The Role of Business in the Modern World: Progress, Pressures and Prospects for the Market Economy

Henderson Book on the Role of Business

Foreward, acknowledgments, and executive summary available in PDF

It is now a widely held view that a new era has dawned in which businesses must adopt a new conception of their mission, purpose and conduct, by endorsing and implementing corporate social responsibility. In The Role of Business in the Modern World, Prof. David Henderson argues that now, as in the past, the primary role of business is to act as a vehicle for economic progress. This role depends upon business enterprises operating within the framework of a competitive market economy. If we ask businesses to achieve broader social goals, we risk undermining the very system in which business activity leads to opportunity and prosperity.

Henderson describes the unprecedented material progress that has occurred in the last century as a result of the wide-ranging entrepreneurial opportunities and competitive pressures that exist within a market economy. The material prosperity created by the activities of business is threatened by the “global salvationist consensus” that has arisen in recent years and which seeks to change the role of business via the doctrine of corporate social responsibility. Henderson shows that this consensus is based upon a set of fallacious beliefs about the nature of capitalism, profiteering, and business enterprise.

Foreword by Steve Forbes     


Executive summary     


Chapter 1: Setting the Scene

Chapter 2: Economic progress and the role of business

Chapter 3: Globalization, “civil society” and “global governance”

Chapter 4: Global salvationism and consensus pressures

Chapter 5: Profits, welfare and virtue

Chapter 6: Reinforcing the primary role

Chapter 7: Capitalism, collectivism and business: a 60-year prospective