‘Institutionalist stances on CSR’ – seminar held at the Paris Institute of Political Studies

To download: presentation RSE Sciences Po

Pierre-Yves Gomez staged discussion under the topic: “CSR seeks an even keel: the catch between economic rationalization and radical approaches

“… CSR is often framed at the crossover between the economic boundaries of business firms and the political boundaries of the society encompassing them. This assertion is in itself problematic, as it assumes one strictly economic sphere supposed apolitical, and another political sphere supposed non-economic. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can be seen as a sort of border membrane between the two, filtering out what the firm is and is not expected to take on board.
I am not referring to the complex and ultimately intractable issue of the boundaries of the firm – a question that reveals the extent to which the production process itself is not localized to any sphere that can be comfortably confined to a clearly-boundaried firm; it now extends well beyond into a virtually impenetrable web of contracts and mutual agreements, even leading to co-dependent technology pathways spawning inter-firm communities encompassing far more than the firms’ respective marketplaces. Any discussion as to the responsibility of a company is therefore already treading delicate ground. However, the substance of what I’m here to discuss lies elsewhere.
I am referring to the more radical issue of the boundaries of enterprise, boundaries meshing both the economic and political spheres. With Polanyi, and backed by a vibrant tradition solidly footed in economic science, this boundary is accepted as an ideological construct, its silhouette shifting with power relationships to force through – and the term is appropriate – a vision encompassing not only the power dynamics of the production system but the broader scope of the actors legitimately ready to govern people by leveraging these production-based power dynamics.
Within this framework, ‘managerial practices’ are purposed towards rationalizing both the power dynamics of economic production and the principles underpinning corporate governance, homothetically remodelling them to fit the same overarching conception of performance. This is the CSR model endorsed and highlighted in management systems research. I begin by surfacing the necessarily economics-driven understructures rationalizing CSR, as based on the evidence available in the management literature (1). I then move on to deliver a more personal analysis of CSR grounded in my own theory of the radical firm, which leads me to show how far CSR should be framed not as a social construct raised against the firm but as a social construct raised by the firm, making it a societal building block (2). We conclude by critically analyzing the significance of the contemporary revival in CSR: what particular crisis in the power relationships between politics and economics does CSR fit so closely that it became necessary to recontour the boundaries of enterprise, and just how does this boundary shift enable firms to step into a more dynamic regulatory role (3)…”
 [end of the excerpt. A paper will be published based on this lecture].