Table of Contents

The Challenges of Capitalism for Virtue Ethics and the Common Good

The Challenges of Capitalism for Virtue Ethics and the Common Good

Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Edited by Kleio Akrivou and Alejo José G Sison

The evolution of modern capitalist society is increasingly being marked by an undeniable and consistent tension between pure economic and ethical ways of valuing and acting. This book is a collaborative and cross-disciplinary contribution that challenges the assumptions of capitalist business and society. It ultimately reflects on how to restore benevolence, collaboration, wisdom and various forms of virtuous deliberation amongst all those who take part in the common good, drawing inspiration from European history and continental philosophical traditions on virtue.

Chapter 1: The merchant and the common good: social paradigms and the state’s influence in Western history

Agustín González Enciso

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


This chapter tries to develop the idea that merchant’s ethics – or professional behaviour – depended on social paradigms and that changes in those paradigms depended heavily on the influence of royal or state power. In theory and in earlier (historic) social practice, the common good was always understood through an ethical prism, including care for others: benevolence (bene volere, to want the good for the other). In the feudal economy the concept of community appears as relatedness, a pre-legal definition. Subsequently there was a balanced tripartite structure (royal state; intellectuals/nobility; church/spiritual leadership), and being in community was defined as an interaction of these social institutions. At that time individuals simply had to accept the social role assigned to them in relation to their community and other groups. Under capitalism, on the other hand, the idea of community is defined chiefly by the state embodying the whole social structure, and the task of each individual can be reduced to seeking one’s own best interest, albeit obeying the king and being seen favourably by the royals. Further, since Adam Smith, the merchant’s ethic of private self-interest has been understood as being opposed to benevolence and outside the social context of relatedness, while it was about being self-sufficient. The difference, therefore, is great.