The paper has three main objectives. The first aim is to examine and clarify the burgeoning stakeholder literature that currently seeks to inform management practice, corporate governance and public policy with particular emphasis on the UK. We do this by continuing the process of clarification started by Donaldson and Preston (1995), focusing mainly on the political and practitioner literature generated within the UK. We begin this task by setting out a critique of stakeholding and develop this by using four key themes of enquiry. First, we examine stakeholding's conceptual confusion; second, we outline and develop criticsm of its underlying pluralist assumptions; third, we consider the problems of implementation; and finally, we assess some of the key arguments concerning its potential impact on business performance and competitiveness. The second aim is to develop and examine the central criticisms of stakeholding from both the neo-liberal and Marxist/radical perspectives. By so doing we identify the key theoretical and practical issues which stakeholder proponents must address if they are to convince sceptics of the model's validity. The third aim is to develop a conceptual framework capable of illustrating the different stakeholder perspectives and assumptions on which they are based. This consists of five continuums: the first locates authors on a left-right political continuum; the second distinguishes between those authors who use stakeholding primarily for analysis and those who use it to formulate and prescribe specific courses of action; the third differentiates between intrinsic (good in itself) and instrumental (means to an end) motives; the fourth identifies the various levels of proposed intervention; and the fifth illustrates the different degrees of enforcement advocated. We believe that this framework provides a clear illustration of our arguments and serves as a useful instrument for clarifying the stakeholder concept. In addition, it is used to position or map the work of key authors within the stakeholder debate and we believe it may provide a more coherent basis for future research and debate.

Journal of Management Studies

Stoney, C, & Winstanley, D. (Diana). (2001). Stakeholding: Confusion or Utopia? Mapping the conceptual terrain. Journal of Management Studies, 38(5), 1–626.