Management and the New Egalitarianism: McGuire Revisited

by Bon Shin, Elliot Zashin



Apologists of capitalism have always argued that the system is more productive than any other and that all members of our society are better off than they would otherwise be because of it. Economist John Rawls, however, insisted that the welfare of the least fortunate has to be maximized by the inequalities of reward that are permitted. In choosing to view Rawls as the philosopher of the new egalitarianism, socioeconomic Joseph McGuire perhaps inadvertently revealed something more fundamental than a trend--the endemic crisis of legitimacy of the modern corporation in American society. The purpose of this article is to clear out some of the confusions in order to prepare the ground for other attempts by business scholars and practitioners to understand Rawlsian egalitarianism and its implications for socioeconomic institutions and public and corporate policies. On a micro level, one can ask for more openness in corporate decision making through wider participation by workers, who are not hired hands but individuals needing self-esteem, and through greater consideration of social concerns in a responsible fashion. This may be the most important suggestion of Rawlsian egalitarianism for business managers. On a broader level, what Rawls' theory suggests is that the burden of proof of social utility really ought to fall more heavily on the advocates of inequality than on the proponents of equity.

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