ISSJ - N° 185 - Moralizing Capitalism

September 2005

Editorial adviser: Ariel Colonomos

The moral critique of capitalism has traditionally been subservient to historical, sociological, economic or political criticism. In recent decades, however, in the context of globalization and of the decline of Marxism as a comprehensive alternative ideology, moral perspectives on capitalism have attained new prominence. Some such perspectives are entirely dismissive. This issue, however, is more concerned with those that regard capitalism as potentially moral, although not necessarily so in its currently observable forms – in other words with the moral agenda for reform of capitalism. Whether capitalism can be “moralized” is a question that raises a wide range of awkward questions. This issue focuses on three: how the formulation of capitalism as a moral issue relates to existing traditions of moral argument and the conditions of social coexistence; how moral and ethical concerns fit into the practical operational framework of the contemporary business environment; and the moral and legal nature of corporate responsibility taken seriously. The articles collected here do not point to a readily available solution, but what they do do is emphasize the depth of the problem. To moralize capitalism is likely to require profound changes in its structures and dynamics – and possibly profound changes in moral theories and conceptions as well.

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