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Business and Society

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The relationship between business and society can be seen in the light of political philosophy and structural change. Important notions are power, resources and responsibility.

In European political philosophy, as well as in the great religions, there is a strong distrust of economic activity and its relations with the common good. During the 20th century small firms grew into big industrial corporations. In some countries business dominated politics, while in others the reverse was the norm. The relationship between business and society was mainly discussed in terms of national industry and social policies.

In the late 20th century new patterns emerged, all centered around globalization. Leading transnational corporations accumulated financial resources that were superior to those of many states. They could allocate their resources and activities virtually anywhere. To view the relationship between business and society in terms of national policies no longer make sense. Big corporations are global players and their social responsibility should be discussed in a global context. Their political counterparts are international bodies, like the UN, supranational entities like the European Union, and transnational NGOs.

Unlike socioeconomic relations on a national level, the relationship between business and society cannot be framed in legal terms on a global level. No effective international legislation exists for multinationals. Their responsibility has a moral character, based on free will and on a combination of interest and sense of duty. The main social concerns of big business are environmental problems and human rights. The concept of corporate social responsibility should be interpreted in a new way. Business has become global, and society has also changed. The positions of both business and politics need reconsideration.

Keywords: corporate social responsibility; globalization; liberalism; socialism; welfarism

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2007

More about this publication?
  • Ethics in the Economy
    The first part contains challenging papers on the myth of rationality, corporate social responsibility, critical pragmatism, moral disengagement mechanisms, and ethical decision-making. The papers listed under 'Innovative Practices and Policy Reforms' address issues of authenticity in business, sustainable investments, ethical consumerism, and happiness in economics. The Opinions section focuses on the ecological sustainability of business. The Debate section concentrates on the ethics management paradox, which states that opportunistic ethical initiatives fail. Only genuine ethics works in business.
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