Contestation in multi-stakeholder initiatives: Enhancing the democratic quality of transnational governance

Daniel Arenas, Laura Albareda, Jennifer Goodman

Research output: Indexed journal article Articlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


This article stüs multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) 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 (economic approach), as spaces of conflict and bargaining (political approach), or as spaces of consensus (deliberative approach). 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-199
Number of pages31
JournalBusiness Ethics Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


  • Contestation
  • Deliberative democracy
  • Meta-consensus
  • Multi-stakeholder initiatives
  • Transnational governance


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