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The corporation, its normative significance, and the social egalitarian case for stakeholder theory

Coombs, David Henry (2022) The corporation, its normative significance, and the social egalitarian case for stakeholder theory. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004440


There are two important debates in business ethics that centre on the limited liability business corporation (the corporation). The first debate is whether the corporation has a special normative significance because of its legal form, which means that it comes with special moral responsibilities that are different to moral responsibilities in other, non-corporate contexts. The second debate is whether an egalitarian society should normatively regulate the corporation with stakeholder theory or shareholder value maximisation, where stakeholder theory requires that the corporation gives weight to the interests of all the corporation’s stakeholders and shareholder value maximisation requires that the corporation maximises profits for shareholders, albeit subject to certain constraints. In this thesis, I contribute to these debates by defending two over-arching claims. First, I claim that there are strong pro tanto reasons for society to regulate the corporation with special moral responsibilities because the corporation has a special governmental provenance and comes with special legal privileges for its shareholders. I defend this claim by developing an argument which I call the Corporate Fair Reciprocity Argument, because it is rooted in a conception of justice as fair reciprocity in which justice requires that citizens fairly benefit from and fairly contribute to society as a system of fair social cooperation. Second, I claim that a social egalitarian society, which is plausibly a more specific version of justice as fair reciprocity in which the primary concern of justice is that citizens relate to one another as social equals, has good reasons to favour stakeholder theory. I justify this claim by developing a refined version of stakeholder theory that is grounded in specific social egalitarian values and by defending this version of stakeholder theory as being superior to shareholder value maximisation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2022 David Henry Coombs
Library of Congress subject classification: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Sets: Departments > Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Supervisor: Voorhoeve, Alex and Otsuka, Michael

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