Class Conflict and Social Order in Smith and Marx: The Relevance of Social Philosophy to Business Management

Philosophy of Management 15 (2):121-133 (2016)
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In this paper, we undertake a genealogical study to illustrate how Karl Marx derives his concept of class conflict from Adam Smith’s theory of social order. Based on these findings, we argue that both Smith’s and Marx’s political economies should be interpreted in relation to each other – from the perspective of social philosophy, in particular their shared concepts of social order and necessary opposition of class interests. By appeal to process philosophy, we also argue that this reinterpretation needs to take into account two other ideas shared by Smith and Marx, namely the social individual as person-in-community, and the pursuit of desirable social forms from a humanistic perspective. We conclude by contending that business management practice would benefit from understanding the role of class tensions and social order in stakeholder relations. Specifically, management and organization scholarship should focus on philosophical examinations of the influence of social order on economic activities in an organization in a way that is far more appreciative of the social relations of individuals as being the primary, rather than a secondary, concern.



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The Theory of Moral Sentiments.Adam Smith - 1759 - Dover Publications.
Capitalism and Freedom.Milton Friedman - 1962 - Ethics 74 (1):70-72.
For Marx.Louis Althusser - 1969 - Verso.
The Road to Serfdom.Friedrich A. Hayek - 1945 - Ethics 55 (3):224-226.
Process and Reality.Arthur E. Murphy - 1931 - Humana Mente 6 (21):102-106.

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