Ed Freeman is one of the most important contemporary philosophers. Famous for his "stakeholder theory", Ed advocates a "pragmatic" approach to business ethics, in contrast to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). We challenge the risk that stakeholder capitalism simply amplifies a utilitarian and extractive paradigm, and examine the need to develop a better narrative for business. We discuss how ethical stakeholder management can be effectively operationalised. We talk about music, martial arts and the role of business schools in the development of ethical leadership. The result was a brilliant and vibrant conversation.

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behind the interview

Why is the interview important? Who are we talking to?



We approached Ed, because for nearly 50 years Ed has developed stakeholder theory (in spite of Klaus Schwab claiming it as his invention) as one of the most important narratives to counter a business ethic founded on single-minded shareholder value maximisation. Ed consistently emphasizes that ethics and value judgments are integral components of sound business decisions, rather than philanthropic add-ons (as he suggests CSR sometimes advocates) or undue taxation (as argued by Milton Friedman). Furthermore, Ed contends that stakeholder engagement can generate value for all parties involved. Finally, Ed is a convinced pragmatist, and his writings helped us much to see how pragmatism unfolds in practice, and where its limitations lie.


  • What is Stakeholder Theory? How does it help business to contribute to a better society, and what role do managers play in achieving this goal?
  • Why do some businesses struggle to act responsibly, and what steps can be taken to remove internal practices that hinder responsible behavior?
  • How does Pragmatism undergird business ethics, and where are its limitations?


Ed is an American philosopher and Elis and Signe Olsson Professor of Business Administration at UVA Darden School of Business. He is best known for his work on stakeholder theory. Besides his six honorary doctorates, he has received Lifetime Achievement Awards from the World Resources Institute and Aspen Institute, the Humboldt University Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility, the Academy of Management and the Society for Business Ethics. Ed is a prolific writer and his books, such as “Strategic management — a stakeholder approach”, “Managing for Stakeholders” and “Stakeholder Theory” are seminal works, and his articles are frequently cited.

Besides his passions for writing, making music and martial arts, teaching is close to his heart. The ability to enable students to think critically and take different perspectives earned him several awards throughout his career. Moreover, Ed suggests that “we are only as good as the stories we tell” — he has worked with many executives and companies around the world to enable new narratives and help to make business and ultimately the world a little better.

Exploring the concepts for this session

Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition that – very broadly – understands knowing the world as inseparable from agency within it. This general idea has attracted a remarkably rich and at times contrary range of interpretations, including: that all philosophical concepts should be tested via scientific experimentation, that a claim is true if and only if it is useful (relatedly: if a philosophical theory does not contribute directly to social progress then it is not worth much), that experience consists in transacting with rather than representing nature, that articulate language rests on a deep bed of shared human practices that can never be fully ‘made explicit’.

James, Dewey and even Peirce all express opinions according to which they see a certain attitude to be the essential element in pragmatist philosophy. In his lecture on What pragmatism means, James (1907) primarily speaks of pragmatism as an attitude, and as a method for settling philosophical disputes. For him pragmatism is first a method and only secondly ”a genetic theory of what is meant by truth” (James, 1907, 32). And pragmatism as a method means ”no particular results”, but ”only an attitude of orientation” that lies ”in the midst of our theories, like a corridor in a hotel” (James, 1907, 27). Whatever specific problems pragmatists are puzzling over or whatever theories they are supporting in their individual hotel rooms, they nevertheless must pass through the corridor of pragmatist attitude. According to James then, the attitude—and not any specific doctrine or theory—is what lies at the core of pragmatism and unites different pragmatists.

Pragmatists believe that philosophical inquiry must engage closely with practice to be useful and that practice serves as a source of social norms. As a growing alternative to the analytic and continental philosophical traditions, pragmatism is well suited for research in business ethics, but its role remains underappreciated. This article focuses on Richard Rorty, a key figure in the pragmatist tradition. We read Rorty as a source of insight about the ethical and political nature of business practice in contemporary global markets, focusing specifically on his views about moral sentiments, agency, and democratic deliberation.

