P O L I T I C A L C S R : D O E S D E M O C R A T I C T H E O R Y O F F E R N E W I N S I G H T S ? ?
Critics of integrated social contract theory argue that there are no universally recognized hypernorms, only standards which differ between cultures and countries. Similarly, echo- ing the positivist position, they argue that law-making and enforcement are essentially national, as there is no global legislature. Hence, both moral and legal authority seem to be lacking at global level. Is it still possible to derive a normative basis for CSR which takes a transnational approach and avoids a presumption of universal norms? Some theorists feel that the answer lies in the views of deliberative democracy held by Jürgen Habermas. Scherer and Palazzo put forward a theory of CSR that envisages the company as a political actor in a globalized society (Scherer and Palazzo, 2007). They point out that globalization is eroding the roles of traditional national governments, while companies are taking on wider roles in society formerly carried out by governments. These roles were highlighted in the section above on corporate citizenship. In this context, companies are becoming part of a wider participative process, also involving civil society and governments.
This deliberative concept of CSR sounds similar to stakeholder dialogue, but its advo- cates point out that it goes beyond stakeholder considerations, based as they are mainly on interests of particular groups. The key to this new concept of CSR lies in the theory of Habermas, for whom the deliberative democratic process itself constitutes ethical discourse and confers legitimacy. Democratic procedure is not merely an expression of political will, but a wider deliberative process (Habermas, 2001: 110). Habermas criticizes traditional views of liberal democracy, which tend to focus on institutions such as elections and take a limited view of citizens’ roles. His view of deliberative democracy derives its legitimacy from the involvement of all groups, so that the corporation becomes a player in this new democratic interaction. A sceptic might ask, however, what assurance is there that the corporation will not continue to behave as a mainly economic actor in exerting its influence through these processes?
Habermas’s thinking has evolved over a long period, and in early works he was rather more pessimistic about democracy than he has been in his later works. In early works, he observed the power of dominant industrial élites that put particular interests above those of the public good (Staats, 2004). His later work sees corporations as embedded in the democratic process, but it could be argued that companies still see themselves as economic actors, and wield corporate power which outweighs civil society voices (Staats, 2004). As we have noted, companies have become adept at utilizing organizations ostensibly grounded in civil society to exert influence over agenda setting in public debate on issues which affect them. As Habermas has himself observed, national cultures and states remain strongly linked to democracy (Habermas, 1999). However, most of the world’s people live in coun- tries where economic and political élites are dominant, even where there are democratic constitutions. And there is little trust in politicians to focus on the public good rather than self-interest (see Chapter 3). A contribution of political CSR is that it stresses the impor- tance of normative legitimacy in business behaviour, but this process-based normative framework looks rather idealistic. Scherer and Palazzo, it could be argued, underestimate the evolving consensus on global standards and international law that this book has high- lighted (see also Chapters 4 and 9). These standards reflect ethical principles which tran- scend cultural differences, with legal support in international law. They perhaps represent a sounder way forward for changing business behaviour in practice.
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Morrison, J. (2010). Business ethics : New challenges in a globalised world. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com Created from nuig on 2019-10-24 02:19:29.
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