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A useful term

Posted by Bob on September 11, 2002

In Reply to: The political dimention posted by Word Camel on September 11, 2002

: : : What does the word stakeholder mean, and where does it come from?

: : STAKEHOLDER
: : NOUN: 1. One who holds the bets in a game or contest. 2. One who has a share or an interest, as in an enterprise.

: : My limited sources say origins for this usage of "stake" - where it means a wager, or a speculative investment - are unclear, but perhaps come from Middle English, where it may have been customary to place an object as a wager on a post or stake.

: Stakeholder is used almost exclusively as a political/economic term today.

: "Stakeholder Capitalism" is a term made popular by various politicians in the early 90's - but especially the group that became New Labour. The gist of it was a kind of rerepresentation of politics as consumer rights - i.e. I pay taxes, therefore I have a stake in the way things are run. In other words, there is no such thing as a social point of view about things or notion of the common good except in-so-far as if directly affects people as stake holders. Which never really worked because people don't really operate as consumers in ever aspect of their lives. This led to the rise of the idea of "giving back", not on the basis that there is any self interest involved, but that it's a moral imperative. Collective self interest is dead, replaced with stake holding and moralism.

: Stakeholding is also associated with shareholding and bandied about a lot in the discussion of corporate governance.

It's quite useful, because there's a gap between shareholders in an enterprise, and stakeholders. Employees have a stake in matters of corporate governance, even though many may not be equity owners. Narrowing your view to shareholders (as the law often does) is myopic and perilous.