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BEQ Special Issue Call: Exploring Important Thinkers to Generate New Theory in Business Ethics

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Call for Submissions


Business Ethics Quarterly

Special Issue on:

Exploring Important Thinkers to Generate New Theory in Business Ethics


Guest Editors:

Andrew C. Wicks, University of Virginia

Patricia H. Werhane, DePaul University and the University of Virginia

Lindsay Thompson, Johns Hopkins University

Norman Bowie, University of Minnesota



Business ethics is a hybrid discipline built on the conceptual resources of several fields, including moral and political philosophy, economics, sociology, and social psychology. While business ethics is a domain unto itself, scholars continue to draw on a variety of theories and ideas from disciplinary fields to generate original work. Scholars have already utilized resources from a variety of sources to great effect. In moral and political philosophy, Kant, Mill, Aristotle, Smith, Marx, Habermas, Sen, Nozick, Walzer, and Rawls are all scholars who have figured prominently in dialogues within business ethics. To remain vibrant, and to innovate, business ethicists should continually be searching for new ideas that hold promise to enrich the dialogue. In this special issue, we invite colleagues to submit papers that a) bring in work from important thinkers in a variety of disciplines who have been overlooked or underutilized within the business ethics literature so far, b) provide important resources from these thinkers to generate new theories and insights on a given topic in business ethics, and c) show how this work can be used, more broadly, to inform the larger dialogue in contemporary business ethics.

While the term “underutilized thinkers” is both broad and vague, the editorial team seeks papers that demonstrate how a well-known thinker in a field (a person who has heretofore been overlooked in the business ethics and corporate responsibility literature) can contribute significantly to business ethics. We will focus on the extent to which a given theorist’s ideas are relevant in existing literature, particularly within BEQ, and/or how these ideas should be included in the corpus of business ethics.

We are also willing to work with authors early in the process to help sort out whether their proposed theorist would be a good candidate for this call.

Papers that make the focus on novel ideas generated from an underutilized theorist the centerpiece of their work are more likely to be successful. While we do not exclude empirical work as such, any use of empirical methods (qualitative or quantitative) would need to be in the service of a larger focus on generating new conceptual and normative theory.



  1. Identify thinkers from a variety of fields whose ideas have largely been excluded from existing dialogues in business ethics.
  2. Generate new theories, as well as new resources, that extend beyond a given submission to provide a richer array of ideas and thinkers for scholars in business ethics.
  3. Create strong conceptual and normative papers that speak to important topics in business ethics and extend our current understanding of the field, including the phenomena to which it speaks.


Examples of Such Work:

Bevan, David, and Patricia Werhane. 2015. “The Inexorable Sociality of Commerce: The Individual and Others in Adam Smith.” Journal of Business Ethics 127 (2): 327–35.

Bowie, Norman. 1998. “A Kantian Theory of Meaningful Work.” Journal of Business Ethics 17 (9–10): 1083–92.

Gardiner, Rita A. 2018. “Ethical Responsibility – An Arendtian Turn.” Business Ethics Quarterly 28 (1): 31–50.

Gustafson, Andrew. 2013.”In Defense of a Utilitarian Business Ethic”, Business and Society Review 118 (3): 325–60. (Gustafson uses J. S. Mill to defend this position.)

Heath, Joseph. 2017. “As Free for Acorns as for Honesty: Mandevillian Maxims for the Ethics of Commerce.” In Wealth, Commerce and Philosophy: Foundational Thinkers and Business Ethics, edited by Eugene Heath and Byron Kaldis, 179–201. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Kahan, Alan. 2017. “Tocqueville and the Corporation as an Ethical Citizen.” In Wealth, Commerce and Philosophy: Foundational Thinkers and Business Ethics, edited by Eugene Heath and Byron Kaldis, 301–22. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Ladkin, Donna. 2018. “Self Constitution as The Foundation for Leading Ethically: A Foucauldian Possibility.” Business Ethics Quarterly 28 (3): 301–23.

Munro, I., and Thorkild Thanem. 2018. “The Ethics of Affective Leadership: Organizing Good Encounters Without Leaders.” Business Ethics Quarterly 28 (1): 51–69. (Munro and Thanem use Spinoza to reframe ethical leadership.)

Sonenshein, Scott. 2005. “Business Ethics and Internal Social Criticism.” Business Ethics Quarterly 15 (3): 475–98. (Sonenshein uses Michael Walzer to bolster his analysis of “internal social criticism.”)

Wicks, Andrew C., and R. Edward Freeman. 1998. “Organization Studies and the New Pragmatism: Positivism, Anti-Positivism, and the Search for Ethics.” Organization Science 9 (2): 123–40. (Wicks and Freeman use Richard Rorty’s work for their analysis.)

The examples above use philosophical figures to develop new theory. We encourage figures from other disciplines as well. Some possibilities:

  • Psychologists and social psychologists such as Freud, Jung, Milgram, Pinker, and Haidt.
  • Sociologists such as Durkheim, Weber, Goffman, Foucault, Bruno LaTour, and Granovetter.
  • Feminist scholars such as Simone de Beauvoir, Carol Gilligan, Virginia Held, and Catherine MacKinnon.
  • Economists such as Quesnay, Ricardo, Malthus, Pareto, Keynes, Samuelson, Hayek, Jensen, Oliver Williams, and Robert Frank.
  • Philosophers and political theorists, such as medievalists David Hume, Pascal, Rousseau, Mill, Montesquieu, Burke, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Wittgenstein; neo-Marxists, such as Adorno, Lucács, Marcuse; pragmatists, such as James, Dewey, and Rorty.


Submission Expectations and Process:

In line with BEQ standards, we seek theoretical work including analytical, conceptual, and

normative articles; qualitative work; quantitative work; or work using historical methods. In all cases, the expectation for publication is that the submission will make an original theoretical contribution.

Manuscripts must be prepared in compliance with the journal’s instructions for contributors: Submissions that do not conform to these instructions, in terms of manuscript style and referencing, will not be reviewed.

Manuscripts should be submitted after September 1, 2019, and no later than November 1, 2019, using BEQ’s online submission system: When submitting be sure to choose the option that indicates that the submission is for this special issue.

All papers will be initially reviewed for suitability by the guest editor team, and submissions that pass initial review will undergo double-blind review by external referees in accordance with the journal’s standard editorial process. By submitting a paper for consideration, authors consent to be called upon as reviewers. Authors also agree, in the event that a submission after review receives an invitation to revise and resubmit, to resubmit within three months of that invitation.


More Information:

For further information please contact one of the special issue guest editors:

Andrew C. Wicks,

Patricia H. Werhane,

Lindsay Thompson,

Norman Bowie,