The Politics of Corporate Social Responsibility in Contemporary India

Date of Award

August 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Jacqueline T. Orr

Second Advisor

Subho Basu


Corporate Social Responsibility, India

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


In recent years, corporations worldwide have embraced activities related to social and economic development in the name of corporate social responsibility (CSR). In some circles, CSR is practiced as corporate “shared value.” These policies and strategies are ostensibly intended to uplift and “develop” the lives of workers and communities. While there are many criticisms of CSR activities across the world, very few scholarly inquiries take a critical look at CSR practices specifically in India.

This dissertation critically examines CSR as it has been practiced by a specific indigenous multinational corporation in India. Using this firm’s steel plant as a case study, and using a combination of archival and genealogical research and interview analysis, this dissertation makes three important contributions: (1) it demonstrates how, even though CSR strategies in India are routinely described in popular discourse as philanthropic activity in the vein of Gandhian trusteeship, there are important differences between the two. Although contemporary CSR has “family resemblances” with Gandhian trusteeship, it is less interested in the stewardship of wealth (as Gandhi intended) and more attuned to the expansion of markets; (2) it illustrates how the practice of CSR is predicated on various land acquisition strategies that lead to what David Harvey and others have called “accumulation by dispossession” ; and, finally (3) the analysis also reveals how CSR’s success depends not only on external advertisements, but also on a form of internal branding campaign intended as a set of disciplining and “civilizing” practices that inculcates among a group of vulnerable workers -- mostly migrant and newly landless peasants -- what one scholar has called a “will to improve.”


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