Skip to main content
main-content
Top

Hint

Swipe to navigate through the articles of this issue

Published in: Journal of Business Ethics 2/2022

05-01-2021 | Original Paper

Legitimacy and Cosmopolitanism: Online Public Debates on (Corporate) Responsibility

Authors: Anne Vestergaard, Julie Uldam

Published in: Journal of Business Ethics | Issue 2/2022

Login to get access
share
SHARE

Abstract

Social media platforms have been vested with hope for their potential to enable ‘ordinary citizens’ to make their judgments public and contribute to pluralized discussions about organizations and their perceived legitimacy (Etter et al. in Bus Soc 57(1):60–97, 2018). This raises questions about how ordinary citizens make judgements and voice them in online spaces. This paper addresses these questions by examining how Western citizens ascribe responsibility and action in relation to corporate misconduct. Empirically, it focuses on modern slavery and analyses online debates in Denmark on child slavery in the cocoa industry. Conceptually, it introduces the notion of cosmopolitanism as a general disposition of care and responsibility towards distant others, conceived as a prerequisite for the critical evaluation of corporate (ir)responsibility in the Global South. The analysis of online debates shows that citizens debate child slavery in terms of individual consumer responsibility rather than corporate responsibility. Corporations are not considered potential agents of change. As a consequence, online citizen debates did not reflect a legitimacy crisis for the cocoa industry, as debates over responsibility were overwhelmingly concerned with the agency of the Western individual, the individual agency of the speakers themselves. Participants in debates understood their agency strictly as consumer agency.
Footnotes
1
Danida is the term used for Denmark’s development cooperation, which is an area of activity under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.
 
