Peter Ulrich (Ökonom)

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Peter Ulrich at the German Protestant Kirchentag 2007 in Cologne

Peter Ulrich (* 29 May 1948 in Bern) is a Swiss economist and the founder of Integrative Business Ethics. From 1987 to 2009, he held the (first) Chair of Business Ethics at the University of St. Gallen and was the founder and director of the Institute for Business Ethics there.


Ulrich is the son of the business economist Hans Ulrich. From 1967 to 1971 he studied economics and social sciences at the University of Fribourg i. Ue. (Switzerland). He then worked as a research assistant at the Institute of Business Administration at the University of Basel (Wilhelm Hill) from 1972 to 1976. In 1976 he received his doctorate from the University of Basel. 1976-1979 as well as 1982-1984 he worked in management consulting, in between 1979-1982 as a post-doctoral fellow of the Swiss National Science Foundation (working title of the project: “Ökonomische Rationalität und praktische Vernunft. Basic Problems of Practical Economic Philosophy”). He completed his habilitation at the Faculty of Economics at the University of Witten/Herdecke in 1986.

From spring 1984 until autumn 1987 Ulrich held a professorship (C4) in business administration with a social science orientation at the University of Wuppertal (Germany); from autumn 1986 he was also an assistant lecturer at the University of Witten/Herdecke. In the fall of 1987, he became the first holder of the Chair of Business Ethics at the University of St. Gallen (HSG), the first relevant chair at a German-speaking business school. From the fall of 1989, he served as founding director of the Institute for Business Ethics at the HSG, and from the fall of 2005 to the fall of 2007, he was department head (dean) of the Cultural Studies Department at the University of St. Gallen.

Ulrich was a member of the Executive Committee of the European Business Ethics Network (EBEN) from 1992-1996, and a member of the Board of the German Network for Business Ethics (DNWE) from 1997-2001. Since 2004, he has been a co-founder and member of the Board of Trustees of SSW – Stiftung sozialverantwortliche Schweiz. Furthermore, he is co-initiator and member of kontrapunkt, a group of about 30 professors of the humanities, social sciences and economics at Swiss universities, which emerged from the network “socially responsible economy NSW” and which intervenes in the polarized political debate on issues that are respectively in the focus of public interest with differentiated contributions to the “public use of reason”.

Ulrich is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Netzwerk Grundeinkommen, the German organization in the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) for an Unconditional Basic Income.[1]


For Peter Ulrich, the integrative business ethics he founded is about “clarifying from scratch the relationship between economic factual logic and ethical reason, which has literally become questionable, and to redefine it in a sustainable, life-serving way” (Ulrich 2001: 20) In doing so, there should be an economic-ethical primacy of the aspects of life-servingness over the logic of the market. In overview, there are three basic tasks of business ethics:

  1. The critique of “pure” economic reason (economism)
  2. Clarifying the ethical aspects of a life-sustaining economy
  3. Determining the “places” of the morality of economic activity

In order to counteract the steadily progressing tendency towards economism, however, Ulrich sees the “critique of economism as the most important task of basic economic-ethical reflection” (Ulrich 2001: 15).

Peter Ulrich, like Karl Homann, addresses from the outset the widespread view of the two-world conception of economic rationality on the one hand and ethical reason on the other. The specific basic idea of the integrative approach is to overcome this two-world conception “in an (integrative) idea of socio-economic rationality, which already has the rational-ethical point of view in itself.” (Ulrich 2001: 17) It is a matter of integrating the economic system together with its own logic into “rational forms of political-economic will formation” (Ulrich 2001: 335). Market forces must be integrated into the ethical-political principles of a well-ordered society. Ulrich himself writes: “It is one of the defining features of the integrative approach that it understands business ethics in this sense as a piece of political ethics of embedding the market economy in a well-ordered society of free people.” (Ulrich 2001: 17) The integrative approach consistently maintains a moral point of view. It is concerned with a methodically disciplined ethical reflection that starts before all socio-economic and political circumstances. The position of man and the economy is clearly defined: Since the economy is an instrument created by man and serving him, no moral reflection can have it as its starting point. The starting point can only be the rational human being himself.


  • Der entzauberte Markt: Eine wirtschaftsethische Orientierung. Herder, Freiburg 2002, ISBN 3-451-27935-5.
  • Zivilisierte Marktwirtschaft: Eine wirtschaftsethische Orientierung. Herder, Freiburg/Basel/Vienna 2005, ISBN 3-451-05579-1
    • Updated and expanded new edition: Haupt, Bern/Stuttgart/Vienna 2010 ISBN 978-3-258-07604-1
  • Integrative Economic Ethics: Foundations of a Civilized Market Economy. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2008, ISBN 978-0-521-87796-1.
  • Integrative business ethics: foundations of a life-serving economy. 5. Edition. Haupt, Bern/Stuttgart/Vienna 2016, ISBN 978-3-258-08003-1.

Web links

Individual references

  1. Basic Income Network, Scientific Advisory Board. Retrieved 12 August 2016.