The role of governments in the business and society debateThe role of governments in the business and society debate
Faculty of Applied Economics
Business & society. -
(2015), p. 1-18
University of Antwerp
The role of governments in business and society (B&S) research remains underexplored. The generally accepted principle of voluntarism, which frames responsible business conduct as an unregulated subject under managerial discretion, accounts for this gap. Paradoxically, there are sufficient acknowledgments in academia and practice on different roles of governments. The present article identifies three broad topics for research, addressing (a) the paradox between the principle of voluntarism and the role of governments in B&S, (b) the boundaries of governments and business in their contribution to B&S issues, and (c) the mechanisms of government intervention that affect corporate social performance. The authors approach the first topic with a literature review of 703 articles marked with the term government from five journals in the field (Business & Society, Business Ethics: A European Review, Business Ethics Quarterly, Business Strategy and the Environment, and Journal of Business Ethics) between 1982 and 2011. This study indicates that the principle of voluntarism remains, despite the broad variety of research related to the role of government in B&S. In addition, the identified content provides deeper insight into the mechanisms of government intervention and on the boundaries of governments in the B&S discourse. This article then provides a summary of the other three research articles included in this special research forum, with a contribution oriented toward the latter two research avenues posited.