UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Strong companies, weak states : contention, corporate social responsibility, and accountability in the global mining industry Parker, Stefan Michael


Industrial natural resource extraction is a significant source of conflict among citizens, corporations and states throughout the world. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) seeks to reduce the social, political, and environmental concerns of communities affected by natural resource extraction through voluntary corporate actions. However, the provision of CSR goods such as education, healthcare, and environmental protection do not necessarily alleviate the concerns of local communities, and critics of CSR note that it cannot replicate state-led development and regulation. By examining conflict regarding large-scale industrial mining operations in Chile and Peru, current critiques of corporate social responsibility are re-theorized to answer why some communities demand direct corporate accountability rather than more robust state-based accountability. I argue that citizens’ relationships of power with states and corporations have been shaped by their historical experiences of state perpetrated violence. In each case study I explore variation among repertoires of contention employed by citizens in relation to the perceived accountability of corporations and states. Where citizens feel unrepresented or threatened by the state, they may prefer to direct demands for accountability towards a corporation that is claiming to be socially responsible. In so doing, I challenge critiques of CSR-governance that focus on the absence of state-led development. By incorporating mining-affected communities as actors demanding accountability rather than subjects of exploitation, I push towards more complex theories of corporate social responsibility and resource governance more generally.

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