In this article we argue that an analytics of governmentality has an important contribution to make to the study of governmental approaches to corporate social responsibility (CSR). Looking at developments within the EU, we see government emerging as an enabling and empowering facilitator that a) promotes a strategic understanding of CSR as a lever for economic competitiveness and growth and b) disregards regulatory measures in favour of liberal and indirect means of steering. We argue that the analytical vocabulary of governmentality makes it possible to address and problematize the indirect modes of power and governing that are prevalent in governmental approaches to CSR in general and in neoliberal modes of CSR governance in particular. Using EU and member states policy developments as an empirical backdrop, we provide a conceptual exploration of the prospects of applying governmentality to the study of the changing roles of government in CSR. We position our contribution within the critical literature on CSR as a political phenomenon.