Mutuality Talk in a Family-Owned Multinational
Anthropological Categories & Critical Analyses of Corporate Ethicizing
AbstractThis article draws on work carried out as part of a collaboration between an elite business school and a family-owned multinational corporation, concerned with promoting ‘mutuality in business’ as a new frontier of responsible capitalism. While the business school partners treated mutuality as a new principle central to an emergent ethical capitalism, the corporation claimed mutuality as a long-established value unique to their company. Both interpretations foreground a central problem in recent writing on the anthropology of business/corporations: the tension between the claim that economic life is always embedded within a moral calculus, and the shift towards increasingly ethical behaviour among many corporations. Further, recent work in the anthropology of business rejects normative evaluations of corporate ethicizing. When corporations lay claim to ethical renewal, but maintain a commitment to competition and growth, then anthropologists must balance a sympathetic engagement with corporate ethicizing, and critical engagement with growth-based strategies.
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