Critical Theory and Corporate Social Responsibility

Timothy R. Kuhn and Stanley Deetz

in The Oxford Handbook of Corporate Social Responsibility

Published in print February 2008 | ISBN: 9780199211593
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Business and Management C

Critical Theory and Corporate Social Responsibility

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  • Business and Management
  • Business Strategy
  • Business Ethics



This article examines corporate social responsibility (CSR) from the angle of critical theory. It begins by arguing that values shape corporate decisions in three general ways: managerial choices, routines, and reasoning processes; governmental regulation, incentives, tax structures, and oversight; and consumption choices within market systems. It shows that, alone and jointly, these ‘sites’ are fundamentally weak in their capacity to produce greater CSR in the sense of more diverse values and reasoning processes. Institutionalized power relations, various forms of systematically distorted communication, and ideology provide insight into different weaknesses and pitfalls. This article treats ideology as the presence of values embedded in language, routines, practices, and positions that privilege dominant groups which are difficult to identify, discuss, and assess owing to various covering mechanisms. Following this, it turns to exploring communication systems and practices that can provide for a more sustainable, and democratic, CSR.

Keywords: corporate social responsibility; critical theory; managerial choices; governmental regulation; tax structures

Article.  10030 words. 

Subjects: Business and Management ; Business Strategy ; Business Ethics

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