Towards an Understanding of Social Responsibility Within the Church of England

Journal of Business Ethics 149 (3):535-560 (2018)


This research explores the interplay of individual, organisational and institutional variables that produce the current pattern of social responsibility practices within a specific religious organisation, namely the Church of England. By combining elements primarily of neo-institutional theory with Bourdieu’s theory of practice, we construct a theoretical framework to examine the extent to which social responsibility activity is modified or informed by a distinctive faith perspective. Given that neo-institutional theory predicts a convergence of structures and practices between different organisations operating in the same institutional sector, this research draws on a single case study focusing on social responsibility activity in six different Church of England dioceses and shows that the opposite is actually the case: there is evidence of a significant degree of divergence in terms of organisational practice within the same institutional structure. Reasons for that were found to be the impact of human agency and loose institutional structures. This paper thus contributes to the understanding of social responsibility in religious organisations by exploring the dynamics between institutional pressures, organisational context and individual agents operating in the field of faith-based social responsibility. It thereby also contributes to neo-institutional theory.

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