The caring enterprise: a sociology of corporate social involvement in Britain and Italy

Marinetto, M. 1995. The caring enterprise: a sociology of corporate social involvement in Britain and Italy. PhD thesis University of Westminster School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages

TitleThe caring enterprise: a sociology of corporate social involvement in Britain and Italy
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsMarinetto, M.

This thesis examines corporate social responsibility initially

in Britain, where there has recently been a conspicuous growth

of interest in business social involvement, and Italy. Corporate

social responsibility is defined here as business engagement in

the wider community in order to contribute towards the general

well-being of society. Our analysis employs a hybrid methodology:

we employ a variety of sources, namely, historical texts,

secondary studies and detailed case studies of corporate social

programmes based on in-depth interviews of relevant personnel and

the study of company documents.

Our aim in this study is to provide a general explanation

of why companies go beyond their commercial remit to become

engaged in communitarian and philanthropic action. A socially and

politically informed analysis is furnished: we place this area

in its historical and political context, without losing sight of

the role played by economic forces. Any explanation of

contemporary advances in corporate social responsibility needs

to stress the role of the modern state in society, and, more

specifically, the development of relations between the state and

the business community. It is argued that, in Britain, as a

response to the political and economic crisis of the 1970s, the

links between the business and state sectors became ever closer.

This, as we shall demonstrate, created the institutional

opportunities for active business involvement in society in areas

such as environmental protection, small firm development and

urban regeneration. Italy has seen less political impetus given

to active corporate involvement in society. The most significant

achievements, though, have come from within the state sector.

A final consideration of our social analysis is that we

attempt to analyse the contribution of the private sector to

wider society. This is especially pertinent because, in Britain,

corporate responsibility has come to be seen as a private

solution to public problems. We show, using original case study

material, that there are limits to what companies can achieve on

a social front. We conclude that corporate social responsibility

must emphasise the need for companies to observe social and legal

restrictions in their pursuit of commercial goals, rather than

necessarily engaging actively in social action.

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