Political Responsibilities of the Multinational Corporation: A Study of Political Corporate Social Responsibility

Tara Kristina Miller

Student thesis: Master thesis


Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has received considerable renewed attention in the last two decades. With economic globalisation intensifying the negative consequences of international business due to an inadequate global regulatory framework, pressures of increasing societal expectations and changing conditions of legitimacy has led many multinational corporations to increase CSR efforts and engage in global business regulation and the provision of global public goods. But as these non-state actors enter the political arena of global governance, the roles and responsibilities of multinational corporations vis-à-vis those of governments become blurred. Recognising these changes, a new political perspective of CSR has recently been put forward by Andreas Scherer and Guido Palazzo in their concept of political corporate social responsibility. The overall purpose of this thesis is thus to critically explore and assess to what extent current understandings and arguments support the case for a political perspective of CSR. As an exploratory and descriptive study, it strives to identify the key debates with regard to political CSR in the current academic literature, with particular examination of the arguments of its primary advocates and opponents. It also seeks to describe how and under which conditions, the phenomenon of politically engaged multinational corporations has developed as well as attempt to identify and draw attention to its meanings and potential implications for both theory and society. The thesis finds that there is indeed a valid and relevant discourse emerging that strengthens the case for political CSR as a political perspective of corporate social responsibility. More specifically, the thesis identifies the theoretical developments of the field of CSR and the political developments linked to globalisation that have lead to the relevance of the concept of political CSR. Through an extensive theoretical exploration of political CSR and other relevant understandings, the thesis finds supportive arguments for acknowledging a new political role of the multinational corporation as it engages in areas that are traditionally the role of government. Additionally, it demonstrates how and why the corporation may be assigned political responsibility and suggests areas in which a political responsibility could be practiced. Evaluating the problems and potentials of political CSR and its relation to traditional concepts of CSR, the findings suggest that circumventing the problem of democratic accountability, political CSR works well as a conceptual extension to what constitutes corporate (social) responsibility. This thesis thus contributes to several current research agendas within corporate social responsibility, including furthering its conceptual scope, its societal analysis and wider normative issues in an increasingly global and political context as well as pointing to new research agendas regarding the political perspective of CSR.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2013
Number of pages92