The Common Good and the Purpose of the Firm: A Critique of the Shareholder and Stakeholder Models from the Catholic Social Tradition1

Journal of Human Values 1 (2):221-237 (1995)


This paper is an insighful critique of the shareholder and stakeholder models of organizational purpose. The authors emphasize that both these models fail to serve as an adequate basis for explaining the purpose of an organization and are unable to capture a fuller meaning of living in an organizational community. The paper thus endeavours to introduce into the mainstream of discussion a third model, based on the idea of the common good which draws inspiration from the communitarian Catholic tradition. The first part of this paper traces the idea of common good as it relates to organizations. The second part engages the common good tradition with the shareholder and stake holder models. The paper goes on to describe common good within the organization through three propositions: fundamentality, excellence and integration. The authors reiterate, however, that the idea of the common good does not provide a micro-blueprint for managers, but rather an orientation or moral compass that directs organizational activity towards human development.

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