Corporate moral legitimacy and the legitimacy of morals: A critique of palazzo/Scherer's communicative framework [Book Review]

Journal of Business Ethics 81 (1):27 - 38 (2008)
The article offers a critical assessment of an article on “Corporate Legitimacy as Deliberation” by Guido Palazzo and Andreas Scherer in this journal. We share the concern about the precarious legitimacy of globally active corporations, infringing on the legitimacy of democracy at large. There is no quarrel with Palazzo/Scherer’s diagnosis, which focuses on the consequences of globalization and ensuing challenges for corporate social responsibilities. However, we disagree with the “solutions” offered by them. In a first step we refute the idea of a legitimacy of morals, maintaining that morality is a premodern mode of creating legitimacy. Even worse, moral is becoming a dangerous commodity under conditions of fundamental global disagreements and antagonisms. We secondly refute the concept of the “politicized corporation”, maintaining that Palazzo/Scherer disregard the consequences of functional differentiation of modern societies and, in particular, disregard the wisdom of political restraint and constitutional guarantees for the autonomy of different spheres of society. Finally, we refute a seemingly romantic notion of deliberation, maintaining that deliberation and deliberative democracy is a worthy idea, which, however, has no place in the real world of globalized contexts. On the other hand, we also find enough common ground and common concern with Palazzo/Scherer to validate a fruitful discourse.
Keywords Corporate legitimacy  corporate social responsibility  deliberative democracy  globalization  functional differentiation  global governance  legitimacy of morals  politicized corporation
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