Meaningfulness and Mutuality in a Critical Conception of the Corporation

Ruth Yeoman

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This paper outlines a critical conception of the corporation that is grounded in respect for the intrinsic worth of stakeholders, and where the normative product of an organisation is assessed by the extent to which it promotes human dignity. The theoretical development relies upon an integration of meaningfulness and mutuality, where experiencing meaningfulness is a fundamental human need that is satisfied through our membership of organisations structured by the values and principles of mutuality. A critical theory of the corporation includes the following elements: a standard for evaluating organisations; a specific normative content for internal organising; an empirical grounding that connects to social realities; and an objective of human emancipation. Using a theoretical integration of meaningfulness and mutuality to provide normative substance, the standard is supplied by ethical capacity (understood as relational quality, deliberative voice and value pluralism); normative content by intrinsic worth; empirical validity by evidence of a fundamental need for meaning; and emancipatory objective by harnessing organisational purpose to the production of the common good. Respecting intrinsic worth is central to the activation of meaningfulness by mutual organisation, and is realised through voice practices that involve members in valuing, purposing and acting together.
Original languageEnglish
Article number11656
JournalAcademy of Management Proceedings
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes
EventAcademy of Management 2016 Annual Meeting: Making Organizations Meaningful - Anaheim, United States
Duration: 5 Aug 20169 Aug 2016


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