The Moral Legitimacy of Profit Orientation

Ingo Pies, Stefan Hielscher

Research output: Chapter or section in a book/report/conference proceedingChapter or section


The profit motive, which guides the behavior of companies in a modern market economy, has been the object of controversial discussions in business ethics as well as business and society scholarship for decades. In this chapter, we both trace the underlying structure and offer an ordonomic perspective we deem capable of reconciling the controversy that characterizes these debates. To do so, we distinguish between the economic and the accounting concept of profit, which clarifies some widespread misunderstandings that hinder an objective conversation. Second, we present the various arguments in support and against the profit orientation of companies that have come to dominate debates. Third, we sketch an ordonomic perspective that aims at sublating, that is “aufheben” in the Hegelian sense, the antinomies inherent in these discussions. Finally, we propose a novel way for how to legitimize the entrepreneurial profit orientation of companies in competitive market systems.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearch Handbook on Corporate Governance and Ethics
EditorsTill Talaulicar
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing Ltd
Publication statusAcceptance date - 1 Mar 2022


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