Stakeholder Theory
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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.
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Chapter 7: Where is the Theory in Stakeholder Theory? A Meta-analysis of the Pluralism in Stakeholder Theory

Andreas Georg Scherer and Moritz Patzer


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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