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Discursive legitimation of a contested actor over time: The multinational corporation as a historical case (1964-2012)

By Joost Luyckx and Maddy Janssens


In this study, we explicitly engage with the historical dimension of discursive legitimation to understand how a sense of legitimacy is maintained for a controversial actor over a long period of time. Analyzing articles in The Economist that address opposition against MNCs during the current wave of globalization, we identify and situate the different MNC-related controversies and discursive legitimation strategies in their specific historical context. Our historical interpretation suggests three phases, each representing the discursive creation of particular actor images that either legitimize MNCs or delegitimize its opponents. From our findings, we propose that, over time, the nature of discursive legitimation changes and introduce ‘discursive antagonism’ and ‘discursive co-optation’ as two different forms of legitimation. We further reflect on our present understanding of MNCs, reinterpreting their current political role as a historical product of the legitimacy process over time.status: publishe

Topics: legitimacy, discursive legitimation, multinational corporations, controversies, historical organization studies, periodization, political CSR
Publisher: W. de Gruyter
Year: 2016
DOI identifier: 10.1177/0170840616655493
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Lirias

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