The philosophical reflection on the essence of what we call the market has largely disappeared from the textbooks of the economic discipline. This paper intends to contribute to a renewal of this discourse by explicitly looking on basic concepts of mainstream market theory from an ethical point of view. There is not so much new information given; rather, a different, ethically conscious light is shed on the information we already have on the market. With its philosophical emphasis on the frame of reference, which is always normative in nature, the paper contributes to the new emerging approach of integrative economic ethics (integrative Wirtschaftsethik), introduced by Peter Ulrich. After touching the interrelationship of (descriptive) theory and (normative) ethics, the outlines of a brief and, as I claim, complete theory of the basic structure of the market are sketched. Central to this theory is the view of the market as a system. This systemic view permits us to explain phenomena like economic growth or unemployment as well as to discover ethical problems and to raise normative questions that are often overlooked and passed over.
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