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Friday, May 6, 2011

Strategic CSR - Citizenship

This will be the last CSR Newsletter of the Spring semester.
Have a great summer and I will see you in the Fall!

Along with Christopher Caldwell in the FT, David Brooks (NYT) is one of the columnists who I try and read every week. Brooks’ recent columns have been heavily influenced by a book that he has just published, The Social Animal, which is an effort to use more social science research (particularly sociology and psychology) to inform policy making. For those interested, Brooks was interviewed about the book recently on PBS’ Newshour:

I am forwarding Brooks’ column in the url below because he has some thoughts on the relatively recent rise in self-centered individualism in U.S. society and what implications this may have for the broader concept of citizenship:

Citizenship, after all, is built on an awareness that we are not all that special but are, instead, enmeshed in a common enterprise. Our lives are given meaning by the service we supply to the nation. I wonder if Americans are unwilling to support the sacrifices that will be required to avert fiscal catastrophe in part because they are less conscious of themselves as components of a national project. Perhaps the enlargement of the self has also attenuated the links between the generations. Every generation has an incentive to push costs of current spending onto future generations. But no generation has done it as freely as this one. Maybe people in the past had a visceral sense of themselves as a small piece of a larger chain across the centuries. As a result, it felt viscerally wrong to privilege the current generation over the future ones, in a way it no longer does.

I suspect this same effect translates to the organizational level of analysis and explains much of the resistance to the changes necessary to establish a more sustainable and socially responsible society.

Interestingly, Brooks’ view of the younger generation runs counter to the more popular narrative I see often repeated that the Millennials are more concerned with sustainability, more keen to take ethics classes at university, and more willing to hold corporations to account for their levels of social responsibility. While this greater concern regarding issues such as sustainability, on the surface, appears to be genuine (higher levels of recycling, etc.), in terms of self-perception (self-importance) and the role of the individual in society (rights versus responsibilities), I see more evidence in support of Brooks’ perspective.

Have a good weekend

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The Modesty Manifesto
851 words
11 March 2011
The New York Times
Late Edition - Final