Business Responsibilities in a Divided World: The Cold War Roots of the Corporate Social Responsibility Movement

Posted: 7 Jul 2008

See all articles by Bert Spector

Bert Spector

Northeastern University - International Business & Strategy

Date Written: June 2008

Abstract

Both business executives and management scholars have, in recent years, focused a great deal of attention on the theme of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Calls for business leaders to expend resources on behalf of social good tend to downplay, if not ignore, what is fundamentally an ideological question: just what is a good society and who defines goodness? The ideological underpinnings of social responsibility and its relationship to the good society can be explored through an historical perspective. The roots of the CSR movement trace back to the early years of the Cold War. Led by Donald K David, Dean of the Harvard Business School and supported by other academics and executives given voice on the pages of the Harvard Business Review, advocates urged expanded business social responsibility as a means of aligning business interests with the defense of free-market capitalism against what was depicted as the clear-and-present danger of Soviet Communism. Today's enthusiastic calls for business to do well by doing good could benefit from a similar critical analysis not just of the goals of CSR but also the ideological assumptions, often unacknowledged, that underlie those goals.

Suggested Citation

Spector, Bert, Business Responsibilities in a Divided World: The Cold War Roots of the Corporate Social Responsibility Movement (June 2008). Enterprise and Society, Vol. 9, Issue 2, pp. 314-336, 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1155649 or http://dx.doi.org/khn023

Bert Spector (Contact Author)

Northeastern University - International Business & Strategy ( email )

Boston, MA 02115
United States

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