ReVolvolutions : innovation, politics and the Swedish brand
This thesis is an ethnographic study of how professionals within Volvo Car Corporation manage public contestation of the corporation's business practices, notably within the areas of automotive safety, environmental care, and so-called 'corporate citizenship'. Thus, the text interrogates how actors inside the firm mediate between the demands of the public on the one hand, and the economic and technical constraints of the corporation on the other. Theoretically, the text sets out to make two contributions. First, following Bruno Latour's critique of modernity, it explores the modern conception of the economy, in which markets and firms are construed as natural phenomena that are separate from cultural, political and 'subjective' processes. Secondly, building on Michel Gallon's work on economic markets, the text examines the practices by which corporate professionals 'invent' new areas of corporate responsibility, and thus participate in the 'reframing' of the automotive market. With regard to methodology, the thesis argues that ethnographies of corporations and their social responsibilities require interventionist modes of inquiry, where researchers 'take sides' and assist in the construction of certain forms of economic action. The thesis concludes that - contrary to the modern conception of markets and firms - the business operations of Volvo have continually been entangled in processes of idealism, politics and ideology. Moreover, the way in which corporate professionals readily traverse the 'inside' and the 'outsides' of the corporation shows that - again, contrary to the modern conception of markets and firms - the boundaries of the firm are fluid and penetrable.