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September 12, 2012


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B. Murray Abraham

See the corporation, B the corporation.


Be Social Also.
CCD Lens

Phil Cubeta

Right, and B the Change. I realize B Corps at least try to address the issue of standards. That is a good thing. But why do we need these Social businesses? Are others Un-Social, or Anti-Social, or Solipsistic, or Sociopathic? Whence the need for something different from the usual corporate structure? And why is the critique not pressed? Why, instead, do we have so much hype and mania over a tweaking of what is apparently an increasingly lethal set of Non-Natural Persons we have created with a single purpose and the clout to pass themselves off as whatever they wish to be seen as?

How about B Gullible? And B Happy?

Jeff Trexler

If only exams on CSR raised more questions such as this! One of things that I found most striking in my time among academics specializing in CSR and social enterprise is the extent to which the field conflates analysis with advocacy. In many respects it is a callback to the early years of social science in the 19th century, with professors and practitioners joining together creating an ostensibly new model of charity, often in tandem with new business wealth.

What’s interesting about this tripartite support for the triple bottom line is that its very existence provides an important clue as to the nature of ethical business. The reason why professors and universities tend to be in the tank for social entrepreneurship is that social enterprise primarily serves to define identity. Through social enterprise, professors can transcend ivory tower irrelevance to define themselves as people who help create meaningful change. Universities, on the other hand, have come to love social enterprise because of its value as a means of recruiting students and attracting financial support.

This ties in directly to the emergence of capitalist realism as the defining style of contemporary do-goodery. In the academic context, social enterprise & CSR serve as much as a marketing tool as they do for a commercial business. Consider the all too ubiquitous paeans to the commitment of the rising generation of young people to social business. Hop into the historical wayback machine and you’ll see that it was ever thus - social consciousness has been a common trait among young adult practically from the emergence of Western modernity at late medieval European universities.

The persistence of the social-consciousness meme throughout recurrences of this generational cadre points to its compelling appeal to young people who are looking to define themselves as having personal meaning and agency in the face of a looming lifetime defined by the subsumption of self into marriage and work. By not instructing kids in the challenges and ambiguities of social business, universities become the pied piper of the unformed soul, leading kids out of the village with a song of hope only to let them drop off the cliff without ongoing support.

A similar dynamic is operative in the use of social enterprise as a development tactic, whether by universities, nonprofits or social ventures. Telling successful businessfolk & companies that they can fund a blended value program has both prospective and retrospective benefits: not only can they find meaning in charity or use it for marketing, but the program frames the pre-gift life in business as a social good. In short, the social enterprise initiative becomes a full extension of the self.

The conditions in this environment make the emergence of capitalist realism all but inevitable. Individuals, commercial companies and nonprofits are entrepreneurial changemakers striding boldly into the future — to question this movement is to question who they are. In this respect social enterprise and CSR serve an identity-creating function similar to that of clothes. We wear blended value much the same way one wears designer fashion or a trademark black sweater and jeans. It is how we present ourselves, and for some, maintaining the integrity of that personal image trumps any attempt to rip apart the seams.

B. Murray Abraham

holy shit. best *comment* ever award goes to JT.

Phil Cubeta

I agree, Murray, this guy is Dr. Trexler.

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