Abstract: Drawing on Luhmannian social systems theory, this article revisits the single- versus multiple-objective debate on the theory of the firm. Firms are conceptualized as complexity-reducing systems structurally coupled with potentially risky environments, and profit-maximization is considered as a complexity reduction strategy for making sense of these environments. Whereas single-objective approaches reflect cases when environmental risks do not materialize into corporate sustainability problems, multiple-objective approaches address these problems by increasing the corporation’s environmental responsiveness beyond profit-maximization. Our systems-theoretic framework therefore identifies the common ground between the two approaches and draws attention to the circumstances under which they can claim validity.
Keywords: Niklas Luhmann, social goals of the firm, systems theory, theory of the firm.
The online first version of the article is available for download here.
Suggested citation: Valentinov V., Roth S., and Pies I. (2021), Social goals in the theory of the firm: a systems theory view, Administration and Society, Vol. 53 No. 2, pp. 273–304 [SSCI 1.564, Scopus, CNRS***, FNEGE**, CABS**, VHB**].