Berle and Means’ The Modern Corporation and Private Property: The Military Roots of a Stakeholder Model of Corporate Governance

Andrew Smith, Kevin Daniel Tennent, Jason Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Modern Corporation and Private Property by Adolf Berle and Gardiner Means (1932) remains one of the most cited works in management studies. Our paper shows that Berle and Means espoused a stakeholder theory of corporate governance that challenged the then-hegemonic idea that the sole purpose of a corporation is to create value for the shareholders. We argue that Berle and Means’ support for stakeholder theory can be associated with their earlier service in the U.S. military, an organization which then inculcated an ethos of public service in its members. Our paper, which is based on archival research in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library, seeks to relate changes in how U.S. military organizations have structured themselves with contemporaneous changes in the organization of private-sector firms.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSeattle University. Law Review
Issue number2
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 31 Aug 2018

Bibliographical note

This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded with permission of the publisher/copyright holder. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details


  • corporate governance; management history; militarization; stakeholder orientation

Cite this