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Contention and Corporate Social Responsibility


  • 6 b/w illus. 5 tables
  • Page extent: 208 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.34 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521727068)

This book examines anti-corporate activism in the United States, including analysis of anti-corporate challenges associated with social movements as diverse as the Civil Rights Movement and the Dolphin-safe Tuna Movement. Using a unique dataset of protest events in the United States, the book shows that anti-corporate activism is primarily about corporate policies, products, and negligence. Although activists have always been distrustful of corporations and sought to change them, until the 1970s and 1980s, this was primarily accomplished via seeking government regulation of corporations or via organized labor. Sarah A. Soule traces the shift brought about by deregulation and the decline in organized labor, which prompted activists to target corporations directly, often in combination with targeting the state. Using the literatures on contentious and private politics, which are both essential for understanding anti-corporate activism, the book provides a nuanced understanding of the changing focal points of activism directed at corporations.

• Historic view of anti-corporate activism that sheds light on contemporary trends • Bridging political science, sociology, and organizational studies with integrative literature reviews and synthetic theoretical treatment • Empirical analyses of the effect of activism on corporate financial performance and corporate social performance (e.g. policies)


1. Introduction; 2. Understanding social movements, contentions and private politics and their consequences; 3. Anti-corporate protest in the United States, 1960–1990; 4. The effect of protest on university divestment; 5. Private and contentious politics in the post-1990 era; 6. Conclusion.


'Social movements often target corporations rather than governments as a more direct means to achieve social ends, from economic equality and civil rights to product safety and accountability for negligence. Sarah Soule's Contention and Corporate Social Responsibility examines why corporations are targeted, what combination of tactics is used, and with what effect on corporate practices and performance. This engaging book will be of interest to scholars, activists, and business people alike.' Jerry Davis, The University of Michigan

'Contention and Corporate Social Responsibility offers a sophisticated examination of sustained protests against corporate practices and policies before 1990 and an ambitious framework for understanding more recent collective campaigns that have caught the public's imagination and the corporate sphere's attention and concern. This agenda-setting book will quickly become required reading for scholars, activists, and executives eager for a fuller understanding of the historical trajectory of anti-corporate social movements and their role in shaping socially responsible practices in the global economic arena.' Debra Minkoff, Barnard College

'This superbly researched book offers a wide-ranging and richly nuanced account of the ebb and flow of anti-corporate activism and corporate social responsibility in the United states from the 1960's until contemporaneous times. It is innovative contribution to the fast growing confluence between social movement theory and organizational studies and mandatory reading for the novice and the expert.' Hayagreeva Rao, Stanford University

'In this excellent synthesis of the literature, Soule has made a very useful contribution to the study of anti-corporate activism. Many studies analyze activism against specific corporate policies and actions. Soule takes a broader view and treats anti-corporate activism as part of a larger trend. She makes useful conceptual distinctions and subtle quantitative analysis of these trends and their effects on corporations and corporate social responsibility.' Mayer Zald, University of Michigan

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