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The Ruffin Series of the Society for Business Ethics

Volume 4, 2004

Business, Science, and Ethics

William C. Frederick
Pages 145-176

The Evolutionary Firm and Its Moral (Dis)Contents

The business firm, called here the Evolutionary Firm, is shown to be a phenomenon of nature. The firm’s motives, organization, productivity, strategy, and moral significance are a direct outgrowth of natural evolution. Its managers, directors, and employees are natural agents enacting and responding to biological, physical, and ecological impulses inherited over evolutionary time from ancient human ancestors. The Evolutionary Firm’s moral posture is a function of its economizing success, competitive drive, quest for market dominance, social contracting skills, and the neural algorithms found in the minds of its executives and directing managers. Behavioral, organizational, and societal contradictions arise from the normal expression of these nature-based executive impulses, so that the business corporation cannot simultaneously satisfy society’s moral expectations and perform its nature-dictated economic functions.

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