Volume 1, 2007
Jacob Dahi Rendtorff
The Idea of Corporate Social Responsibility
Towards an Institutional Concept of Responsibility
My aim in this analysis is to give a philosophical clarification of the scope of corporate social responsibility within our present market economy. The issue is to what extent social responsibility of the firm is compatible with existing market structures in our present economy. In this context, I will address the conceptions of corporate social responsibility within philosophy, economic theory, and economic sociology. This analysis aims at clarifying the concept of corporate social responsibility within traditional neoclassical economic thought and confronting it with the institutional theory of society.
On this basis, I will look on the more fundamental philosophical issue about how it can be possible to ascribe moral personality, responsibility and intentionality to corporations. In this context, I will examine collectivist arguments for corporate responsibility in order to show the limits of a strong collectivist conception of corporate social responsibility. After this, I will look at the nominalist view of corporate social responsibility, which represents the view opposite to the collectivist position. Finally, I will put forward a third possible view on corporate intentionality, which aims at overcoming the oppositions between the collectivist and the nominalist view on corporate social responsibility.