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Call for Papers - Business, Social Policy and Corporate Political Influence in Developing Countries

9 Feb 2007



The call for papers closed on 30 March 2007. The authors of the selected abstracts will be contacted in April 2007 with an invitation to submit full-length papers. Only those authors whose abstracts are selected will be contacted.

The text of the original call for papers follows.

The influence of large corporations and business associations in shaping patterns of social development and government policy in developing countries has increased significantly. This is largely the result of pressures exerted through capital flows, lobbying, the participation of non-state actors in consultation and decision-making processes associated with standard-setting and public policy, the internationalization of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda, and public-private partnerships.

This call for papers seeks to better understand:
  • How changing patterns of state-business relations are affecting development strategies and social and labour market policy in developing countries*;
  • The institutional, political and economic conditions that encourage organized business interests to support progressive social policy and inclusive development strategies.

During November 2007, the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) will co-host an international conference in Geneva to examine these issues and their implications for social policy, democratic governance, well-being and poverty reduction in developing countries. The conference aims to bring key findings and debates within academia to the attention of United Nations agencies, governments, business and civil society organizations, and the international development research community. It also seeks to address certain limitations in existing literatures on these issues. For example, the expanding body of research on CSR has paid insufficient attention to issues of corporate policy and political influence, while the Varieties of Capitalism and Welfare State literatures focus primarily on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.

This call for papers, therefore, invites researchers to submit abstracts proposing papers that address one or several of the following themes and questions:

Changing patterns of state-business relations
1. How are business-state relations changing in the context of economic liberalization, globalization and democratization, and what are the implications of these changes for social policy and social development?
2. What happens to the role of corporations (public and private) in social welfare provision and social insurance in contexts of privatization and liberalization?

Dynamics of corporate policy influence
3. What are the causes of different firm’s preferences regarding social policy and how are those preferences aggregated?
4. What are the different means (structural, instrumental and/or discursive) by which organized business interests influence the policy process?
5. How do business associations mediate and discipline business opportunism and rent-seeking?
6. Are there notable differences between the social policy preferences of transnational and domestic firms and elites? Are there notable differences between the policy preferences and positions of large corporations or business groups and influential business associations?

Regressive and progressive policy influence
7. How extensive is lobbying or other forms of policy influence by business interests for government policies and legislation that are socially regressive?
8. How contradictory or compatible are CSR and lobbying practices of firms and business associations?
9. How prevalent is the problem of institutional capture of state and regulatory institutions by business interests?
10. What private, public or multipartite governance institutions exist or are emerging that contribute to both industrial competitiveness and social well-being?
11. In contexts where both labour organizations and/or states have lost capacity to discipline business, what new countervailing centres of power are emerging to discipline business and promote social pacts conducive to inclusive development?

If you are interested in participating in this inquiry, please submit an extended abstract of 500-1,000 words, outlining the main issues, hypotheses and structure of the paper. Please also submit full contact details, a CV and a copy of any previous publication on the subject, to marques@unrisd.org by 30 March 2007. In April, successful candidates will be invited to submit a 7,000 to 9,000 word paper by 30 August, and present their findings at a conference to be held at the United Nations in Geneva, provisionally planned for November 12 –14, 2007. It is anticipated that UNRISD will be able to cover travel and accommodation costs. Subject to peer review, selected papers will be published in an edited volume through a reputable commercial publisher or as a special issue of an academic journal. They should, therefore, contain original material. The papers will also be referred to in a flagship report on the theme of Poverty Reduction and Policy Regimes, which will be published by UNRISD in 2009.

For further information please contact: José Carlos Marques: marques@unrisd.org. See also www.unrisd.org, research programme: Markets, Business and Regulation.


* Social policy is understood here broadly in terms of state interventions that directly affect social welfare, social institutions and social relations. It encompasses the provision of health, education and other social services; welfare and social insurance arrangements; labour market policies and institutions related to working conditions, skills development and labour rights; and redistributive policies that transfer resources from higher to lower income groups and the socially disadvantaged. Also important are macroeconomic policies that crucially affect employment and human security.