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Business, Values, and Law: Forging a New Dialogue

This Doyle Undergraduate Fellows course investigated the duties of businesses and their leaders toward the social good, the moral framework of economic activity, and the role of government and law in regulating business and financial transactions. As part of the course students conducted a series of interviews and published a report about their findings.

Critical questions that Fellows explored include:

  • What are the moral values underlying economic activity? ​ 
  • How do modern theories of corporate governance and corporate social responsibility relate to profit and efficient business practice? 
  • What theories of justice and values provide a foundation for government regulation of business and finance through laws and policies? 
  • How do corporations and business leaders understand their role in society and their responsibility to promote the common good through business activity? 
  • What are the range of moral and religious values that motivate and shape their decision-making and strategy? What moral and religious traditions do they draw on, and how? 

The course addressed these questions through an examination of the existing literature on business, ethics, politics, and law. Fellows explored a range of theorists from the theological, philosophical, and legal traditions (such as Adam Smith, Pope Leo XIII, John Rawls, Richard Posner) about the theories of justice and value underlying business activity and government regulation. Fellows analyzed various models of corporate governance and social responsibility as well as their critics. They considered ethical issues in the legal regulation of business and models of corporate governance. They explored the ways that contemporary business leaders discuss ethics and values in their business practices.

In addition to their individual research and writing, students collaborated in a research project focused on an in-depth series of interviews with business, legal, and policy professionals. Over the course of the semester, they crafted an Undergraduate Fellows report for publication that examines links between business, ethics, and law and makes recommendations on how to further the role of values in business and society in the US and around the world.

related | Syllabus 

Business, Values, and Law: Forging a New Dialogue



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Michael Kessler

Managing Director
Department of Government and Law Center



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