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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 9: Government, Civil Society and Market

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In this chapter I will use the theory of competition and insights gleaned from its application to the cases presented in the previous chapter to comment on relations between business, civil society and government. I will try to demonstrate that competition is an indispensable coordinating mechanism not just to the market but also to civil society. This is because both firms and NGOs are free to pursue whatever goals they choose. They pursue private, rather than public value. In this they differ from government. Market and civil society parties can explore a wide array of strategies (often contradictory). By contrast, government needs externally given, agreed goals and thus is (and ought to be) constrained in the number and scope of initiatives it undertakes. Market and civil society parties are free and even encouraged to experiment with diverse strategies. Competition helps coordinate these diverse strategies, selects the most promising ones. It is through competition that these multiple private values translate not into conflict but social order.

For the purpose of this exposition, it is useful to view contemporary heterogeneous, complex society, which is in constant flux, as made up of two layers. The first layer comprises individuals. They are protected by family and community bonds as well as social welfare in today’s democracies. On the flip side, they are guided by values and bound by social norms through a sense of pride, shame, or guilt. According to my terminology, individual strategies are influenced directly by the community...

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