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Old Wine in New Bottles? Parentalism, Power, and Its Legitimacy in Business–Society Relations

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This article proposes a theoretical re-conceptualization of power dynamics and their legitimation in contemporary business–society relations using the prism and metaphor of parentalism. The paper develops a typology of forms of parentalism along two structuring dimensions: care and control. Specifically, four ideal-types of parentalism are introduced with their associated practices and power-legitimation mechanisms. As we consider current private governance and authority through this analytical framework, we are able to provide a new perspective on the nature of the moral legitimation of power dynamics in contemporary business–society relations. And we weave the threads between this conceptual frame and historical antecedents, suggesting that business ethicists need to revive old debates on paternalism in light of the current pervasive trend of modernized and subtler forms of parentalism. Implications for business ethics and political CSR are discussed.
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https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-018-3928-9
ORIGINAL PAPER
Old Wine inNew Bottles? Parentalism, Power, andIts Legitimacy
inBusiness–Society Relations
HelenEtchanchu1 · Marie‑LaureDjelic2
© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018
Abstract
This article proposes a theoretical re-conceptualization of power dynamics and their legitimation in contemporary busi-
ness–society relations using the prism and metaphor of parentalism. The paper develops a typology of forms of parentalism
along two structuring dimensions: care and control. Specifically, four ideal-types of parentalism are introduced with their
associated practices and power-legitimation mechanisms. As we consider current private governance and authority through
this analytical framework, we are able to provide a new perspective on the nature of the moral legitimation of power dynam-
ics in contemporary business–society relations. And we weave the threads between this conceptual frame and historical
antecedents, suggesting that business ethicists need to revive old debates on paternalism in light of the current pervasive
trend of modernized and subtler forms of parentalism. Implications for business ethics and political CSR are discussed.
Keywords Parentalism· Nudge· Power· Private governance· Political CSR· MSI
Over the past decades, we have moved from rule-making
as the prerogative of national governments to the increas-
ing privatization and transnationalization of governance
and regulatory dynamics (Bartley 2014; Djelic and Sahlin-
Andersson 2006; Graz and Nölke 2008; Scherer etal. 2016;
Stone 2013). This rise of private authority is reflected in
the multiplication of Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives (MSIs)
(Cashore 2003; Djelic 2011; Fuchs 2006; Wood etal. 2015)
and the widespread diffusion of corporate social responsi-
bility (CSR) as self-regulation (Gond etal. 2011; Höllerer
2013; Matten and Moon 2008; Moon etal. 2010; Vogel
2010). Private governance schemes weave a dense web of
transnational rules and they structure an expanding and
interconnected landscape of transnational regulatory plat-
forms and communities (Djelic and Quack 2010). In this
landscape, the dominant discourse emphasizes contracts and
expertise as well as a neutralization, in the process, of power
and politics (Djelic and Sahlin 2009; Cutler and Dietz 2017).
This claim of a disappearance of power and politics has
been contested. An important question in that respect is the
democratic legitimacy of private governance schemes. Pri-
vate platforms and actors setting rules at the transnational
level do not have a democratic mandate (e.g., Bäckstrand
2006; Banerjee 2011a; Bexell etal. 2010; Devinney 2009;
Marens 2008; Scherer and Palazzo 2007, 2011). Some have
argued that an infusion of deliberative democracy into those
private governance schemes could further their legitimacy
(Mena and Palazzo 2012; Palazzo and Scherer 2006; Patt-
berg 2005). This perspective, sometimes brought under the
label “political CSR” (e.g. Scherer and Palazzo 2007, 2011;
Scherer etal. 2016; Scherer 2017), suggests that deliberative
democracy would provide input legitimacy to complement
the existing output legitimacy ensured by (neutral) expertise
that contributes efficient solutions to complex global prob-
lems (e.g., Mena and Palazzo 2012).
