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Competition, Coordination, Social Order

Responsible Business, Civil Society, and Government in an Open Society

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Jacek Giedrojć

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.

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Chapter 7: Corporate Social Responsibility

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This chapter aims to explain the phenomenon of corporate social responsibility (CSR) with the theory of competition. CSR is a timely topic given the debates about remaking capitalism in the wake of the deepest crisis since the Great Depression. CSR is at the intersection between business ethics and management science, and between market and civil society. It is thus well suited to illustrate the coordinative role of competition beyond the market. Unlike systemic, government-sanctioned approaches found continental Europe, CSR is associated with the Anglo-Saxon bottom up approach. Interest in CSR fits my conviction that the policy-oriented social science should not limit itself to advising government but also formulate theories and examine normative frameworks informing strategies of agents other than the government. As such, it is of particular interest to me as a practicing capitalist, to borrow Runciman’s phrase. The chapter introduces CSR by way of literature review, organised in four stylised perspectives: critics, enthusiast, cynics and cautious optimists. The next chapter reviews real-world examples drawn mostly from the Harvard Business School case studies.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR), corporate citizenship, sustainable business practice, corporate social performance, social responsiveness are terms used more or less interchangeably, although they do tend to distribute emphasis slightly differently. For example, corporate social performance tends to emphasise the holistic, integrative aspect, whereas social responsiveness was coined to stress not so much responsibility of business as the actual implementation and results. CSR is the term most widely used both in academia and business...

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