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The Abdication of Responsibility: Corporate Social Responsibility, Public Administration and the Globalising Agenda

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In recent years the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has gained prominence to such an extent that the concept seems ubiquitous in popular media and is gaining increasing attention around the world among business people, media people and academics from a wide range of disciplines. There are probably many reasons for the attention given to this phenomenon not least of which is the corporate excesses which continue to become manifest in various parts of the world. For many people, particularly in the Western world, the year 2002 for example will be the one in which corporate misbehaviour was exposed by the collapse of some large corporations. In particular the spectacular collapse of Enron and the subsequent fallout among the financial world – including the firm which Arthur Andersen himself founded in 1913 – will have left an indelible impression among people that all is not well with the corporate world and that there are problems which need to be addressed (Crowther & Rayman-Bacchus 2004). This will be particularly the case amongst those adversely affected by this collapse, not least of whom are the former employees of the company who have lost their jobs, their life savings and their future pensions. Equally remembered however by many other people have been the other incidents which have unfolded since that time, of corporate deception, theft and misbehaviour. Such incidents are too common to recount but have left the financial markets in a state of uncertainty and have left ordinary people to wonder if such a thing as honesty exists any longer in business.

Issues of socially responsible behaviour are not of course new and examples can be found from throughout the world and at least from the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution and the concomitant founding of large business entities (Crowther 2002) and the divorce between ownership and management – or the divorcing of risk from rewards (Crowther 2004a). But corporate social responsibility is back on the agenda of corporations, governments and individual citizens throughout the world. The term corporate social responsibility is in vogue at the moment but as a concept it is vague and means different things to different people. For example Topal and Crowther (2004) are concerned with bioengineering and its effects upon biodiversity and therefore upon the future of the planet. On the other hand Mraovic (2004) is concerned with the consequences of the networked society (Castells 1996) while Rayman-Bacchus (2004) is more concerned with trust in, and legitimacy of, corporate behaviour and the constant tension between economic wealth and social well being.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2006

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