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To What Extent Is Business And Society Literature Idealistic?

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  • N. A. DENTCHEV

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    Abstract

    This paper focuses on the general concern that theories on the social responsibility of business have not much practical value. We discuss the central theses of mainstream themes in the business and society literature – corporate social responsibility, corporate social responsiveness, social issues, corporate social performance, stakeholder management, corporate citizenship, business ethics, sustainable development, and corporate sustainability – and evaluate their descriptive accuracy, normative validity and instrumental power. A great deal of the literature views corporate contribution to social and environmental issues from a moral perspective. Such moral prescription widens the expectational gap between theories and practice. If business and society literature is to have any practical value, our theorizing should make sense to businesses. It therefore needs to reflect, at least partially, the practitioners’ concerns with social responsibility. Hence research questions with practical relevance should be posed, and methods adopted from empirical inquiry, focusing on well-defined problems. Although the empirical method is advocated here, we do not plead for its enforcement on colleagues who might consider it inappropriate. Yet, we do appeal to normative theorists to ponder whether their prescriptions to business can be realistically implemented.

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    File URL: http://www.feb.ugent.be/nl/Ondz/wp/Papers/wp_04_245.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Ghent University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration in its series Working Papers of Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Ghent University, Belgium with number 04/245.

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    Length: 36 pages
    Date of creation: May 2004
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:rug:rugwps:04/245

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    Keywords: business and society; corporate social responsibility; corporate social performance; integrated approach; theory building;

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    1. Freeman, Edward & Liedtka, Jeanne, 1997. "Stakeholder capitalism and the value chain," European Management Journal, Elsevier, vol. 15(3), pages 286-296, June.
    2. Freeman, R. Edward & Liedtka, Jeanne, 1991. "Corporate social responsibility: A critical approach," Business Horizons, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 92-98.
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