The Corporate Social Responsibility Meme as a Business Foundation for Economic Peacemaking

The Corporate Social Responsibility Meme as a Business Foundation for Economic Peacemaking

Corrie Jonn Block (Blue Rhine, UAE)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3001-5.ch022


This chapter presents economic peacemaking in historical business terms through an exploration of the meaning of competition in the 20th century. The 19th century meme, “survival of the fittest,” may be considered a quality of natural law that has been used to defend laissez faire capitalism, which has at times produced economic outcomes that are good for a select few at the expense of humanity at large. The counter-concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR), which was developed in the mid-20th century, presented an alternative view of the corporation as citizen, and called for the compromise of profits for the sake of the betterment of the community in which the business existed. This chapter explores the historical development of these concepts in the social science context of social Darwinism vs. neo-Darwinism, concluding that economic peacemaking through stakeholder management and CSR implementation is an inherently natural concept and preferable for humanity to unregulated competition.
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Social Darwinism developed toward the end of the 19th century as a philosophical extension of Herbert Spencer’s interpretation of Charles Darwin’s evolutionary natural selection theory as amoral individualistic competition. The import of Spencer’s thought into social sciences provided justification for a dog-eat-dog view of business.

Survival-of-the-fittest was coined by Herbert Spencer in 1864, five years after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of the Species. At the time, Spencer might not have been aware what a tremendous impact his and Darwin’s ideas would have on the world of business, although Darwin’s own suspicion that the evolutionary theory might be applied to social studies has already been noted (Hodgson, 2005, p. 902).

Darwin’s theory took account of how biological information is passed along generationally, through the processes of genetic variation, inheritance, and selection (Hodgson, 2003). The process known as natural selection was widely received as providing genetic evidence of individualism at the heart of evolutionary development. The species, it appeared, survived because its best, brightest, fastest, and most cunning members survived. Darwin’s biological language was subsequently applied to Adam Smith’s vision of unrestricted, self-regulating economic competition in Wealth of Nations (Smith, 1776). A new language was adopted to illuminate as natural selection what Smith had called the ”invisible hand”, and what the Industrial Revolution had come to know as competitive advantage. Smith’s invisible hand was essentially dead; it was superfluous in the new academic understanding of disinterested evolution as the driving force behind social change and institutional development.

Already by 1889, theorists clearly understood that a form of cultural transmission existed in parallel to what biologists were describing as genetic inheritance. George Lewes, Henry Drummond, and David Ritchie were among the pioneers in this realm of social evolution (Hodgson, 2005, p. 904). In 1896, as the effects of the Darwinian theory on sociology were being explored, David Ritchie made a distinction between the influences of Darwinist style inheritance in individuals and in social organisms. Ritchie wrote,

Key Terms in this Chapter

Enlightened Self-Interest: The idea that those who invest in the interests of others ultimately serve their own interests.

Natural Selection: Charles Darwin’s biological theory whereby genetic mutations that make organisms more effective in their environment, survive and are passed down genetically to subsequent generations of that organism.

Stoic Morality: The idea that morals are naturally present in humanity, independently of education and social context.

Neo-Darwinism: Evolutionary theory combined with modern genetic sciences. Herein the definition is expanded to include memetic transmission of ideas across generations.

Corporate Social Performance: The metrics of successful implementation of an intentional corporate social responsibility strategy of a company.

Meme (a.k.a. Mneme): A concept, idea, or cultural norm that passes from one generation to the next through imitation.

Social Darwinism: The application of Herbert Spencer’s survival-of-the-fittest interpretation of Darwinian natural selection theory, to the social sciences as a natural law.

Corporate Social Responsibility: The responsibilities of the business toward the society in which it exists and operates.

Universal Darwinism: The application of biological natural selection theory to all spheres of life.

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