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Social Responsibilities of the Businessman

Howard R. Bowen

Publication Year: 2013

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) expresses a fundamental morality in the way a company behaves toward society. It follows ethical behavior toward stakeholders and recognizes the spirit of the legal and regulatory environment. The idea of CSR gained momentum in the late 1950s and 1960s with the expansion of large conglomerate corporations and became a popular subject in the 1980s with R. Edward Freeman's Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach and the many key works of Archie B. Carroll, Peter F. Drucker, and others. In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008–2010, CSR has again become a focus for evaluating corporate behavior.

First published in 1953, Howard R. Bowen’s Social Responsibilities of the Businessman was the first comprehensive discussion of business ethics and social responsibility. It created a foundation by which business executives and academics could consider the subjects as part of strategic planning and managerial decision-making. Though written in another era, it is regularly and increasingly cited because of its relevance to the current ethical issues of business operations in the United States. Many experts believe it to be the seminal book on corporate social responsibility.

This new edition of the book includes an introduction by Jean-Pascal Gond, Professor of Corporate Social Responsibility at Cass Business School, City University of London, and a foreword by Peter Geoffrey Bowen, Daniels College of Business, University of Denver, who is Howard R. Bowen's eldest son.

Published by: University of Iowa Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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Foreword to the New Edition

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pp. vii-viii

Perhaps five years ago, I was perusing an article in one of the Academy of Management (AOM) journals and noted a citation to Howard Bowen’s 1953 book Social Responsibilities of the Businessman (SRB). I immediately remembered the book as a good foundation for a course I had taught on business ethics many years earlier and I decided to see...

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Introduction to the New Edition

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pp. ix-xvi

It is the lot of classic books to become “something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read,” as Mark Twain once said.1 The trajectory of Howard R. Bowen’s 1953 publication, Social Responsibilities of the Businessman (SRB), illustrates this fate, as the book seems to be nowadays more often ritually quoted than actually...

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pp. xvii-2

This book is concerned with the role of businessmen in an economy of free enterprise. Its purpose is to explore the implications of the much-discussed "concept of social responsibility" as applied to businessmen. It proceeds from the assumption that the several hundred largest business firms are vital centers of power and...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 3-7

The businessman occupies a strategic role in American life. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that he is the central figure in American society-the symbol of our culture. Decisions and policies of the greatest import for the general welfare are entrusted to him. He is the man whose judgment, initiative, and administrative skill...

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2. Economic Goals

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pp. 8-13

The social responsibilities of businessmen have meaning only in relation to the goals or values which we seek from our economic system. The doctrine of social responsibility rests upon the idea that business should be conducted with concern for the effects of business operations upon the attainment of valued social goals...

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3. Social Responsibilities and Laissez Faire

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pp. 14-21

One of the leading tenets of eighteenth-century thought was that the pursuit of self-interest by individuals is not always or necessarily antisocial. This is a principle of the first order of importance-one sometimes neglected in ethical thought. Because ethical problems frequently arise when individual and social interests are...

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4. Social Aspects of Business Decisions in Present-Day Capitalism

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pp. 22-30

The difficulties encountered under the system of near laissez faire, as practiced in the nineteenth century, led to a long series of ad hoc reform measures. Indeed, the earliest of these measures were enacted long before the final vestiges of mercantilistic control had been thrown off. Modern labor legislation, for example, dates from...

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5. Protestant Views of the Social Responsibilities of Businessmen

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pp. 31-43

Suppose a Protestant businessman should ask: "As a Christian what are my social responsibilities?" Would he be able to find a reasonably authoritative and specific answer? In this chapter, I shall try to take the point of view of the inquiring businessman, and to discover the kind of answer he would find.1

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6 The Businessman's Conception of His Social Responsibilities

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pp. 44-53

There is no doubt of an increasing awareness on the part of businessmen that they have important obligations to society. The concept of "stewardship" is, of course, an old one, and many businessmen have been thinking in this direction. Only within the past few yea,rs, however, have large numbers of business leaders publicly...

