Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..


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A Question of Intent

Hari OM

Application - that is what 'Workings-days' are about!

This is the title of a publication from CM which, whilst it of course has items by Gurudev, also includes selections of writing from other well-esteemed Gurus from the Vedantic tradition as well as leading businessmen. Its focus is the working life. We shall be exploring these essays for the next few weeks on Workings-day as, clearly, they pertain directly to the premise of this section of AVBlog! As ever, you  are encouraged to read back over previous posts, to ensure full benefit.

Part 1; Vedanta in Management.

A Vedantic Approach to Management Theory. (Sri Thandaveswara) con'td.

Ethics in Business; One basic task, which has yet to be done, is to validate business as a socially useful enterprise. Business has often been criticized as an economic superstructure that benefits only the wealthy.  We need to redefine business goals and theory to include responsibilities to the society as a whole. Business assumes a validity only in the context of a unity of transaction so supply goods and services desired by the community. However this is contingent on the results it achieves. If a society can achieve these results through other means, there is no necessity for business. Indeed, several societies which are looked down upon as primitive carry on comfortably without the paraphernalia of business as we see it in a free enterprise economy.

Image result for hijack cartoonThe cosy definition of management as the science and art of 'getting things done' adds to the difficulty of defining business goals. What needs to be achieved is not defined, nor are the merits of the methods used examined. According to this definition, hijacking that is extremely well-managed has the same efficiency-rating as the best manufacturing unit. Similarly, compulsive supervisory practices would be considered no less valid than participatory ones, and the latter would be preferred only if they yield better results than the former.

A new, as yet undefined, concept of social responsibility is being developed in an attempt to introduce ethical values into business management.  Leading exponents such as Peter Drucker* have developed the theme of business enterprise as society's instrument for wealth and well-being. However, this does not carry the basic validation of business much further, because here again, society's 'well-being' is not defined or examined. Thus, to take an extreme example, if a society decides that it should live by crime and loot, the organization of this activity in the most efficient manner renders the enterprise a socially responsible entity! As long as business provides what society considers to be wealth and well-being, it gains the status of a socially validated organ. The intricate question of whether management should be concerned with what is socially desirable in contrast with what is socially desired is conveniently ignored.

The net result is the emergence of a business as a result-oriented, expediency-based institution. Society has designed and defined it in this way and, thus, it is perfectly in order for the community to regard it as nothing more. Politicians are blamed for making a convenience of big business. Why not, if they can manage it? Employees are blamed for demanding too much. Why not, if they can get it? Governments are blamed for over-taxing the businessmen. Why not, if they can get away with it? Questions of this kind are clearly not answerable in terms of enterprise theory as it has developed so far.

Alternative Business Models of business enterprise have been generated by Marxists, mid-socialists and other economic systems in reaction to, or often in confrontation with, the traditional capitalist model.  At one extreme are totalitarian systems, where enterprise is an organ of the state rather than of the society and must function under sheer obedience to political compulsions.  Many of these systems have note-worthy material achievements to their credit. However, in terms of human fulfilment, general happiness, and the sense of sharing cherished values, the results have often been negative.  More moderate deviations, such as socialism, have the experience of falling between two schools. They have missed the abundance and affluence of capitalistic systems as well as the equally distributed amenities of totalitarian systems, with the result that most of them keep swinging between persistent and often violent pulls from the right or the left.

The business organisation as it exists today has failed to create and sustain socially desirable values. This failure can be seen around the world, regardless of the political or economic system.

A major advancement in management has been the use of motivation instead of compulsion.  Motivation is the process of relating incentives to a current need of the individual.  Some incentives are at the physical level, while others are at the psychological. The reason for using certain incentives at certain times is a function of their achieved need satisfaction at any given time.

In contrast is the Vedantic view, which views the human personality as a product of the past, carrying with it susceptibilities for motivation which are internal, inherent and persistent. These susceptibilities give rise to self-unfolding impulses, whose fulfilment then becomes the basis for motivation.  This Vedantic view does not accept the successional visualisation of motivation as, for example, Maslow's hierarchic model. Maslow postulates that individuals have universal needs of ascending priority; in other words that all individuals follow the same predictable chain of needs and desires [thus negating the concept of 'individual'].  These basic conceptual differences should not be dismissed as merely theoretical, for their differing logic produces fundamentally different techniques of motivation. Management practices which are guided by the Western models often create in the Eastern environment more hostility and conflict than harmony or achievement. As a result, the doctrine of motivation is regarded in the East more as a manipulative technique than as an endeavour to draw out, develop and fulfil the human personality. **

A harmful consequence of this Western model of material motivation is a dichotomy of life. Workers as well as managers view their profession merely as a means of livelihood and they look for fulfilment of life outside their profession.  They defer to the values of the industry at work and cultivate what they consider to be their own true values outside of work; so much so that to many there seems to be no reason why they should practice the ethical values in business which they meticulously practice in personal life. A cynical way of life develops in which success, however achieved, is the rule at work and the moral code is the rule at home.
[*Drucker taught that management is “a liberal art,” and he infused his management advice with lessons from history, sociology, psychology, philosophy, culture and religion. He also believed strongly that all institutions, including those in the private sector, have a responsibility to the whole of society. “The fact is,” Drucker wrote,“that in modern society there is no other leadership group but managers. If the managers of our major institutions, and especially of business, do not take responsibility for the common good, no one else can or will.] Pasted from <>

[** could be argued that there are many in 'the West' who feel equally manipulated by the corporations for whom they work!

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