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This broad-ranging reader collects key biblical, classical, cross-cultural, and contemporary texts on how faith, especially Christianity, has shaped economic life in the past and how it can continue to do so in our emerging global civilization. The readings assembled here — drawn from historical, theological, and social-theory resources — provide a massive array of materials unprecedented in a single volume. Drawing from sources as diverse as the Bible, the great philosophers, and today's ethically committed business leaders, On Moral Business is ideal for helping tomorrow's leaders understand better how to put our economic life on a sure moral foundation.
Dennis P. McCann
My fellow editors and our publisher asked me to address a few words of encouragement to you the reader to show how one can use this anthology creatively in a variety of settings both inside and outside the classroom. The volume is large but need not be daunting if the reader understands the various and flexible ways it can be used. We have offered a collection of this size and scope because we want to provide readers with a broad array of material from which to choose selections for study and because we hope to advance the study of business ethics and economics on several fronts at once. We wanted to put together an anthology that (1) could serve simultaneously as the basis for courses in M.B.A. programs and in seminaries and divinity schools; that (2) is both a standard reference work in the history of Christian economic ethics and a timely introduction to contemporary discussions of the moral and religious significance of the modern business corporation; and that (3) faithfully surveys the range of contemporary Christian attitudes toward commerce and capitalism, while also clearing a space for interreligious dialogue about the role of multinational corporations in the global economy of the twenty-first century. We thought that such an anthology was worthpresenting in a single volume because it might stimulate some mutual learning that otherwise might not occur for lack of a common ground.
Who's This Book For?
Our hope is to invite at least five different audiences to interactive conversation on this common ground. Three of these emerge from the editors' teaching experiences with diverse groups of students: (1) the ecumenical world of the modern seminary or divinity school, where most students seek professional training in Christian ministry; (2) the increasingly secular world of the business schools - even those in universities claiming religious sponsorship - where students concentrate on technical training in various aspects of business management; and (3) the mostly undergraduate Christian colleges, where business students, like all other students, are encouraged to integrate their career expectations within an explicitly theological perspective on Christian vocation. You may find yourself already participating in any one of these three groups or, perhaps, thinking of joining one of them. We realize that each group has different needs, though we also hope that at some point your studies and your professional interests will converge.
Let me illustrate one way to respect the diversity of our audiences from what I've learned while test-teaching this anthology in the classrooms of DePaul University. Though the book is divided into fifteen chapters (plus preliminaries and an epilogue) and therefore could conceivably be read at the rate of a chapter a week for a single semester's course, I cannot teach it that way. For one thing, DePaul is on the quarter system, and so classes meet usually for only ten weeks in any given quarter. In my graduate course on "Ethics and Economics," for example, I once used the material in this anthology to construct a syllabus concentrating on Part C, and prefaced this with selections from the chapter in Part B on "Recent Church Documents." For that group of mostly M.B.A. students, I wanted to emphasize how business ethics is discussed in the business community as it seeks to respond to external stakeholders, including the churches. But on another occasion, when the class was mostly M.A.L.S. students seeking a historical perspective on Christian ethical concern, I concentrated the class discussion on readings from Parts A and B, with independent research projects based on the materials in Part C. (The collection is designed to provide the student with ample material for independent study and thus may be the only book necessary for a given course.) Given the comparative nature of DePaul's program in religious studies, students have in both cases used the chapters on "Economics around the World" and "The Global Economy" to explore the university's broadly institutional commitments to multiculturalism and internationalization.
It is impossible, of course, for us to address the students' needs without our first becoming conversation partners with their teachers. This anthology, therefore, is meant to stimulate fresh inquiry among persons in a fourth group, namely, our professional peers, those of you who labor with us in the academic fields of business ethics, practical theology, and Christian social ethics generally. You will determine whether what we think we have learned with our students is also relevant for rethinking the curricula that your own students follow. What we hope to have offered you - beyond assistance in curriculum planning - is a rich and versatile benchmark text that may stimulate your own research projects in these fields. If you, like us, have been frustrated by the ignorance of Christian ethics all too often advertised as an intellectual virtue among moral philosophers currently studying business ethics and economics, here is an alternative map of the Western intellectual tradition that will allow you to place contemporary discussions of business ethics on an entirely different footing.
