A Dynamic Process Model of Private Politics: Activist Targeting and Corporate Receptivity to Social Challenges

American Sociological Review, vol 80, pp 654-78, 2015.

Stanford University Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 14-18

49 Pages Posted: 4 May 2014 Last revised: 1 Aug 2015

Date Written: 2015

Abstract

This project explores whether and how corporations become more receptive to social activist challenges over time. Drawing from social movement theory, we suggest a dynamic process through which contentious interactions lead to increased receptivity. We argue that when firms are chronically targeted by social activists, they respond defensively by adopting strategic management devices that help them better manage social issues and demonstrate their normative appropriateness. These defensive devices have the incidental effect of empowering independent monitors and increasing corporate accountability, which in turn increases a firm's receptivity to future activist challenges. We test our theory using a unique longitudinal dataset that tracks contentious attacks and the adoption of social management devices among a population of 300 large firms from 1993-2009.

Keywords: corporate social responsibility, social movements, market contention, private politics, social activism

Suggested Citation

McDonnell, Mary-Hunter and King, Brayden and Soule, Sarah, A Dynamic Process Model of Private Politics: Activist Targeting and Corporate Receptivity to Social Challenges (2015). Georgetown McDonough School of Business Research Paper No. 2432208; American Sociological Review, vol 80, pp 654-78, 2015.; Stanford University Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 14-18. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2432208 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2432208

Mary-Hunter McDonnell (Contact Author)

The Wharton School - The University of Pennsylvania ( email )

3641 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States

Brayden King

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Sarah Soule

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

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