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Suffolk Business School Research Seminar Series

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Medieval corporation theory: Implications for shareholder primacy and the governance of the modern firm.

What makes a shareholder a ‘member’ of a corporation, and what are the rights and responsibilities that membership entails? Should shareholders even be considered members at all? And if so, ought other stakeholder groups (e.g. employees) also to have membership status, together with the governance rights currently given to shareholders? This article turns to medieval corporation theory, which evolved between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries to explain the nature of corporate bodies such as craft guilds, towns, cathedral chapters and universities, to develop a response to these questions. Building on the normative principles we find in this body of work, we explore their application to the modern business corporation.

Dr Samuel Mansell is Lecturer in Business Ethics and Pro Dean (Undergraduate) at the University of St Andrews. His research interests are in business ethics, political philosophy, and the history of political thought, with a focus on the purpose of the corporation. His publications include Capitalism, Corporations and the Social Contract: A Critique of Stakeholder Theory (CUP, 2013). He is presently researching medieval and early-modern theories of the corporation, and editing a special issue of Journal of Business Ethics on ‘Rethinking Corporate Agency in business, politics and philosophy.'

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