About the Author
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On the other hand, the past couple of years have witnessed the publication of a number of trade books on the subject of stakeholder management. Though widely discussed in the United States, the concept has received even more attention in the U.K. and Canada. Books on the practical aspects of stakeholder management have come from consultants and journalists from these regions and are becoming available in the U.S. Again, as is common in trade books, the academicians attention to conceptual and theoretical detail is largely absent in these treatises. Given that the majority of scholarly attention to the concept has come in the form of journal articles and that the vast majority of the book-length treatments are both non-academic and derived from non-U.S. experience, a need exists for this book.
Stakeholder Theory and Organizational Ethics provides an extended defense of stakeholder theory as the preeminent theory of organizational ethics today. It is based in the fields of moral and political philosophy, strategic management, business ethics, and organization theory but also addresses such areas as social psychology, economics, and business law.
The book consists of three main arguments. The first is a defense of organizational ethics as an independent area of scholarship independent, that is, from moral and political philosophy. It is argued that, just as the subject matter of political philosophy requires distinct methods of thought from more general moral philosophy, so too does the study of organizational ethics demand more from scholars than merely applied versions of the classics of moral and political philosophy.
The second central argument of the book is that stakeholder theory is a leading candidate for such a theory of organizational ethics but that it is hamstrung in this candidacy by the absence of normative foundations. A widely held criticism of stakeholder theory among business ethicists is that the theory has no moral underpinning.
The only answer to the question, "Why should managers consider the well-being of groups other than shareholders in their decision-making?" is that it will make the organization more successful in some usually undefined way. In Stakeholder Theory and Organizational Ethics, author Robert Phillips argues in depth for a "principle of stakeholder fairness" as a moral grounding for stakeholder theory.
The central ideas are derived from the work of the late John Rawls the most prominent and widely cited moral and political philosopher of the 20th century. Rawlss primary concern is with political philosophy, and as such his main interest is in political institutions at the level of the nation-state. However, he does briefly discuss the obligations that would exist between parties at the level of private associations. He describes these obligations as arising from a "principle of fairness." Taking this brief discussion as his point of departure, the author derives a stakeholder theory with a Rawlsian conceptual foundation.
The final component of the argument suggests implications of this justification for stakeholder research. One long-standing theoretical problem in stakeholder theory is what author Robert Phillips terms the problem of stakeholder identification. Without reference to an adequate normative framework, stakeholder theory is unable to determine, most fundamentally, which groups are or are not legitimate stakeholders. Hence a debate that continues unresolved as of this writing is whether or not such groups as competitors, the media, social activists, or the natural environment are even stakeholders at all. The book defends a resolution to this debate.
The theory in the book is able to provide a justified resolution to this debate due to a more coherent and consistent understanding of the concept of stakeholder legitimacy. Universally invoked, the term stakeholder legitimacy has, until now, been ill conceived and misunderstood, thus leading to unnecessary conflict among scholars. The book distinguishes between normative and instrumental legitimacy. It thereby provides an answer to the controversy over broad versus narrow construal of the term stakeholder as well as providing a preliminary means for rank ordering stakeholder groups. Applying research from many related disciplines, Stakeholder Theory and Organizational Ethics is an overdue response to several long-standing and fundamental points of contention within business ethics.