Business and Society Review 118 (2):171-192 (2013)

This article draws attention to the origins, forms, and implications of “toxic discourse” as a genre central to the understanding of the public sphere in business in society. Rachel Carson's Silent Spring is used as a pivotal cultural document establishing “toxic discourse” as an ongoing form of moral narrative rooted in the rationality of counterpublics. Toxic discourse is framed within a center/periphery model in which toxic discourse gains salience in periods of economic dislocation and uncertainty. In these periods, toxic discourse draws together those on the periphery or counterpublics who otherwise would not unite in their opposition to the center. The article critically examines how stakeholder theory, despite making sense of the public sphere for agents of organizations, glosses counterpublics and relegates toxic discourse, as evident in the “Occupy Movement,” to the ephemeral role of temporary, disruptive protest groups with very little of substance to communicate
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DOI 10.1111/basr.12007
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