Shareholder theory and Kant's 'Duty of Beneficence'

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    24 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    This article draws on the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant to explore whether a corporate ‘duty of beneficence’ to non-shareholders is consistent with the orthodox ‘shareholder theory’ of the firm. It examines the ethical framework of Milton Friedman’s argument and asks whether it necessarily rules out the well-being of non-shareholders as a corporate objective. The article examines Kant’s distinction between ‘duties of right’ and ‘duties of virtue’ (the latter including the duty of beneficence) and investigates their consistency with the shareholder theory. The article concludes that it is possible within the ethical framework of shareholder theory for managers to pursue directly the happiness of non-shareholders. Furthermore, shareholders have a duty to hold management to account for the moral consequences of the firm’s activities on non-shareholding stakeholders.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)583-599
    Number of pages17
    JournalJournal of Business Ethics
    Volume117
    Issue number3
    Early online date15 Nov 2012
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

    Keywords

    • Deontology
    • Duty of benefience
    • Friedman
    • Kant
    • Imperfect duties
    • Property rights
    • Shareholder theory
    • Stakeholder theory
    • Shareholder activism

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