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Gifts, Corruption, Philanthropy

The Ambiguity of Gift Practices in Business


Peter Verhezen

In this socio-philosophical book, the author explains why gifts are not just moral expressions but function as binding social practices. The first part concerns the conceptual analysis of the logic of the gift whereas the second part focuses on practical expressions of gift practices in a business context, more particularly bribery and philanthropy. How can gifts turn into bribes? Why does corporate philanthropy not necessarily imply some form of altruism? Is corruption a mere expression of cultural characteristics such as discretion and loyalty? Clear criteria are provided within the logic of the gift to distinguish gifts from bribes. Another goal is to clarify the myth of corporate donations and how such presumably good corporate behaviour could either damage or enhance the long-term reputation of a firm. Gift practices are sometimes exploited blatantly to cover up less benevolent behaviour. Understanding gift practices within a business context will allow practitioners to pursue an appropriate strategy of corporate social responsibility. Indeed, despite its inherent ambivalence, a gift should be understood as a worthy ethical and social practice within a specific cultural or organizational context.
Contents: How gifts can turn into bribery and why corporate philanthropy is less benevolent than it appears – The social function of gifts in traditional cultures – The role of unilateral or generous gifts in societies – Reciprocal social gifts within the ethical realm – The notion of an ideal gift – Gift practices in international business – The logic behind bribery – The myth of corporate philanthropy – An ambiguity of gift practices – Societal and ethical objectives of corporate social responsibility.