The Role of Business in the Modern World


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David Henderson examines the role and conduct of business today, against the background of changes over the last sixty years
It is now a widely held view that a new era has dawned in which businesses must adopt a new conception of their mission, purpose and conduct, by endorsing and implementing corporate social responsibility. In ‘The Role of Business in the Modern World’, Professor David Henderson argues that now, as in the past, the primary role of business is to act as a vehicle for economic progress. This role depends upon business enterprises operating with the framework of a competitive market economy. If we ask businesses to achieve broader social goals, we risk undermining the very system in which business activity leads to opportunity and prosperity.

Professor Henderson describes the unprecedented material progress that has occurred in the last century as a result of the wide-ranging entrepreneurial opportunities and competitive pressures that exist within a market economy. The material prosperity created by the activities of business is threatened by the ‘global salvationist consensus’ that has arisen in recent years and which seeks to change the role of business via the doctrine of corporate social responsibility. Professor Henderson shows that this consensus is based upon a set of fallacious beliefs about the nature of capitalism, profiteering and business enterprise.

2004, Hobart Papers 150, ISBN 0 255 36548 9, 203pp, PB

Further reading:

Misguided Virtue: False Notions of Corporate Social Responsibility by David Henderson.

A Brief on Business Ethics by Tibor Machan.

Corporate Governance: Accountability in the Marketplace by Elaine Sternberg.

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