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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 5: Beyond Competitiveness: Creating Values for a Sustainable World (co-author: Antonio Tencati)

← 65 | 66 → 1 Competitiveness versus Collaboration


← 64 | 65 → CHAPTER 5

Beyond Competitiveness: Creating Values for a Sustainable World*

There must be no competition among you, no conceit … Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, so that nobody thinks of his own interests first but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead.

— Philippians 2: 3–4

Economics is rightly called a ‘dismal science’. It propagates a negativistic view of human nature. In this view economic agents are always self-interested and want to maximize their own profit or utility. Their interactions are based on competition only and their criterion of success is growth measured in money terms. Mainstream economics generates vicious circles in which market players expect the worst from others and act accordingly. Competitive economics produces an enormous abundance of goods and services but at an intolerable environmental and social cost.

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