Business and Society 56 (4):527-544 (2017)

The role of governments in business and society research remains underexplored. The generally accepted principle of voluntarism, which frames responsible business conduct as an unregulated subject under managerial discretion, accounts for this gap. Paradoxically, there are sufficient acknowledgments in academia and practice on different roles of governments. The present article identifies three broad topics for research, addressing the paradox between the principle of voluntarism and the role of governments in B&S, the boundaries of governments and business in their contribution to B&S issues, and the mechanisms of government intervention that affect corporate social performance. The authors approach the first topic with a literature review of 703 articles marked with the term “government” from five journals in the field between 1982 and 2011. This study indicates that the principle of voluntarism remains, despite the broad variety of research related to the role of government in B&S. In addition, the identified content provides deeper insight into the mechanisms of government intervention and on the boundaries of governments in the B&S discourse. This article then provides a summary of the other three research articles included in this special research forum, with a contribution oriented toward the latter two research avenues posited.
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DOI 10.1177/0007650315586179
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