Business in society

Strategic Direction

ISSN: 0258-0543

Article publication date: 23 August 2011



Erickson, M. (2011), "Business in society", Strategic Direction, Vol. 27 No. 9.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Business in society

Article Type: Suggested reading From: Strategic Direction, Volume 27, Issue 9

Mark Erickson, Carol Stephenson, Harriett Bradley and Steve WilliamsPolity Press, Cambridge, 15 May 2009, ISBN: 978-0745642338, 320 pp., £19.99 (pbk)

Business in Society is an interesting book with a unique duality; it can support academic endeavors in contemporary college courses in the social sciences or business, as well as meet the needs of business and career-minded individuals who seek a better understanding of the sociological dynamics of business and organizations. The central premise of the authors speaks to the essence of the human condition that accepts roles and relationships within society as being a natural part of life. “We don’t regularly question how society works and how we are a part of society for two major reasons: because society is so deeply embedded within us it is hard to confront this reality, and because confronting this reality challenges our sense of security.” This fundamental truth, as unsettling as it may be, is an important starting point in the examination of the dynamic and interconnected relationships between people, work, organizations, and society. The world of work, employment, and business are natural extensions of life within society today. In reality, each is a force that affects the others, a sociological variant of Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion that explains reciprocal actions. Understanding the sociological dynamics of business in society can promote greater understanding and awareness of issues and challenges while enabling readers to envision the vast magnitude of untapped potential inherent in contemporary organizations and the world of work.

Pragmatic in approach, the book begins by providing readers with a primer that is neither esoteric nor oversimplified, establishing foundational knowledge of sociological analysis, theories, and methods to allow them to optimize their learning and gain maximum benefit from examination of contemporary business issues addressed in subsequent chapters. Readers are provided with guidance on how to use the book and navigate components built into chapters, allowing each to be viewed in a standalone manner. Concept boxes, case studies, biographical vignettes, annotated bibliographies, suggested websites, and discussion questions serve to promote an in-depth understanding of the topics presented and provoke critical analysis of the contested nature of business in society. Societies are examined from capitalism to postindustrialism and in the context of change inherent in globalization and the knowledge-based economy. Topics explore the nature and meaning of work, behavior in organizations, social divisions and inequities, work, community and action. The authors tackle significant contemporary sociological issues in business in a candid and objective manner, including discrimination and diversity, trade unionism and industrial disputes, the need for ethics and legislation, and the changing roles of managers and employees.

A quick internet search will confirm several contemporary books with the title Business in Society, examining issues such as corporate values, social responsibility, ethics, stakeholder management, and public policy from the perspectives of business and government in the modern economy, suitable for college level courses. However, the book by Erickson, Stephenson, Bradley, and Williams takes the unique approach examining business from a social perspective, making it easily accessible by university students and business professionals like. The book is appropriate for courses in sociology, group dynamics, and social psychology, as well as business, human resources, labor relations, and management. Business in Society is equally suitable for anyone with a desire to learn more about the challenges and opportunities inherent in the dynamic social interactions that take place between people, work, and organizations. More than concepts, theories, and case studies, the book inspires readers to consider the exciting possibilities that can be achieved through thinking sociologically about business in the contemporary world.

“The world of work and business is structured by social forces external to it, and is in turn responsible for structuring much of the society that surrounds it.” Given the tumultuous change in business and society over time, augmented by globalization the advent of a knowledge-based economy, it is vital that people have the ability to analyze and understand the changes taking place in society. “One of the many things that sociology shows is the almost infinite capacity of humans to adapt and change in different environments and circumstances […] The direction of change remains uncertain, but it is not necessarily utopian to hope that it will be away from the endless cycle of exploitation and appropriation that we have seen over the last two centuries.” Business in Society is an innovative and thought-provoking book that challenges readers to contemplate societies past, confront the present reality, and consider new and exciting possibilities for business in the contemporary world.

Reviewed by Judy Bullock, University of Phoenix, Phoenix, Arizona, USA.

This review was originally published in Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 32 No. 2, 2011.

Related articles