Politicising government engagement with corporate social responsibility: “CSR” as an empty signifier

Zueva, Anna and Fairbrass, Jenny ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5292-0720 (2021) Politicising government engagement with corporate social responsibility: “CSR” as an empty signifier. Journal of Business Ethics, 170 (4). 635–655. ISSN 0167-4544

[thumbnail of Published_Version]
PDF (Published_Version) - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (840kB) | Preview


Governments are widely viewed by academics and practitioners (and society more generally) as the key societal actors who are capable of compelling businesses to practice corporate social responsibility (CSR). Arguably, such government involvement could be seen as a technocratic device for encouraging ethical business behaviour. In this paper, we offer a more politicised interpretation of government engagement with CSR where “CSR” is not a desired form of business conduct but an element of discourse that governments can deploy in structuring their relationships with other social actors. We build our argument through a historical analysis of government CSR discourse in the Russian Federation. Laclau and Mouffe's (Hegemony and socialist strategy: Towards a radical democratic politics,Verso Books, London, 1985) social theory of hegemony underpins our research. We find that “CSR” in the Russian government’s discourse served to legitimise its power over large businesses. Using this case, we contribute to wider academic debates by providing fresh empirical evidence that allows the development of critical evaluation tools in relation to governments’ engagement with “CSR”. We find that governments are capable of hijacking CSR for their own self-interested gain. We close the paper by reflecting on the merit of exploring the case of the Russian Federation. As a “non-core”, non-western exemplar, it provides a useful “mirror” with which to reflect on the more widely used test-bed of Western industrial democracies when scrutinising CSR. Based on our findings, we invite other scholars to adopt a more critical, politicised stance when researching the role of governments in relation to CSR in other parts of the world.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: corporate social responsibility,empty signifier,government,hegemony,russian federation,business and international management,business, management and accounting(all),arts and humanities (miscellaneous),economics and econometrics,law,sdg 12 - responsible consumption and production ,/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/1400/1403
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > Norwich Business School
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Social Sciences > Research Centres > Centre for Competition Policy
Faculty of Social Sciences > Research Groups > Responsible Business Regulation Group
University of East Anglia Schools > Faculty of Science > Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research
Faculty of Science > Research Centres > Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research
Related URLs:
Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 21 Oct 2019 10:30
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2023 00:11
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/72722
DOI: 10.1007/s10551-019-04330-5


Downloads per month over past year

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item