Social Responsibility

Social Responsibility

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7619-8.ch001


Responsibility refers to the human care about others' wellbeing. Motives for responsible behavior are connected to altruism—as a search for meaning beyond the self—and positive reinforcement of sympathy within society. Responsibility is part of human nature and learned within the societal context. Leaders are role models who face an extraordinary obligation to responsibility in balancing multiple stakeholder needs. Responsibility considerations underlie human decision-making fallibility. This chapter explores social responsibility.
Chapter Preview


Dating back to antique and religious roots, responsibility has been addressed in philosophical, legal and libertarian writings. Ancient Greek philosophers outline responsibility as an essential feature of human commitment and care for others (Reese-Schäfer, 1995 in Sichler, 2006). Immanuel Kant defined responsibility as an internal moral mainspring for ethicality and duty as a universal privilege of society (Gunkel, 1989 in Sichler, 2006; Kant, 1787/1974, 1788/1974). According to Kant (1787/1974) free, self-determined individuals become responsible when reflecting about others’ free will (Berlin, 1969 in Sichler, 2006; Hayek, 1944/2007). Grounding responsibility on self-reflection and social perspective taking, Kant’s categorical imperative therefore advises to solely act in ways one wants to be treated by others. Free-willed responsible individuals exhibit pro-social behavior. In the social compound, collective responsibility therefore fosters an overall trust-based social climate (Luf, 2009; Sichler, 2006). Collective responsible caring breeds the so-called ‘social glue’ – an implicit form of societal order beyond regulations and legal enforcement. The related ‘Gesellschaftsvertrag’ or social contract of socially responsible actors steers social progress and economic stability (Sichler, 2006). Underlying this implicit social compound, responsibility thus coordinates and structures our living.

Legal writings outline responsibility as a feature of ethicality and an expression of natural law (Sichler, 2006). Responsibility is believed to have emerged from the obedience to externally imposed norms into an intrinsic endeavor of a disciplined, modern humankind (Luf, 2009). Post-conventional forms of morality and ethicality attribute individuals to be responsible when they base their individual decision making with respect for others’ free will (Auhagen & Bierhoff, 2001; Sichler, 2006).

Based on the ethics of morality, responsibility depicts an internal care for others that stems from altruism – the ianternal need to benefit others whilst lowering the level of personal fitness (Trivers, 1971). Underlying motives for altruism are self-fulfilment by contributing to matters beyond the self and the so-called ‘warm glow’ – a positive emotion attributed to caring for and giving to others (Andreoni, 1989; Jenkins, 2007). In an unconscious search for reflective meaning in life and seeking warm glow-reinforcement, humans exhibit responsible behavior and ethical decision making (Sennett, 1998). Deciding in line with personal ethics notions is experienced positively as for determining our character to ourselves and others, which grants positive self-worth (Sennett, 1998).

Karl Marx was the first to depict responsibility as a central motivating factor in working tasks (Sichler in Weber, Pasqualoni & Burtscher, 2004). Responsibility leads to the perception of an internal locus of control and helps identifying with working tasks (DeCharms, 1992 in Sichler, 2006). When responsibility is connected to profound reasons that are central to a persons’ identity, individuals identify themselves with these purposes and feel obliged to act in sync with their values. Social responsibility is a motivating factor in group work tasks (Weber, 1997). Self-imposed responsibility goals become compelling drivers for actions and can leverage into professional endeavors (Damon, Menon & Bronk, 2003; Gardner, 2007; Sichler, 2003). By stringency of values and actions, responsible working tasks bestow individuals with identity and grant working relations symbolic meaning (Müller, 1990 in Sichler, 2006). Modern working situations are depicted as for requiring a high degree of responsibility from individuals and responsibility being a determinant of success and self worth (Sichler, 2006). This is especially the case with social entrepreneurs and propreneurs, who apply economic acumen to societal causes about which they personally care. Propreneurs are individuals who strive for aligning working situations with personal values, lifestyles and ethical goals (Fischer, 1995 in Sichler, 2006).

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: