Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-ttngx Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-26T07:23:12.189Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Chapter 4 - The Corporation's Case for Social Responsibility (1918–1929)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2012

Archie B. Carroll
Affiliation:
University of Georgia
Kenneth J. Lipartito
Affiliation:
Florida International University
James E. Post
Affiliation:
Boston University
Patricia H. Werhane
Affiliation:
DePaul University, Chicago
Kenneth E. Goodpaster
Affiliation:
University of St Thomas, Minnesota
Get access

Summary

Ideas about business responsibility before the 1920s, as shown in the previous chapter, had primarily revolved around labor issues, and business–government relations, for the responsibility of industry was defined largely by its impact on the economy and by its treatment of employees (and by extension, their families). Progressive reformers had succeeded in bringing social issues created by or impacted by industry to public attention. But it was not until the 1920s that the idea of business's broader social responsibility began to take hold – in the public sphere, in industry, and in newly established professional business schools. This new understanding was driven, in part, by a growing wave of discontent with capitalism and the world tumult described in the previous chapter as communism advanced in Russia and labor unrest broke out across the United States. Throughout the 1920s, labor was increasingly considered more seriously as a corporate stakeholder, and the idea of social responsibility grew beyond labor questions, to include a broader concept of business responsibility that would include, for example, considerations of public health, education, and the environment. New levels of organization, efficiency, and professionalism were brought to bear to improve productivity and profits, but also to bring wider social benefits. Leading these efforts were the nation's largest corporations, which in the 1920s became the main force behind this new agenda of business responsibility.

Bringing in labor

In 1918, the labor question still loomed the largest on the new corporate responsibility agenda. Capitalists began to recognize that they had to take positive action on the labor front if they wanted to turn back the growing sentiment toward socialism. Laissez-faire would no longer do, and the early, paternalistic welfare policies of the previous decades were too weak. Following the violence in Ludlow, Colorado, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. had penned an article that appeared in Atlantic Monthly, setting down new principles enlightened firms should follow. It began to outline a position much different from his father's when it came to the rights and responsibilities of corporations. Three years later, in 1919, at President Wilson's National Industrial Conference, the younger Rockefeller declared “Representation is a principle which is fundamentally just and vital to the successful conduct of industry . . . Surely it is not consistent for us as Americans to demand democracy in government and practice autocracy in industry.”

Type
Chapter
Information
Corporate Responsibility
The American Experience
, pp. 124 - 151
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2012

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×