Managerial Ideology and Social Responsibility

Managerial Ideology and Social Responsibility

Managerial Ideology and the Social Responsibility Ethic

Thus far we have treated the business community as a monolith, as if all businessmen held the same ideology. Clearly this has never been the case, but as long as there was a high degree of consensus and the business community did not break up into distinct ideological camps, such a view was a useful approximation. This no longer is true.

Today there are two separate and-defined business ideologies: the classical business ideology and the managerial business ideology is the foundation of the social responsibility ethic. The managerial ideT5 d5caid by a minority of businessmen, but they are the leaders of the largest and most powerful corporations. They have fomented much of the controversy about business ethics (and helped bring about the moral crisis in management) by bringing forcefully to public attention the concept of socially responsible management. The majority of busmen still pay allegiance to the classical business ideology and the profit ethic, however, and therefore the social responsibility ethic is still in its radical phase.

The theory of strains and ideology developed by Francis Sutton and his colleagues in The UK Business Creed helps to explain the rise of the managerial ideology. The general framework of their theory is stated in the following propositions:

1 By far the greater part of human action is performed unreflectively.

2 The roots of this normal unreflectiveness lie in the very nature of societies and the way in which they mould the personalities of their members. No society simply presents its members with a random set of choices of possible behaviour; it indicates the approved ways, and rewards or punishes as these are adopted or rejected.

3 Fortunately or unfortunately, societies and personalities are never completely free from difficulties and disturbances. . . Individuals living in societies experience these imperfections as strains; they must at times face situations where the expectations they have learned to view as legitimate are thwarted, or where they must wrestle with conflicting demands.

4 Strains are "normal" in any society.

5 The strains to which the members of a particular society are subject do not simply vary at random; they are patterned.

6 The reactions to a given strain are not entirely random.

7 Ideology is a patterned reaction to the patterned strains of a social role.

Sutton et al. think the content of a business ideology can best be explained in terms of the strains which businessmen experience in playing their role. "Businessmen adhere to their particular kind of ideology because of the emotional conflicts, the anxieties, and the doubts engendered by the actions which their roles as businessmen compel them to take, and by the conflicting demands of other social roles which they must play in family and community."15 The ideology attempts to resolve these conflicts, alleviate these anxieties, and overcome these doubts within the limits of what is publicly acceptable in the UK cultural tradition.

A reasonable explanation of the cause of the managerial ideology is the strain engendered in the manager role by the conflict between the operating ethic of social responsibility and the ideological ethic of profit maximization. The source of ideological business ethics is ideas about what the business community thinks should be expected of the businessman. These ideas tend to be concrete, inflexible, "practical," doctrinaire, and dogmatic. On the other hand, the source of operational business ethics is what society expects of the businessman. At any moment of time, the direction in which society is moving is apt to be uncertain. "It is part of the burden of management that it must forever follow the uneven and winding trail of social consensus. Because social change is a more or less permanent condition and management is by temperament and social necessity conservative, there will always be strain in the management role.1116 When a new status quo is established and it is clear what society expects of managers, they adapt their behaviour to the new situation and develop an appropriate ideology so that the level of strain in the manager role can be reduced to a tolerable level.


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