Csr: Undertheorized or essentially contested?
Academy of Management Review
In the January 2020 Academy of Management Review, associate editors Wang, Gibson, and Zander (hereafter WGZ) posed this question: "Is research on corporate social responsibility undertheorized?" They answered affirmatively, pointing to the field's initial practice orientation and arguing a subsequent lack of "theoretical foundation and coherence" sufficient "to inform practice." We disagree with WGZ on key points concerning the corporate social responsibility (CSR) field. We argue that the field is "essentially contested," not undertheorized. We suggest that the case of CSR raises the larger question of how contesting conceptual interpretations of the literature are created, sustained, and, potentially, reconciled. We characterize and discuss the essentially contesting views of CSR as "instrumental=economic CSR" and "injunctive=social CSR." We believe this characterization and discussion clarifies what exactly is contesting between these views. We note how these contesting views of CSR are generated from differing assumptions and worldviews. We discuss the factors operating in academic fields that tend to support the persistence and defense of such differences in conceptual interpretation. Finally, we offer our approach as a model for scholars to think about other concepts in management science that are also "essentially contested.".
Department of Management
Original Publication Date
DOI of published version
UNI ScholarWorks, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa
MITNICK, BARRY M.; WINDSOR, DUANE; and WOOD, DONNA J., "Csr: Undertheorized or essentially contested?" (2021). Faculty Publications. 50.