Business and Bleeding Hearts

Why Multinational Corporations Have a Responsibility to Encourage Cosmopolitan Concern


  • Tadhg Ó Laoghaire University of Gothenburg



When it comes to fulfilling our basic duties to distant others, we in the affluent world face a motivation gap; we consistently fall short of bearing even moderate costs for the sake of helping others secure basic minimums to which they are entitled. One response to the motivation gap is to cultivate in affluent populations a greater concern for distant others; cultivating such concern is the goal of ‘sentimental cosmopolitanism’. Two approaches to sentimental cosmopolitanism currently dominate the literature, a compassion-based and a complicity-based approach, respectively. In this paper, I argue for the promise of reciprocity as an alternative motivator of cosmopolitan concern. I further argue that a sense of obligation to distant others, grounded in our participation in an ongoing system of reciprocal exchange, can be cultivated within a thus-far overlooked sphere of cosmopolitan sensitization, namely the market. I make the case for the market as an appropriate site for cosmopolitan sensitization, and further argue that multinational corporations are, for several reasons, well-positioned to bear the political responsibility of sensitizing affluent populations to the significance of their participation in a cooperative economic scheme shared with distant others. This paper, then, makes a novel contribution to debates on cosmopolitan sentiment, as well as to the emerging literature on corporations’ political responsibilities.

Keywords: multinational corporations; political responsibility; reciprocity; sentimental cosmopolitanism; trade