The Liability of Tribe in Corporate Political Activity: Ethical Implications for Political Contestability

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Political contestability is an important issue in the ethical analysis of corporate political activity (hereafter CPA). Though previous studies have proposed analytical frameworks for creating contestable political systems, these studies conceive firm-level factors such as size and wealth as the main (and perhaps, only) determinants of contestability. This relegates the influences of informal managerial-level attributes such as tribalism, especially in ethnically diverse contexts where politics and tribe are inseparable. In this article, I explore the linkages between managers’ tribal identity and political contestability among firms in Ghana. I found that contestability is affected by tribal consonance (similarity) and tribal dissonance (difference) between corporate executives and policymakers. I also found that dissonance creates liability of tribe, which causes contestability problems in all four stages of the CPA process—i.e., political planning, political access, political voice, and political influence. Overall, this article extends the micro–macro link of political connections from performance to the ethics of political competition and contestability. It offers important contributions to the literature, advances insightful implications for practice, and outlines useful future research directions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)623-644
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Issue number3
Early online date12 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2022


  • Business ethics
  • Corporate political activity
  • Ghana
  • Informal institutions
  • Political contestability
  • Tribalism
  • Tribe

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Law


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