Pragmatism and Pluralism: A Moral Foundation for Stakeholder Theory in the 21st Century

The Cambridge Handbook of Stakeholder Theory, Cambridge University Press, May 2019 ISBN 9781107191464

35 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2019

See all articles by Paul Godfrey

Paul Godfrey

Brigham Young University - J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott School of Management

Ben W. Lewis

Brigham Young University

Date Written: 2011

Abstract

Donaldson and Preston (1995) defined the three pillars of stakeholder as descriptive, instrumental, and normative. Because of their close alignment between the instrumental and normative pillars and the moral philosophies of utilitarianism and deontology, the latter became the default moral foundations of stakeholder theory. 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.

Keywords: Stakeholder theory

Suggested Citation

Godfrey, Paul and Lewis, Ben W., Pragmatism and Pluralism: A Moral Foundation for Stakeholder Theory in the 21st Century (2011). The Cambridge Handbook of Stakeholder Theory, Cambridge University Press, May 2019 ISBN 9781107191464. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3365160

Paul Godfrey

Brigham Young University - J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott School of Management ( email )

Provo, UT 84602
United States

Ben W. Lewis (Contact Author)

Brigham Young University ( email )

565 TNRB
Provo, UT 84602
United States

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