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Volume 26 • Number 3

July 2012



In Defense of Corporate Social Responsibility

by William H. Shaw

Economist and policy theorist Robert B. Reich is an articulate and outspoken critic of the current economic order—which he dubs "supercapitalism"—on both moral and economic grounds (Reich 2007; see also Reich 2010). Unlike most liberal political thinkers, however, he rejects the notion of corporate social responsibility, which he believes has no place in today's world. As he sees it, corporations these days find themselves in a relentlessly competitive global business environment, where even the largest of companies are under continual unyielding pressure to produce as cheaply, as efficiently, and thus as profitably as possible. If they are to survive, they have no choice, Reich believes, but to focus entirely on the bottom line–to cut jobs, to outsource production, to squeeze costs and, in short, to do whatever is necessary to stay ahead in the competitive game. Corporations today have little or no margin for error and no ability to exercise moral judgment or a sense of social responsibility. Accordingly, Reich argues, if we want to rein in supercapitalism, improve corporate conduct, and ensure that companies behave in ways that are better for society, then we must legislate accordingly, reshaping the environment in which they operate through laws and regulations.

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ISSN: 2152-0542