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American corporations are bedeviled by a number of problems: profits and prices, corruption, inefficiency, white-collar blues, and social responsibility. Robert Ackerman addresses himself to the dilemmas of large corporations as they are caught in the cross-currents of the public’s increasing expectations regarding social issues. How should big businesses react to pollution control, consumer safety, minority hiring, and the placement of women in the corporate structure? In The Social Challenge to Business, Ackerman deals with the adaptation of large corporations to the new social climate. There is a new, close, and interesting relation between powerful social pressures and the divisionalized organizational form that has become the dominant means of structuring the large firm. The author poses a series of problems suggesting that the result-oriented, financially geared, decentralized pattern common to major corporations may inhibit their social responsiveness.
Yet, after examining in absorbing detail the activities of two giant corporations, the author demonstrates that a chief executive and his management group can effect social change if they are prepared to exercise their skills as managers—not as social activists or philanthropists. Only by including social responsiveness in the reward and punishment system within the corporate structure can management bring about the change that, ultimately, its broader success depends upon.