We also anticipate interactive conversation with a fifth audience, made up of both business professionals, on the one hand, and practicing clergy, on the other, who have discovered their own need for continuing education. Some of you may encounter this text first in an academic setting, as returning students about to complete a postponed degree program or to enter upon a new one. But many, we hope, will simply chance upon it while browsing in a bookstore, or will have it recommended to them by a friend, say, at a clergy conference or a business roundtable group. We have designed the introductory materials to the various sections of each chapter to facilitate an unguided reading of the texts, set at your own pace, with your own interests in mind. Especially in Part C, we have included a number of essays written by people like you, giving expression to their own adult moral concerns, unencumbered by professional training in ethics. You are our heroes, and we mean to support your efforts in any way we can. We also hope the anthology will stimulate the efforts of various organizations, both inside and outside the churches, to form communities of moral discourse in which all of you, lay business professionals but perhaps clergy as well, can cultivate mutual understanding and assist one another in your common struggle to balance moral leadership and institutional responsibility.
What Made Us Do a Book Like This?
One-dimensional thinking - that's the demon we are seeking to exorcise from the study of business ethics. The editors, each in his or her own way, had often been frustrated trying to help themselves as well as their students overcome compartmentalized thinking about business, ethics, and economics. When we began this project more than five years ago, the reigning academic orthodoxies were still largely governed by the spurious ideal of value neutrality. The distortions inherent in this pose had for a time threatened further progress in the reigning paradigms of neoclassical economics, applied moral philosophy, and the various disciplines of management. Fortunately, revisionist trends are now working in each of these fields to dispel the myth of value neutrality, and these are likely to succeed without much encouragement from us. Our task, however, is to chart the theological implications of these paradigm shifts in order to recover the significance of Christian faith for business, ethics, and economics.
The fragmentation of public discourse about economics and business has, of course, many symptoms. But our own frustrations were provoked by the stunning silence about the religious values operative in various models of economics and business management. Though Max Weber's celebrated thesis on the Protestant ethic and the development of modern capitalism had already suggested - for us, as for many others - an alternative path of integrated religious and ethical reflection, we knew from experience that Weber's work had virtually no impact on how neoclassical economics analysed the actual workings of the capitalist system, how the various disciplines of management understood business corporations, or how business ethics defined the moral challenges involved in working for these corporations. We felt that our students - be they aspiring M.B.A.'s or candidates for some form of Christian ministry - were singularly unprepared to deal with the challenges of the global economy unless they were better informed about these values.
This is especially true for students preparing for careers with an international focus. If you plan to work for a multinational corporation, for example, you are likely to encounter a multiculturalism that raises theological issues heretofore reserved only for high-level interreligious dialogue. The religious terrain upon which multinational corporations operate is no longer the Protestant franchise that Weber described, nor even the American ecumenical establishment that Will Herberg celebrated in Protestant, Catholic, Jew (1960). The increasingly prominent multinationals based in East Asia are based on neo-Confucian values, and working in these corporations may often involve participating in Buddhist meditation practices and Shinto rituals. How can Americans evaluate the corporate culture in such firms without understanding the religious values operative in them? Conversely, how can American firms compete with them without understanding their own, still largely unacknowledged, religious assumptions?
The same point could be made about careers in Christian ministry. The pastoral care of laypersons whose working lives are played out in a multinational setting can no longer be understood as a form of prophetic witness against an essentially secular world. What philosopher Richard T. DeGeorge called "the myth of amoral business" has been unmasked as a peculiar artifact of the fleeting U.S. hegemony in international business. In the global economy, personal integrity increasingly will depend not on coping with secularism but on establishing continuity between one's own faith journey and the pluralism of religious and moral values likely to be embedded in the corporate culture. Pastors will not be in a position to assist the laity if they do not understand the spiritual environment in which the laity routinely operate.
