Toward a Theory of Stakeholder Salience in Family Firms

Ronald K. Mitchell, Bradley R. Agle, James J. Chrisman, Laura J. Spence

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The notion of stakeholder salience based on attributes (e.g., power, legitimacy,
urgency) is applied in the family business setting. We argue that where principal institutions intersect (i.e., family and business); managerial perceptions of stakeholder salience will be different and more complex than where institutions are based on a single dominant logic. We propose that (1) whereas utilitarian power is more likely in the general business case, normative power is more typical in family business stakeholder salience; (2) whereas in a general business context legitimacy is socially constructed; for family stakeholders, legitimacy is based on heredity; and (3) whereas temporality and criticality are somewhat
independent in general-business urgency, they are linked in the family business case because of family ties and family-centered non-economic goals. We apply this theoretical framework to position and integrate the contributions to this special section of Business Ethics Quarterly on "Stakeholder Theory, Ethics, Corporate Social Responsibility, and Family Enterprise."
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-255
Number of pages20
JournalBusiness Ethics Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011


  • Family Firms
  • Stakeholder Theory

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