Monday, April 21, 2008

Two from Wells on Anti-duelling and the history of Corporate Social Responsibility

Harwell Wells, Temple University Beasley School of Law, has posted to articles. The Cycles of Corporate Social Responsibility: An Historical Retrospective for the Twenty-First Century appeared in the University of Kansas Law Review (2002). Here's the abstract:
Debates over Corporate Social Responsibility stretch from the 1930s to the twenty-first century, and have engaged some of the leading minds of the era. In the legal academy, these debates have tended to focus on whether corporate managers and directors should owe duties to shareholders alone, or whether the scope of their legal responsibilities should be widened to include employees, communities, consumers, and other "stakeholders" in the enterprises. But there is a problem with these debates: they rarely seem to have gone anywhere. Viewed in historical perspective, each new round of debate on corporate social responsibility seems merely to recapitulate earlier debates in a slightly altered form. This Article traces out these debates over corporate social responsibility in order to provide contemporary students of CSR a vantage-point from which they can critically evaluate their predecessors, and separate out the still-vital elements in those debates from the lost causes.

The End of the Affair? Anti-Dueling Laws and Social Norms in Antebellum America appeared in the Vanderbilt Law Review (2007). Here's the abstract:
The story of anti-dueling laws has become a favorite tale for many social norms theorists. In their tellings, the spread of anti-dueling laws in the antebellum South and the subsequent end of dueling illustrates how properly drafted laws can change social norms and thus alter behavior. The actual history of these laws, however, teaches a different lesson. While the laws were carefully crafted to undermine the social norms promoting dueling, they failed. The very social norms that encouraged dueling prevented effective enforcement of laws passed to end the practice, and the affair of honor in the South was ended not by well-intentioned laws but by the social catastrophe of the Civil War. This account in turn suggests that there will be limits on modern-day attempts to alter social norms through legal sanctions.

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