Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 126, Issue 3, pp 473–485 | Cite as

Inclusive and Exclusive Social Preferences: A Deweyan Framework to Explain Governance Heterogeneity

  • Silvia SacchettiEmail author


This paper wishes to problematize the foundations of production governance and offer an analytical perspective on the interrelation between agents’ preferences, strategic choice, and the public sphere (defined by impacts of choices on ‘publics’ who do not have an input in strategic choice, and by contextual conditions). The value is in the idea of preferences being social in nature and in the application both to the internal stakeholders of the organisation and its impacts on people outside. Using the concept of ‘strategic failure’ we suggest that social preferences reflected in deliberative social praxis can reduce false beliefs and increase individual wellbeing. From this approach, the paper offers a taxonomy of production organisations, based on social preferences about two variables: (i) the governance form (i.e. ownership and control rights) (ii) other strategic decisions that characterize the management of a company at a more operational level, once its fundamental legal form has been chosen. Each dimension (governance and strategic decisions processes) is then categorised alongside two basic preferences: towards inclusion or exclusion of ‘publics’ that have no substantial access to decision power about these variables. Our framework explains governance heterogeneity by contrasting exclusive and inclusive social preferences in cooperatives, social enterprises, as well as traditional corporations. A discussion of the evolution of social preferences and organizational forms is addressed through examples and regional experiences.


Public interest Enquiry and deliberation Inclusion John Dewey Social preferences Governance Corporate social responsibility Cooperative firms Social enterprises 



I am very grateful to the anonymous reviewers of this Journal for their critical analysis and substantive suggestions. During the drafting of this manuscript, I benefited from specific conversations with Ermanno Tortia, Jerry Hallier, Lorenzo Sacconi, Carlo Borzaga, Bruce Cronin, Avner Ben-Ner, Vladislav Valentinov, Rob Branston, David Comerford, David Erdal. My thanks go to the participants in the third ICAPE Conference which was held at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, (Mass.) in November 2011. Ideas in the paper were lately discussed at the first Heterodox Microeconomics Workshop at the University of Greenwich, UK, in June 2013. Special thanks go also to my students in socio-economic development for having stimulated discussion and enquiry on the topic. The responsibility for the contents of the paper remains mine.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stirling Management SchoolUniversity of StirlingStirlingUK

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