Impact and Prospects
Edited by Robert A. Phillips
Chapter 7: Where is the Theory in Stakeholder Theory? A Meta-analysis of the Pluralism in Stakeholder Theory
Andreas Georg Scherer and Moritz Patzer In the 25 years since the publication of Freeman’s book Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach in 1984, stakeholder theory has had a profound impact on our perception of the relation between the corporation and its social environment. Although originally intended as a textbook in Strategic Management (see Freeman 2004: 229), Freeman’s publication has been widely recognized in fields such as Business and Society, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), and Business Ethics (see Freeman and McVea, 2001; Jones, Wicks and Freeman, 2002; Freeman, 2004; Walsh, 2005; Agle et al., 2008; Laplume, Sonpar and Litz, 2008). Its core notion is that of a managerial approach that goes beyond a neoclassical shareholder-orientation and recognizes the strategic relevance of stakeholders in an increasingly complex world (for example, Freeman, 1994; Jones, Wicks and Freeman, 2002; critically, Jensen, 2002; Sundaram and Inkpen, 2004; Walsh, 2005). The inclusion of the latter, understood as ‘any group or individual who is affected by or can affect the achievement of an organization’s objectives’ (Freeman, 1984: 46; see also Mitchell, Agle and Wood, 1997), has prepared the ground for a new understanding of the firm’s social embeddedness. The work of Freeman and his colleagues has sparked enthusiastic calls for an integrative theory of the firm with stakeholder theory as a ‘central paradigm for the business and society field’ (Jones, 1995: 432; see also Donaldson and Preston, 1995; Wood and Jones, 1995; Harrison and Freeman, 1999). Likewise, it has been considered as a foothold in the ‘Normative...
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