The stakeholder theory is a theory of organizational management and business ethics that accounts for multiple constituencies impacted by business entities like employees, suppliers, local communities, creditors, and others. It addresses morals and values in managing an organization, such as those related to corporate social responsibility, market economy, and social contract theory. The stakeholder view of strategy integrates a resource-based view and a market-based view, and adds a socio-political level. One common version of stakeholder theory seeks to define the specific stakeholders of a company (the normative theory of stakeholder identification) and then examine the conditions under which managers treat these parties as stakeholders.

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A Resource Kit to launch your explorations

Ed's website with lots of interesting information

Overview of Ed Freeman's articles on Google Scholar

We bring the distinct and complementary existentialist perspectives of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir to bear on the phenomenon of moral disengagement in managerial decision-making. Existentialist thinking is a rich source of insight on this phenomenon, because—as we demonstrate—the concept of moral disengagement overlaps significantly with the notion of ‘a consciousness in bad faith’ in Sartre’s writing, and the notion of ‘not willing oneself free’ in De Beauvoir’s writing. These concepts play a critical role in existentialist ethics, and thus existentialists carefully deliberated the phenomenon that these concepts aim to illuminate.

Values are central to the idea of “responsible leadership” and most modern discussions of business ethics are connected in a variety of ways to the concept of “values.” While there are several feasible ways to interpret the idea of “values,” most accounts assume that it makes sense to talk about both individual and corporate values. 1 Indeed, in recent times, business ethicists have proposed that we stop separating “business” from “ethics” and instead integrate values into our basic understanding of how we create value and trade with each other.

Resources on Stakeholder Theory, including Ed's stimulating Tedx presentation mentioned during the interview

In this article, we will outline the principles of stakeholder capitalism and describe how this view rejects problematic assumptions in the current narratives of capitalism. Traditional narratives of capitalism rely upon the assumptions of competition, limited resources, and a winner-take-all mentality as fundamental to business and economic activity. These approaches leave little room for ethical analysis, have a simplistic view of human beings, and focus on value-capture rather than value-creation.

Although stakeholder theory and corporate social responsibility (CSR) have evolved into major theoretical frameworks for exploring social issues in management, there is a limited and often misleading understanding of the relationship between them that inhibits the management field from adopting a social orientation to a full extent. Our aim is to remove unnecessary barriers that preclude collaboration between scholars in the stakeholder theory and CSR camps; empower organizational scholars and practitioners with a more nuanced language for dealing with social issues in management; and enable the creation of a coherent and integrative theoretical foundation in the area of social issues in management that has previously been at a disadvantage to other areas in management. In our conceptual analysis, we argue that stakeholder theory and CSR provide distinct but complementary theoretical frameworks with some overlap. The actual decision to choose a particular framework depends on the problem one wants to solve and the settings of that problem.

The Business Roundtable, a large group of top CEOs, recently issued a statement defining the purpose of the corporation in stakeholder terms, a direct and intended reversal from an earlier statement that defined the duty of directors as serving the interests of stockholders. In this editorial, we briefly describe the major twists and turns in the stockholders-versus-stakeholders debate that make this statement so significant to management theory and practice. We then describe the implications of the statement for scholars and practicing managers. We end with a description of three specific research topics that require more research in light of this statement: firm boundaries, the nature of value creation systems, and theory regarding the destruction of stakeholder value.

There has been a growing understanding among organizational scholars and business practitioners that management in organizations has to be responsible to its stakeholders and to the society. Recent scholarship on responsible management focused on defining what ‘responsible’ in a management context means, and even though there has been noticeable progress in an understanding of the concept, the topic still remains open for further thinking. It is our strong belief that the comprehension of responsible management cannot be complete without brining into discussion key ideas of American Pragmatism. Thus, this work contributes to the ongoing discussion on responsible management by elaborating on far-reaching ideas of John Dewey, a renowned educator and social reformer whose philosophical ideas changed the landscape of many domains of our society. In this work, we show the relevance of Dewey’s thought-provoking ideas on individual’s responsibility to comprehending management responsibility in organizations.

