Contestation in Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives: Enhancing the Democratic Quality of Transnational Governance

Business Ethics Quarterly 30 (2):169-199 (2020)
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ABSTRACTThis article studies multi-stakeholder initiatives as spaces for both deliberation and contestation between constituencies with competing discourses and disputed values, beliefs, and preferences. We review different theoretical perspectives on MSIs, which see them mainly as spaces to find solutions to market problems, as spaces of conflict and bargaining, or as spaces of consensus. In contrast, we build on a contestatory deliberative perspective, which gives equal value to both contestation and consensus. We identify four types of internal contestation which can be present in MSIs—procedural, inclusiveness, epistemic, and ultimate-goal—and argue that embracing contestation and engaging in ongoing revision of provisional agreements, criteria, and goals can enhance the democratic quality of MSIs. Finally, we explore the implications of this perspective for theorizing about the democratic quality in MSIs and about the role of corporations in transnational governance.



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