Flexibility or exploitation? Corporate social responsibility and the perils of universalization (Respond to this article at http://www.therai.org.uk/at/debate)


  • This research is part of a larger project with Stuart Kirsch, funded by the Center for International Business Education at the University of Michigan.


As anthropologists and other critics of capitalism turn their attention to the controversial and burgeoning corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement, most focus on conflicts in community relations and environmental degradation. Few scholars have examined equally pertinent questions of labor restructuring, even though these transformations emerged at about the same time as the rise of CSR. In this article, we draw on research in two Peruvian mining communities to explore the potential contradiction between the simultaneous mandate for corporations to present themselves as responsible employers, on the one hand, and the drive to rationalize labor and reduce financial responsibility for the workforce, on the other. We suggest that for both corporate officials and some scholars, this tension remains a latent one because CSR discourses and documents generalize corporate interests as the interests of mines as a whole.