While I could go on to suggest a similar lesson for those preparing to serve in the churches' increasingly global ministries, I am concerned here only to explain why On Moral Business turned out the way it did, and what's in it for you. It turned out the way it did because it is animated by a vision of the challenges of the global economy. We believe that in order to meet those challenges those concerned with business must have (1) a strong grounding in the history of Christian ethical reflection on economic questions, (2) at least a passing familiarity with the way these same questions are formulated in the world's other major religious traditions, and (3) some appreciation of how the various answers to these questions continue to have significant impact on the ways in which professionals - Christian ethicists, public policy analysts, and business practitioners - understand the morality of business and economics. The organization of this anthology reflects these concerns, more or less in that order.
What's the Book About?
If one purpose of this anthology is to educate both clergy and lay professionals to the religious and moral significance of business and economics, another purpose is to establish an agenda for research and constructive theological reflection. Though these converging purposes, for the reasons just given, require an extended anthology, we also recognize that general readers and instructors will want to make their own selections. In order to facilitate your own choices, we have divided the anthology into three parts: Part A, "Classical Resources"; Part B, "Modern Debates"; and Part C, "Contemporary Developments." Parts A and B, roughly the first half of the anthology, survey the history of Christian ethics focused on the general question of economic justice; Part C places the discussion of specifically business ethics in the context of an emerging global economy. Each part, as I suggested earlier, could be made the central focus for a course, supplemented with selections from the other two, depending on the needs and interests of the instructor and students. Though an M.B.A. course, for example, might be organized from Part C, and an M.Div. course from Parts A and B, we believe that the most effective use of this anthology would offer selections from all three parts in an effort to stretch both instructors and students beyond their previous attitudes toward business, ethics, and economics.
As its title suggests, Part A, "Classical Resources," explores biblical attitudes toward wealth and poverty, work, stewardship, and money, along with the reflections of Hellenistic philosophers, medieval Catholic theologians, and key figures in shaping the traditions of the Reformation. The organization of Part A testifies to our view that Christian moral wisdom, though rooted in the Bible, is hardly exhausted by it. Prior to the advent of modernity, Christian understandings of economics were significantly shaped by both biblical and Hellenistic values and then rethought in light of the new patterns of urban development that emerged in the high Middle Ages. How the entire premodern period, roughly coextensive with the history of Christendom, is to be interpreted will depend upon the reader's prior orientation to the Hebrew Scriptures and the Christian New Testament. Unlike subsequent chapters, which feature primary sources, the first two chapters in Part A exhibit a diverse range of contemporary biblical scholarship. We deliberately chose to model a pluralism of interpretation at the beginning of this anthology so that readers may feel free to develop their own insights into the relative significance of the historical materials. Though we believe that Christian ethics inevitably develops along the lines of a quadrilateral bounded by Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience, we do not mean to preempt your own effort to define an appropriate hermeneutic circle.
Part B continues, for the most part, the historical sequence established in Part A. Now, however, the focus shifts to the challenge of modernity, a challenge that eventually resulted in the dissolution of Christendom. The Christian tradition of social ethics emerges in this period as one participant among others in "Modern Debates" about morality and the marketplace. Thus we begin with Christendom's stepchild, the secular Enlightenment, here represented by some of "the Worldly Philosophers" - as Robert Heilbroner aptly named them - whose theories helped to differentiate economics from the matrix of social institutions in which it had been embedded and to make it central to our understanding of society. As the chapter on the Enlightenment unfolds, readers are invited to reconstruct the moral logic of an autonomous marketplace. The next chapter explores the processes of modernization in a variety of institutions, particularly those that are essential for supporting the marketplace's own emergent sense of morality. This is followed by a chapter on "Socialism, Capitalism, and Christianity," which charts the ways in which the Christian communities of faith tried to influence the outcome of the twentieth century's great economic debate, in order to make the economy once more amenable to religious and moral values.
Now that the emergence of a global economy seems to have eclipsed the debate over the relative merits of socialism versus capitalism, the comparative study of world religions has become an indispensable resource in the search for a new paradigm. The next chapter, "Economics around the World," offers a brief introduction to the interplay between tradition and modernity with reference to business and economic development in cultures beyond the historic influence of Christendom. We believe that the study of how other religions have regarded business and economics will tend to confirm the universality of many of the ethical concerns that surfaced in the history of Christian tradition. Christians are not alone, for example, in discerning the presence of the sacred in the ongoing struggle for economic justice.
Excerpted from On Moral Business Copyright © 1995 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company . Excerpted by permission.
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