Oh, broder, hvor er du? Et speciale om ’Corporate Social Responsibility’ konceptets kristne arv

Kristian Quistgaard Steensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis sets out to explore how and with which consequences Capitalism’s institutionalization of CSR extends specific Christian rationalities into our modern western societies. Based on an analytical approach inspired by Foucault’s genealogy and archaeology and Koselleck’s historical time and concepts of movement, the thesis focuses on three central historical points of impact. The first point of impact focuses on the postmillennial Social Gospel Movement’s influence on a transitional phase in the United States from 1870-1920 where the challenges of the American society in the wake of the industrial revolution were thoroughly discussed. It is analyzed how a specific discursive field of possibilities emerges from this discussion. A field, which renders probable statements that constitute the ideal industrial system as one based on Christian values such as love, brotherhood, and cooperation and further ascribes the realization of this system to the mutually reinforcing relation between individuality and sociality and the predestined progress inscribed in history by God. The second point of impact examines how contemporary industrialists rearticulate these rationales. Thus both Taylor, through his principals of scientific management, and Ford, through his industrial philosophy, echoes the Social Gospel Movement. They each form a local discourse regarding industrial efficiency by extending Christian values such as cooperation and the importance of service compared to profits. Finally, the third point of impact examines how CSR transpired as a widely distributed business practice in the United States from 1950-1980. Based on this archeological incision it is concluded that CSR extends Christian rationalities as it is formed by and refers to a discursive field of possibilities, which is demarcated and permeated by some of the same rationales that conditioned the regularity in the Social Gospel Movement, Taylor, and Ford’s statements: The promotion of the individual’s self-realization; the emphasis on a mutually reinforcing relationship between the individual and the social, and the belief that history is predestined to progress. Further, it is concluded that these rationales are mixed with new rationales through the emergence of CSR such as the conviction that business’ generation of profits should not be considered as egoism as it mutually reinforces social interest. Accordingly, the thesis argues that the institutionalization of CSR is a manifestation of a displacement of capitalism, as a reaction to an increasing social and aesthetical critique. A displacement, which entails the inclusion of a reference to a postmillennial, protestant ethic that mutually reinforces capitalism’s reference to a Calvinist, protestant ethic – as found in Weber’s famous analysis. Thus the thesis questions the CSR research, which places the concept on a scale between ego- and altruism, since the mix and constructive interaction between these two principals is to be understood as a condition of possibility for the prevalence and popularity of CSR.

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Managment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2017
Number of pages81
SupervisorsKaspar Villadsen