“Today & Tomorrow.
Philanthropy: from social pity to corporate social responsibility
Nazim Safarov, Doctor of Philosophy
Notes from "Western Notebook"
Many years ago I started two travel notebooks, conditionally named "Western" and "Eastern". Every time I take them with myself in business trips. They happen not so frequently, but I try to use them to the best advantage in sense of obtaining new impressions, knowledge or information. And the notebooks help to recollect details seen, little known geographical names or, say, names of corporations. It is quite natural that in the "Western Notebook" I keep the records concerning trips to the West. And looking through it recently, I came across the notes about the poorest American districts, missionaries, about charily and philanthropy, about those who receive assistance and those who help ...
Charity and philanthropy are different matters
We frequently use two close terms -charity and philanthropy - as synonyms. However, the western tradition of the social assistance and market system itself in practice precisely divided charity and philanthropy. They began to serve different purposes. But before to stop in detail on their functions, importance and the changes which took place in the West in sphere of charity and philanthropy, I shall note, that the scientific and educational literature of the post-Soviet period still identifies charity and philanthropy. For example, neither the authors of the known manual for universities entitled "Ethics" (A. Huseynov, R. Apresian "Ethics", M., 2000) could avoid that error.
As is well known, there was no place for charities and philanthropy in the Soviet time. The prevailing ideology did not leave a place to "petit-bourgeois" practice of the charity "humiliating" dignity of the person and undermining the principle: "from everyone according to abilities, to everyone - accord-ing to work". Certainly, indications of "spontaneous" charity took place also during socialism at the level of separate, voluntary acts, however, it could not exist as a phenomenon. As to philanthropists whence could they appear from in conditions of the socialist "equalization"? But at market economy it has come to light that there is enough people and organizations ready to charitable and philanthropic activities, as well as eager "recipients". From the moral and psychological point of view this aspiration is quite understandable. There are many ways in which a person's life may come to have a meaning for him in itself.
In the West the
philanthropy has old tradition and there is a lot of
witnesses of a disinterested aid not expecting for gratitude, especially,
public. Precise distinction, between charity and philanthropy in the modern
West consists in that charity is considered as the help, temporarily or for
any period facilitating sufferings of the poor layers of the population, but
not capable by the definition to solve significant problems. The philanthropy
is the activity directed namely at the decision of essential problems. Here
lies their basic distinction. If to return on our ground, from this point of
view, for example, Z. Tagiyev was sooner a philanthropist
than a patron of the arts (as he is frequently named). So, having created the
first school for Muslim girls in the Islamic world in
As a known Latin proverb reads, "tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur in illis" - times change, and we change together with them. Now in the West the philanthropy has become a part of the corporate social responsibility (CSR). The corporate social responsibility means promotion of business providing a steady economic development. But, first of all, it is understood as an achievement of commercial objectives within the framework of ethical principles. As a matter of fact, this is a ratio of business and a civil society. Moreover, the corporate social responsibility nowadays is inconceivable without philanthropy. Now large companies cannot work successfully, if they do not have an action plan in this area. Besides an annual report on business, every year they issue reports on the corporate social responsibility. In relation to them the public opinion encouraging or condemning a corporation is formed. But the most interesting is that large companies cannot refuse the corporate social responsibility also by virtue of economic reasons. So, you cannot be listed as a company freely selling shares at a stock exchange if you avoid the corporate social responsibility. That is, the very system of market relations forces you to be engaged in solving social problems, and not just to follow a lucrative interest. The level of development of mutual relations of the society and the market, citizens and business in developed countries are so nowadays. We see that now philanthropy is a market category, philanthropic activities are not only voluntary acts any more, but also economic necessity.
Good differs from good
It is obvious that the West differs from the East much, including, open public debate on the major problems of the society. In this respect the corporate social responsibility, despite of this, apparently, positive sense, is not only a subject of approval, but also of rigid criticism. Here critics are divided into two basic groups: the first considers that corporations have their action field not related to the social responsibility; the second proceeds from that social programs of corporations are no more than a manipulation with public opinion. So, the world famous economist, Nobel Prize Winner Milton Friedman and his supporters (the first group) considered that the task of corporations is a maximization of the profit of shareholders within the framework of the current legislation. As to the social responsibility, corporations cannot bear this responsibility. The second group of critics assumes that with help of CSR large corporations only distract attention of the society from social-ethical problems generated by their activities. First of all, tobacco and oil corporations are among such companies.
Certainly, there is some logic in the points of view given here. Moreover, if to consider CSR from positions of captious morals, it is vulnerable. However, if to look at CSR as at a result of the development of relations "business - a civil society", it is a phenomenon of the positive meaning. Anyway, we see that in the developing countries there is no talk about any corporate social responsibility, business is frequently far from social subjects, and the profit outside of legal and moral borders has become a widespread phenomenon. Corporations of the developing countries at the best limit themselves to a holiday distribution of the foodstuffs to the poorest layers of the population. That is, in the developed and developing parts of the world both the practice of business dealing, and discussions on moral problems of business are at completely different levels. If in the developed countries the question is motives of activities, a level of ethics of corporations, in the developing conversation the point can be generally absence of any ethics and morality in this area.
