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The New Political Role of Business in a Globalized World—A Review of a New Perspective on CSR and Its Implications for the Firm, Governance, and Democracy

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Abstract

Scholars in management and economics widely share the assumption that business firms focus on profits only, while it is the task of the state system to provide public goods. In particular, it is the state’s mandate to regulate the economy in such a way that business activities contribute to the common good. In this view business firms are conceived of as economic actors, and governments and their state agencies are considered the only political actors. We suggest that, under the conditions of globalization, the strict division of labor between private business and nation state governance does not hold any more. Many business firms have started to assume social and political responsibilities that go beyond legal requirements and fill the regulatory vacuum in global governance. Our review of the literature shows that there are a growing number of publications from various disciplines that propose a politicized concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR). We consider the implications of this new perspective for theorizing about the business firm, governance, and democracy.

Notes:

Unedited version of a paper that was originally published in the Journal of Management Studies Vol. 48 (2011), pp. 899–931. We thank JMS general editor Joep Cornelissen and the licensed content publisher Wiley and Sons for permission to reprint this paper. License granted via Copyright Clearence Center.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In our paper we use the term “corporate social responsibility (CSR)” as an umbrella term for the debate on the role of business in society. In the literature there are various concepts that we consider part of the CSR field: e. g., business ethics, business & society, corporate accountability, corporate citizenship, corporate sustainability, critical management studies, stakeholder theory, etc.

  2. 2.

    This applies to nations grounded in a common history, culture, and language of its people, inherited from generation to generation without a defining starting point (such as France or Germany). In other cases the national identity is not primarily grounded in a common history and language but in a strong sense of community and solidarity in the face of a common opponent, and is expressed in a decisive act of its founding fathers, often materialized in a document such as the declaration of independence of the US or the Bundesbrief of Switzerland.

  3. 3.

    See e. g. the “ethical responsibility theory” of CSR and the “ideal citizenship” conception in Windsor’s (2006) review or the “ethical theories” and “integrative theories” in Garriga and Melé’s ([85] 2004) review paper.

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Acknowledgements

We thank two General Editors of the Journal of Management Studies for their very helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. During the completion of this paper we have further benefited from comments by Jean Boddewyn, Stanley Deetz, Michelle Greenwood, Nien-he Hsieh, Steve Kobrin, Dirk Matten, Andreas Rasche, Michael A. Santoro, Horst Steinmann, and from discussions in the research seminars at Baruch College (CUNY), IESE, INSEAD, Rotterdam School of Management, Stern School (NYU), and the Wharton School. We thank Ann Nelson (Zurich) for her help with the English language. Our research project is partly supported by the Swiss Network of International Studies (SNIS). Both authors contributed equally.

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Scherer, A., Palazzo, G. (2012). The New Political Role of Business in a Globalized World—A Review of a New Perspective on CSR and Its Implications for the Firm, Governance, and Democracy. In: Corsten, H., Roth, S. (eds) Nachhaltigkeit. Gabler Verlag, Wiesbaden. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-8349-3746-9_2

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