Business Responsibility for Human Rights Violations from a Theoretical Perspective: Towards a Moral Division of Labour

  • Aurora Voiculescu
Part of the Ethical Economy book series (SEEP, volume 51)


In the past decades, principles of corporate conduct, reflecting human rights responsibilities and obligations have been put forward through a multitude of business ethics and compliance programmes as well as through key international guiding instruments and, lately, domestic legislation. Civil society agencies, domestic and international organisations, scholars, business actors, have all contributed to shaping the discourse of corporate social responsibility (CSR), aiming to inform the ‘business and human rights’ (BHR) platform. The resulting BHR normative discourse appears, however, to be built on loose premises and foggy concepts. An account of the theoretical underpinnings of the encounter between the human rights normative discourse and the business full of conceptual pitfalls. This paper advances a number of essential reflections related to the weak or under-acknowledged theoretical and sociological foundations upon which the BHR discourse can be said to ultimately rely. It looks, from a variety of conceptual perspectives, into the rationale of organizational responsibility and into the way in which this may connect to the human rights normative discourse. Building upon the deconstruction and analysis of the foundation of social agenthood, this analysis focuses on the way different theories – methodological individualism, the structural restraint and structural pragmatism perspectives, structural functionalism – have acknowledged collective social agency, and assesses the impact each of these theories could have on the proposed nexus between business and human rights. The aim of the analysis is to identify key theoretical underpinnings stemming from which the connection between organisational agency and organisational responsibility can provide the BHR discourse with coherence and consistency.


Corporate Social Responsibility Moral Responsibility Formal Organisation Corporate Responsibility Collective Agent 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WestminsterLondonUK

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