The purpose of this chapter is to examine an approach to both business and business ethics that has come to be called “stakeholder theory.” While there is disagreement among stakeholder theorists about the scope and precise meaning of both “stakeholder” and “theory,” we shall take “stakeholder theory” to denote the body of research which has emerged in the last 15 years by scholars in management, business and society, and business ethics, in which the idea of “stakeholders” plays a crucial role.

Stakeholder theory has become one of the most important developments in the field of business ethics. While this concept has evolved and gained prominence as a method of integrating ethics into the basic purposes and strategic objectives of the firm, the authors argue that stakeholder theory has retained certain “masculinist” assumptions from the wider business literature that limit its usefulness. The resources of feminist thought, specifically the work of Carol Gilligan, provide a means of reinterpreting the stakeholder concept in a way that overcomes many of the existing limitations. This reading provides a different understanding of the identity and meaning of the firm, specifically in terms of its relationship to stakeholder groups and what it means for a firm to succeed.

The central claim of this paper is that organization studies needs to be fundamentally reshaped. Such change is needed to provide room for ethics and to increase the relevance of research. We argue that the new pragmatism provides critical resources for this change. Pragmatism is a particularly helpful tool to use in that it highlights the moral dimensions of organizing (is this useful for our purposes?) while at the same time avoiding entrenched epistemological distinctions that marginalize ethics and make research less useful.

Edward (Ed) Freeman, often called the father of stakeholder theory, is arguably one of the most influential and prolific thinkers in business ethics and corporate social responsibility. Here, he translates key ideas from his work to the context of responsible management. Ed discusses how responsible management might help to overcome the 'management sucks' narrative by reinventing management.

Stakeholder theory begins with the assumption that values are necessarily and explicitly a part of doing business. It asks managers to articulate the shared sense of the value they create, and what brings its core stakeholders together. It also pushes managers to be clear about how they want to do business, specifically what kinds of relationships they want and need to create with their stakeholders to deliver on their purpose.

In this chapter, we argue that the moral foundation of the descriptive pillar, pragmatism, provides a moral foundation for twenty-first century stakeholder theory. As we show, pragmatism and its close cousin pluralism fits a stakeholder theory concerned with the descriptive questions that characterize current work in stakeholder theory. Pragmatism and pluralism both see eudemonia, or human flourishing, as the outcome of moral choice. Stakeholder theory also advances an agenda of human flourishing, as positive relationships between businesses and their stakeholders contributes to individual and societal eudemonia.

This paper aims to integrate insights from psychoanalytic theory into business ethics research on the sources of ethical failures within organizations. We particularly draw from the analysis of sources and outcomes of neurotic processes that are part of human development, as described by the psychoanalyst Karen Horney and more recently by Manfred Kets de Vries; we interpret their insights from a stakeholder theory perspective.

This article seeks to defend and develop a stakeholder pragmatism advanced in some of the work by Edward Freeman and colleagues. By positioning stakeholder pragmatism more in line with the democratic and ethical base in American pragmatism (as developed by William James, John Dewey and Richard Rorty), the article sets forth a fallibilistic stakeholder pragmatism that seeks to be more useful to companies by expanding the ways in which value is and can be created in a contingent world. A dialogue between a defence company and peace and arbitration society is used to illustrate the main plot of this article.)

The article focuses on questions concerning stakeholder theory and methods of unifying the theory. It states that two methodological versions of stakeholder theory, instrumental and normative, converge, with instrumental versions relying on hypothetical claims on the best route to achieve goals, while normative versions rely more on ethical claims. It mentions that connective logic linking the two needs to be rigorous as the two methodologies are divergent in nature. The article suggests there is logic that can link normative and empirical beliefs together. It states that the means of holding together normative and instrumental segments of stakeholder theory lies inside the minds of corporate executives.

Selected published works

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Explanations, artefacts and references from the interview

Transaction cost economics (TCE), and more specifically the version of TCE that has been developed by Oliver Williamson, has become an increasingly important anchor for the analysis of a wide range of strategic and organizational issues of considerable importance to firms. As argued by some of its key proponents. the theory aims not only to explain but also to influence practice (Masten, 1993). In this article. we argue that prescriptions drawn from this theory are likely to be not only wrong but also dangerous for corporate managers because of the assumptions and logic on which it is grounded.

