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Human Development in Business: Values and Humanistic Management in the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate.

Human Development in Business: Values and Humanistic Management in the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate Domenec Mele and Claus Dierksmeier (Editors) Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012 (260 pages)

Collections of papers are difficult to review and often do not merit detailed discussion. This book is an exception. It contains a selection of papers that may be understood as cross-sectional evidence of the pulse of the debate on a common and rather narrowly defined topic: What is humanistic management, and which role does it or should it play in business? Most essays were presented at the 17th International Symposium on Ethics, Business and Society held by IESE Business School of Universidad de Navarra in Barcelona in May 2011. This symposium has emerged as one of the foremost venues for the discussion of the role of business in society, and the coeditors of this volume count among the most prominent advocates of humanistic management.

A humanistic approach to leadership in organizations has been proposed by many and for a long time. The psychologists Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, the management thinkers Mary Parker Follett, Elton Mayo, and Douglas McGregor come to mind, and in our day a number of academics from Chris Argyris and Gary Hamel to Marco Minghetti. What has been heard most clearly in recent years is the appeal by Benedict XVI, in his encyclical letter Caritas in Veritate of 2009, to create "a new humanistic synthesis" ([section] 21) realigning business with the social purpose of the economy. All these proposals demand a human (or humane?) way of conducting business by placing man at its center, but they differ much on what exactly that would mean and what motivates such an approach in the first place. Because management is, in a descriptive perspective, human by its very nature, as being undertaken by human beings and being intended for them, humanistic must be understood in a normative sense--as a particular way of how management ought to be conducted.

The first six contributions propose answers to what this "new humanistic synthesis" might mean by emphasizing the necessary nexus between economics and ethics. Claus Dierksmeier presents Caritas in Veritate as antithetical to neoclassical (as well as Austrian) economics because of its underlying anthropology and its insistence on pursuing a valuefree science. Stefano Zamagni sees the encyclical as an interpretation of the financial crisis that started in 2007, and the pope as demanding the closing of a triple gap--between economy and society, labor and the financialization of wealth creation, and markets and democracy. Domenec Mele shows that the encyclical suggests an understanding of business ethics and of corporate social responsibility that is grounded in natural law and a virtue ethics focused on "love in truth." Francesc Torralba and Cristian Palazzi emphasize Benedict XVI's proposal of the "logic of gift," which places Christian love before economic rationality by introducing acts of generosity, hospitality, and acceptance into what would otherwise be a cold logic of calculation. Paul Dembinski emphasizes the necessity of transitioning from a merely transactional to a relational approach in finance (or from efficiency to fecundity), and Michael Stefan ABlander develops the principle of subsidiarity as a key to implementing the corporate social responsibility requested by the encyclical. A more complete view of business is then defined as "subsidiary co-responsibility," which goes beyond good management practices and philanthropic engagement.

The second part of the book features six contributions that discuss various aspects of management and what Caritas in Veritate calls "integral human development." Robert Kennedy emphasizes the personalism and communitarianism of the encyclical, from which follow the principles of development as a vocation, gratuitousness, and the "logic of gift," with important implications for the conduct of business. Gregory Beabout develops an ideal profile of the humanistic manager as a "far-sighted steward" and proposes a business education that is more directed toward the humanities. Alvaro Pezoa outlines the features of Christian humanism and their implementation in business policy, and Antonio Argandona emphasizes the primacy of love, gift, and gratuitousness in firms, which cannot be accommodated by traditional economic theory. Andre Habisch and Cristian Loza Adaui show that gratuitousness is compatible with an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, and as examples they adduce medieval monastic communities, social entrepreneurs during the era of industrialization, and religiously motivated civic engagement today. Jennifer Miller discusses the problem of working mothers and suggests that their human development may best be supported through flexible working hours.

