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Beyond Self

Ethical and Spiritual Dimensions of Economics


Laszlo Zsolnai

This book addresses ethical and spiritual issues in economics. The central idea advanced in the book is that the extreme focus on the self by economic actors leads to the destruction of both material and non-material values.
The assumptions of self-interest in behavior represent the core of mainstream economics today. From this perspective, the welfare of economic agents depends on their own consumption; their goal is to maximize their own welfare; and their choice is guided by the pursuit of their own goals.
Throughout the book the author argues that self-interest-based actions and policies have a detrimental impact on nature, future generations, and society at large. If we want to survive and flourish in the material world we have to transcend the self and embrace wholeness. This value shift requires enormous changes in economics, politics and social life, but there may not be any other option in light of the current state of ecological degradation and human suffering.
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Foreword by Peter Pruzan


← vi | vii → Foreword

We all look at the world through a personal pair of lenses – those we were born with, those that were culturally molded during our upbringing and education and later on refined via work, social environment, and family experiences, and those that are a result of mature reflection on what is important in one’s life and in the life of others. Without such lenses that simultaneously focus and limit our perspectives we would not be capable of dealing with the enormous inputs from our senses and minds – and we would not be able to develop a sense of person, and with it a sense of what is good and just, on a personal as well as a collective level.

What has all this to do with a Foreword for the book you are about to read? It has to do with the reason why I am so pleased with this book and why I am so pleased with its author. And since the book’s Introduction presents both its motivation and a concise overview of the contents, instead of commenting on the book, the following are a series of reflections on the book’s author, my esteemed colleague and friend, Laszlo Zsolnai, and his many, varied, and significant contributions to the broad field that his lens and this book focus on.

I have had the privilege of knowing and sharing perspectives with Laszlo Zsolnai since we first met in 1997 in connection with the...

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