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Stewart Clegg, Ace Volkmann Simpson, Miguel Pina e Cunha and Arménio Rego

The relationship between business and society has been contested throughout history. This chapter explores the role of capitalistic organizations in society from ethical, empirical and prudential perspectives. The ethical analysis reviews a range of contested philosophical ideas related to what the relationship between entrepreneurship and society ought to be. The empirical analysis considers evidence of the dominant impacts of organizations on society. In contrast to ideological perspectives holding business organizations as automatically harmful or beneficial to social progress, an objective review of the evidence will indicate both beneficial and harmful effects. The prudential analysis therefore considers the importance of exercising judgement in pursuing practices that reduce harm and enhance positive potential. While we see cause for hope from an emerging range of practical business approaches emphasizing the pursuit of a social contribution over a narrow emphasis on profit maximization, we offer caution. In the greater scheme, movements promoting social and environmental awareness in business are in their infancy, in what remains a dominant neo-liberal environment with totalizing tendencies. Positive practices can even be adopted as a smoke screen by less scrupulous actors. We therefore see an ongoing need for oversight of business and of government by alert and informed citizens engaged in democratic processes. So long as there are informed citizens committed to the greater good, we see hope. In this we also see a place of responsibility for management and organizational scholars.