Mind the gap: The commodification of corporate social responsibility

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This article, based on two years of participant observation, in-depth interviews, and informal exchanges, offers an ethnographic account of a non-profit organization that promotes the idea of corporate social responsibility. It follows the ways and means by which midlevel corporate executives are initiated into the universe of "corporate citizenship," learning to deploy terms such as "stakeholders," "brand loyalty," "social investment," and "community empowerment." Through an analysis of workshops, lectures, and ceremonial events, I show how the idea of social responsibility is transformed into a managerial tool, designed to enhance employee loyalty and to improve brand loyalty. From a constructivist sociological perspective, I also show that the idea of corporate social responsibility, when framed and advocated by a corporate-friendly organization, fits the neoliberal emphasis on corporate self-regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-253
Number of pages25
JournalSymbolic Interaction
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2005


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