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7. The Businessman's View of His Specific Responsibilities

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pp. 54-68

Almost all leading businessmen agree that one of their first responsibilities is to "sell" the American system of free enterprise and the ideology on which it is based. They believe that too few people understand how business functions or appreciate its contributions...

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8. Why Are Businessmen Concerned About Their Social Reponsibilities?

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pp. 69-83

Many businessmen are concerned about their social responsibilities and are giving serious thought to the question of how their social obligations-as they see them-may be fulfilled. Not everyone will agree that businessmen on the whole see their obligations clearly or fully, but many of them are sincerely interested and are...

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9. Why Are Businessmen Concerned About Their Social Responsibilities? (Continued)

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pp. 84-105

In this chapter we shall consider several more factors responsible for the greater interest in social responsibilities. These factors derive primarily from changes in the organization and control of corporate enterprise during the past fifty to seventy-five years...

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10. The Doctrine of Social Responsibility: Some Criticisms

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pp. 106-124

The increasing interest in social responsibilities on the part of businessmen, while not a cure-all for the ills of society, is an important and welcome development from which much can be expected in terms of the general welfare. This optimistic doctrine of social responsibility is subject to several important criticisms and qualifications, a consideration of which will be helpful in placing...

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11. The law and the Doctrine of Social Responsibility

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pp. 125-134

The suggestion that businessmen should assume certain broad social responsibilities raises the important question whether businessmen are legally entitled to shape their policies in terms of broad social objectives as distinct from the narrower interests of stockholder- owners. The legal problem is not difficult for unincorporated...

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12. Toward Increasing the Effectiveness of Social Responsibility in Business Decisions

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pp. 135-150

We shall now consider several conditions which must be met if the doctrine of social responsibility is to become a more significant force in shaping the decisions and actions of businessmen. These conditions are not likely to be attained fully or quickly. The mere mention and brief discussion of them suggests that the doctrine of...

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13. Proposals: Changes in Business Organization and Practice

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pp. 151-163

The American people are in favor of continuing the system of private enterprise. They wish to preserve the freedom, the decentralization of decision-making, the flexibility, the incentives, the initiative, and the opportunity which this system provides. And they wish to reduce governmental regulation of business to the...

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14. Proposals: The Industry Council Plan

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pp. 164-176

One of the more ambitious proposals for ameliorating the conflict and insecurity of modem economic life is the industry council plan. This proposal has been most fully developed by Catholic writers; therefore, its discussion would best begin by a consideration of Catholic economic ideas...

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15. Other Proposals

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pp. 177-192

In this chapter, we shall consider several proposals (or actual developments) less comprehensive than the industry council plan, but nevertheless related to the industry council idea. Some of these have to do with the decision-making process in individual enterprises and others are concerned with the formulation of national...

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16. Ethical Issues Relating to the Distribution of Income

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pp. 193-206

One is tempted to try to state precisely and systematically the social responsibilities of businessmen. Doubtless many readers will expect just this and will regard the absence of such a statement as a major omission. Nevertheless, I have resisted the temptation...

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17. Other Ethical Issues Facing Businessmen

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pp. 207-230

A group of ethical issues applicable to businessmen may be treated under the heading of "honesty and law observance." These include such matters as truthfulness in selling and advertising, honest weights and measures, avoidance of financial manipulation for the...

Appendix A: Bibliography of Protestant Views on the Social Responsibilities of Businessmen

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pp. 231-234

Appendix B: Sources on the Businessman's Conception of His Social Responsibilities

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pp. 235-240

Index of Subjects

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pp. 241-244

Index of Names

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pp. 245-248

E-ISBN-13: 9781609382063
E-ISBN-10: 1609382064
Print-ISBN-13: 9781609381967
Print-ISBN-10: 1609381963

Page Count: 266
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: paper