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.
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