Legitimacy Struggles over Corporate Lobbyism: The discursive (de)legitimation of contested Corporate Political Activities and the alignment of political non-market strategies with the Corporate Political Responsibilities of MNCs
Despite the central role of legitimacy in management research, little is known about the subtle meaning-making processes through which political non-market strategies, such as corporate lobbyism also known as corporate political activities (CPA), are discursively legitimated in contemporary society. In that light, this study adopts a discursive perspective on legitimacy and therefore introduces CPA to this discursive stream of legitimacy research. Based on a critical discourse analysis (CDA) of the extensive media coverage of a revelatory case (the aftermath of the 2017 Dutch cabinet formation) that evolved around contested corporate lobby patterns, I distinguished the following argumentation strategies that played a pivotal role in the discursive (de)legitimation of CPA: inverse legalistic authorization, legalistic legitimation attempts based on legalistic authorization, rationalization by referral to the classic or new lobby-premise, anti-capitalistic, nationalistic or humanistic moralization, corporate or political discursive antagonism and (dramatic) democratic or political narrativization. While reflecting on these findings I argue, considering the strong overall disruption of CPA-legitimacy, that the use of this political non-market strategy often conflicts with an underexposed dimension of a firms’ corporate social responsibility (CSR): the corporate political responsibility (CPR) of multinational corporations (MNCs). In order to overcome this, I advocate that this missing corporate-sociopolitical alignment between CPA and CPR can be restored by incorporating the input of a corporate political responsibility-movement into corporate practice. Thereby, I argue that CPA can’t go without CPR and that CSR therefore can’t go without CPR. Considering the above, this study adds to our understanding of the discursive (de)legitimation of corporate lobbyism in particular and contributes to the research on discursive legitimation, CPA, CPR, and CSR more generally.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen