“Project to Become a UN Case Study”. Myth and Excitement in the Creation of the Global Idea of CSR

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Seminar 31 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Deniz SEEBACHER, University of Vienna, Austria
Today’s business corporations, in their push to take the lead in social issues, claim to compensate for political misconduct and step in where needed. Through collaboration with other societal actors, they claim a powerful role in defining societal responsibilities. In creating new relationships between political, corporate and civil society actors, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) shapes ideas of contemporary society by renegotiating what responsibility, fairness and wellbeing stands for. As a highly institutionalized concept CSR has been studied as a case of moral transformation in which existing moral dilemmas and concerns are moved into a new moral field with its own particular configuration of values. (e.g. Rajak 2011, Dolan and Johnstone-Louis 2011). Anthropological studies about CSR mostly agree that the notion of CSR is strongly rooted in neo-liberal political ideas and built on western conceptions of human rights, progress, development, and sustainability (Garsten and Jacobsson 2013, 429).  However, it is not only the global conception of CSR that influences local practices and implementations, it is also the local that informs back to the global policy making.

This paper draws on data from my ongoing ethnographic PhD research in a Turkish holding company, which is an active participant in several global networks, like UN Global Compact, where global policies and standards are defined. Constantly being present as a best-practice company in international network meetings and media, the company itself actively contributes to the creation of global knowledge and a hegemonic idea of CSR. As a participant observer, following Røyrvik (2011), I will provide a cultural analysis of contemporary practices of creating such global hegemonic knowledge where the frame of reference is the global. As this case study shows, creating myth and excitement about the global are important practices in generating global knowledge and legitimating local practices.