But not everyone
can be engaged in philanthropy in the Wes either the most part of the social
assistance is carried out as charity. This activity is also characterized by
its orderliness. Here the basic welfare funds and organizations are known and
have a corresponding image in the public, a strategic development plan, etc.
Being in the
On the post-Soviet space charitable and philanthropic activity have no such ordered character. Here in many respects amateur performance dominates. Moreover, the charitable and philanthropic actions carried out by commercial or state organizations, are not the actions accomplished on the basis of any serious research, or social monitoring. How to define, who requires assistance more? Why do we help these, instead of others, similar indigents? How to develop correct criterion and volumes of material aid? All these questions are solved spontaneously, without any serious argumentation. But these are technical issues of the rendered assistance.
Non-technical issues of "good"
During the historical periods before 20 century and the most part of that century charity and philanthropy were not market notions. The assistance to other people was basically rendered from humanistic aspirations. In such situation quite a natural question excited philosophers: "How do the problems which are not mine, become so important that I act, trying to help the needy?" Arthur Schopenhauer argued about it and made very exact following remarks on this point:" How does it become possible that the suffering which not mine, doesn't touch me, nevertheless, is so natural as in other cases only my own, becomes a motive for me, induces me to act? It is possible only due to that I co-feel it, feel it as my own and nevertheless, is not inside me, bit in the other. Thus, it happens so as expressed by Calderon "there is no difference between a show of suffering and the suffering". But it assumes that I got to a certain extent identified with another, and, consequently, for an instant, the difference between "me" and "not me", hence, got canceled: only then another's circumstances, his needs, his grief, his sufferings become directly mine" (Arthur Schopenhauer "Free Will and Moral" M., "Republic, 1992, p.222, Russian edition)
Albert Schweitzer, the bearer
of the European culture who expanded his activities in far
Probably, the second Schweitzer will not appear for a long time, but there are now many people involved in philanthropy. Though they do not have a special philosophical concept on the issue of compassionate benefit, but the factor of a good will itself is already a moral factor powerful enough to cause respect of the public. Nowadays both private persons, and organizations are engaged in voluntary or not up to the end voluntary philanthropy. And, if the first, as a rule, endow a part of their personal profit on these purposes, the second distribute the help accumulated in corresponding funds, formed due to donations from many sources. "Kindness should be quiet" is a natural principle of a social aid going from the heart and sincerity. But in practice motives of philanthropy come to be the most different - moral convictions, a calculation that later "it will be rendered", social pity. It can be also of a campaign character or. be made with the purpose of other reward - political, economic, etc. It is stimulated also by the fact that in a number of countries businessmen are released from payment of taxes on the sum equal to the spent on charity and philanthropy. Such kind of assistance is often "noisy" and, certainly, newspaper articles, television reports bring their ideological mite in the process of popularizing this or another patron of arts. However, a participation in suffering of another person, as A. Schopenhauer wrote fairly, "should have a moral value, i.e. should be free from egoistic motives and for -this reason to waken in ourselves that internal satisfaction called kindness satisfied, approving conscience"(ibid, p. 221)
"Pitfalls" of charity and philanthropy
philanthropy should not discourage, spoil people, at the same time. The habit
to receive a small sop (charity) and not trying to make something in order to
change own destiny - what can there be better for a person's degradation? The
same is related to a hope on philanthropy and to refusal of attempts to take
the destiny in own hands. Who visited the
Above I have noted
that private persons and social organizations are engaged in philanthropy
also. But the policy of the
If an individual is capable to work, he should work. Already at the dawn of 20 century this simple truth was well understood and put into practice by Henry Ford, the well-known manufacturer of cars, for the first time in the world using industrial assembly line. He created conditions for work even to disabled persons. Ford wrote that it was not the charitable mind to which he objected. "God forbid that we ever grow cold toward a human being in need. Human sympathy is too fine...One can name very few great advances that did not have human sympathy behind them. It is in order to help people that every notable service is undertaken. The trouble is that we have seen using this great, fine motive force foe ends too small. If human sympathy prompts us to feed the hungry, why should it not give the larger desire to make hunger in our midst impossible? If we have sympathy enough for people to help them to get rid of poverty, surely we ought to have sympathy enough to destroy poverty completely. Expel fear and we can have self-reliance. Charity doesn't exists any more if self-reliance dwells" (See: Henry Ford "My life and work" Kessinger Publishing, 2003, p.296)
I share thoughts
of the outstanding businessman: really, it is necessary to wipe out economic
reasons leading to a humiliating dependence. Nevertheless, the reality is such
that the society of common prosperity remains only a sketch, a certain Utopian
social design. Therefore, if the state cannot provide a total employment, and
if there are socially vulnerable layers of the population, charity can cease
social tension. It is well seen in the case of refugees on the