In modern capitalist societies, the executives of large, profit-seeking corporations have the power to shape the collective life of the communities, local and global, in which they operate. Corporate executives issue directives to employees, who are normally prepared to comply with them, and impose penalties such as termination on those who fail to comply. The decisions made by corporate executives also affect people outside the corporation: investors, customers, suppliers, the general public. What can justify authority with such a broad reach? Political philosopher Christopher McMahon argues that the social authority of corporate executives is best understood as a form of political authority. Although corporations are privately owned, they must be managed in a way that promotes the public good.
Public Capitalism begins with this claim and explores its implications for issues including corporate property rights, the moral status of corporations, the permissibility of layoffs and plant closings, and the legislative role played by corporate executives. Corporate executives acquire the status of public officials of a certain kind, who can be asked to work toward social goods in addition to prosperity. Public Capitalism sketches a new framework for discussion of the moral and political issues faced by corporate executives.
Christopher McMahon is Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of Reasonable Disagreement: A Theory of Political Morality, Collective Rationality and Collective Reasoning, and Authority and Democracy: A General Theory of Government and Management.
Introduction Chapter 1. The Public and the Private -The Private Sector -Public and Private Morality -Public Officials -The Moral Status of Corporations Chapter 2. Legitimacy: The Private Model -Employees as Agents -The Normative Duality of Management -Promising and Legitimacy -The Receipt of Pay -Self-interest and Corporate Policy -Conclusion Chapter 3. Legitimacy: The Public Model -The Legitimacy of Political Authority -The Corporate Case -The Integrated Structure -Corporate Democracy -The Nature of Corporate Subordination -Two Kinds of Corporate Decision Making -The Scope of Public Capitalism Conclusion Chapter 4. Morality and the Invisible Hand -Morality, Altruism, and Capitalist Business Practice -The Implicit Morality of the Market -Comparing the Codes: Mutual Aid and Nonmaleficence -Comparing the Codes: Autonomy -Public Morality Chapter 5. Public Management -Cooperating with Government -The Legislative Authority of Management -Mergers and Acquisitions -Multinational Corporations Notes Works Cited Index Acknowledgments