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REAd. Revista Eletrônica de Administração (Porto Alegre)

On-line version ISSN 1413-2311

Abstract

BARCELLOS, Rebeca de Moraes Ribeiro de  and  DELLAGNELO, Eloise Livramento. Corporate social responsibility: a discussion on the epistemology underlying the concepts used in the area. REAd. Rev. eletrôn. adm. (Porto Alegre) [online]. 2013, vol.19, n.1, pp.35-60. ISSN 1413-2311.  https://doi.org/10.1590/S1413-23112013000100002.

Considering the importance of epistemological analysis in the production of scientific knowledge in any area in general and in administration in particular terms, this article aims to analyze the epistemological foundations of one of the themes that has been gaining importance in the context of academic research in management: Corporate Social Responsibility. Inspired by the study developed by Moretti and Campanário (2009), which mapped the primary references used to substantiate the works presented on the topic during Enanpads, we selected eight works referenced, which were specifically related to the foundations of social responsibility and analyzed the sections dealing with the reasons why companies practice social responsibility. Later, the works were analyzed from the perspective of the main epistemological thoughts in XXth century, considered relevant for understanding the phenomenon: empiricism, rationalism, utilitarianism, positivism, functionalism and dialectics. The conclusions point to the fact that, besides the existence of an intellectual comfort zone in the studies on the subject, as pointed out by Moretti and Campanário (2009), the foundation of the references used is centered on logic of the dominant paradigm in administration studies, highlighting the functionalist and utilitarian character of social responsibility's practices made by companies. Interestingly, the studies could not be classified as empiricist, rationalist or positivist due to lack of concrete evidence to substantiate the authors' conclusions, except for the work of Freeman (1999) which presents an empirical basis from which conclusions are received. The findings draw attention to the difficulties of developing a field of research focused on few works, with non-explicit and restricted epistemological options, raising the need for research using different epistemological assumptions to describe the phenomenon more accurately, contributing to a reflective understanding of the role of business organizations in the social field.

Keywords : Corporate Social Responsibility; Epistemology; Organizational Studies.

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