An independent nonprofit equipping the market with the data, tools, and insights to deliver on the promise of stakeholder capitalism and an economy that works for all Americans

“Two Dogmas” was to demonstrate that logical positivism was possible solely due to unjustified assumptions. Quine aimed to point out that the rescuing of empiricism was possible only if another, holistic approach was accepted. (Artur Koterski)

Jim Collins — A Rare Interview with a Reclusive Polymath | The Tim Ferriss Show (Podcast/youtube)

As value chains become longer with increases in outsourcing and subcontracting, the challenges of fixing responsibility become more difficult. Using concepts from the literature on social networks, this paper considers issues of diffusion of responsibility and plausible deniability in such relationships. Specifically, this paper isolates three sources of denial of – or defense against – attributions of responsibility: connection, control and knowledge. (Robert A. Phillips)

Many parallels can be drawn between organizational and individual pathologies. We believe that the fantasies of top executives and the neurotic styles to which they give rise are important determinants of the nature of organizational dysfunctions. (Manfred F.R. Kets de Vries, Danny Miller)

For the past 2000 years, the dominant morality in the West, according to Nietzsche, has been an “anti-natural” morality, which, in his words, turns “against the instincts of life”. Nietzsche foresaw this morality as reigning over the Western world for the foreseeable future, and was to him “the danger of dangers” – a morality in which all individuals, even those with the potential to rise above the mediocre mass, are pressured into becoming a "herd animal".  (video)

"I am therefore almost inclined to suggest that you require from your laureates an oath of humility, a sort of hippocratic oath, never to exceed in public pronouncements the limits of their competence. Or you ought at least, on conferring the prize, remind the recipient of the sage counsel of one of the great men in our subject, Alfred Marshall, who wrote: 'Students of social science, must fear popular approval: Evil is with them when all men speak well of them'".

What have we learned? Our "Best Bit" takeaways from the Interview


Here you can find the most memorable insights from our interview, related to our three inquiry questions. Simply select from the drop down menu on the right -->

