Bound to shop: corporate social responsibility and the market

Moncrieff, Lilian M. (2011) Bound to shop: corporate social responsibility and the market. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The social and environmental responsibility of corporations is a subject that continues to ignite public passions. No wonder, given the regular reminders of the kinds of trouble that irresponsible business practice can get society in! The persistence of corporate social responsibility in this context has proved controversial. A strategy for managing the social and environmental responsibility of business that relies on self-regulation, CSR is a concept that strikes an uncomfortable chord with the already high levels of corporate autonomy. Yet, there seems to be no shifting from CSR. The activist shopping, of which it boasts, has ingratiated itself with democratic politics and, as such, seems set to remain. Everyone today agrees on the need for business to be more responsible. CSR is an important part of how this responsibility is managed and organised today.

This thesis analyses this entrenchment of CSR in terms of what it describes as ‘the double play.’ Markets first make demands on people, time and resources, in order to secure productivity and profitability. They then make a second play to service the social and environmental fall-out of this first drive for marketisation. CSR takes place on this second play, deploying market incentives and techniques to the remedy of market generated problems.
Corporations participate, drawn to the security accorded their autonomy. They see in CSR a chance to right wrongs created in earlier cycles of exchange, without the risks created by external interference. The public engage where, as the ultimate source of economic demand, they feel the responsibility for everything that goes on in the market. They try to ‘shop better’ on the second wave, to instil recovery and prevent the rematerialisation of harm.

This thesis problematises CSR and the double play. It does so in a series of critical provocations directed at CSR informed by the philosophy of Jean Baudrillard. It discusses CSR’s capacity to politically disempower public participants, by drawing their energies into a perpetual cycle of economic imperialism and exchange. It discusses the difficulty CSR creates, in terms of raising conflict with business actors, and the tendency for the system to leave inert, or exposed and abandoned, those that try. Finally, the thesis pushes up against an ultimatum in CSR – ‘buy, or people perish!’ – through which the market is able to indefinitely extend and regenerate itself. The thesis argues for the disengagement of this ultimatum. For only when social and environmental concern is not held hostage to the market can the political ambition, which is somewhere present in all of this, be realised.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: corporate social responsibility, markets, company law, Baudrillard, inclusion/exclusion, consumerism, critical political economy.
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Law
Supervisor's Name: Veitch, Professor Scott
Date of Award: 2011
Depositing User: Ms Lilian Moncrieff
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-2315
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Jan 2011
Last Modified: 15 Oct 2014 09:59

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