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 8: Doing Well by Doing Good or Doing Good by Doing Well?
This chapter outlines several approaches to conceptualising CSR in terms of the present theory of competition. The presentation will be illustrated with examples of actual CSR initiatives undertaken by various firms. This choice of the style of presentation is meant to underscore the centrality of the concept of strategy, both collective and individual, to this work. There is no such thing as CSR in the abstract – only some strategies can be conveniently tagged with this label. I will use direct quotations liberally to let individuals involved in these initiatives speak for themselves and directly convey what meaning their actions had to them. In this way, I also hope to highlight that it is only individuals, not organisations, that are moral agents. Case study is a method particularly suitable for studying strategy. By process tracing, analysing the temporal sequences of events as well as how they related with and preconditioned one another, it is better suited to analysis of causal mechanisms than statistical studies.
One approach to CSR is through the lens of sustainability of the capitalist system. The role of business in sustainability of capitalism was recently examined by Bower, Leonard and Paine (2011). “Put in marketing terms, if capitalism is the product, than society is the customer whose satisfaction is ultimately at stake.” (86) Their approach was to gather some of the world’s preeminent business leaders in several regions of the world and engage them in discussions in focus-group-like settings. They...
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