Multinational Corporations and Global Justice: Human Rights Obligations of a Quasi-Governmental Institution

By Florian Wettstein | Go to book overview

Chapter 8

Challenging Common Perceptions
Some Preliminary Conceptual Reflections on
Multinational Corporations' Obligations of Justice

POWER, AS PETER DRUCKER (1994, 101) stated correctly, “must always be balanced by responsibility; otherwise It becomes tyranny.” Obviously, the question whether power is exercised formally or merely factually is of minor importance in this regard. It is quite evident that the quasi-governmental position of multinational corporations must result in substantial corresponding moral responsibilities. Hence this final part of this book will shed light on the normative implications of multinational corporations acting in the position of primary agents of justice. Thus part III provides an examination of the quasi-governmental position explicated in part II in light of the rights-based principles of cosmopolitan justice and the corresponding conceptual notion of moral obligations developed in part I.

If we consider the pivotal role of justice in the viability of any society, as well as the increasingly powerful position of multinational corporations in the global political economy and their profound influence on people's lives, it is surprising that especially the booming debate on corporate social responsibility has not yet paid major attention to the concept of (global) justice. In fact, there is hardly any systematic analysis, let alone a complete theory, of the corporation's role from a genuine justice perspective. The dominant perception still holds that the place to pursue justice in society is the political realm, not business (see, e.g., Streeten 2004, 72). What such statements conceal, however, is that multinational corporations themselves have become major players in the political arena.

There are a few notable exceptions in the literature on corporate responsibility that take the justice perspective into account. First and foremost, Iris

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