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The Challenges of Capitalism for Virtue Ethics and the Common Good

The Challenges of Capitalism for Virtue Ethics and the Common Good

Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Edited by Kleio Akrivou and Alejo José G Sison

The evolution of modern capitalist society is increasingly being marked by an undeniable and consistent tension between pure economic and ethical ways of valuing and acting. This book is a collaborative and cross-disciplinary contribution that challenges the assumptions of capitalist business and society. It ultimately reflects on how to restore benevolence, collaboration, wisdom and various forms of virtuous deliberation amongst all those who take part in the common good, drawing inspiration from European history and continental philosophical traditions on virtue.

Chapter 10: Corporations, politics and the common good

Brian M. McCall

Subjects: business and management, business ethics and trust, business leadership, corporate social responsibility


The way we think determines the way we will act. The way we conceive of a corporation will have profound implications for how we govern it. Current corporation theory is dominated by private-law conceptions of the corporation, whether rooted in contract or property law. Such a conception orients corporate governance towards private, rather than common, goods. Yet corporations, especially publicly traded ones, are public entities. Ontologically they are more similar to political institutions than private relationships. This chapter argues public constitutional law is a more appropriate hermeneutic for understanding the corporation than contract or property law. Consequently the chapter applies Aristotelian political philosophy to the corporate enterprise, arguing that the corporation is one of the many imperfect societies that comprise the perfect society of the polis. As an imperfect society, the corporation has as its end a common good, albeit an imperfect one. After exploring the nature of this corporate common good, the chapter concludes that, rather than being governed solely for the private good of shareholder wealth maximization, corporations should be governed for the common good of the corporation in a manner oriented to the complete common good of the perfect society of which the corporation is a part.

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