Literature
go back to reference Askanius, T., & Mylonas, Y. (2015). Extreme-right responses to the European economic crisis in Denmark and Sweden: The discursive construction of scapegoats and lodestars. Javnost: The Public, 22(1), 55–72. Askanius, T., & Mylonas, Y. (2015). Extreme-right responses to the European economic crisis in Denmark and Sweden: The discursive construction of scapegoats and lodestars. Javnost: The Public, 22(1), 55–72.
go back to reference Barros, M. (2014). Tools of legitimacy: The case of the Petrobras corporate blog. Organization Studies, 35(8), 1211–1230. Barros, M. (2014). Tools of legitimacy: The case of the Petrobras corporate blog. Organization Studies, 35(8), 1211–1230.
go back to reference Baudrillard, J. (1988). Simulacra and simulation. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Baudrillard, J. (1988). Simulacra and simulation. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
go back to reference Bauman, Z. (2001). Whatever happened to compassion? In T. Bentley & J. Stedman (Eds.), The moral universe. London: Demos. Bauman, Z. (2001). Whatever happened to compassion? In T. Bentley & J. Stedman (Eds.), The moral universe. London: Demos.
go back to reference Beck, U. (2002). The cosmopolitan society and its enemies. Theory, Culture and Society, 19(1–2), 17–44. Beck, U. (2002). The cosmopolitan society and its enemies. Theory, Culture and Society, 19(1–2), 17–44.
go back to reference Beck, U. (2006). Cosmopolitan vision. Cambridge: Polity. Beck, U. (2006). Cosmopolitan vision. Cambridge: Polity.
go back to reference Beck, U. (2012). Redefining the sociological project: The cosmopolitan challenge. Sociology, 46(1), 7–12. Beck, U. (2012). Redefining the sociological project: The cosmopolitan challenge. Sociology, 46(1), 7–12.
go back to reference Berking, H., et al. (1996). Solidary individualism. In S. Lash (Ed.), Risk, environment and society. London: Sage. Berking, H., et al. (1996). Solidary individualism. In S. Lash (Ed.), Risk, environment and society. London: Sage.
go back to reference Bennett, W. L., & Segerberg, A. (2013). The logic of connective action: Digital media and the personalization of contentious politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Bennett, W. L., & Segerberg, A. (2013). The logic of connective action: Digital media and the personalization of contentious politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
go back to reference Brennan, N. M., Merkl-Davies, D. M., & Beelitz, A. (2013). Dialogism in corporate social responsibility communications: Conceptualising verbal interaction between organisations and their audiences. Journal of Business Ethics, 115(4), 665–679. Brennan, N. M., Merkl-Davies, D. M., & Beelitz, A. (2013). Dialogism in corporate social responsibility communications: Conceptualising verbal interaction between organisations and their audiences. Journal of Business Ethics, 115(4), 665–679.
go back to reference Böhm, S., Dinerstein, A. C., & Spicer, A. (2010). (Im) possibilities of Autonomy: Social Movements in and beyond Capital, the State and Development. Social Movement Studies, 9(1), 17–32. Böhm, S., Dinerstein, A. C., & Spicer, A. (2010). (Im) possibilities of Autonomy: Social Movements in and beyond Capital, the State and Development. Social Movement Studies, 9(1), 17–32.
go back to reference Calhoun, C. (2002). The class consciousness of frequent travelers: Towards a critique of actually existing cosmopolitanism. In S. Vertovec & R. Cohen (Eds.), Conceiving cosmopolitanism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Calhoun, C. (2002). The class consciousness of frequent travelers: Towards a critique of actually existing cosmopolitanism. In S. Vertovec & R. Cohen (Eds.), Conceiving cosmopolitanism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
go back to reference Caruana, R., & Crane, A. (2008). Constructing consumer responsibility: Exploring the role of corporate communications. Organization Studies, 29(12), 1495–1519. Caruana, R., & Crane, A. (2008). Constructing consumer responsibility: Exploring the role of corporate communications. Organization Studies, 29(12), 1495–1519.
go back to reference Castelló, I., Morsing, M., & Schultz, F. (2013). Communicative dynamics and the polyphony of corporate social responsibility in the network society. Journal of Business Ethics, 118(4), 683–694. Castelló, I., Morsing, M., & Schultz, F. (2013). Communicative dynamics and the polyphony of corporate social responsibility in the network society. Journal of Business Ethics, 118(4), 683–694.
go back to reference Castelló, I., Etter, M., & Årup Nielsen, F. (2016). Strategies of legitimacy through social media: The networked strategy. Journal of Management Studies, 53(3), 402–432. Castelló, I., Etter, M., & Årup Nielsen, F. (2016). Strategies of legitimacy through social media: The networked strategy. Journal of Management Studies, 53(3), 402–432.
go back to reference Castells, M. (2013). Communication power. Oxford: OUP. Castells, M. (2013). Communication power. Oxford: OUP.
go back to reference Chouliaraki, L. (2006). The spectatorship of suffering. London: Sage. Chouliaraki, L. (2006). The spectatorship of suffering. London: Sage.
