Since the 1960s, “the stakeholder,” or affected party, has emerged as a novel democratic subject whose participation in varied institutional sites—from universities to government agencies, corporate boardrooms to international organizations—is seen as necessary for the management of complex problems. However, few specifically attend to the stakeholder as a distinct political subject and consider its implications for democratic practice. This paper presents a genealogy of the stakeholder, documenting its appearance in corporate managerialism and US public administration and showing how racial mobilization, rapid technological progress, and the political rationality of systems thinking provided the conditions of possibility for its emergence. Though orienting democracy around stakeholders permits opportunities for participation in political life, I argue that this subject is predicated on a circumscribed form of participatory politics that erodes habits of discovering a common good, erases distinctions between individuals and corporate bodies, and amplifies the problem of expertise.
Abraham, K. J. (2022). Midcentury Modern: The Emergence of Stakeholders in Democratic Practice. American Political Science Review, 116(2), 631-644. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0003055421001106