This paper aims to respond to recent calls to rethink the concept of managerial capture as it has been used to date to explore and explain the limited impacts of new forms of stakeholder engagement.
The paper explores the grounding of views of managerial capture in the Habermasian ideal of participative democracy. It then attempts to re‐conceive the understanding of capture by drawing on Foucault's account of disciplinary power and its constitutive effects on subjectivity.
Capture appears as a managerial mindset constituted by the pervasive demand for shareholder value. When stakeholder issues are considered within this frame they must be recast in ways that pose no moral or emotional challenge to the dominant logic of shareholder maximisation. This moral distancing or amoralisation can be traced to the accounting practices that make management visible to their superiors (board of directors or more senior levels of management) in terms of their utility. In seeking the recognition of their superiors, individual managers make themselves subjects of this deeper form of capture.
A less restricted lens for conducting future research in managerial capture is offered. While in practice stakeholder engagement fails to live up to the Habermasian ideal, it still holds some promise for delivering management accountability.
The paper shows that ideas of power and subjectivity are key to an understanding of environmental accountability and open the social and environmental accountability literature to a new set of interesting problematics.
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