go back to reference Chouliaraki, L. (2013). The ironic spectator: Solidarity in the age of post-humanitarianism. Cambridge: Polity. Chouliaraki, L. (2013). The ironic spectator: Solidarity in the age of post-humanitarianism. Cambridge: Polity.
go back to reference Christensen, L. T., Morsing, M., & Thyssen, O. (2015). Discursive closure and discursive openings in sustainability. Management Communication Quarterly, 29(1), 135–144. Christensen, L. T., Morsing, M., & Thyssen, O. (2015). Discursive closure and discursive openings in sustainability. Management Communication Quarterly, 29(1), 135–144.
go back to reference Colleoni, E. (2013). CSR communication strategies for organizational legitimacy in social media. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 18(2), 228–248. Colleoni, E. (2013). CSR communication strategies for organizational legitimacy in social media. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 18(2), 228–248.
go back to reference Couldry, N. (2012). Media, society, world: Social theory and digital media practice. Cambridge: Polity. Couldry, N. (2012). Media, society, world: Social theory and digital media practice. Cambridge: Polity.
go back to reference Crane, A. (2013). Modern slavery as a management practice: Exploring the conditions and capabilities for human exploitation. Academy of Management Review, 38(1), 49–69. Crane, A. (2013). Modern slavery as a management practice: Exploring the conditions and capabilities for human exploitation. Academy of Management Review, 38(1), 49–69.
go back to reference Crotty, J., & Crane, A. (2004). Transitions in environmental risk in a transitional economy: Management capability and community trust in Russia. Journal of Risk Research, 7(4), 413–429. Crotty, J., & Crane, A. (2004). Transitions in environmental risk in a transitional economy: Management capability and community trust in Russia. Journal of Risk Research, 7(4), 413–429.
go back to reference Dauvergne, P., & LeBaron, G. (2014). Protest Inc.: The corporatization of activism. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. Dauvergne, P., & LeBaron, G. (2014). Protest Inc.: The corporatization of activism. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
go back to reference de Bakker, F. G. (2015). Online activism, CSR and institutional change. In Civic engagement and social media (pp 23–43). London: Palgrave Macmillan. de Bakker, F. G. (2015). Online activism, CSR and institutional change. In Civic engagement and social media (pp 23–43). London: Palgrave Macmillan.
go back to reference Enli, G. S., & Thumim, N. (2012). Socializing and self-representation online: Exploring Facebook. Observatorio (OBS*), 6(1), 87–105. Enli, G. S., & Thumim, N. (2012). Socializing and self-representation online: Exploring Facebook. Observatorio (OBS*), 6(1), 87–105.
go back to reference Etter, M., Colleoni, E., Illia, L., Meggiorin, K., & D’Eugenio, A. (2018). Measuring organizational legitimacy in social media: Assessing citizens’ judgments with sentiment analysis. Business & Society, 57(1), 60–97. Etter, M., Colleoni, E., Illia, L., Meggiorin, K., & D’Eugenio, A. (2018). Measuring organizational legitimacy in social media: Assessing citizens’ judgments with sentiment analysis. Business & Society, 57(1), 60–97.
go back to reference Etter, M. A., Ravasi, D., & Colleoni, E. (2019). Social media and the formation of organizational reputation. Academy of Management Review, 44(1), 28–52. Etter, M. A., Ravasi, D., & Colleoni, E. (2019). Social media and the formation of organizational reputation. Academy of Management Review, 44(1), 28–52.
go back to reference Fenton, N. (2016). Left out? Digital media, radical politics and social change. Information, Communication and Society, 19(3), 346–361. Fenton, N. (2016). Left out? Digital media, radical politics and social change. Information, Communication and Society, 19(3), 346–361.
go back to reference Giddens, A. (1990). The consequences of modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press. Giddens, A. (1990). The consequences of modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.
go back to reference Habermas, J. (2001). The postnational constellation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Habermas, J. (2001). The postnational constellation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
go back to reference Hannerz, U. (1990). Cosmopolitans and locals in a world culture. In M. Featherstone (Ed.), Global culture. London: Sage. Hannerz, U. (1990). Cosmopolitans and locals in a world culture. In M. Featherstone (Ed.), Global culture. London: Sage.
go back to reference Held, D. (2003). Democratic accountability and political effectiveness from a cosmopolitan perspective. In D. Archibugi (Ed.), Debating cosmopolitics. London: Verso. Held, D. (2003). Democratic accountability and political effectiveness from a cosmopolitan perspective. In D. Archibugi (Ed.), Debating cosmopolitics. London: Verso.