The papers in this volume show on the face of it a great similarity in spirit. They are neither merely exegetical of Caritas in Veritate nor apologetical but relate the rich tapestry of the encyclical to other issues, but the humanism they advocate is not all of the same pedigree. Much of what passes for "humanistic management" today is founded on secular humanism (such as is propagated by the American Humanist Society). It may well place absolute human dignity at the center of its concerns, but as the web pages of the Humanistic Management Network declare, this movement seeks "human solutions to human issues without recourse to a god, sacred texts or religious creeds," and it consequently "rejects the medieval perception of the individual as a weak, fallen creature," together with any idea of a separate soul or an afterlife or any transcendent being. In its commitment to "the creation of actionable knowledge for human centered businesses," these humanists "devote no attention to the desires of supposed theological entities" but rather seek to be "in tune with today's enlightened social thought" (http://www.humanetwork.org/about_humanism/about_humanism.htm). Together with the humanist psychology movement and with the Catholic worldview, they reject the notion of homo oeconomicus because they see human persons as striving for self-fulfillment and for communities rather than as calculating benefits and costs of options and then acting from purely egoistic and material motives. All authors oppose the economization of life that is experienced today.

Yet common enemies may make for temporary allies instead of permanent friends. From a Catholic viewpoint, humanistic is not an unproblematic term, for it is often used in direct opposition to a position of faith. Max Scheler remarked that humanism had become the Weltanschauung of liberal and secular intelligentsia. Particularly in the United States, secular humanists disparage religious belief. From the Catholic viewpoint, their crucial flaw lies in their strong assumptions of human autonomy. Paul VI reminded us that man by himself cannot establish an "authentic" and "full-bodied" humanism (Populorum Progressio, [section][section] 20, 42), and Benedict XVI endorsed the necessity of its transcendent dimension: "A humanism which excludes God is an inhuman humanism" (Caritas in Veritate, [section] 78). Christian humanism differs from its secular cognate in its vision of the person, which is grounded not in utilitarianism but in vocation, dedication, and care for neighbors. A "solid humanism" ([section] 71) must never deviate from them. Only if humanism, the Pope teaches, involves awareness "of our calling, as individuals and as a community, to be part of God's family as his sons and daughters," is it truly integral. This is then no longer the secular or civil form but the Christian vision of humanism.

Although all authors quote from the encyclical, the tensions between these two viewpoints can be found among their essays. Few make any reference to God, thus indicating that even the discussion of a papal teaching document can become secularized as a set of interesting propositions that may confirm some social and political viewpoint. Is an encyclical for the faithful then an op-ed piece or rather a document issued by a divinely legitimized authority that expounds the will of God? The "new humanistic synthesis" proposed by Benedict XVI makes no sense if it is separated from the theological foundation of humanism, that is, man's creation in the image of God.

Most contributions attribute "humanistic" to "systems" of management or to the economy; only few papers (such as that by Beabout) explicitly attribute it to managers as a trait of character and of conduct following from it. By dwelling on the macro- rather than the micro-level, some authors do not render justice to the true novelty of Caritas in Veritate, which lies, as many authors concede, in emphasizing a new approach to the latter.

Benedict XVI indeed proposes a humanistic form of business but clarifies that it can be such only by resting on an indispensable foundation of faith. While all papers collected in this volume make a welcome contribution to understanding this humanism, some go beyond others by developing a constructive approach toward Christian humanism. It will be worthwhile to explore this perspective further, particularly in its concrete ramifications for business management. For humanistic management to be a truly new, theoretically rich, and empirically fruitful approach in the normative study of business, more will be required, not least a clear understanding of the interface between a human and a theonomic sphere in social relations. Humanism would then no longer center on claiming autonomy from divine or even natural law, or on emergence from "lower" forms of creation, but on embracing what man truly is and is called to be. Much of this volume goes in this direction, although more hesitantly and carefully than consistently and with arms outstretched to a truly new way of thinking about management and business. However, expecting more than that from the proceedings of a seminar, which presents valuable contributions to the literature in their own right, may lack the spirit of charity and realism that Caritas in Veritate so impressively reclaims.

--Wolfgang Grassl

St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wisconsin
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Author:Grassl, Wolfgang
Publication:Journal of Markets & Morality
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2012
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