Faculty Publications

Title

Csr: Undertheorized or essentially contested?

Document Type

Article

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Academy of Management Review

Volume

46

Issue

3

First Page

623

Abstract

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

Department of Management

Original Publication Date

7-1-2021

DOI of published version

10.5465/amr.2020.0239

Repository

UNI ScholarWorks, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa

Language

en

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