Reconstructing the corporate social responsibility construct in Utlish

Business Ethics: A European Review 16 (1):3-18 (2007)
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Abstract

The charged debate on the ‘C‐S‐R‐ization’ of organizational practices seems to have produced two opposing and seemingly incompatible explanations for why organizations should engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR): one, the normative rationale based on an appeal to ethics; and the other, the instrumental rationale, based on an appeal to business pragmatism. This paper argues that a missing link in this debate is the failure to recognize that the normative and instrumental approaches to corporate social responsibility are underpinned by substantively, differentiating, relative logics of emotional rationalism on the one hand, and instrumental rationalism on the other. The paper makes a case that for CSR as a management practice to be practicable and actionable within a sustainable business agenda, it will need to be stripped of its current normative undertone and reconstructed in the instrumentally, pragmatic (utlish) language of business. Otherwise, the whole concept of CSR may continue to dwell in the realm of abstract theorizing without yielding many beneficial and practicable outcomes. The paper concludes that such an approach that situates CSR within a pragmatic business lingua, rather than a non‐business lingua, will help in legitimizing CSR as a ‘neutral’ management practice.

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