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

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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. …