Changing the narrative of business
  • When I say dominant narrative, it’s the way we often unconsciously frame things. The dominant narrative in business is that business is about money and making profits for shareholders. (…) In that dominant narrative, you could replace shareholders with any group. It would be the same kind of partial narrative. Businesses always have and will create value for customers, suppliers, employees, communities, and the people with the money. So, it’s an “and”, not an “or”. And those interests are interconnected. If we begin to understand that, we can improve the hell out of it. If we don’t understand it, if we think it’s just for shareholders, labour, or customers, we’re going to miss some of those interconnections. We’re going to miss the opportunity to improve how that value creation goes. (…) If we tell a better story and frame business in this way, we can make it a lot better, a lot more effective.
  • What happens here is you get a lot of false dichotomies. You get stakeholders versus shareholders. I’ve never known what to do with that because shareholders are stakeholders. (…) Journalists ask me all the time: Professor, what should businesses focus on, ethics or profits? That’s a lot like asking me, do I want a heart or do I want a lung? I’m pretty much in favour of having both of those things.
  • When I say change the narrative, I’m not just talking about changing how we talk. I’m talking about changing the way we see things and act towards them and opening up new possibilities. A pragmatist would say that we can invent vocabularies to help us solve our problems. And then we’re able to cooperate, to use those vocabularies in this cooperative way.
  • It’s a dichotomy of saying its purpose OR profits. That’s the problem. It’s purpose, but also that businesses have to make money. We have a saying in the music business. “Everybody gotta get paid.” (…) So you have to make money. Otherwise you can’t exist. It’s just like I need to make red blood cells to live. It doesn’t follow from that, that making red blood cells is the purpose of my life.
  • I find it completely disrespectful to say that human beings are one-dimensional, self-interested maximisers. That’s bullshit. We can be self-interested and other-regarding at the same time because we’re complex beings.
Pragmatism, Pluralism and Stakeholder Theory
  • The idea that there’s a “fact-value” distinction between normative and descriptive is problematic. It’s easy to illustrate in stakeholder theory, because when I call somebody a “stakeholder”, I’ve made a normative claim. I’ve said they have a stake, and therefore there are certain things they deserve or owed, et cetera. So the very idea of stakeholder theory mixes up normative and descriptive.
  • The vocabularies we use orient what we pay attention to. A pragmatist would say that theory, data and interpretation are all intertwined. What we should do, is try to find the ones that help us solve problems.
  • We have this idea from Plato, that there is only one way to define the good. I think that’s a fool’s errand. There are multiple ways to define it. And then there is a conflict. That’s where we need a conversation. Now, who’s a part of the conversation? You’re trying to solve the problem of two competing ideas of the good, we need to work out the points of conflict. And then my answer is, who’s affected? They would be the stakeholders, you know, in a practical sense. It is not relativism at all. I’m just trying to solve a problem.
  • I think people often mistake pluralism for relativism. Relativism is the view that because you believe something, or because a culture believes something, that makes it right. That’s not a very interesting idea. It would say there’s no need to have any moral talk. Relativism is different from pluralism. Pluralism says there might be multiple ways of living an ethical life or having a good organisation. What we need to do, is see what problems a variety of narratives solve.
  • We can all have private conceptions based on whatever. You might be an evangelical Christian, I might be a Darwinian. If we have a conversation about ethics, and I give you evolutionary reasons for something, you’re not going to be moved. And if you give me evangelical Christian reasons, I’m not going to be moved. What we have to do is to find reasons in the civic space that we both can agree on. And we are losing the ability to do that. We’re just shouting our private conceptions louder across each other instead. We have to be able to find reasons that lots of people can agree on.
  • If you ask people all over the world to write down their top three values, everybody writes down the same thing. They write down respect, responsibility, love and care, integrity, those kinds of things. And showing respect in Indonesia is different from showing respect in Zurich. But those are cultural differences. We have a lot in common, but we’re often culturally inept at trying to translate those values into conversation.
  • The problem with looking at the whole system is you’re almost always seduced into managing the system. And managing the system, in my reading of history, almost always turns into totalitarianism. And, you know, the title of Richard Rorty’s last book is “Pragmatism is anti-authoritarianism”. And there is an anti-authoritarian flavour to what I’ve tried to write about stakeholder theory.
  • This is about responsibility. (…) just from the standpoint of trying to be a good libertarian, you should believe in stakeholders. Now, of course, Libertarians hate me, because they don’t want to talk about responsibility. But if freedom makes any sense at all, it’s not that “teenage boy” freedom, that “I can do whatever I want”. It’s a freedom that is bounded by our sense of being responsible to each other. And that was the point of that. Am I a libertarian? I don’t say that anymore. I would have said it at some point in the past. I don’t say anymore because I don’t know what a libertarian is anymore because so many of them don’t believe in being responsible. So many of them don’t believe in the self that’s connected to others.
  • We have a saying in the music business. If you write a good melody and keep playing the record over and over, eventually people start humming the tune. And again, I get way too much credit. Lots of people are humming the stakeholder tune now. And I think there’s a point at which there’s no going back to shareholder primacy. So it’s up to us to figure out how to make our business institutions places for our children to live in. And that’s the way I like to think about it. So thank you very much for giving me this opportunity to play the record one more time.

