This thesis raises the question of Corporate Social Responsibility: it asks what it is. This is done for the sake of attempting to come to terms with what seems to be Corporate Social Responsibility’s contemporary prevalence. Today, Corporate Social Responsibility is largely approached as a pragmatic question. That is to say, Corporate Social Responsibility is largely approached as a concern for practitioners, rather than theorists. To raise the question of Corporate Social Responsibility today is to therefore raise it in the midst of a predominantly held anti-theoreticist pragmatic stance. This stance, for its part, is challenged here. Against the notion that so-called pragmatism is a natural, correct or even superior disposition to adopt towards the question of Corporate Social Responsibility, this investigation posits the need to raise the question again. It does this by accounting for the historical development of the pragmatic claim upon Corporate Social Responsibility, on the one hand, and by positing the reliance of this historically determined pragmatism upon a more general project of interrogating Corporate Social Responsibility, on the other. Addressing this dual task is shown to be a matter of attempting to approach the question in the right way, of demonstrating what it means to approach Corporate Social Responsibility as a question first and foremost. To do this is not to proceed in ignorance of the fact that this question has been both asked and answered many times before. It is rather to proceed precisely on the basis of how the question has been addressed so many times before. It is ultimately demonstrated that today’s prevalent pragmatic priority stands, somewhat paradoxically, as the greatest barrier to Corporate Social Responsibility. It is ultimately argued, therefore, that to approach Corporate Social Responsibility as a question is to preserve its possibility, albeit without directly seeking to actualise it
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