Takes as its departure point the criticism of Guthrie and Parker by Arnold and the Tinker et al. critique of Gray et al. Following an extensive review of the corporate social reporting literature, its major theoretical preoccupations and empirical conclusions, attempts to re‐examine the theoretical tensions that exist between “classical” political economy interpretations of social disclosure and those from more “bourgeois” perspectives. Argues that political economy, legitimacy theory and stakeholder theory need not be competitor theories but may, if analysed appropriately, be seen as alternative and mutually enriching theories from alternative levels of resolution. Offers evidence from 13 years of social disclosure by UK companies and attempts to interpret this from different levels of resolution. There is little doubt that social disclosure practice has changed dramatically in the period. The theoretical perspectives prove to offer different, but mutually enhancing, interpretations of these phenomena.