Keywords: corporate responsibility, economic man, endogenous preferences, memes, subjective well-being, theory of the firm, Walrasian economics, economic theory, anthropology, welfare economics, corporate social responsibility, CSR
Corporate responsibility and economic theory: an anthropological perspective
A basic worldview of economic theory is the notion that humans have unlimited material wants and limited means to satisfy these wants. In this framework the task of economists is to design policy instruments to meet human preferences for material commodities as efficiently as possible, that is, with the minimum amount of society's scarce resources. An interesting perspective on this aspect of contemporary economics is offered by anthropologists who trace the origins of economic man back hundreds if not thousands of years. Such a long-term perspective is all the more important since the standard economic preference satisfaction model of consumer and firm behaviour is being replaced by models consistent with current research findings in the fields of psychology, anthropology and other behavioural sciences about human decision-making. Much of traditional management theory and the theory of the firm are based on the preference satisfaction model, so the demise of that conceptual base has far-reaching implications for the analysis of sustainable corporate behaviour.