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Stakeholder Theory: A Libertarian Defense

  • R. Edward Freeman and Robert A. Phillips

The purpose of this paper is to suggest that at least one strain of what has come to be called “stakeholder theory” has roots that are deeply libertarian. We begin by explicating both “stakeholder theory” and “libertarian arguments.” We show how there are libertarian arguments for both instrumental and normative stakeholder theory, and we construct a version of capitalism, called “stakeholder capitalism,” that builds on these libertarian ideas. We argue throughout that strong notions of “freedom” and “voluntary action” are the best possible underpinnings for stakeholder theory, and in doing so, seek to return “stakeholder theory” to its managerial and libertarian roots found in Freeman (1984).

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Business Ethics Quarterly
  • ISSN: 1052-150X
  • EISSN: 2153-3326
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