The organizational benefits of digital technologies are increasingly contrasted with negative societal consequences. Such tensions are contradictory, persistent and interrelated, suggesting paradoxes. Yet, we lack insight into how such apparent paradoxes are constructed and to what effect. This empirical paper draws upon interviews with thirty-nine responsibility managers to unpack how paradoxes are discursively (re)constructed and resolved as a rhetoric of ‘balance’ that ensures identification with organizational, familial and societal interests. We also reveal how such ‘false balance’ sustains and legitimizes organizational activity by displacing responsibilities onto distant ‘others’ through temporal (futurizing), spatial (externalizing) and level (magnifying / individualizing) rhetorical devices. In revealing the process of paradox construction and resolution as ‘balance’ in the context of digitalization and its unanticipated outcomes, we join conversations into new organizational responsibilities in the digital economy, with implications for theory and practice.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge the very helpful assistance provided by Niloofar Borghei Razavi, PhD student at Henley Business School, who conducted half of the interviews. We have presented our work to academics at a Business and Society Workshop (London, March 2019), to industry practitioners at a public engagement workshop (Henley Business School, May 2019) and to CSR academics at an international conference (University of Minho, Portugal, October 2019), and we would like to kindly acknowledge the valuable feedback received from all participants. We wish to thank editor Hannah Trittin-Ulbrich and the anonymous reviewers for their insightful, tremendously helpful and enriching commentary. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research is funded by the British Academy/Leverhulme through a small grant titled ‘New responsibilities in the digital economy’ (SG171301).
© The Author(s) 2020.
- corporate social responsibility
- digital technologies
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Business, Management and Accounting(all)
- Strategy and Management
- Management of Technology and Innovation