Towards a Stakeholder Society: Stakeholder Theory vs Theory of Civil Society

12 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2011

See all articles by Maria Bonnafous-Boucher

Maria Bonnafous-Boucher

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Simon Porcher

IAE Paris - Sorbonne Business School

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Associating the concept of civil society with stakeholder theory has become a common practice. The point of view put forward here attribute paternity of the stakeholder theory essentially to Freeman as a strategic framework for business studies and practices (1981, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 2001, 2004), as a strong framework for political and moral philosophy (1988, 1994, 1998), as an inescapable framework for business ethics (2000). In order to take into account the advancement bringing by Freeman, the intention of this article is to demonstrate the degree to which stakeholder theory can be considered as a theory of civil society, which in turn is a theory of business. The argument will be based on the following points:

• Stakeholder theory occupies an intermediate position between strategic management and political philosophy in that it presents a new form of sovereignty, the sovereignty of big business; • Stakeholder theory is a strategic theory; whether it legitimises, relativises or neutralises the sovereignty of the firm, it conceptualises and situates it in relation to other models; • Stakeholder theory can be understood as a theory of civil society for the 21st century but it cannot be a substitute for a civil society theory devised in the 19th century; • Stakeholder theory can thus be considered as affording a strategic perspective that, although somewhat unfamiliar, serves as the foundation of business ethics.

Keywords: stakeholder theory, civil society theory, salaried patrimonial capitalism, strategic management, public policy, governance

Suggested Citation

Bonnafous-Boucher, Maria and Porcher, Simon, Towards a Stakeholder Society: Stakeholder Theory vs Theory of Civil Society. European Management Review, Vol. 7, Issue 4, pp. 205-216, 2010, Available at SSRN: or

Maria Bonnafous-Boucher (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

No Address Available

Simon Porcher

IAE Paris - Sorbonne Business School ( email )

IAE - Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne
8 bis rue croix de Jarry
Paris, 75013

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