Economic Responsibility Revisited

  • Michaela HaaseEmail author
Part of the Ethical Economy book series (SEEP, volume 53)


This article addresses economic responsibility at the intersection of economics, business ethics, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) studies. We argue that Caroll’s influential CSR models draw on a concept of economic responsibility that is only loosely or indirectly connected to economics. These CSR models are compared with Milton Friedman’s economic approach to social responsibility that does not add much to the business ethics or CSR agendas. We show that John Maurice Clark’s approach to economic responsibility is different from that. His article The Changing Basis of Economic Responsibility (J Polit Econ 24(3):209–229, 1916) is indicative of the early discussion of the social responsibilities of individuals and businesses in the U.S. Clark’s approach to economic responsibility is based on two pillars: the economics of responsibility and the responsibility of economic actors. Drawing on institutional-economic knowledge about what he called significant and responsible causes, Clark aimed at the development of an economics able to address economic change and to inform the working business ethics of economic actors. Clark delineated a vision about a future economy based on responsible economic action and moderate, well-informed public control. Clark’s economics of responsibility can adjust the CSR models in two respects: First, it is an economic approach to economic responsibility more suitable than Friedman’s approach. Second, it criticizes charity as a form of Band-Aid measures and the idea that social responsibility can be conducted voluntarily or as an add-on to economic responsibility. The article concludes that the ideas underlying Clark’s approach are still of importance for understanding economic and social responsibility.


Archie B. Caroll Milton Friedman Profitability Responsibility Social value Shareholder approach Adam Smith 


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Business & Economics, Marketing DepartmentFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany

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