Assessing Milton Friedman’s View of CSR: Theory Versus Pragmatism in Advising Practitioners

Proceedings of the International Association for Business and Society 18:277-282 (2007)
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Abstract

This paper assesses Milton Friedman’s (1962, 1970) strongly negative view of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and his influence among managers and academics. The subtitle reflects the theme of the IABS 2007 conference: advising practitioners, illustrated by Machiavelli’s The Prince (1513). The paper develops two general arguments. The first argument is that Professor Friedman was a highly academic theoretician arguing the general merits of basically simple theoretical ideas. The second argument concerns advising practitioners. While Friedman’s advice is theoretical (i.e., abstract) rather than practical (i.e., pragmatic), this very characteristic may have increased his influence. There are important lessons to study concerning academic influence among practitioners. Simple ideas may facilitate dissemination and persuasiveness. It is thus worth studying Friedman’s approach to controversy

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