Stakeholder Democracy Over the Status Quo

Jeffrey Moriarty of Bentley University published “The Connection Between Stakeholder Theory and Stakeholder Democracy: An Excavation and Defense” on April 1, 2012 in Business & Society. To view other OnlineFirst articles, please click here. Professor Moriarty kindly provided the following responses to the article.

Who is the target audience for this article?

The target audience is those interested in stakeholder theory, especially in its history and implications. Some of the earliest statements of the theory, especially by Evan and Freeman (1988, 1990) included a fairly radical governance component, what I call “stakeholder democracy.” The view seems to have been that corporations should be democratically controlled by their stakeholders. Stakeholder theorists eventually came to disavow this view. My paper argues that this is a mistake.

What Inspired You To Be Interested In This Topic?

I am interested in corporate governance, especially arguments for “democratizing” corporate governance. I was surprised to see that early stakeholder theorists expressed support for stakeholder democracy, and I was interested whether they gave good arguments for it. I concluded that they did not. But I argued in my paper that a good argument can be constructed for why stakeholder theorists, given how they think firms should be run, should support stakeholder democracy.

Were There Findings That Were Surprising To You?

Stakeholder theory is a protean creature. This presents a difficulty for researchers working on the topic. Ultimately one wants to say something about a view. But with stakeholder theory one is always wondering whether one has got the view right in the first place.

How Do You See This Study Influencing Future Research And/Or Practice?

I say in my paper that it would be good to see more articles by stakeholder theorists specifying what sort of opportunity to participate in firm governance they think stakeholders should have. They are clear that their theory does not require that stakeholders have an opportunity to participate in governance by voting in formal, binding elections. But then what sort of participation is sufficient? And why is that sort sufficient?

How Does This Study Fit Into Your Body Of Work/Line Of Research?

As mentioned, I am interested in corporate governance and, in particular, normative arguments for ‘democratizing’ the firm. In the field of business ethics, stakeholder theory is influential. So I wanted to explore the connections between stakeholder theory and democratic corporate governance.

How Did Your Paper Change During The Review Process?

I received an extremely detailed and challenging set of comments from the referees and Associate Editor at BAS. They helped me to strengthen my argument in a number of ways, especially by pointing me to articles I had not considered. Doing quality interdisciplinary work in business ethics requires being familiar with a variety of literatures, but there are only so many one can have at one’s fingertips. My reference list expanded by 1/3 during the revising process. The new information I gleaned helped me to buttress and refine some of the empirical claims upon which my argument relies.

What, If Anything, Would You Do Differently If You Could Go Back And Do This Study Again?

I haven’t changed my mind about anything yet!

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