This combination, however, does not appear to be fully
convincing. A first issue is that of the legitimacy of delib-
erative forms of democracy. A number of scholars are con-
cerned that MSIs, even when combined with an inclusive
agenda and mechanisms of open negotiation and delibera-
tion, may not be a legitimate alternative to government reg-
ulation (e.g., Buchholz and Rosenthal 2004; Vogel 2008;
* Helen Etchanchu
h.etchanchu@montpellier-bs.com
Marie-Laure Djelic
marielaure.djelic@sciencespo.fr
1 Entrepreneurship & Strategy Department, Montpellier
Business School, 2300, Avenue des Moulins,
34185MontpellierCedex4, France
2 School ofManagement andInnovation, SciencesPo, 27 rue
Saint-Guillaume, 75337ParisCedex07, France
Journal of Business Ethics (2019) 160:893–911
Received: 27 March 2017 / Accepted: 16 May 2018 / Published online: 25 May 2018
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... Such domains are particularly effective for metaphorical mapping (Giorgi, 2017;Holyoak & Stamenković, 2018). It models our earliest experiences of governance and the management of relationships (Etchanchu & Djelic, 2019;Lakoff, 2016). It appears as a metaphor across levels of society, from the most intimate family unit to a much broader national level (e.g., Mother/Fatherland). ...
... "Parent firm" describes the relationship between a firm and its spin-offs and subsidiaries (Lange et al., 2009). Parenting metaphors have explained stakeholder relations in corporate sustainability (Etchanchu & Djelic, 2019;Haack & Scherer, 2014). Therefore, parenting is an apt source domain for metaphorical mapping. ...
... It prioritizes the profit motive, and therefore creates linear, unidirectional, hierarchical relationships in which sustainability managers (as agents responsible for a firm's finances) are in a position of decision-making primacy vis-à-vis environmental and social stakeholders. As an agent of the firm, power tends to be concentrated in the manager's hands, a concentration that is historically legitimized through the firm's access to financial, labour, and market resources (Etchanchu & Djelic, 2019). Engagement with multiple stakeholders is contingent on how it benefits the firm financially (Schaltegger et al., 2019). ...
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... Western family scholars have constructed a typology of parenting styles based in part on parental control, but there is a controversy as to whether such parenting styles can be appropriately applied to Chinese parenting (Chao 1994(Chao , 1995Sorkhabi 2005). Rather than using that typology, we found a parentalism typology proposed by Etchanchu and Djelic (2019) to better match what we coded in the data. Although this typology was originally developed to facilitate discussion on policy making, not parenting, we find it entirely fit to describe indigenous ideal types of immigrant-Chinese parental control. ...
... In egalitarian care, parents are more accommodating of children's need for autonomy and individuality. Their authority is less hierarchical (Etchanchu and Djelic 2019). Regarding the point of control dimension, there can be two tendencies: control focused on process or on outcome. ...
... In outcome-based control, parents impose their will on children through holding power over the final decision. In process-based control, parents let children make the final decision; however, they impose their will on children during the process by which decision is made (Etchanchu and Djelic 2019). ...
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... Testemunhos adicionais também foram analisados por meio de imagens de vídeo. Posteriormente, os dados foram codificados de acordo com as características do parentalismo deliberativo (compreendendo cuidado igualitário, controle de resultados, prática de convocação, poder de manipulação e falta de conhecimento e justificativa de recursos da 'criança') (Etchanchu & Djelic, 2019), e, ao mesmo tempo, abrangem [os dados] frequentes discussões com atingidos, ativistas e promotores". Este artigo aborda contribuições e reflexões para a academia e a sociedade em geral. ...
... Embora haja deficiências significativas das MSIs no cumprimento das promessas do PCSR, muito pouco foi relatado sobre os mecanismos mais suaves e menos visíveis de disparidades de poder que visam à legitimidade deste (Gond et al., 2016). No bojo dessa discussão, Etchanchu e Djelic (2019) conceberam a noção de "parentalismo", conceituada como uma versão moderna de controle que reflete valores liberais e progressivos sem gênero (Etchanchu & Djelic, 2019). ...
