‘Uplift and empower’: The market, morality and corporate responsibility on South Africa's platinum belt
Hidden Hands in the Market: Ethnographies of Fair Trade, Ethical Consumption, and Corporate Social Responsibility
ISBN: 978-1-84855-058-2, eISBN: 978-1-84855-059-9
Publication date: 1 September 2008
In recent years, with the advent of the phenomenon known as corporate social responsibility (CSR), transnational corporations have moved away from traditional modes of philanthropic largesse, to a focus on ‘community engagement’, partnership, empowerment and ‘social investment’. This chapter draws on ethnographic research, tracing the practise of CSR in a transnational mining company, from its corporate headquarters in London, to its mining operations on South Africa's platinum belt. It explores how the practices of corporate–community partnership – and the goal of ‘self-sustainability’ that the company propounds – project the company as a vehicle of empowerment as it strives to convert ‘beneficiaries’ to the values and virtues of the market with an injunction to ‘help yourself’ to a piece of ‘the market’ and share the opportunities that it offers. However, while the promise of CSR holds out this vision of mutual independence and self-sustainability, I argue that the practise of CSR reinscribes older relations of patronage and clientelism which recreate the coercive bonds of ‘the gift’, inspiring deference and dependence, on the part of the recipient, rather than autonomy and empowerment.
Rajak, D. (2008), "‘Uplift and empower’: The market, morality and corporate responsibility on South Africa's platinum belt", De Neve, G., Peter, L., Pratt, J. and Wood, D.C. (Ed.) Hidden Hands in the Market: Ethnographies of Fair Trade, Ethical Consumption, and Corporate Social Responsibility (Research in Economic Anthropology, Vol. 28), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 297-324. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0190-1281(08)28013-3
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