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The Moral Responsibility of Firms$
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Eric W. Orts and N. Craig Smith

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198738534

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198738534.001.0001

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Pluralistic Functionalism about Corporate Agency

Pluralistic Functionalism about Corporate Agency

(p.66) 4 Pluralistic Functionalism about Corporate Agency
The Moral Responsibility of Firms

Waheed Hussain

Joakim Sandberg

Oxford University Press

Liberal democracies today face many important questions about the agency of business corporations, but abstract conceptual analyses of “corporate agency” will not give us the answers. We need to distinguish instead between different types of collective agency and the roles these play in different social practices. Pluralistic functionalism is the view that there are many types of collective agency, each of which plays a role in a wider social practice. The collective agency of a basketball team is different from the collective agency of a political party, and each form plays a role in a distinct social practice—i.e. basketball, on one hand, electoral democracy, on the other. The collective agency of business corporations plays a role in a competitive market economy and understanding this role sheds light on many issues. We illustrate by considering recent US Supreme Court decisions in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell and Citizens United v. FEC.

Keywords:   corporations, corporate agency, collective agency, Citizens United, Hobby Lobby, corporate liability, collective responsibility, democracy, moral agency, sphere differentiation

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