Virtuous Language in Industry and the Academy

Stuart Kirsch
Dept. of Anthropology
University of Michigan

In recent years, the corporate world has increasingly cloaked itself in the virtuous language of responsibility and sustainability. This is part of a larger discursive shift in how corporations respond to their critics. In contrast to corporate narratives about self-improvement and reform, I use examples from the mining industry to show how this new language emerges from a history of struggle between mining companies and indigenous communities. The simultaneous promotion of these terms within university settings raises important questions about what it means for business and the academy to speak the same language. This paper asks what is being accomplished socially, politically, and discursively by the deployment of virtuous language in industry and the academy.