School of Management
Royal Holloway University of London

The Centre for Research into Sustainability

Developing corporate responsibility theory: exploring the value of governmentality

Workshop, September 7th 2011 at Royal Holloway, University of London

On September 7th an EABIS supported workshop was held at Royal Holloway with the intention of considering the value of the Foucauldian concept of governmentality in corporate responsibility research. Governmentality does not lend itself to easy definition but is broadly considered to be pertaining to the conduct of conduct and the deliberations, strategies, tactics and devices employed to act upon others.

The workshop had the unusual advantage of being extremely focused, enabling a rich and rewarding discussion by those who attended. Unsurprisingly given the diversity of interest in governmentality, the participants came from a range of disciplines including economics, criminology, accountancy, and political science alongside the usual business ethics, CSR and management perspectives. The event also drew and international audience, with contributors travelling from Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Israel and Italy to take part.

Attendees at the governance workshop
Some of the participants at the governmentality workshop.

The presentations ranged from completed papers to explorations of the possibility of using governmentality as an analytical lens. Laura Spence and Leonardo Rinaldi spoke on governmentality in relation to sustainability accounting in a UK supermarket supply chain. Hans Krause Hansen critiqued the United Nations Global Compact from the perspective of governmentality and anti-corruption. Donna Brown and Lutz Preuss spoke to their research on human rights among the FTSE 100 and how the approach of companies such as Cadbury can be viewed from a governmentality perspective. Martin Fougére focused on the Principles of Responsible Management Education and how they can be viewed as an attempt to govern the behaviour and practices of members of business schools. Steen Vallentin and David Murillo’s paper explored governmentality and CSR from a political perspective in the context of the Danish government’s initiatives to promote CSR using the ‘business case’. An application of Foucault’s work on Machiavelli’s The Prince to Rupert Murdoch and his media empire was presented by Donald Nordberg. Roel Boomsma discussed his research on NGO accountability in the Netherlands using governmentality. Christina Frydensbjerg led a detailed discussion of her ethnographic work in a knowledge intensive organization seeking to implement CSR strategies and explored how the governmentality analytic might be valuable.

The event afforded plenty of opportunity for interaction and discussion. Theme’s which emerged as important were: What is different about the analytics of governmentality which makes it more valuable than other approaches? How can CSR research contribute to the development of the governmentality concept? What can be learnt from the application of governmentality in other fields outside of management studies?


The workshop is organized with the generous support of the European Association of Business in Society and Royal Holloway, University of London. Academic organizers are as follows:

Workshop Details

Wednesday 7th September 2011
9.30am - 5.30pm
Royal Holloway, University of London

Royal Holloway's campus is just 20 minutes from London Heathrow airport. » map | campus plan

» Workshop programme

Founder's Building
Founder's Building (opened by Queen Victoria in 1886, inspired by Chambord in the Loire Valley)

Admission free but registration and paper presentation required Any overnight accommodation will be paid for by the participant.
» Accommodation on campus


Revised timetable

8:30-9:30 Registration & coffee
9:30-9:45 Welcome
9:45-11:00 Workshop sessions
11:00-11:30 Coffee break
11:30-13:00 Workshop sessions
13:00-14:00 Lunch
14:00-15:30 Workshop sessions
15:30-16:00 Tea break
16:00-16:30 Workshop sessions
16:30-17:30 Discussion and close
19:00 Dinner