Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2013

Debating the Responsibility of Capitalism in Historical and Global Perspective

by Geoffrey Jones

Abstract

This working paper examines the evolution of concepts of the responsibility of business in a historical and global perspective. It shows that from the nineteenth century American, European, Japanese, Indian and other business leaders discussed the responsibilities of business beyond making profits, although until recently such views have not been mainstream. There was also a wide variation concerning the nature of this responsibility. This paper argues that four factors drove such beliefs: spirituality; self-interest; fears of government intervention; and the belief that governments were incapable of addressing major social issues.

Keywords: Rachel Carson; sustainability; local food; operations management; supply chain; business and society; Business ethics; business history; corporate philanthropy; corporate social responsibility; corporate social responsibility and impact; environmentalism; Environmental Entrepreneurship; environmental and social sustainability; Ethics; Globalization; History; Religion; Consumer Products Industry; Chemical Industry; Beauty and Cosmetics Industry; Energy Industry; Food and Beverage Industry; Forest Products Industry; Green Technology Industry; Manufacturing Industry; Asia; Europe; Latin America; Middle East; North and Central America; Africa;

Citation:

Jones, Geoffrey. "Debating the Responsibility of Capitalism in Historical and Global Perspective." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 14-004, July 2013.