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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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Chapter 1: Economics, Ethics and Spirituality

The book’s contributions


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Economics, Ethics and Spirituality

World renowned organizational scholar, James March of Stanford University once said that undermining the self-interest doctrine may be the most important project of the 21st century (March 2011). The collected papers of this book aim to contribute to this enormous task.

Self-interest is at the heart of economics, politics and everyday life. People and organizations are encouraged to pursue their own self-interest without paying attention to the wider and longer term consequences of their choices and actions. The often celebrated ‘Invisible Hand’ doctrine states that individual self-interested behavior finally produces beneficial outcomes for all.

Self-interest maximization and free market competition are the basic pillars of the Invisible Hand doctrine which claims that self-interested competitive forces bring benefit for all. Overwhelming empirical evidence and strong theoretical arguments show that the working of the Invisible Hand is rather an exception than the general case.

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