In the traditional view of a company, the shareholder view, only the owners or shareholders of the company are important, and the company has a binding fiduciary duty to put their needs first, to increase value for them. Stakeholder theory instead argues that there are other parties involved, including employees, customers, suppliers, financiers, communities, governmental bodies, political groups, trade associations, and trade unions. Even competitors are sometimes counted as stakeholders – their status being derived from their capacity to affect the firm and its stakeholders. The nature of what constitutes a stakeholder is highly contested (Miles, 2012), with hundreds of definitions existing in the academic literature (Miles, 2011).
The stakeholder view of strategy integrates both a resource-based view and a market-based view, and adds a socio-political level. One common version of stakeholder theory seeks to define the specific stakeholders of a company (the normative theory of stakeholder identification) and then examine the conditions under which managers treat these parties as stakeholders (the descriptive theory of stakeholder salience).
The political philosopher Charles Blattberg has criticized stakeholder theory for assuming that the interests of the various stakeholders can be, at best, compromised or balanced against each other. Blattberg argues that this is a product of its emphasis on negotiation as the chief mode of dialogue for dealing with conflicts between stakeholder interests. He recommends conversation instead and this leads him to defend what he calls a 'patriotic' conception of the corporation as an alternative to that associated with stakeholder theory.
According to Mansell (2013 [in Capitalism, Corporations and the Social Contract: A Critique of Stakeholder Theory