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Regulation Enables: Corporate Agency and Practices of Responsibility

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>02/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Business Ethics
Issue number4
Volume154
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)989-1002
Publication statusPublished
Early online date3/05/18
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Both advocates of corporate regulation and its opponents tend to depict regulation as restrictive—a policy option that limits freedom in the name of welfare or other social goods. Against this framing, I suggest we can understand regulation in enabling terms. If well designed and properly enforced, regulation enables companies to operate in ways that are acceptable to society as a whole. This paper argues for this enabling character by considering some wider questions about responsibility and the sharing of responsibility. Agents who are less able or willing to act well are obviously more likely to face criticism, mistrust, and adverse responses. It will be more difficult to hold those agents responsible, especially so when there are many who fail in their responsibilities or where there are wide-reaching disagreements about those responsibilities. Regulatory standards, like other norms and ways of defining responsibilities, address these problems: by restricting, they also enable social cooperation. Like other forms of holding responsible, ways of enforcing those standards against recalcitrant agents, or encouraging conformity to them, may also seem restrictive. Again, however, these practices play an important role in enabling responsible agency. This is partly because they can bolster readiness to act well in agents who experience or witness such responses. It is also because they free other agents to exercise initiative and commitment in defining their individual responsibilities in line with higher standards.

Bibliographic note

The final publication is available at Springer via http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10551-018-3896-0