Incorporating Social Activism

98 Boston University Law Review 1535 (2018)

Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2019-01

71 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2018 Last revised: 16 Jan 2019

See all articles by Tom C. W. Lin

Tom C. W. Lin

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law

Date Written: December 1, 2018


Corporations and their executives are at the forefront of some of the most contentious and important social issues of our time. Through pronouncements, policies, boycotts, sponsorships, lobbying, and fundraising, corporations are actively engaged in issues like immigration reform, gun regulation, racial justice, gender equality, and religious freedom. This is the new reality of business and social activism in America.

This Article offers the first comprehensive legal examination of this new corporate social activism and its wide-ranging effects on law, business, and society. It begins by providing a brief history of corporations and social activism. Next, it establishes the legal and political foundations of contemporary corporate social activism. It investigates how the convergence of government and private enterprise, the rise of corporate social responsibility, and the expansion of corporate political rights have all fostered contemporary corporate social activism. Moving from origins to effects, it then examines the potential costs and benefits associated with this new dynamic. Finally, this Article offers pragmatic proposals for addressing the broader implications of contemporary corporate social activism on law, business, and society. Specifically, it discusses how such activism can impact corporate purpose, corporate governance, and public interest lawyering. Ultimately, this Article aspires to provide an original legal framework for thinking, speaking, and acting anew about corporate social activism in America.

Keywords: Corporate Social Activism, Corporate Activism, CEO Activism, Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR, Social Entrepreneurship, Philanthrocapitalism, Impact Investing, ESG Investing, Corporate Political Rights, Social Impact, Social Activism, Social Change

Suggested Citation

Lin, Tom C. W., Incorporating Social Activism (December 1, 2018). 98 Boston University Law Review 1535 (2018), Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2019-01, Available at SSRN:

Tom C. W. Lin (Contact Author)

Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law ( email )

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Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

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