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Beyond Self

Ethical and Spiritual Dimensions of Economics

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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 7: Future of Capitalism

1 The Legitimacy of Capitalism

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← 84 | 85 → CHAPTER 7

Future of Capitalism*

The moral foundation of capitalism should be reconsidered. Modern capitalism is disembedded from the social and cultural norms of society and produced a deep financial, ecological and social crisis. Competitiveness is the prevailing ideology of today’s business and economic policy. Companies, regions, and national economies seek to improve their productivity and gain competitive advantage. But these efforts often produce negative effects on various stakeholders at home and abroad.

The economic teachings of world religions challenge the way capitalism is functioning, and their corresponding perspectives are worthy of consideration. They represent life-serving modes of economizing which can assure the livelihood of human communities and the sustainability of natural ecosystems. Ethics and the future of capitalism are strongly connected. If we want to sustain capitalism for a long time we have to create a less violent, more caring form of it.

The financial, ecological, social crisis of the first decade of 21st century clearly show that the legitimacy of capitalism is in many respect questionable. The moral foundations of capitalism should be reconsidered.

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