Business and the Greater Good

Business and the Greater Good

Rethinking Business Ethics in an Age of Crisis

Studies in TransAtlantic Business Ethics series

Edited by Knut J. Ims and Lars J.T. Pedersen

With cutting-edge insights from leading European and North American scholars, this authoritative book addresses the fundamental problems of business in an age of crisis whilst presenting radical, but practical, solutions.

Chapter 6: Materialistic versus non-materialistic value-orientation in management

Laszlo Zsolnai

Subjects: business and management, business ethics and trust, corporate social responsibility, international business


Occupy Wall Street and other anti-globalization movements indicate a dramatic loss of confidence in mainstream business. Big business has lost credibility and trust worldwide. The basic assumptions of business management have become questionable. The dominant management model of modern business is based on a materialistic conception of man. Human beings are considered as body–mind encapsulated egos with only materialistic desires and motivation. This kind of creature is modeled as “Homo Oeconomicus” in economics and business. Homo Oeconomicus represents an individual being which seeks to maximize his or her self-interest. He or she is interested only in material utility defined in terms of money. The Materialistic Management Model assumes money-driven extrinsic motivation and measures success according to profits generated. The economic and financial crisis of 2008–2009 has deepened our understanding of the problems of mainstream businesses which base their activities on unlimited greed and the “enrich yourself” mentality. There are two distinct but interrelated problems with the underlying assumptions of the materialistic management model. One relates to profit as the sole measure of success of economic activities, while the other deals with money as the main motivation for economic activities (Zsolnai 2011). Profit is inadequate for being used as the sole measure of the success of economic activities. Profit provides an incomplete and not unbiased evaluation of economic activities.

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