The Changing Role of Business in a Global Society: New Challenges and Responsibilities

special forum in Business Ethics Quarterly (deadline Dec. 1, 2007)

Guest Editors:

  • Andreas Georg Scherer, University of Zurich, Switzerland
  • Guido Palazzo, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Dirk Matten, Schulich School of Business, York University, Canada

The globalization of 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. Some mul-tinational corporations have started to change their role from one of simply following the rules to one of creating the rules of the economic game. They already have assumed responsibilities that once were regarded as belonging to government. They engage in the production of public goods (e.g., public health, education, social security), and 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 discursive social and political processes 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.

Economic activities require the existence of rules and their enforcement as preconditions that the mar-ket cannot generate itself. Current theorizing on corporate social responsibility and business ethics mainly builds on the assumption of an intact regulatory environment, in which national legislation and the values of social communities clearly prescribe appropriate business behavior. However, the plurali-zation of modern society (understood as the threefold process of individualization, the devaluation of tradition, and the globalization of society) can result in a loss of cultural homogeneity and authority, thus eroding the national context of governance. Therefore, synchronizing corporate behavior and so-cietal demands by straightforward adaptation to the rules of the game becomes problematic, and new research is required to understand the new relationships between business and society.

The aim of this special issue is to discuss the consequences of the social and political mandate of the corporation and to examine the implications for theory and practice. We seek to identify emerging re-search streams in the social sciences, humanities, and professional fields that aggressively go beyond established ideas on the role of business in a global society. We invite both theoretical and empirical contributions from different schools of thought (e.g., political and moral philosophy, institutional the-ory, network theory, critical theory, identity research, etc.). We seek macro-level analyses (e.g., of so-cietal and organizational structures, corporate legitimacy, etc.) as well as micro-level (e.g., of the role of individuals, responsible leadership in the new global context, etc.). Papers that argue across the po-tentially relevant disciplines (management studies, philosophy, business ethics & corporate social re-sponsibility, legal studies, political theory, etc.) would be particularly welcome.

Papers must be sent electronically by Dec. 1st, 2007, to as Word email attachments, indicating “Special Issue Changing Role of Business” in the subject line. Manuscripts should be pre-pared according to the BEQ guidelines published in every issue of Business Ethics Quarterly. Papers should not exceed 12000 words and will be blind reviewed following the journal’s standard process. For further information contact guest editor Andreas Scherer (

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