Standards, Triple Bottom Lines and Balanced Scorecards: Shaping the Metaphor of Corporate Citizenship with Calculative Infrastructures
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AbstractTo succeed and endure the metaphor of corporate citizenship needs to be rhetorically articulated and possibly generate an original discourse. As with other metaphorical exercises the power of the image that is evoked has to be supported by a corresponding vocabulary, a new syntax that complements the imaginary and the visual with a constant supply of re-presentations and narratives of a consistent type. The role that contemporary corporations want to enact in the theatre of global governance requires, as any other, a language that can be understood, a script that makes some sense and a certain ability in reciting the lines. With the previous metaphors used by the corporation to construct its identity all that was readily available and provided by other domains. For instance, engineering and physics provided the language to talk of the corporation as a machine, anthropology did the same for “corporate culture”, biology and demographics wrote the script for corporations to behave like organism or ecosystems and cybernetics and later neurosciences have always been very active in trying to convince us that corporations are complex cognitive systems that think, make mistakes, take risks and learn. But what about the corporation as a citizen? Where is it going borrow the language, the script and the lines to recite at the right time to sound like a plausible citizen? The mobilization of the notion of citizenship undoubtedly involves the vocabulary of political values such as rights, duties, participation, democracy, representation, and allegiance. But all these elements bear the imprinting of the primordial relationship between the individual, active and concerned citizen with the public/political entity. What thus becomes necessary in the case of corporate citizenship is a semantic shift that relocates those traditional values into new subjectivities, new relationships, new notions of right and duty. In order to be visible and comprehensible as a citizen the corporation has to first position itself and its interlocutors into a new realm of citizenship that mimics the political/democratic one and thus make a new discourse possible. In fact, the first linguistic innovation that is brought about by the discourse of corporate citizenship is, not surprisingly, the one of “stakeholdership”. The invention of the stakeholder responds to the fundamental discursive precondition of having somebody with whom to exchange narratives and, ultimately, accountabilities. It is indeed the notion and language of accountability and its ability to mobilize concepts of legitimacy and identity the one that makes much of the discourse of corporate citizenship possible. In fact accountability has to do with the giving and taking of accounts on the activity conducted by economic and social agents (Mouritsen and Munro, 1996). The construction, re-construction and maintenance of a relationship of accountability require the use of a language that allows for communication between those that produce the account and its recipients.
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