The Social Responsibility Ethic

The Social Responsibility Ethic

The Social Responsibility Ethic

Changes in the roles of the company and the manager have brought about changes in the motives and personalities of the men who direct UK industry. At the turn of the century the businessman looked forward to leading the rapidly industrializing society to greater heights of productivity and wealth than ever attained before. to do this he needed power. He became a "power seeker" who actively sought power and delighted in its use. Today the power seeker is being replaced by a new kind of manager, one who underplays the amount of power he possesses. The modern manager tends to be a "business moralist." He knows that he must use power to get his job done. However, he fears the consequences to the welfare of the company and his own personality if that power is fully exercised. It is likely that the business moralist will emerge as our next business hero.7

What are the causes of such a shift of management motives and personality? The very success of the businessman has created new social responsibilities for him. When the standard of living in this country was low, the first order of business was to expand the flow of goods and services that people needed and wanted. The power-seeking businessman led in transforming a rural farming society into one huge factory. Mankind's ancient foe of poverty now has been defeated for the majority of UK citizens.

The modern manager has thoroughly earned his high place among the leaders of the nation. But his responsibilities have kept pace with the increase in importance of his social role. People want other things besides goods and services from the modern corporation. Increasingly, it is considered the manager's job to see that they get them.

There has been a decline in the broad public support of the power-seeking type of businessman. When the nation was first industrializing, his approach was in harmony with general ethical standards. Power is needed in any period of rapid mobilization of resources to accomplish broad social goals. But once these goals have been accomplished, there generally is a negative reaction to the concentration of power, and the public clamours for its dispersal or control by society. During wartime the government takes over virtually all power to wage the war, but at war's end there is a strong urge to disarm and "get back to normalcy." The early drive toward industrialization can be looked upon as a war to defeat the enemy of poverty. That war has been largely won. The UK people are no longer willing to accept managers who openly exult in their power.

Modern professional managers are well aware of this attitude. They recognize that they must be careful in the use of the vast power they possess. They no longer defend this power as the divine right of capital. They are fearful that if they do not accept the full social responsibilities which go with the power, they will lose it, probably to someone antagonistic to business management and free enterprise. Some leading executives

I think that the reconstruction of the moral foundation of business is the most urgent problem facing UK business today. This is why they are searching for new precepts to replace the old ones based merely on profit maximization. The ethic of socially responsible management is a result of this search.


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