Research Handbooks in Business and Management series
Edited by Alexander Nill
Chapter 2: The general theory of marketing ethics: the consumer ethics and intentions issues
Hunt and Vitell’s ‘General theory of marketing ethics,’ along with other models published during the early to mid 1980s, fundamentally transformed the landscape for ethics research from its strictly normative roots of moral philosophy (how should ethical decisions be made?) to a much more positive endeavor (how are ethical decisions made?), which provides a framework for empirical testing. The major contribution of this particular theory is its explication of the individual decision-making process in situations involving ethical issues. This decision process is comprised of both deontological, or rules-based, and teleological, or consequences-based, dimensions. The deontological dimension is guided by norms or rules that one lives by whereas the teleological dimension is guided by the likely consequences of one’s actions and how good or bad those consequences may be for oneself and other important stakeholders. One then evaluates, based primarily on deontology and/or teleology, various perceived alternatives and decides which are ethical and which are not. This evaluation then leads to intentions and behavior. Of course the theory recognizes that ethical evaluations or judgments, intentions and behavior are not always entirely consistent, and it explicates why this may sometimes be the case. Finally the individual decision-making process is potentially influenced by various environments that include one’s culture, personal experiences, organization, profession and/or industry.
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