a logical outcome of a social contract deliberation, it must be modified. Corporate governance is an aspect of social relations that is concerned with the power relations within a corporate organization, the structure and processes put in place to administer both its human and material resources in ways that are beneficial to all stakeholders and according to ethical values, principles and recognized laws of the society. Corporate governance is beset with flaws and ethical challenges which previously were ignored due mostly to the unprecedented gains and innovations accruing from its prowess and conquests but which in recent times exacerbated to the level of impacting the global economy negatively. Because of its essential role in wealth creation, economic growth and stability, it is imperative that a holistic assessment that accommodates ethical inputs at the fundamental level be undertaken. This is the task of this research. The value added to the field of applied ethics by this research is in the area of enhancing Rawls bid to posit an alternative comprehensive theory of justice to utilitarianism; informing a reason backed social consciousness and alignment; and making it applicable to corporate governance such that it can address some ethical issues pertinent to it, thereby enhancing the balance between economic and moral priorities.

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