Talk about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) expresses a crucial contradiction of capitalism. The contradiction is clearly formulated in an often forgotten dimension of Milton Friedman’s famous CSR article, “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase its Profits.”
Friedman argues that acceptance of CSR “involves the acceptance of the socialist view.” Friedman makes the point that through CSR, companies assume a role that really belongs to the taxman. As this means they have a public role, they thereby become legitimate objects of democratization.
I have been arguing for a while that claiming to be socially responsible can take private business corporations surprisingly far from their traditional comfort zone of capitalist legitimacy. Socialists might want to point out the ideological dilemmas of this practice.
The legitimacy [of big corporations] may erode if they stop making claims about their social responsibility. The dilemma is that if and when they continue making these claims, they implicitly accept that capitalist corporation is no longer immune to social and moral claims by others.