Edited by Anders Örtenblad
Chapter 20: Against CSR: the meaning and meaninglessness of CSR in China
This chapter seeks to offer a critical account of CSR. While it is believed that CSR is a reaction to Milton Friedman’s argument: ‘the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits’, this chapter suggests that CSR is an economic reformist view that sees that the free market mechanism has some inherent problems which marginalize ethical behavior. Nevertheless, such a view is still rooted in an economic concept that assumes that companies should balance their financial performance and social responsibility, ultimately measured in terms of economic usefulness. The outcome is that CSR seems to legitimate an equation: good business = good ethics. The chapter employs an empirical case in China which shows that CSR can be used as a strategic tool for the companies to compete in the global market. Insofar as CSR is rooted in an economic logic, its contribution is also economic and limited to a managerial tool in dealing with the company’s relationship with society. The overall orchestration is well illustrated in Adam Smith’s story of the poor man’s son: economic progress = ethics.
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