... O parentalismo tenta reconciliar duas dimensões aparentemente opostas, de um lado, poder e controle (tradicionalmente masculino), de outro, benevolência, nutrição e cuidado (tradicionalmente feminino) (Etchanchu & Djelic, 2019). Assim, este conceito infere uma tensão subjacente na decisão sobre a autonomia e os melhores interesses de uma criança. ...
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Resumo Usando a lente da responsabilidade social corporativa política (RSCP) do parentalismo, investigamos neste artigo as dinâmicas e estratégias interacionais mais sutis e menos visíveis de poder, resistência e justificativa, que se manifestam entre uma fundação governada por vários stakeholders e as vítimas do colapso da barragem de uma empresa de mineração. Os dados foram coletados por meio de uma combinação de trabalho de campo e análise de arquivos para avaliar as percepções das vítimas, seus defensores e executivos da fundação. O campo revelou doze tensões dialéticas nas tentativas da Fundação Renova de reparar as injustiças causadas às vítimas. Neste trabalho, propomos um modelo de processo dialético de resistência e subversão das partes interessadas à RSCP parentalista, dado que, para se chegar a um acordo, o tempo foi usado estrategicamente em protelações que visavam exaurir as vítimas. Além disso, as organizações justificam seu parentalismo culpando os atrasos na burocracia e a responsabilidade compartilhada de múltiplas partes interessadas para qualquer deliberação. Por fim, defendemos que as vítimas devem ter paridade de voz na definição de sua reparação e que não cabe às empresas responsáveis por causar danos a decisão dessas questões.
... Western family scholars have constructed a typology of parenting styles based in part on parental control, but there is a controversy as to whether such parenting styles can be appropriately applied to Chinese parenting (Chao 1994(Chao , 1995Sorkhabi 2005). Rather than using that typology, we found a parentalism typology proposed by Etchanchu and Djelic (2019) to better match what we coded in the data. Although this typology was originally developed to facilitate discussion on policy making, not parenting, we find it entirely fit to describe indigenous ideal types of immigrant-Chinese parental control. ...
... In egalitarian care, parents are more accommodating of children's need for autonomy and individuality. Their authority is less hierarchical (Etchanchu and Djelic 2019). Regarding the point of control dimension, there can be two tendencies: control focused on process or on outcome. ...
... In outcome-based control, parents impose their will on children through holding power over the final decision. In process-based control, parents let children make the final decision; however, they impose their will on children during the process by which decision is made (Etchanchu and Djelic 2019). ...
... Additionally, less-visible forms of power instrumentalized by businesses in instances of deliberative democracy, such as in cases of multi-stakeholder engagement, remain under-examined (Etchanchu & Djelic, 2019;Gond et al., 2016). To this end, Etchanchu and Djelic (2019) invoked the idea of parentalism, where organizations behave and treat stakeholders as a modern-day liberal parent would towards its child, convening them for dialogue (similar to deliberation) and affording them some autonomy, while still gripping on to decision-making power for any outcomes. ...
... Additionally, less-visible forms of power instrumentalized by businesses in instances of deliberative democracy, such as in cases of multi-stakeholder engagement, remain under-examined (Etchanchu & Djelic, 2019;Gond et al., 2016). To this end, Etchanchu and Djelic (2019) invoked the idea of parentalism, where organizations behave and treat stakeholders as a modern-day liberal parent would towards its child, convening them for dialogue (similar to deliberation) and affording them some autonomy, while still gripping on to decision-making power for any outcomes. It is hoped that by examining the remediation process of the dam victims by Renova Foundation through the lens of parentalism, it will be possible to bring to surface the more subtle and dialectical tensions and strategies of power, influence, justifications and resistance by victims. ...
... Additional testimony was also analysed from video footage. In the interest of verifying my interpretations of events and narratives, I systematically coded the data along the characteristics of deliberative parentalism (comprising egalitarian care, outcome control, convening practice, manipulation power and child's lack of knowledge/resources justification) (Etchanchu & Djelic, 2019), while also engaging in frequent discussions with atingidos, activists and prosecutors. ...
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