The Vocation of Business: Social Justice in the Marketplace.

AuthorClark, Charles M.A.
PositionBook review

The Vocation of Business: Social Justice in the Marketplace, by John C. Medaille. New York: Continuum. 2007. Paper, ISBN: 0826428096, $34.95. 359 pages.

It has long been an accepted tenant of Institutionalist economics that the State is both part of the problem and also a necessary part of the solution. That is, the power structure, any power structure, can only exist and continue if it has the support and cooperation of the Government. This is as true for Capitalism as it is for other social orders. Yet, any successful effort to redistribute power in capitalist societies will also necessarily involve the use of the State. In many ways this is merely recognizing what is obvious to all but the most devout libertarians, advanced capitalists societies require a substantial central government (how big, of course, is open for debate). Thus, rather than condemn the idea of government because the reality has not lived up to our expectations, Institutionalists (most prominently John R. Commons) worked to reform government policy to better align policy with the public good. It is this sort of attitude one should adopt when reading John Medaille's "The Vocation of Business: Social Justice in the Marketplace." While many of us have earned tenure writing articles on the abuses of business practice in modern capitalism, the fact of the matter is that social justice in general, and ending poverty and fighting global warming in particular, cannot be promoted without the business sector taking a lead role. In fact, most of the leg work will be carried out by those who work most closely with the day to day of solving the economic problem. Success will happen when we have a change of hearts and principles by which business is carried out. This is the issue Medaille is addressing.

The conversion of business men and women, like all conversions, generally happens through a formation process, and Medaille has set his sights on the business school as one of the primary forces that shape business attitudes and practices. And he has rightly, in my opinion, placed much of the blame for bad business practice on economic orthodoxy. Interestingly, there is a growing trend in the management literature which is asking the question "why do good management theories lead to bad management practice?" and their answers are increasingly centering on what is the foundation of business education, neoclassical economic theory, especially its narrow view of the human person...

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