Handbook of Research on Global Corporate Citizenship
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Handbook of Research on Global Corporate Citizenship

Edited by Andreas Georg Scherer and Guido Palazzo

The Handbook of Research on Global Corporate Citizenship identifies and fosters key interdisciplinary research on corporate citizenship and provides a framework for further academic debate on corporate responsibility in a global society.
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Chapter 24: The Corporation as a Political Actor? A Systems Theory Perspective

Helmut Willke and Gerhard Willke


Helmut Willke and Gerhard Willke Introduction The concept of corporate citizenship (CC) has been proposed by some strands of the consulting and management literature and has been picked up eagerly by corporations as a preemptive strategy to cope with allegedly ‘societal’ demands for expanding the ‘social role’ of business. The third group of actors in this mésallance are social scientists who in retrospect discover a presumably new ‘corporate social responsibility’ (CSR) and its derivatives, including a ‘political’ role of the corporation. To some degree this reinventing the past is baffling. Since the days of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Locke, John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx, ‘political economy’ has been a central part of economic and political theorizing. Reflecting on the political roles and implications of business is as old as business itself, and it certainly is a valid and legitimate endeavor aimed at clarifying the relationship between economy and politics. So there is little new in discussing the political role, implications and consequences of business, and it is equally obvious that there can be no definite answer to the problem of the relationship between economy and politics in general and to the problem of social or political responsibilities of corporations in particular. Each historical epoch will have to find its own answers according to the specifics of its constellation, its opportunities and its risks. Looking at various conceptualizations of the problématique of political economy we find two ideal-type solutions. On the one hand – this is Marx’s...

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