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Subpolitics and the Campaign against Barclays’ Involvement in South Africa

  • In this article I examine the context for the British bank Barclays’ decision to disinvest from South Africa in 1986, with special attention to the impact of the Anti-Apartheid Movement’s campaign against the bank. The 18-year long campaign against Barclays – the largest bank in South Africa at the time and the fourth largest foreign-owned corporation – points to significant developments within the fields of corporate social responsibility and the potential influence of social movements on multinational corporations. Applying the theoretical approach of subpolitics as developed by Ulrich Beck in combination with the later subdivision by Boris Holzer and Mads P. Sørensen into a passive and an active form, it is possible to analyse the decisions of both anti-apartheid activists and Barclays on similar terms. The conclusions drawn in this article emphasise the idea that economic decisions taken by multinational corporations may have unintended political consequences and, furthermore, that the awareness of this phenomenon has contributed to the development of corporate social responsibility. Finally, I suggest that the campaign against Barclays generated public attentiveness towards the social responsibility of businesses.

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Author:Jakob Skovgaard
Parent Title (English):Moving the Social – Journal of Social History and the History of Social Movements
Document Type:Journal Article
Date of Publication (online):2016/11/24
Date of first Publication:2017/02/16
Release Date:2017/02/16
Volume Number:54
First Page:37
Last Page:57
ZZF Topic-Classification:Politik
Postcolonial Studies
Transnationale Geschichte
Soziale Bewegungen
ZZF Chronological-Classification:1980er
ZZF Regional-Classification:Europa / Westeuropa / Großbritannien
Zeithistorische Forschungen: Materialien zu Themenheften:2/2016 Apartheid und Anti-Apartheid 2/2016
Licence (German):License LogoMit freundlicher Genehmigung des jeweiligen Autors / Verlags für Online-Ausgabe der Zeitschrift Zeithistorische Forschungen