  • I have a very traditional view of this, the good life for me is a scholarly life, which however, has some impact on the world. Antoinette mentioned earlier that I tried to be an engaged citizen, so as well as my academic pieces, I try to write for newspapers, try to comment on current affairs, and so on. So, the good life of a scholar is tied in scholarship and raising and exploring questions, and also taking the answers he or she comes up with into the practical domain, and trying to make a difference in the world. And the way we make a difference is that we’re not producing anything in a material sense, but offer our ideas, our concepts, the language that we use for society, hopefully making some difference to the way we collectively see things.
  • Virtue ethics is concerned with what it is to be, with how it is to act well in the world. And it is underlined by a particular anthropology, which is about what is the good life. This is what eudemonia means: it is the happy life, the life that enables people to flourish. So, this is the kind of notion of goodness Aristotle is very keen to explore. He thinks that every object and every kind of species in the world has a particular function, and the function of human beings it is to live life well. That is life has to be meaningful, and lived in a way that will enable people to unfold their capacities and to flourish.
CSR vs Stakeholder Capitalism
  • In the old book, I tried to argue that if you took the stakeholder idea seriously, you don’t need CSR. The way I would say that now is different. (…) It might be that CSR is just about how you deal with the community. But it might be that there are bigger issues in society that you want to deal with that are not necessarily community issues. (…) If you use CSR as a way to think about what’s my obligation beyond communities, then it’s important.
  • I’m much friendlier to the idea now than I used to be. Because with the old story, CSR played a different role. It played the role of people “in the mafia killing people during the week and then going to church on Sunday”. You know, business sucks, it’s a bad thing, but I’ll give some money to the opera or the community, and that’ll make up for it. And that seemed to me to be not a very interesting idea.
Obligation to Society
  • I’m not opposed to saying you have obligations to society. But I do want to focus on one thing here, and that is the focus on obligation and what philosophers would call “the right”. I think we could fulfil our obligations and might still have a pretty nasty society. What we really want to think about is not only the right but what’s good. You know, and trying to understand how the right and the good can work together.
  • Philosophers would take the big four of ethical theory: rights, consequences, virtue and care - and they’d have a centuries-long argument as to which one is the best. So, there are four lenses. Some of them help you solve some problems and not solve others. And the point about using our judgement is to be able to figure that out. And we might fail, so we need some humility in the mix to do that. I’m not thinking about obligation as many business ethicists want to do. As in: what are your obligations to stakeholders? I ask: how can this business build something that’s actually good? And clearly, you don’t want to violate any basic human obligations. But trying to load up ethics in obligation, I’d rather keep that to a pretty minimal idea because I think freedom and responsibility are so important to a good society.

Relationship and measuring the good
  • If you want to measure the total value created, you can measure the total value created for each stakeholder. But there’s going to be some interaction effects that might be missing.
  • Every company I know operationalizes how it deals with its customers, supply chains et cetera. (…) So how you measure this stuff was never much of a question. It might be a question for academics, but not for real managers. They know how to do this and do it all the time. What they miss, and what I think is a harder question, is how how our interactions with customers affect our interactions with employees? (…) Companies are rediscovering that they need to treat employees a lot better. They need to figure out how to revitalise this relationship.
  • You’re right. We need some new measures too. But the criticism is that profits are the only thing you can measure. I think that’s just wrong. There are lots of measures that people do. The balanced scorecard aims at the profit and doesn’t go far enough. And oftentimes these measures are internally focused. They’re not focused on what stakeholders the value is actually created for.

Strategy and purpose
  • The most important thing would be to say, that purpose doesn’t live in the purpose statement. Purpose lives in the systems and processes. (…) Many companies today are doing the purpose rethink to get a great-sounding purpose statement. So not many of them are going far enough to do a kind of systems audit. Let’s see what the systems are in terms of how we deal with employees or how we deal with customers. And let’s figure out where we can improve those things.
  • If you have a purpose statement, and you don’t allow people to push back and tell you where you’re not living it, you don’t really have a meaningful purpose statement. (…) I see strategy as some intermediate step between purpose and values and actual systems and processes. And if you do it without the systems and processes or without the purpose, I don’t think it’s very effective. So I see strategy itself as less effective or less important than it used to be.

What is Leadership?
  • So there’s an idea of leadership about getting stuff done, which I think dominates. And there’s an idea about personality, which is the charismatic stuff, which dominates. We need a certain kind of leadership. It’s not this charismatic stuff. It’s people who have a high degree of humility and are fiercely determined around purpose and things.
  • I thought about somebody who I would say was a leader, who I know personally. And I thought about my grandmother. (…) I learned a lot from her. I saw her as the leader, the family’s matriarch.
  • Plato had six or seven models of leadership. But there are a couple of things about Plato that we’ve forgotten. The first is that Plato didn’t have an idea of ethical leadership. This is because Plato contrasted leaders with tyrants. When you call somebody a leader, you automatically are expressing some approval. And we shouldn’t express the approval of tyrants. I think today we’ve separated that out. We call people leaders, but they are just tyrants. They’re just telling people what to do and using their power to force them on what to do. So that’s not leadership.

