Political Corporate Social Responsbility

Within the business ethics and business and society literatures for example, the belief that ‘globalization’ has increased the power of MNCs, and concomitantly decreased the power of states, has informed a body of work that normatively prescribes, and positively describes and explains, the political duties and activities of MNCs. This specific literature—which includes writings on “extended corporate citizenship” (Matten & Crane, 2005), the “political conception of corporate responsibility” (Scherer & Palazzo, 2007), and “corporations as government” (Crane, Matten & Moon, 2008: chaps. 3,4, 8)—is here referred to as the ‘political’ perspective of corporate social responsibility (CSR), or ‘Political’ CSR for short.

(Whelan, 2012:.709)

and he goes on to give three specific differences

‘Political’ CSR Literature differs from various other perspectives with broadly similar concerns. First, it differs from current understandings of stakeholder theory due to it suggesting that MNCs should engage in tasks that go beyond their strategic objectives and/or the creation of value for their stakeholder networks (Noland & Phillips, 2010: 44-48). Second, it differs from ‘instrumental’ understandings of CSR  (e.g., McWilliams & Siegel, 2001) and corporate political activity (e.g., Bonardi, Hillman & Keim, 2005) by suggesting that MNC decision making should not be solely guided by shareholder interests (Matten & Crane, 2005: 168; Scherer & Palazzo, 2007: 1098-1103). And third, it differs from ‘monological’ business ethics theories (e.g., Bowie, 1999; Donaldson & Dunfee, 1994) by prioritizing “democracy to philosophy,” a la Rorty (1991) (Scherer & Palazzo, 2010: 906), and suggesting that MNC decision making should be “embedded in democratic mechanisms of discourse, transparency, and accountability” (Scherer & Palazzo, 2007: 1110; cf. Crane et al., 2008: 84-85; Matten & Crane, 2005: 176).
(Whelan, 2012:.712)


Whelan, G. (2012). The political perspective of corporate social responsibility: a critical research agenda. Business Ethics Quarterly, 22, pp. 709–737.

see also

Whelan, G. (2013). Political corporate social responsibility: some clarifications. Business Ethics Journal Review, 1, pp. 63–68.

See also Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Habermasian political CSR, Rawlsian political CSR, new political CSR

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