Corporate Social Responsibility and Discursive Control of Corporations

Schaefer, Anja and Preuss, Lutz (2008). Corporate Social Responsibility and Discursive Control of Corporations. In: Academy of Management Conference 2008, 8-13 Aug 2008, Anaheim, California.


In this paper we intend to make a contribution to the social-theoretical grounding of the field of corporate social responsibility (CSR). We follow some recent work in believing that political explanations of CSR have potentially good explanatory power. They do not necessarily contradict an ethical conception of CSR and they seem capable of explaining why it may be strategically sensible for companies to pursue some kind of CSR activities. More precisely, our version of a political approach situates CSR not within the intra-organisational domain of a corporation (where the corporation is assumed to make the key decisions on CSR on either strategic or moral grounds) but rather in an inter-organisational domain, where CSR is discursively co-constructed in a space between corporations, their stakeholders and wider societal trends. We examine the discursive construction of CSR through both a Habermasian approach, based on the notion of discursive rationality, and a Foucaultian approach, based on the notion of dominant discourses and resistance to them. Such a conceptualisation of CSR has the advantage over rival approaches – such as the business case and the social legitimacy thesis of highlighting power structures around CSR, making the question of the voluntary nature of CSR less pressing, and connecting CSR strongly with questions of the socio-political governance of corporations. It can also be considered as a response to the Friedmanite accusation that CSR is built on managerial arbitrariness at the expense of shareholders.

Viewing alternatives

No digital document available to download for this item

Item Actions