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The 23rd EGOS Colloquium 2007  

General Theme


Postdoctoral pre-colloquium workshop

PhD pre-colloquium workshop

Roland Calori Prize

EGOS Best Paper Award
EGOS Best Student Paper Award

Colloquium program

Sub-theme programs

Panel discussions


Organizational details

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Sub-theme 16:
Slippery dance floors: The changing role and responsibility of business in a global society



Guido Palazzo, University of Lausanne (Switzerland)

Andreas Georg Scherer, University of Zurich (Switzerland)

Gary R. Weaver, University of Delaware/Newark (USA)

Dirk Matten, Royal Holloway University of London (UK)

 Call for papers

Economic activities require the existence of rules and their enforcement as preconditions that the market cannot generate itself. Current theorizing on corporate social responsibility (CSR) builds on the assumption of an intact regulatory environment, where national legislation and the values of social communities clearly prescribe appropriate business behavior. To borrow a metaphor from the general theme of the EGOS 2007 conference, national societies can be regarded as the "dance instructors" who set and enforce the rules on the "dance floor" of economic exchange. However, the pluralization of modern society (understood as the threefold process of individualization, the devaluation of tradition, and the globalization of society) results in a loss of cultural homogeneity and erodes the national context of governance. Therefore, synchronizing corporate behavior and societal demands by a quiet isomorphic adaptation to the rules of the game on the dance floor no longer works.

Navigating on increasingly slippery dance floors, some multinational corporations have started to restructure their role from simply following the rules to creating the rules of the economic game. Anecdotal evidence shows that some corporations have already assumed responsibilities that once were regarded as belonging to government. They engage in public health, education, social security, and protection of human rights while operating in countries with repressive regimes. They address social ills such as AIDS, malnutrition, homelessness, and illiteracy. They engage in self-regulation to fill global gaps in legal regulation and to promote societal peace and stability. Some corporations do not simply comply with societal standards in legal and moral terms; they engage in discourses that aim at setting or redefining those standards in a changing, globalizing world. Those activities go beyond the mainstream understanding of stakeholder responsibility and corporate social responsibility. Globalizing society erodes established ideas about the division of labor between the political and economic spheres and calls for a fresh view concerning the role of business in society. These phenomena need to be embedded in a new concept of the business firm as an economic and political actor in market societies.

The task for this workshop is to discuss the consequences of the social and political mandate of the corporation and to examine the implications for the theory of the firm. The proposed workshop therefore seeks to identify and foster emerging research streams relevant to organization studies, and to provide a framework for academic debate on the role of business in a global society.

We would like to see the workshop group advance the discussion in two main directions that address the philosophical, theoretical, and practical domains:

Theoretical concepts of political CSR

Papers here might address questions such as the following:

  • What does corporate social responsibility mean in a post-national world?

  • Do companies have a political responsibility and if so how can it be defined?

  • What are the consequences of a political conception of corporate social responsibility for the mainstream theory of the firm? Do we need a new theory of the firm?

  • What does the future of democratic governance look like and what is the corporate role therein? How can the activities of companies be democratically controlled? What are the problems caused by political strategies and political lobbying on the part of corporations?

  • What social standards will be acceptable in a global context?

  • What are the future trends in corporate accountability, corporate reporting, corporate transparency, and corporate governance?

Implications for organization theory building

  • Possible topics might include (but are not restricted to) the following:

  • What are the consequences of globalization for institutional theories of organizational legitimacy?

  • What can be learned from the emerging forms of cooperation between multinationals and NGOs (e.g. the Forest Stewardship Council)?

  • What is the role of leadership in this new societal context?

  • What internal consequences are produced by the responsibility toward external constituencies? Which organizational structures support the new role of business?

  • What boundary spanning activities are required to improve the corporate understanding of the changing context of decision-making?

  • How do corporations try to deal with their enlarged role? What best practices have evolved?

  • How can internal mechanisms of sense-making be adapted to the changing context?

We invite both theoretical and empirical contributions that help us to better understand global corporate responsibility. Papers that argue across the potentially relevant disciplines (organization studies, business ethics & CSR, legal studies, political theory, etc.) would be particularly welcome.

EGOS has a long tradition of providing a forum for exchange and discussion rather than presentation of papers only. Therefore, the conference is organized in workshop form, which implies that every participant spends the conference in the subgroup where his/her paper is presented. Half the time is dedicated to paper presentation while the other half is free for discussion within the group. Therefore it is also a prerequisite that participants of the subgroup are familiar with all papers presented. The papers will be accessible on the conference website one month in advance. This workshop format allows for an intense, three-days immersion in a particular area of research and provides opportunities for profound exchange and learning within a group of international scholars. Further information can be found on the conference website:

About the convenors

Guido Palazzo is Assistant Professor for Business Ethics at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland). He graduated in Business Administration at the University of Bamberg (Germany) and earned his PhD in Political Philosophy (1999) from the University of Marburg (Germany). His research interests are in Corporate Social Responsibility, Corporate Branding, Democratic Theory, and Organizational Ethics. His work has appeared in journals such as Business Ethics Quarterly (forthcoming), Journal of Business Ethics, Academy of Management Review (forthcoming) and Technology Analysis and Strategic Management.

Andreas Georg Scherer holds the Chair of Foundations of Business Administration and Theories of the Firm at the University of Zurich (Switzerland). His research interests are in Business Ethics, International Management, Organization Theory, Philosophy of Science, and Strategic Management. His work has appeared in Academy of Management Review, Advances in Strategic Management, Business Ethics Quarterly, Journal of Business Ethics, M@n@gement, Management International Review, Organization, Organization Studies, and other journals. He is a member of the editorial boards of Business Ethics Quarterly, Organization, and Organization Studies.

Gary R. Weaver is editor-in-chief of Business Ethics Quarterly, and professor at the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics. His research interests lie in both micro- and macro-level business ethics from both social scientific and philosophical perspectives, and in metatheoretical issues in business ethics theory and research. He is coauthor (with Linda Treviño) of Managing Ethics in Business Organizations: Social Scientific Perspectives (Stanford University Press, 2003). His research has appeared in Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Journal, Organization Studies, Business Ethics Quarterly, Human Relations, California Management Review, Business and Society, and other journals. He serves on the editorial boards of the Academy of Management Review and the Journal of Management.

Dirk Matten holds the Chair in Business Ethics at Royal Holloway, University of London and is Director of the Centre for Research into Sustainability. He is also a Visiting Professor at the ICCSR at Nottingham University. His work has appeared in many international journals including Academy of Management Review, Journal of Management Studies, Organization Studies, Human Relations, Business Ethics Quarterly and Journal of Business Ethics. He holds a PhD and the Habilitation from Düsseldorf University and has taught and done research at universities in Australia, Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy and the US.