This week on Facebook: Last week I wrote that Peter Drucker’s thoughts will remain an important part of the debate on the legitimacy and functions of the corporation but as part of a world increasingly different from that in which he developed his ideas. While the developed world may now eschew religion (in any form), it constantly seeks to find some philosophical thoughts to replace it with and those philosophical thoughts of Drucker’s are no exception. Collectively I think that the internet, and in particular the social media, always provides a means of finding or creating a notional truth. Those in a search of a truth to lead their life by, and which concurs with their notions of social responsibility, become zealots in advocating such truth when they find it. I have a very dystopian view of a future, one in which I find myself increasingly cynical regarding the use that Drucker’s views on social change have been put to by the private sector and public administrations.
“If by some miracle some prophet could describe the future exactly as it was going to take place, his predictions would sound so absurd, so far-fetched that everyone would laugh him to scorn.” Arthur C Clarke
Influenced by the previous works of Mary Parker Follett Peter Drucker was to say that after her death in 1933 she gradually became a ‘non-person’. Her ideas were not acceptable in the mainstream of American management and organisation thinking of the 1930s and 1940s. Despite this set back she eventually became — according to Drucker — a prophet of management, yet remains in obscurity within most business circles. It was Drucker, influenced by her views on management and organisational thinking, who was to elaborated on them and unlike Follett was to create an acceptance of them. Yet, Drucker was acutely aware of the distortions that would be attributed to his views by the private sector and especially by the public administration .
In his 1994 essay on The Age of Social Transformation (click image below), Drucker opened by writing that no century in recorded history has experienced so many social transformations and such radical ones as the twentieth century. Amongst his final conclusions was that of the function of government and its functioning being central to political thought and political action. The megastate in which this century (20th) indulged has not performed, either in its totalitarian or in its democratic version. It has not delivered on a single one of its promises…
Drucker went on to write that effective government has never been needed more than in this highly competitive and fast changing world of ours, in which the dangers created by the pollution of the physical environment are matched only by the dangers of worldwide armaments pollution. And we do not have even the beginnings of political theory or the political institutions needed for effective government in the knowledge based society of organisations. If the twentieth century was one of social transformations, the twenty-first century needs to be one of social and political innovations, whose nature cannot be so clear to us now as their necessity. (sic)
Approaching two decades into the twenty-first century and following my 60 years in the twentieth, I think that my somewhat cynical views on what the future may hold are justified. Peter Drucker’s views on the necessity of social transformation have been transposed into legal requirements or social obligations, with public administrations using them to abrogate any requirement for central political thought and political action.
Globally, ineffective governments, hackneyed political theories and political institutions still prevail and there is still no consensus on what social responsibility actually means in either the public or private sectors. There are disagreements regarding its application at individual, corporate and public administration levels where the term social responsibility is limited by its context. The driving force for the implementation of any social responsibility is — inevitably — political, which interprets its meaning to serve a political policy. These are in turn driven by fiscal policy desires for short term economic growth, regardless of the national or global consequences that it creates or its influence on the ethics that a society purports to hold.
Monday — Social Responsibility and Ethics: Often, the ethical implications of a decision/action are overlooked for personal gain and the benefits are usually material. This frequently manifests itself in companies that attempt to cheat environmental regulations. When this happens, government interference is necessary.
Tuesday — The rise of being “social”: The concept has seen many transformative moments, including the launch of ISO 26000, a standard which has gained traction and credibility in less than a decade.
Wednesday — Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): The European Commission has defined CSR as the responsibility of enterprises for their impact on society. CSR should be company led. Public authorities can play a supporting role through a smart mix of voluntary policy measures and, where necessary, complementary regulation.
Thursday — The rise of social responsibility in higher education: More and more universities around the world are integrating social responsibility into their mission statements, including their research and teaching missions, arguing that higher education is better off when it gives back to the society that is responsible for funding it.
Friday — When is civil society a force for social transformation? Social movements have helped to challenge the underlying problems, and they’ve successfully unseated dictators in many parts of the world. But they haven’t been able to secure lasting gains in democracy, equality and freedom.
Perceptions and Definitions of Social Responsibility (pdf): Given the range of perceptions and sheer number of subject areas in the SR debate, it is understandable that many stakeholders are calling for the clarification of terms and concepts.
Corporations And Society— Doing Social Good While Doing What’s Good For Business (pdf): For corporations and their stakeholders, doing well is no longer doing enough. As governments continue to struggle to resolve the world’s most important and challenging problems, corporations increasingly understand that they must lend their energy, expertise and influence to the fight.
Government Policies for Corporate Social Responsibility in Europe (pdf): While our method allows comparative ‘face value’ discrimination among types of government policies for CSR, it can hardly be said to capture the full texture of business–government relations in the respective countries.
University Social Responsibility (pdf): It is time for universities to choose which model of society they aspire to. Here lies their moral responsibility regarding social responsibility.
Social Transformation in an Information Society: Rethinking Access to You and the World (pdf): Then, rather than drifting further into the twenty-first century thinking our futures are being determined by technical advances or by the strategies of governments or global corporations, you would be aware of ways in which you can consider and negotiate how you can enhance your own communicative power through the reconfiguring of access to yourself and the world.
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