Universität Bonn

Forum Internationale Wissenschaft

Dr. Damien Krichewsky

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Dr. Damien Krichewsky

Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter, Abteilung für Demokratieforschung


Heussallee 18-24

53113 Bonn

Damien Krichewsky’s work combines social theory and qualitative research methods to investigate transformative political changes arising from contradictions between modernization and its destructive socio-ecological side-effects. His key areas of expertise are:

  • Sociological theory, including environmental sociology, political sociology, organisation theory, and social systems theory.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility, sustainable development, and socio-ecological transformation.
  • Environmental governance, including industrial pollution abatement, river governance, and biodiversity governance.
  • Indian studies, including Indian (environmental) politics and democracy, state-business relations, and social movements.

In his doctoral research at the Centre for Sociology of Organizations (Sciences Po Paris), Damien Krichewsky analysed the drivers, modi operandi and effects of the rapid institutionalization of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in India in the 2000s Using both macroscopic observations and in-depth empirical studies in the cement industry, his research situated the institutionalization of CSR in India in the context of economic reforms and related pro-business development policies. By granting private companies extensive political support and lifting regulatory constraints to attract investments, these policies led to a gradual ‘dis-embedding’ of corporate conduct, the latter being increasingly dominated by short-term profit-maximization. Side-effects, such as the casualization of labour, forced land expropriation, arbitrations favouring investment returns over environmental protection, or closer ties between political forces and private business interests, triggered an intensification of protest movements, court cases, and moral condemnations that highlighted contradictions between companies’ developmental role and their actual behaviour. As Damien Krichewsky showed, the institutionalization of CSR was a direct response to this growing contention. By equipping companies with dedicated organizational structures, CSR enhanced their ability to decipher their non-market environment, to identify business-relevant risks of contention, and to manage these risks proactively to shield profitable business opportunities from costly interferences. The dissertation was graded with summa cum laude and was distinguished by the 2013 PhD-Thesis Price of the Réseau international de recherche sur les organisations et le développement durable (RIODD).

In a subsequent research project, conducted at the Forum Internationale Wissenschaft, Damien Krichewsky examined the institutionalization of CSR as a policy instrument meant to better align large companies with objectives of socially inclusive and ecologically sustainable development. For this study, Damien Krichewsky produced a detailed comparative analysis of the policy-making processes underlying the National CSR Voluntary Guidelines of 2011 and the section 135 of the Companies Act 2013. Based on a systems-theoretical framework, the analysis showed how the semantic properties of CSR tilted the policy process towards problem-descriptions and policy ‘solutions’ that play in the hands of corporate actors: despite their official goal, both policies ended up attributing key redistributive and regulatory functions to companies, without imposing much constraints on how companies perform these functions. Building on his PhD-thesis and the findings of this additional project, Damien Krichewsky completed his research on CSR by elaborating an empirically-grounded theorization of CSR as an ‘intermediary institution’, which supports profit-driven economic processes by making them more responsive to risks arising from frictions between the economy and other ‘function systems’ (e.g. politics, law, morality) against the backdrop of heightened functional differentiation.

Beside theoretical contributions in political sociology, such as on parliamentary studies, or on political responsiveness in democratic and authoritarian regimes, Damien Krichewsky has focused the bulk of his research and teaching work on the study of political transformations in overstrained environmental governance contexts.

This particular topic already featured in projects Damien Krichewsky conducted in parallel to his work on CSR. For instance, in a study commissioned by the Agence Francaise de Développement (AFD), Damien Krichewsky examined the potentials and limits of environmental credit lines with a sociological analysis of a flagship environmental credit line project implemented in Egypt by World Bank and bilateral donors to achieve industrial pollution abatement. Another project, conducted under the scientific supervision of Damien Krichewsky by students of Sciences Po’s Master of Public Affairs, examined conflicts between nature conservation and urban development affecting the Sanjay Gandhi National Park – a 87 km2 protected area located in the heart of the Mumbai metropolis. Carried out in collaboration with the Maharashtra Forest Department, the project highlighted the limits of the prevailing strategy, which defended the national park as a fortress against its urban surroundings, and recommended steps to safeguard the park by increasing its public value for the city.

In his current work on political transformations in the Anthropocene, Damien Krichewsky explores how the inability of environmental governance frameworks to curb the ecological side-effects of modernization fuels political projects that disrupt the constitutive parameters of modern politics. Based on a comparative case study research method, this project covers two cases: river politics and the governance of the Ganges in contemporary India, and biodiversity governance through Access & Benefit Sharing (ABS) in Southern Africa. While being located in different regions and tackling distinct environmental problems, these two cases provide prime opportunities to analyse how the failure of prevailing environmental governance institutions opens space for the assertion of alternative approaches, such as techno-scientific projects that consider democratic politics as a disturbing factor to be managed, or earthbound projects, whose relational ontologies question core cultural and institutional features of the modern state.

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