Tribute to Peter Pruzan

Ethical blog - Sat, 09/10/2016 - 16:38

In April 2016 we celebrated the 80th anniversary of Peter Pruzan, Professor Emeritus at Copenhagen Business School and Visiting Professor at Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning in India. Peter Pruzan made important contributions to systems science, management, and business ethics. He is a leading scholar in spiritually-based leadership and one of the initiators of the Europe-India dialogue on spirituality and management. This occasion I recall my most important  encounters with Peter Pruzan during the last 25 years. The story reveals Peter Pruzan’s personal and academic profile.

In 1990-1991 I was at UC Berkeley and I sent a letter to Peter Pruzan from there. I was asking some questions about his approach to systems methodology. He replayed with a nice letter and this was the beginning of a long-lasting productive relationship. In that time I was not aware that Peter is originally American.

In 1996 I started to organize the Business Ethics Faculty Group of CEMS – Community of European Management Schools. The founding meeting was held in Budapest and Peter participated on behalf of the Copenhagen Business School. Later on we published a book entitled „The European Difference – Business Ethics in the Community of European Management Schools” (Kluwer, 1998). I selected Peter’s insightful paper on „Theory and Practice of Business Ethics in Denmark” as a lead chapter for our book. He asked the question: „Is something still rotten in the state of Denmark?” Certainly not, as far as business ethics is concerned, especially in that time.  

I organized the first ever European workshop on "Spirituality in Management" in 2001 in Szeged, Hungary. Scholars and practitioners came from 13 countries (Europe and Asia). Peter was one of the keynote speakers along with S. K. Chakraborty, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (India) and Luk Bouckaert, Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium). The resulting book “Spirituality and Ethics in Management” (Kluwer 2004) contains Peter’s seminal contribution on “Spirituality as the Context  for Leadership". The book became popular. Its second edition was published in 2011, and a complete, plagiarized version of the book was published in India.

In 2004 and 2005 Peter played an important role in establishing our European SPES Forum in Leuven. I never forget our dinners in Leuven when Peter, Knut and I went to a Chinese restaurant. We discussed the question of vegetarianism and Peter made a crucial argument by asking: “If we can live a good life without killing animals, why not to do that?” For me this is an illuminating moral question ever since. In a more generalized form I always ask: “If we can live a good life without harming others (including human, non-human and future beings), why not to do that?”      

In 2008 I was teaching at the Copenhagen Business School. I asked Peter about his interest in putting together his best papers for a volume in my Frontier of Business Ethics book series in Oxford. He responded enthusiastically and produced a marvelous book entitled “Rational, Ethical and Spiritual Perspectives on Leadership”. (Peter Lang, Oxford, 2009). For the book Peter reconstructed his intellectual path in an engaging essay “From Optimization to Transformation – My Path to the Wellspring of Rationality, Morality and Spirituality”. The book - and the entire life of Peter - calls for integrating the heart, the mind and the soul when one makes decisions. He argues that “wise and successful leadership is concerned not only with effectiveness and wealth generation, but also with contributing to the well-being and fulfillment of all those whom one serves as a leader”.  

In 2012 Knut organized the 7th TransAtlantic Business Ethics Conference in Bergen. Peter was invited and presented an insightful paper on “The Source of Ethical Competency” by providing an Eastern perspective on ethics and the source of ethics. Also he contributed to the debate on the future of business ethics along with leading European and North-American business ethics scholars. (Knut J. Ims & Lars Jacob Tynes Pedersen (Eds.): Business and the Greater Good: Rethinking Business Ethics in an Age of Crisis. Edward Elgar, 2015)

In 2015 I published a book on The Spiritual Dimension of Business Ethics and Sustainability Management at Springer. The last part of the book was devoted to a debate on Peter’s conception of spiritual-based leadership. He summarized his position and some distinguished scholars responded to that. (Joanne B. Ciulla (Richmond, USA), Stephen B. Young (Caux Round Table, USA), Paul de Blot S.J. (Nijenrode Business University) and Katalin Illes (University of Westminster, London).) Finally, Peter collected his responses in his paper “Further Reflections on Spirituality and Spiritual-based Leadership”.

In 2017 Peter Pruzan’s seminal book “Research Methodology: The Aims, Practices and Ethics of Science” was published by Springer. It was my pleasure and privilege to serve as a reviewer for this book. In my review I wrote that Peter’s book is absolutely unique as it capitalizes on the knowledge and wisdom Peter accumulated over 50 years of research and teaching in USA, Europe and India. The book covers both natural and social sciences, and discusses the most important philosophical and ethical issues of scientific research. I hope that Peter’s book will illuminate many researchers and PhD students to do science in ethical and responsible ways.

Being is more important than doing. So, with other colleagues and friends I would like to thank Peter Pruzan  for being with us and inspiring us by his personality, his work, and his spirit.