CR - Social Responsibility | Answer Key

The correct answer is D.


First, find the task itself: This problem deals with weakening an argument.

As with any other negative phrasing (NOT, EXCEPT, LEAST, etc), it’s best to ‘translate’ the question into a form that expresses what we actually want.
Here there should be 4 answer choices that weaken the argument and 1 that doesn’t; we want the option that doesn’t weaken the argument.
In other words:
• The correct answer could be irrelevant to the argument.
• It could also strengthen the argument.

The main point of the argument is that “no business can survive in the long run unless all of its significant operations are socially responsible”. The following statements (after this conclusion) form the premises of the argument: essentially, if a firm is too irresponsible, then the public will turn against it, causing it to lose its viability in the market.

A statement could weaken this argument by showing that socially irresponsible businesses CAN survive in the long term—or by invalidating or calling into question the reasoning in the current argument.

Let’s look at the choices one by one:

A/
The argument posits that a socially irresponsible firm “will eventually run afoul of public opinion”. For this to occur, though, the firm’s irresponsible conduct needs public exposure. If this choice is true, then, ironically, the more consistently irresponsible a firm’s behavior is, the less likely the public will be to actually notice it.
This casts doubt on the idea that such firms will inevitably “run afoul of public opinion”, thereby weakening the argument.

B/
“Standardized materials”, by definition, do not vary significantly from one manufacturer to another. Thus, according to the opening sentence, the firms that produce these materials “cannot feasibly differentiate their products or functions from those of rival firms” and so will be especially likely to engage in the sort of misconduct that the argument discusses.
The argument depends on the idea that the public, upon learning that a firm has been guilty of consistent (and/or flagrant) social irresponsibility, will turn against that firm and “act to reduce its influence”. If this answer choice is true, though, most people realize that, by taking any significant action against such a firm, they would be lowering their own standard of living. Clearly, few people would put their own standard of living at risk for the sake of the abstract principle of social responsibility. This choice thus weakens the argument, as the chain of events in the last two sentences is very unlikely to occur if it is true.

C/
The argument fundamentally depends not only on whether a firm’s conduct actually is socially irresponsible, but also on whether the surrounding society judges it as such.
If this statement is true, then, by using “sufficiently shrewd and pervasive marketing”, even firms that consistently misbehave could prevent society from correctly judging their actions as socially irresponsible. In that case, the public would not take the actions described in the argument’s last two sentences, and so these firms could escape the consequences that the argument describes as inevitable.

D/
In simpler terms, this choice says that the worst offenders—that is, the LEAST socially responsible firms—were, for the most part, founded specifically to be viable in the short term only. In other words, these firms were never intended to last in the long run.
The mechanism in the argument (public disapproval) is unaffected by these intentions, so this choice has no effect on the reasoning of the argument. Furthermore, this choice actually supports the conclusion of the argument, by giving another reason why socially irresponsible firms will NOT last beyond the short term.

E/
The argument depends on the idea that the public will “inevitably” act against a firm that it has judged socially irresponsible. In other words, the argument essentially declares that a public judgment of social irresponsibility, once entrenched, is permanent and irreversible.
According to this choice, though, such judgments can be reversed (or can simply ‘expire’ or be forgotten), at least in the case of a firm that re-brands itself dramatically enough. If this is possible, then the consequences described at the end of the argument are no longer “inevitable” and so the argument is called into question.