Social Contracts and Marketing Ethics

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Social Contracts and Marketing Ethics

“Social Contracts and Marketing Ethics,” Journal of Marketing, 63(July): 14-32 1999.


Thomas W. Dunfee 1
N. Craig Smith2
William T. Ross Jr. 3

1- The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 3620 Locust Walk, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19036-6369.
Phone: 215.898.7691 Fax: 215.573.2006 Email:
2- The McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, 20057
Phone: 202.687.5405 Fax: 202.687.4031 Email,
3- School of Business and Management, Temple University, Speakman Hall (006-00), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
19122 Phone: 215.204.8111 Fax: 215.204.6237 Email:
Acknowledgements: The authors thank Thomas Donaldson, Diana Robertson and participants in the Kennedy
Institute of Ethics Seminar at Georgetown University, and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on
earlier versions of this article. Funding by the Carol and Lawrence Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research and
the Georgetown University School of Business summer research fund is gratefully acknowledged.


This paper describes the need and the search to date for a normative moral foundation for
marketing. Social contract theory appears promising because of its clear correspondence to the
exchange relationships central to marketing thought and practice. It is introduced in a specific
formulation known as Integrative Social Contracts Theory. ISCT provides a coherent framework
for resolving ethical issues arising between different communities and is therefore particularly
appropriate because marketers frequently engage in boundary-spanning relationships and crosscultural activities. The application of ISCT to ethical decision making in marketing is explored
through the use of bribery as a major illustrative…...

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