Stakeholder theory has become one of the most important developments in the field of business ethics. While this concept has evolved and gained prominence as a method of integrating ethics into the basic purposes and strategic objectives of the firm, the authors argue that stakeholder theory has retained certain “masculinist” assumptions from the wider business literature that limit its usefulness. The resources of feminist thought, specifically the work of Carol Gilligan, provide a means of reinterpreting the stakeholder concept in a way that overcomes many of the existing limitations. This reading provides a different understanding of the identity and meaning of the firm, specifically in terms of its relationship to stakeholder groups and what it means for a firm to succeed. The alternatives proposed also converge with recent trends in the wider management literature and provide practical guidance for firms which face a myriad of challenges in the increasingly complex and global marketplace.
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