Spirituality and business is certainly not widely discussed in mainstream academia, which is one of the reasons why I chose this particular title for March’s installment as the Book of the Month. Instrumental and utilitarian rationality rules the business world if you’ve ever wondered! Since the infamous Credit Crunch the ethics of capitalism has been questioned, as indeed has its sustainability. Just look at the furore between Canada and the EU over the extraction of the toxic tar sands oil. Some might say that the foundations of capitalism have not been fundamentally examined and that trust is broken. Conditions are certainly ripe for revolution: The current state of the Eurozone, quarrels over the Greek bail-out, downgrading of economies, austerity measures, recession, hiking inflation, and increasing unemployment compound any discussion. Overcoming socioeconomic problems is a tall order. Some argue there may be another way of making money, instead of the relentless pursuit of wealth, and Bouckaert and Zsolnai’s The Palgrave Handbook of Spirituality and Business (2011) suggests such alternatives.
Workplace spirituality is conscious of avoiding overexploitation of the planet’s resources and stands outside of institutionalized religion. The challenge of sustainability, which includes greening of industry and the ‘self-restricting of needs’, is labelled ‘postcapitalism’ by Bouckaert and Zsolnai (2011: p.6), who explain that ‘business ethics as a system of moral self-regulation fuelling relations of trust and good reputation’ which effectively criticizes the ‘opportunistic tendencies within business’ (Bouckaert and Zsolnai, 2011: 4) . Cultivating distance is a necessary condition for any progressive organisation in the decision-making process, and spirituality may solve the current ‘ethical deficit in business ethics’ because it is ‘an inner experience of deep interconnectedness with all living beings’ which ‘opens a space from the pressures of the market and the routines of business-as-usual’ (Bouckaert and Zsolnai, pp. 4-5).
There’s lots in this book – some of the most eye-catching essays cover Islamic Economics (Feisal Khan), Quaker Spirituality and the Economy (Laurie Michaelis), Voicing Meaningfulness at Work (Marjolein Lips-Wiersma and Lani Morris), and the thought-provoking chapter Multinational Companies and the Common Good (Francois Lepineux and Jean-Jacques Rose), a concept which even stretches back to Plato’s time.
The book is available at 201.73 pal in the Library if you would like to read more on this fascinating and relatively unexplored topic…