Herve Dumez and Julie Bastianutti

Why and How have Corporations become Socially Responsible


Corporate Social Responsibility is defined as behaviours going voluntarily beyond legal obligations. The paper highlights what ‘voluntarily’ and ‘beyond’ mean. The thesis is that corporations are not socially responsible, but made responsible in a field inducing them to go beyond legal obligations. The analysis of US Supreme Court decisions shows how the firm became a right-and-duty bearing unit characterised by an imbalance between extended rights and limited obligations, that prompted the creation of a ‘field of responsibilization’. The field is a social construct characterised by three main dimensions: broader than markets, not directly observable (only its effects are) and a space of potential conflicts. Being in a situation of organizational hypocrisy, firms try to avoid the actualization of conflicts through relational and individual strategies and the shift of boundaries between the legal domain and the field of responsibilization. We aim to produce a synoptic view of CSR bringing together explanations seemingly contradictory and outline a typology of strategic interactions in the field.