Post-woke: Corporate America has reduced woke communications since 2020

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Abstract

Many corporations have been keen to identify with "woke" culture. The term "woke capitalism" was even coined to describe the way that companies align themselves with social justice movements and activist causes.

Beyond boardrooms, Vivek Ramaswamy and Ron de Santis, the ‘anti-woke’ Republican candidates, soared in popularity in 2023. But, they have both now bowed out of the presidential race.

The woke culture war has also been in the spotlight in the antisemitism on campus testimonies, and their aftermath, last fall. Claudine Gay, who for many came to symbolize woke efforts, resigned from her role as president of Harvard at the start of 2024.

The contrasting trajectories beg the question: have we already seen peak woke? Is woke on the ascent, or at least, impervious to a backlash? Or, is corporate wokeness on the decline, or even, facing a death knell?

Since 2020, woke language has featured less in US-headquartered firms’ CSR communications. As South Park called it, companies now fear the risk of being "[woke Disney]."

No longer poised to comment on every social issue, American enterprises could be reverting to an interpretation of wokeism centred on the responsibility of executives to address and mitigate the unintended consequences of their actions —- rather than to take positions on wider societal debates. They may be making a concerted effort to speak less, but more authentically.

Such a change would be welcome beyond corporate America. The gap between moral grandstanding and business-as-usual [made headlines] that prompted eye-rolls around the world just days before COP28 in Dubai. Documents revealed that the UAE government planned to use the moral high ground of hosting the climate change conference to strike oil deals.

The decline of Corporate America's wokeism since 2020--we hope--may mean less disingenuous posturing and more doing.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationGlobal Policy
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2024

Keywords

  • woke
  • Corporate communication
  • United States
  • CSR

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