Journal Article

‘Free us up so we can be responsible!’ The co-evolution of Corporate Social Responsibility and neo-liberalism in the UK, 1977–2010

Daniel Kinderman

in Socio-Economic Review

Published on behalf of Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics

Volume 10, issue 1, pages 29-57
Published in print January 2012 | ISSN: 1475-1461
Published online November 2011 | e-ISSN: 1475-147X | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ser/mwr028
‘Free us up so we can be responsible!’ The co-evolution of Corporate Social Responsibility and neo-liberalism in the UK, 1977–2010

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  • Moral Philosophy
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This article challenges the notion that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is incompatible with neo-liberalism. It argues that CSR is not a countervailing force that follows neo-liberal market exposure. Instead of re-embedding global liberalism, CSR complements liberalization and substitutes for institutionalized social solidarity. Evidence from the UK, one of the world's leading jurisdictions for responsible business, supports these claims. In Britain during the past 30 years, neo-liberalism and CSR have co-evolved. CSR has been a quid pro quo for lighter regulation; it has compensated for some of the social dislocations that result from unfettering markets, thereby legitimating business during the ‘unleashing’ of capitalism, and it appeals to moral sensibilities, justifying and legitimating business leaders in a way that instrumental rationality alone cannot. The paper draws on original sources to shed light on the origins and growth of Business in the Community, one of the world's leading business-led CSR coalitions, since the 1970s.

Keywords: capitalism; corporate social responsibility; ethics; history; neo-liberalism; United Kingdom; A13 relation of economics to social values; M14 corporate culture; social responsibility; P16 political economy

Journal Article.  11001 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Moral Philosophy ; Corporate Social Responsibility ; Welfare Economics ; Political Economy ; Economic Sociology

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