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CSR, co-optation and resistance: the emergence of new agnostic relations between business and civil society

Burchell, Jon; Cook, Joanne


Jon Burchell

Professor Joe Cook
Professor in Organisational Behaviour/Human Resources Management


This article examines the theoretical implications of the changing relationships between NGOs and businesses that have emerged as a response to the evolving agenda around CSR and sustainable development. In particular, it focuses upon examining whether greater engagement from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in this area reflects a process of appropriation and co-optation of protest by the business community. To examine this process, the article considers two forms of appropriation—appropriation of language and appropriation via participation—as a basis for discussion. While co-optation pressures are identified within both areas, the article argues that co-optation is identified almost as an inevitable outcome of engagement without significant consideration of the ability of movements to identify and respond to these processes. In identifying an alternative approach, the article utilises Mouffe’s framework of agonistic pluralism. Mouffe’s framework, it is argued, provides an understanding of the way in which agonistic relationships are emerging between NGOs and businesses while highlighting the continuance of conflict between parties struggling to influence the contested interpretations of responsible business.


Burchell, J., & Cook, J. (2013). CSR, co-optation and resistance: the emergence of new agnostic relations between business and civil society. Journal of Business Ethics, 115(4), 741-754.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Aug 7, 2013
Publication Date 2013-07
Deposit Date Nov 13, 2014
Publicly Available Date Nov 13, 2014
Journal Journal of business ethics
Print ISSN 0167-4544
Electronic ISSN 1573-0697
Publisher Springer Publishing Company
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 115
Issue 4
Pages 741-754
Keywords Economics and Econometrics; General Business, Management and Accounting; Business and International Management; Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous); Law
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Copy of article first published in Journal of business ethics, 2013, v.115, issue 4


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