Cultural Analysis of Corporate Social Action

Business and Society Review 123 (4):661-696 (2018)
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Previous studies of corporate environmental and social action identify exactly three similar patterns of activity. They provide divergent structural explanations for these patterns, as networks of institutional constraint, and networks of local inter-dependence, respectively. A theory of sociocultural viability, known in anthropology and policy science as Cultural Theory, explains that social systems consist of four patterns of social interaction, shaped by two distinct structural factors. Our own analysis of 45 items of environmental, social, and governance factors reconcile extant studies’ findings with Cultural Theory’s expectations. Although earlier studies of corporate social action observed only three patterns of activity, our analysis uncovered the fourth, and that diverging structural explanations of earlier studies are partial and complementary, clarified by Cultural Theory. Our call for further study leverages the normative dimension of Cultural Theory, which specifies policy processes that privilege human decency over parochial preference functions.



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