Plato, Business and Moral Leadership

  • Wesley Cragg


This paper looks to Plato for guidance on business and business leadership in the twenty-first century. It focuses on three themes. The first is the concept of “the market” as an agora, a meeting place where economic, political and social themes, activities and values intersect and are engaged. The second theme revolves around the concept of a “social contract” that dominates Plato’s account in the Crito of the life, mission and responsibilities of Socrates faced with responding to a death penalty imposed at the conclusion of a judicial process in which Socrates was on trial for corrupting the youth. The focus of the final theme is Plato’s attempt in The Republic to understand the proper relationship between and among what he defines as the three functions essential to any organized human society, functions that today we would identify as government or political leadership, the generation of economic wealth and the task of protecting the state from attack by external military forces, where the goal is the creation of a just and harmonious society. The paper concludes that Plato provides indirect but persuasive reasons for the view that business and the generation of material wealth must be harmoniously interwoven with the social and political dimensions of society and government if a just society is to be realized. What Plato’s insights suggest is that to abstract economic markets from the wider sphere of human activity is bound to result in a misleading account of the nature of business and economic activity more generally, and, if put into practice, is likely to result in social conflict and social and political degeneration.


Business Ethic Public Good Social Contract Limited Liability Business Leader 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Schulich School of Business and Department of Philosophy, Principal Investigator, Canadian Business Ethics Research NetworkYork UniversityTorontoCanada

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