Personal development at Business schools
  • We do spend time doing experiential things because that’s how you have to learn it. I think too many universities don’t do any experiential learning. They kind of miss the key of it. Are we doing enough? Probably not.
  • I see myself very much as the jester, the trickster. Some of my favourite characters in literature are the tricksters. Now, I happen to think that hope comes from sowing doubt. If I can examine what I believe and not have the wool pulled over my eyes, I can create real hope about what’s possible and what’s not. So I would just say, typical pragmatist answer, those things go together.
  • In terms of business schools, I’m of two minds about this. I think there’s one part of me that says I’m the luckiest guy in the world. I have a job at a school that has taken ethics seriously long before anybody else did. (…) We’ve managed to turn the ethics courses into a suite of courses in the humanities, from theatre, and literature to music, all around making people more fully human leaders. (…) I think there’s a danger of business schools becoming irrelevant. The reason is not necessarily the lack of embracing stakeholder theory. The reason is the being in the grip of this positivism. Look, you don’t sit and wonder what those management people discovered today? No, there’s not a soul out there who ever thinks about that.
  • I think a lot of the people you’re interviewing care a lot about business. And we do too. That’s one of the reasons I’m at Darden. Because I really love thinking about business. And that’s why I’ve always thought stakeholder theory was about the business model. Well, it’s about other stuff, but it’s primarily about trying to figure out how people can create better businesses. And that’s what professional schools should do.

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diving deeper

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✿ Good Life and Good Society

Further reflections on pragmatism and business ethics

If you have philosophical inclinations and want a good workout, this conscientious scrutiny of moral assumptions and expressions will be most rewarding.

by Alan Donagan

Although it is on occasion useful to distinguish between factual claims and value judgments, it positively harmful when identified with a dichotomy between objective and purely "subjective."

by Hilary Putnam

Standing at the crossroads of psychology and religion, this catalyzing work applied the scientific method to a field abounding in abstract theory.

by William James, Martin E Marty (Introduction, Editor)

This book presents a method that might be called an Aristotelian common-sense approach to ethical decision making.

by Ronald Duska, Norman E. Bowie (Editor), Patricia H. Werhane (Editor)

The Blackwell Guide to Business Ethics acquaints the reader with theoretical and pedagogical ethical issues in the practice of business

Norman E. Bowie

In Development as Freedom Amartya Sen explains how in a world of unprecedented increase in overall opulence millions of people living in the Third World are still unfree.

by Amartya Sen

The Pragmatic Turn

by Richard J. Bernstein

Moral Imagination and Management Decision-Making

by Patricia H. Werhane

Reconstruction in Philosophy

by John Dewey

The Rorty Reader

by Richard Rorty

Toward a Pragmatist Philosophy of the Humanities

by Sami Pihlström

The Cambridge Companion to Pragmatism

by Alan Malachowski (Editor)

✿ Good Leaders and Good Leadership

How can we develop responsible leadership?

How to lead in a world where leadership extends to a whole range of stakeholders inside and outside an organization

by Nicola Pless (Editor), Thomas Maak (Editor)

The best professionals rely less on formulas learned in graduate school than on the kind of improvisation learned in practice.

by Donald A. Schön

Marking a new stage in the evolution of his thought, Rorty’s final masterwork identifies anti-authoritarianism as the principal impulse and virtue of pragmatism.

by Richard Rorty

In A Theory of Justice Rawls assumed a "well-ordered society". Now Rawls asks how a just society can live in concord when divided by reasonable but incompatible doctrines?

by John Rawls

Giving Voice to Values: How to Speak Your Mind When You Know What’s Right

by Mary C. Gentile

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“We Should Never Judge Others” — or: The Three Most Dangerous Tales About Postmodern Ethics

“We Should Never Judge Others” — or: The Three Most Dangerous Tales About Postmodern Ethics

It is sometimes flabbergasting how strongly we argue about ethical positions, whilst many of us seem to have a very haphazard understanding of basic ethical theories. Sadly, this quickly leads to the perpetuation of half truths, and the insistence on a set of rather simplistic logical fallacies that every basic textbook in (business) ethics addresses extensively.

(3 min read)

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