Volume 4, 2009
A Survey of International Corporate Responsibility
Rawlsian Primary Goods and CSR
The Case of PT Freeport in Papua New Guinea
John Rawls defines “primary social goods” to be the benefits of social co-operation that are valuable no matter what one’s life-plan. The benefit for international trade of talking in terms of primary goods is that such goods represent a fixed or standard rate, and thus facilitate efficient negotiation. The difficulty, however, is that such discussions appear to ignore, and thereby do violence to, significant cross-cultural value differences. I argue that an appropriate view of Rawlsian primary goods helps to facilitate inter-subjective agreement about what constitutes an advantage to the least advantaged. I illustrate this in a case study of the PT Freeport mining operations in Papua New Guinea.