The book that Elsevier should have read

“Managers need to systematically manage the chaotic world of stakeholder politics. This book gives them the tools to do so. The core analogy is between geographic maps and maps of the political landscape in stakeholder networks. Like geographic maps, stakeholder network maps can show managers the locations of barriers and resources in their immediate environment, and the routes that will lead to both better and worse landscapes”. So begins Robert Boutilier’s Stakeholder politics (Greenleaf, 2009).

The book deals with many concepts that typically provide readers simultaneously with a warm glow (‘stakeholder’, for example, is a nice word) and a fuzzy feeling (what precisely are stakeholders?). The full title of the book is Stakeholder politics: social capital, sustainable development, and the corporation.

It is to the author’s credit that Boutilier manages to define clearly such concepts as ‘social capital’ and ‘sustainable development’. Remarkably, he also operationalises them. He indicates ways of categorising and assessing social capital and using the resultant data to map companies’ positions within various kinds of stakeholder terrain. He provides examples of how this approach can be use to anticipate behaviour and inform corporate policy.

All of which might seem rather remote from the publishing industry. Boutilier’s case studies concern mining companies in Peru and Papua New Guinea. Yet while I was reading this book, the attempted boycott of Elsevier by academics gathered pace.

To micropublishers such as myself, the book has little to say – it isn’t aimed at what Boutilier would call ‘solitarian’ players – but to the large corporations in the knowledge industry, Stakeholder Politics is certainly pertinent.


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