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Contextualizing Corporate Political Responsibilities: Neoliberal CSR in Historical Perspective

Abstract : This article provides a historical analysis of the political role of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) before it was even called CSR. We describe two ideal types of political responsibilities during the eras of 19th century paternalism in Europe and corporate trusteeship in the US. Our historical contextualization of recent scholarly work on a “political turn” of CSR offers a two-pronged critique: 1. Growing discussions on political CSR start from a problematic foundation that does not hold in historical perspective – the taken-for-granted null hypothesis of a separation between business and state responsibilities. 2. The causal relationship of a political turn of CSR with globalization is misconceived and we show strong forms of political CSR well before our contemporary neoliberal globalization. We suggest that business and political responsibilities are structurally and have always been intimately intertwined and are constantly negotiated and re-negotiated. We propose this as an alternative null hypothesis, one that could frame future theorizing on political CSR. Finally, while we show that globalization is not the cause of political CSR, we suggest that it has nevertheless had a consequential impact, shaping the specificities of the contemporary political role of business. We conclude by drawing implications for future theorizing on (political) CSR and stakeholder democracy.
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Submitted on : Thursday, May 14, 2020 - 6:02:34 PM
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Marie-Laure Salles-Djelic, Helen Etchanchu. Contextualizing Corporate Political Responsibilities: Neoliberal CSR in Historical Perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 2015, 131 (2), pp.1 - 21. ⟨10.1007/s10551-015-2879-7⟩. ⟨hal-01891961v2⟩



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