Responsible Business, Civil Society, and Government in an Open Society
The author analyses competition as one of four coordinating mechanisms helping agents mutually to orientate their actions, avoid chaos, and produce social order. Competition is a key dimension of developed societies. It helps to structure and is also conducive to social change. Competing agents constrain one another, making it hard for anyone to change their position. They discover new routines the best of which may later be institutionalized. Competition is a solvent of power but only in relatively equal societies. Entrenched wealth or status restricts competition, thus impoverishing social order. The author also evaluates the theory of competition to explore such topics as corporate social responsibility, relations between government, business and civil society, and reflexivity in social sciences.
Chapter 1: Social Order and Discretion
To understand competition, one needs to consider the context in which it operates. This amounts to sketching a theory of social order which includes competition but in which competition is but one mechanism. Social order can be understood as a result of super-human plan or intervention attending to the needs of collectivities such as nations. If Providence is coordinating a society, so much the better – one can postulate collective rationality and some tough problems of social theory go away. I start with the opposite assumption: there is no collective rationality. From the perspective of even the weakest versions of methodological individualism, any organicist, biologistic explanations, or those appealing to the divine or cosmic harmony, must be considered evasive manoeuvres. On the other hand, social order does have an appearance of collective rationality. Thus, social order is a puzzle. According to Talcott Parsons (1973), it is the problem of social theory. The present book approaches the puzzle in the following way. Social order could not exist if everyone did what they wanted, followed their desires unconstrained, behaved unpredictably and as they pleased. Due to the hard reality of living in the same limited world, individuals must take others into account, orient their behaviour on them. This is the case not only because of scarcity. Due to various ideas about good life that different people hold dear, this would remain the case even if the progressivist dream of an unlimited supply was realistic. The problem of social order would remain...
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