go back to reference Hunter, M. L., Le Menestrel, M., & de Bettignies, H. C. (2008). Beyond control: Crisis strategies and stakeholder media in the Danone boycott of 2001. Corporate Reputation Review, 11(4), 335–350. Hunter, M. L., Le Menestrel, M., & de Bettignies, H. C. (2008). Beyond control: Crisis strategies and stakeholder media in the Danone boycott of 2001. Corporate Reputation Review, 11(4), 335–350.
go back to reference Ignatieff, M. (2001). Human rights as politics and idolatry. Toronto, ON: Anansi Press Ltd. Ignatieff, M. (2001). Human rights as politics and idolatry. Toronto, ON: Anansi Press Ltd.
go back to reference Isenhour, C. (2010). On conflicted Swedish consumers, the effort to stop shopping and neoliberal environmental governance. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 9(6), 454–469. Isenhour, C. (2010). On conflicted Swedish consumers, the effort to stop shopping and neoliberal environmental governance. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 9(6), 454–469.
go back to reference Joutsenvirta, M. (2011). Setting boundaries for corporate social responsibility: Firm–NGO relationship as discursive legitimation struggle. Journal of Business Ethics, 102(1), 57–75. Joutsenvirta, M. (2011). Setting boundaries for corporate social responsibility: Firm–NGO relationship as discursive legitimation struggle. Journal of Business Ethics, 102(1), 57–75.
go back to reference Joutsenvirta, M., & Vaara, E. (2009). Discursive (de) legitimation of a contested Finnish Greenfield Investment Project in Latin America. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 25(1), 85–96. Joutsenvirta, M., & Vaara, E. (2009). Discursive (de) legitimation of a contested Finnish Greenfield Investment Project in Latin America. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 25(1), 85–96.
go back to reference Joutsenvirta, M., & Vaara, E. (2015). Legitimacy struggles and political corporate social responsibility in international settings: A comparative discursive analysis of a contested investment in Latin America. Organization Studies, 36(6), 741–777. Joutsenvirta, M., & Vaara, E. (2015). Legitimacy struggles and political corporate social responsibility in international settings: A comparative discursive analysis of a contested investment in Latin America. Organization Studies, 36(6), 741–777.
go back to reference Kozinets, R. V. (2002). The field behind the screen: Using netnography for marketing research in online communities. Journal of Marketing Research, 39(1), 61–72. Kozinets, R. V. (2002). The field behind the screen: Using netnography for marketing research in online communities. Journal of Marketing Research, 39(1), 61–72.
go back to reference Kyriakidou, M. (2017). Remembering global disasters and the construction of cosmopolitan memory. Communication, Culture & Critique, 10(1), 93–111. Kyriakidou, M. (2017). Remembering global disasters and the construction of cosmopolitan memory. Communication, Culture & Critique, 10(1), 93–111.
go back to reference Kyriakidou, M. (2015). Remembering global disasters and the construction of cosmopolitan memory. Communication, Culture and Critique, 10(1), 93–111. Kyriakidou, M. (2015). Remembering global disasters and the construction of cosmopolitan memory. Communication, Culture and Critique, 10(1), 93–111.
go back to reference Madianou, M. (2013). Humanitarian campaigns in social media: Network architectures and polymedia events. Journalism Studies, 14(2), 249–266. Madianou, M. (2013). Humanitarian campaigns in social media: Network architectures and polymedia events. Journalism Studies, 14(2), 249–266.
go back to reference Markham, A., & Buchanan, E. (2017). Chapter 14: Research ethics in context. In M. T. Schäfer & K. van Es (Eds.), The datafied society (p. 201). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press. Markham, A., & Buchanan, E. (2017). Chapter 14: Research ethics in context. In M. T. Schäfer & K. van Es (Eds.), The datafied society (p. 201). Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.
go back to reference Meyer, C. B. (2001). A case in case study methodology. Field Methods, 13(4), 329–352. Meyer, C. B. (2001). A case in case study methodology. Field Methods, 13(4), 329–352.
go back to reference Nussbaum, M. (1996). Compassion: The basic social emotion. Social Philosophy and Policy, 13(1), 27–58. Nussbaum, M. (1996). Compassion: The basic social emotion. Social Philosophy and Policy, 13(1), 27–58.
go back to reference Marcus, G. E. (1995). Ethnography in/of the world system: The emergence of multi-sited ethnography. Annual Review of Anthropology, 24, 95–117. Marcus, G. E. (1995). Ethnography in/of the world system: The emergence of multi-sited ethnography. Annual Review of Anthropology, 24, 95–117.
go back to reference Nyberg, D., Spicer, A., & Wright, C. (2013). Incorporating citizens: Corporate political engagement with climate change in Australia. Organization, 20(3), 433–453. Nyberg, D., Spicer, A., & Wright, C. (2013). Incorporating citizens: Corporate political engagement with climate change in Australia. Organization, 20(3), 433–453.
go back to reference Palazzo, G., & Scherer, A. G. (2006). Corporate legitimacy as deliberation: A communicative framework. Journal of Business Ethics, 66(1), 71–88. Palazzo, G., & Scherer, A. G. (2006). Corporate legitimacy as deliberation: A communicative framework. Journal of Business Ethics, 66(1), 71–88.
