Finding Benevolence in Family Firms

The Case of Stewardship Theory

Authored by: Matthias Waldkirch , Mattias Nordqvist

The Routledge Companion to Family Business

Print publication date:  September  2016
Online publication date:  September  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138919112
eBook ISBN: 9781315688053
Adobe ISBN: 9781317419990


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The view of organizations as “purely rational and calculated systems” (Frost et al. 2006, 843) has a long history, underpinned by a ‘model of man’ that depicts actors as inherently self-interested, aiming to maximize their economic gain (Donaldson and Davis 1991). Many theories of organizations irrespective of their origin have built upon this simplified view of human action, seeing it as “the pursuit of self-interest by rational, more or less atomized individuals” (Granovetter 1985, 482). As Ghoshal argued, the view of business studies as science has resulted in the “the denial of any moral or ethical considerations in our theories,” which in turn has negatively informed management practice (2005, 77). However, there is a recent contra-trend acknowledging the plurality of human behavior and motivation going beyond self-serving behavior. For instance, the rich literature on corporate social responsibility (CSR) has tried to capture and explain responsibility in the context of corporate environments. The concept is thus differentiated from “business fulfillment of core profit-making responsibility and from the social responsibilities of government” (Matten and Moon 2008, 405). Also the growing body of research on social entrepreneurship captures business activity which is not primarily directed towards financial outcomes, but to “pursue opportunities to catalyze social change and address social needs” (Mair and Martí 2006, 37).

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