Stakeholder Theory

Stakeholder Theory

Impact and Prospects

Edited by Robert A. Phillips

Honoring the twenty-fifth anniversary of R. Edward Freeman’s Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach, one of the most influential books in the history of business strategy and ethics, this work assembles a collection of contributions from some of the most renowned and widely-cited scholars working in the area of stakeholder scholarship today.

Chapter 4: Stakeholder Theory in Strategic Management: A Retrospective

Jeffrey S. Harrison

Subjects: business and management, strategic management


Jeffrey S. Harrison This chapter will provide a description of the personal journey of the author who, as a newly graduated Ph.D. in strategic management in 1985, embraced stakeholder theory. Perhaps one of the interesting aspects of this narrative is that the field of strategic management itself was in its infancy at the time of my graduation. So I have ‘grown up’ in the strategy field while simultaneously observing and to some extent participating in the development of what we now call stakeholder theory. Over the past two and a half decades I have frequently found myself frustrated by my strategy colleagues’ lack of understanding of the stakeholder concept and their inability to comprehend its potential to address many of the most important problems in the strategy field. My own attempts to remedy this situation while continuing to do mainstream strategy research are described herein.1 Of course, in recent years the stakeholder concept has begun to gain greater acceptance in the strategy field. At the end of the chapter, I will describe some potentially fruitful applications of the stakeholder concept in strategic management research. A DISCIPLINE IS BORN The birth of the academic field now known as strategic management probably occurred at a conference at the University of Pittsburgh in May 1977. This is not to say that scholars were not already exploring related ideas and theories, but to keep with the birth analogy, these early activities are better described as the gestation period in which the baby was forming....

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