go back to reference Papacharissi, Z. (2012). Special issue: Socially mediated publicness. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 56(3), 319–319. Papacharissi, Z. (2012). Special issue: Socially mediated publicness. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 56(3), 319–319.
go back to reference Robins, K. (1994). Forces of Consumption: From the symbolic to the psychotic. Media, Culture and Society, 16, 449–468. Robins, K. (1994). Forces of Consumption: From the symbolic to the psychotic. Media, Culture and Society, 16, 449–468.
go back to reference Rodrigue, M., Cho, C. H., & Laine, M. (2015). Volume and tone of environmental disclosure: A comparative analysis of a corporation and its stakeholders. Social and Environmental Accountability Journal, 35(1), 1–16. Rodrigue, M., Cho, C. H., & Laine, M. (2015). Volume and tone of environmental disclosure: A comparative analysis of a corporation and its stakeholders. Social and Environmental Accountability Journal, 35(1), 1–16.
go back to reference Schultz, F., Castelló, I., & Morsing, M. (2013). The construction of corporate social responsibility in network societies: A communication view. Journal of Business Ethics, 115(4), 681–692. Schultz, F., Castelló, I., & Morsing, M. (2013). The construction of corporate social responsibility in network societies: A communication view. Journal of Business Ethics, 115(4), 681–692.
go back to reference Silverstone, R. (2007). Media and morality on the rise of the Mediapolis. Cambridge: Polity Press. Silverstone, R. (2007). Media and morality on the rise of the Mediapolis. Cambridge: Polity Press.
go back to reference Sontag, S. (2003). Regarding the pain of others. Diogène, 1, 127–139. Sontag, S. (2003). Regarding the pain of others. Diogène, 1, 127–139.
go back to reference Suchman, M. C. (1995). Managing legitimacy: Strategic and institutional approaches. Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 571–610. Suchman, M. C. (1995). Managing legitimacy: Strategic and institutional approaches. Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 571–610.
go back to reference Tester, K. (2001). Compassion, morality and the media. Philadelphia: Open University Press. Tester, K. (2001). Compassion, morality and the media. Philadelphia: Open University Press.
go back to reference Tester, K. (2012). Humanitarianism and modern culture. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press. Tester, K. (2012). Humanitarianism and modern culture. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press.
go back to reference Thompson, J. B. (1995). The media and modernity: A social theory of the media. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Thompson, J. B. (1995). The media and modernity: A social theory of the media. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
go back to reference Tomlinson, J. (1999). Globalization and culture. London: Sage. Tomlinson, J. (1999). Globalization and culture. London: Sage.
go back to reference Tufekci, Z. (2015). Algorithmic harms beyond Facebook and Google: Emergent challenges of computational agency. Journal on Telecommunication and High Technology Law, 13, 203. Tufekci, Z. (2015). Algorithmic harms beyond Facebook and Google: Emergent challenges of computational agency. Journal on Telecommunication and High Technology Law, 13, 203.
go back to reference Uldam, J., & Vestergaard, A. (Eds.). (2015). Civic engagement and social media: Political participation beyond protest. London: Sage. Uldam, J., & Vestergaard, A. (Eds.). (2015). Civic engagement and social media: Political participation beyond protest. London: Sage.
go back to reference Vaara, E., Tienari, J., & Laurila, J. (2006). Pulp and paper fiction: On the discursive legitimation of global industrial restructuring. Organization Studies, 27(6), 789–813. Vaara, E., Tienari, J., & Laurila, J. (2006). Pulp and paper fiction: On the discursive legitimation of global industrial restructuring. Organization Studies, 27(6), 789–813.
go back to reference Van Leeuwen, T. (2007). Legitimation in discourse and communication. Discourse and Communication, 1(1), 91–112. Van Leeuwen, T. (2007). Legitimation in discourse and communication. Discourse and Communication, 1(1), 91–112.
go back to reference Whelan, G., Moon, J., & Grant, B. (2013). Corporations and citizenship arenas in the age of social media. Journal of Business Ethics, 118(4), 777–790. Whelan, G., Moon, J., & Grant, B. (2013). Corporations and citizenship arenas in the age of social media. Journal of Business Ethics, 118(4), 777–790.
Metadata
Title
Legitimacy and Cosmopolitanism: Online Public Debates on (Corporate) Responsibility
Authors
Anne Vestergaard
Julie Uldam
Publication date
05-01-2021
Publisher
Springer Netherlands
Published in
Journal of Business Ethics / Issue 2/2022
Print ISSN: 0167-4544
Electronic ISSN: 1573-0697
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-020-04703-1

Other articles of this Issue 2/2022

Journal of Business Ethics 2/2022 Go to the issue

Acknowledgment

Reviewers 2021

Premium Partner