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Stakeholder Theory Classification, Definitions and Essential Contestability

Stakeholder Management

ISBN: 978-1-78714-408-8, eISBN: 978-1-78714-407-1

Publication date: 23 May 2017


Stakeholder theory has been accused of being an umbrella concept rather than a distinct theory per se. Recognizing the stakeholder concept as an essentially contested concept subject to multiple competing interpretations, this chapter presents a systematic meta-level conceptual analysis. This chapter aims to contribute to the optimal development of stakeholder theory by clarifying the conceptual confusion surrounding its central construct to help prevent stakeholder theory from developing into an accumulation of disparate ideas. Multi-contextual contributions to stakeholder theory are analysed via an unparalleled bounded systematic review of 593 stakeholder definitions. Determinants of the stakeholder concept have been deconstructed and analysed to establish how definitional variables relate to variants of stakeholder theory. These determinants have been sorted, filtered and ordered to produce a comprehensive, multi-dimensional classification of stakeholder theory based on four hyponyms which relate to 16 definitional categories. The classification was then subjected to empirical testing with positive results. This evaluation of the stakeholder concept illustrates how contributions are aligned and interrelated, thereby prescribing what is acceptable (unacceptable) as inclusion within stakeholder theory. An invaluable overview of what we know about stakeholder theory is presented within a single model, drawing the conclusion that stakeholder theory is indeed a single theory.



Miles, S. (2017), "Stakeholder Theory Classification, Definitions and Essential Contestability", Stakeholder Management (Business and Society 360, Vol. 1), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 21-47.



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