Transnational Activism and Corporate Accountability
Chapter 4: Framing the Corporation
4. Framing the corporation A great deal of transnational anti-corporate activism concerns campaigns and public discourses about the quality and reputation of products and producers. Social movement organizations as well as consumer groups and other non-governmental organizations make claims in the public sphere regarding the environmental or ethical qualities of products, the behaviour of companies and the conditions of production. Such claims may be made as part of public deliberation that ultimately expects governmental agencies to introduce appropriate legislation. But they may also be addressed to firms directly. Companies are then expected to react to those claims by offering the right products or changing some aspects of their operations. In the 1970s, Vogel (1978) observed that ‘lobbying the corporation’ – rather than the government – had become an increasingly popular social movement strategy. Today, the more large corporations seem to ‘capture the state’ and ‘rule the world’ (cf. Korten 1995; Monbiot 2000), the more it seems reasonable to address them directly – instead of the supposedly powerless governments. As the notion of corporations as forms of ‘private government’ (Vogel 1975; Macaulay 1986) has gained credibility under conditions of globalization (Cutler et al. 1999), not only scholars but also advocacy groups attribute a great deal of power to large corporations. If activists want to take corporations to task, they need to establish the corporation’s responsibility for alleged wrong-doings. Concerning the effects of production on the natural and social environment, corporate responsibility is often not clear-cut. If the development of cosmetic products involves animal testing,...
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