Spirituality and Business: An Interdisciplinary Overview

Luk Bouckaert, & Laszlo Zsolnai 'Spirituality and Business: An Interdisciplinary Overview.' Society and Economy, 2012, vol.34, no. 3, pp. 489-514

We believe that business ethics needs a more spiritual foundation to solve the business ethics failure. Why? Because spirituality – as an inner experience of deep interconnectedness with all living beings – opens a space of distance from the pressures of the market and the routines of business as usual. This distance is a necessary condition for developing innovative ethical ideas and practices. It restores intrinsic motivation and provides a long time horizon. Unfortunately spirituality is not yet a mainstream concept in academia and the business world. In academia and business, instrumental and utilitarian rationality is still the dominant perspective, whereas spirituality is anchored in a deeper, noninstrumental and nonutilitarian experience of life.

Redefining the Roles and Duties of Management

Laszlo Zsolnai, Sven Junghagen, and Antonio Tencati 'Redefining the Roles and Duties of Management.' Journal of Global Responsibility , 2012, vol.3, no. 1, pp. 121-133

The paper analyses the crisis of the business profession and the role that management education can play in renewing business management. It is argued that unless future managers demonstrate that they serve the common good in their daily practice, the legitimacy and moral standing of the business profession remain questionable. The paper presents the Masters in International Management Program of CEMS – Global Alliance in Management Education as a pioneering example of developing reflective and responsible managers. The future manager is defined as a reflexive practitioner who is committed to
environmental sustainability, exercises social responsibility, works with sensitivity toward gender and diversity issues, harmonizes information and communications technologies with processes and organizational culture, applies holistic perspective in problem solving, cooperates with social and political actors, and is engaged in progressive entrepreneurship.

Environmental Ethics for Business Sustainability

Laszlo Zsolnai 'Environmental Ethics for Business Sustainability.' International Journal of Social Economics, 2011, vol.38, no. 11, pp. 892-899

The purpose of this paper is to derive operational principles from environmental ethics for business organizations to achieve sustainability. The paper analyses different levels on which business affects the natural environment. It argues that business has a natural, non-reciprocal responsibility toward natural beings affected by its functioning. The paper uses principles of environmental ethics to redefine business sustainability in an ethically meaningful way.

Spirituality and Business

Luk Bouckaert, & Laszlo Zsolnai 'Spirituality and Business.' , in The Palgrave Handbook of Spirituality and Business, eds. Luk Bouckaert, and Laszlo Zsolnai, Palgrave-Macmillan, London, 2011.

The paper summarizes the long path from business ethics to business spirituality. Analyzing the contrast between a materialistic and a non materialistic drive in economics, the authors define the new values of the post-capitalist economy: frugality, deep ecology, trust, reciprocity, responsibility for future generations, and authenticity. Within this values-driven economy, profit and growth are no longer ultimate aims but elements in a wider set of values. In a similar way cost-benefit calculations are no longer the essence of good management but are part of a broader concept of wisdom in leadership.

Moral Agency and Spiritual Intelligence

Laszlo Zsolnai 'Moral Agency and Spiritual Intelligence.' , in The Palgrave Handbook of Spirituality and Business, eds. Luk Bouckaert, and Laszlo Zsolnai, Palgrave-Macmillan, London, 2011.

The paper argues that the self of decision-makers plays an important role in determining the ethicality of their decisions. Decisions might be understood as self-expressions of the decision-makers. Spiritual experiences have a vital role in developing the self of managers and therefore in improving the ethicality of their decisions.

Buddhist Economics

Laszlo Zsolnai 'Buddhist Economics.' , in The Palgrave Handbook of Spirituality and Business, eds. Luk Bouckaert, and Laszlo Zsolnai, Palgrave-Macmillan, London, 2011.
The paper presents Buddhist economics as a major alternative to the Western economic mindset. It challenges the basic principles of modern Western economics, namely profit-maximization, cultivating desires, introducing markets, instrumental use of the world, and self-interest-based ethics. Buddhist economics proposes alternative principles such as minimizing suffering, simplifying desires, non-violence, genuine care, and generosity. Buddhist economics is not a system but a strategy, which can be applied in any economic setting.

Responsibility for Future Generations

Laszlo Zsolnai 'Responsibility for Future Generations.' , in The Palgrave Handbook of Spirituality and Business, eds. Luk Bouckaert, and Laszlo Zsolnai, Palgrave-Macmillan, London, 2011.

The paper uses the argument by Hans Jonas that the ethics of responsibility involves not only the existence of future human beings but also the way they exist. The conditions of the existence of future generations should not cause their capacity of freedom and humanness to disappear. In the model developed by the author the state of ecological capital, financial capital, human capital and intellectual capital together determine the fate of future generations. Better the states of these capitals, better the prospects of future generations and vice versa.


Luk Bouckaert, Hendrick Opdebeeck, & Laszlo Zsolnai 'Frugality.' , in The Palgrave Handbook of Spirituality and Business, eds. Luk Bouckaert, and Laszlo Zsolnai, Palgrave-Macmillan, London, 2011.

The paper defines frugality as art de vivre, which implies low material consumption and a simple lifestyle, to open the mind for spiritual goods as inner freedom, social peace, justice or the quest for “ultimate reality.” The authors argue that realizing a genuine spirituality of frugality as self-detachment and other-centeredness does not exclude instrumental economic rationality. To be implemented, a spiritual-driven praxis of frugality needs always a rationally conceived business plan. And from a macro point of view, spiritually based frugal practices may lead to rational outcomes. 

The Ethics of Systems Thinking

Laszlo Zsolnai 'The Ethics of Systems Thinking.' , in Responsibility, Deep Ecology and the Self - Festschrift in Honor of Knut J. Ims. , eds. Ove Jacobsen, and Lars Jacob Tymes Pedersen, Forlag 1, Oslo, 2011.

The paper explores some ethical assumptions and implications of system thinking in reference to social and environmental decision making. The methodology of multi-criteria evaluation of complex systems is used as an illustration of the ethical agenda of systems thinking. 

Corporate Legitimacy

Laszlo Zsolnai 'Corporate Legitimacy .' , in Business Ethics and Corporate Sustainability, eds. Antonio Tencati, and Francesco Perrini, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, UK, Northampton, MA, USA, 2011. (This book may be available at: Edward Elgar)

The paper suggests that the Just War theory provides an excellent methodological device for determining the conditions of legitimacy of companies.  The Just War theory promotes the view that a specific war is just if satisfactory conditions are met. The Just War tradition addresses the morality of the use of force in two parts: when it is right to resort to armed force (the concern of “jus ad bellum”) and what is acceptable in using such force (the concern of “jus in bello”). In more recent years, a third category — “jus post bellum” — has been added, which governs the justice of war termination and peace agreements, as well as the trying of war criminals.