In whose interests should a corporation be run? Over the last thirty years the field of 'stakeholder theory' has proposed a distinctive answer: a corporation should be run in the interests of all its primary stakeholders - including employees, customers, suppliers and financiers - without contradicting the ethical principles on which capitalism stands. This book offers a critique of this central claim. It argues that by applying the political concept of a 'social contract' to the corporation, stakeholder theory in fact undermines the principles on which a market ecomy is based. The argument builds upon an extensive review of the stakeholder literature and an analysis of its philosophical foundations, particularly concerning the social contract tradition of John Rawls and his predecessors. The book concludes by offering a qualified version of Milton Friedman's shareholder theory as a more justifiable account of the purpose of a corporation.
Samuel F. Mansell is a Lecturer in Management at the University of St Andrews. Samuel's research interests continue to lie in the application of political and moral philosophy to the field of business ethics, with particular reference to the work of Aristotle, Aquinas, Hobbes and Kant. He is currently researching the roles of distributive justice and charity in the modern corporation.