Presented to the Organizational Communication Division of the International Communication Association 2015, at San Juan, PR.
Our paper revisits traditional arguments of whether corporate social responsibility (CSR) should be voluntary or regulated, in light of the 2013 India Companies Act, which mandates CSR spending—making India the only country in the world to legislatively require CSR. Adopting a communicative approach to the study of policy discourse, and attuned to India’s geopolitical standing as an emerging economy, we engage in a critical discourse analysis, examining the Act vis-à-vis prevalent social practices of CSR in India, and ongoing discursive practices related to the text. Our findings suggest: 1) a blend of different CSR models operating—ethical/religious, statist, neoliberal, and stakeholder-based understandings; 2) a rhetorical emphasis on creating a “culture of CSR,” corporate governance, and institutionalizing communicative practice; and 3) three dialectics characterizing the discursive practices surrounding the CSR mandate (i.e., local/global, developmental/economic, and mandatory/obligatory). We close by discussing implications for CSR and development studies.