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Review of Who Fills the Global Governance Gap? Rethinking the Roles of Business and Government in Global Governance by Burkard Eberlein

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Political CSR has made great strides towards a better appreciation of the political involvement of corporations in global governance. However, its portrayal of the shifting balance between business and government in the globalized economy rests on a central, yet largely uncontested, assumption: that of a zero-sum constellation of substitution in which firms take on public responsibilities to fill governance gaps left by governments. This conceptual paper expands the political CSR perspective and makes three contributions to the debate on the political role of business and the role of government in global governance.

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Te political role of corporations has attracted scholarly attention in several disciplines, including political science, organizational and management studies, sociology, law, and economics. Tese literatures are interested in similar phenomena (including corporate political strategies and the political impacts of business mobilization). Yet, there are striking diferences between their normative premises, conceptual repertoires, and methodological toolboxes. While an integration of these perspectives is a long-term endeavor, our aim here is to provide an example of a promising avenue to cross-pollinate diferent streams of literature dealing with the role of corporations in politics. We do so by using concepts and methods developed by Volker Schneider, whose work has advanced the policy networks literature over the past three decades and shaped the research community’s understanding of the role of business in politics by studying these phenomena from a network perspective

Political science has developed a variety of theoretical perspectives and approaches to conceptualize and understand the political role of business. Te theoretical debate between pluralists like Dahl and elitists like Bachrach and Baratz revolved around the questions what power is, how it is exerted, and how politically powerful the business sector is in capitalist democracies.

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We hold that current theorizing on the firm in the corporate social responsibility (CSR.literature has not yet sufficiently integrated this new political role of private business. Instead, many conceptions of CSR build on the dominant economic paradigm which advocates a strict separation of political and economic domains (Sundaram and Inkpen, 2004) and a purely instrumental view of corporate politics. There are some recent studies in business ethics and CSR research that provide an alternative to the economic view. However, these studies have to date neither been integrated into a coherent paradigmatic perspective, nor have they been linked to helpful conceptual ideas in adjacent disciplines, such as political theory, international relations, and legal studies, where the political role of private actors in global governance has already been discussed intensively

Our aim therefore is to review the recent business ethics and CSR literature in the context of the research on globalization done within and across other social sciences. Examining how recent debates in CSR reflect upon the consequences of globalization, we propose a new perspective of what we call ‘political CSR’. In a nutshell, political CSR suggests an extended model of governance with business firms contributing to global regulation and providing public goods. It goes beyond the instrumental view on politics in order to develop a new understanding of global politics where private actors such as corporations and civil society organizations play an active role in the democratic regulation and control of market transactions. These insights may enrich the theory of the firm with a more balanced view on political and economic responsibilities in a globalized world.

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In summary, political CSR has made great strides towards a better appreciation of the political involvement of corporations in global governance. However, its portrayal of the shifting balance between business and government in the globalized economy rests on a central, yet largely uncontested, assumption: that of a zero-sum constellation of substitution in which firms take on public responsibilities to fill governance gaps left by governments. This conceptual paper expands the political CSR perspective and makes three contributions to the debate on the political role of business and the role of government in global governance. The mapping identifies ‘soft steering’ as a prominent mode of governments governing business conduct

It identifies the mechanisms through which orchestration may address the barriers to corporate engagement with the public good and applies these mechanisms to the case of the Global Reporting Initiative.

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Sundaram, A. K. and Inkpen, A. C. (2004). ‘The corporate objective revisited’. Organization Science, 15, 350–63.

Taylor, K. M. (2004). ‘Thicker than blood: holding Exxon Mobil liable for human rights violations committed abroad’. Syracuse Journal of International Law and Commerce, 31, 274–97.

Swanson, D. L. (1999). ‘Toward an integrative theory of business and society: a research strategy for corporate social performance’. Academy of Management Review, 24, 506–21.

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