What Stakeholder Theory is Not

Business Ethics Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp. 479-502

Posted: 8 Feb 2005

See all articles by Robert A. Phillips

Robert A. Phillips

York University - Schulich School of Business

R. Edward Freeman

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Andrew C. Wicks

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Abstract

The term stakeholder is a powerful one. This is due, to a significant degree, to its conceptual breadth. The term means different things to different people and hence evokes praise or scorn from a wide variety of scholars and practitioners. Such breadth of interpretation, though one of stakeholder theory's greatest strengths, is also one of its most prominent theoretical liabilities. The goal of the current paper is like that of a controlled burn that clears away some of the underbrush of misinterpretation in the hope of denying easy fuel to the critical conflagration that would raze the theory. We aim to narrow its technical meaning for greater facility of use in management and organizational studies. By elaborating a number of common misinterpretations - critical and friendly - of the theory, we hope to render a stronger and more convincing theory as a starting place for future research.

Keywords: Stakeholder theory, ethics

Suggested Citation

Phillips, Robert A. and Freeman, R. Edward and Wicks, Andrew C., What Stakeholder Theory is Not. Business Ethics Quarterly, Vol. 13, No. 4, pp. 479-502, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=663703

Robert A. Phillips (Contact Author)

York University - Schulich School of Business ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3
Canada

R. Edward Freeman

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States
804-924-0935 (Phone)
804-924-6378 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/freeman.htm

Andrew C. Wicks

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/wicks.htm

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