“Pouring politics down our throats”: Political csr communication and consumer catharsis

Georgiana Grigore, Mike Molesworth

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter theorizes the outrageous consumer response that may follow the communication of political corporate social responsibility (CSR). We consider two recent cases (Starbucks’s offer to hire refugees and Pepsi’s appropriation of protest movements in an ad) and how consumers-citizens reacted when these corporations communicated political issues. By drawing from psychoanalytic concepts, we illustrate how consumers’ outrage, expressed in angry social media comments, and in the creation and sharing of memes, is cathartic of unconscious repressed matter: the realization of their own powerless and the domination of corporations. We further note how these expressions of outrage may be understood to result from defense mechanisms such as denial, displacement, or more complex sublimation that help consumers maintain a position of passive domination by corporations. Like all psychoanalytic applications, our interpretation represents only a plausible metaphor that can explain the “irrational” behavior of consumers. Positivist traditions of CSR theorization may demand further causal studies to confirm the ideas we express. Our study is an original exploration of what underlies consumer responses to political CSR. These cases could inform academics and practitioners working in the business and society arena asking them to re-evaluate whether and how political CSR should be communicated, and the implications of the rapid diffusion of messages in social media that include mocking parody and offensive brand comments.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDevelopments in Corporate Governance and Responsibility
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing Ltd.
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

NameDevelopments in Corporate Governance and Responsibility
ISSN (Print)2043-0523
ISSN (Electronic)2043-0531

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 by Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Catharsis
  • CSR communication
  • Pepsi
  • Political CSR
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Starbucks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)


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