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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 9: Buddhist Economic Strategy

← 119 | 120 → 1 Why Buddhism?

Extract

← 118 | 119 → CHAPTER 9

Buddhist Economic Strategy*

One need not be a Buddhist or an economist to practice Buddhist economics.

— VENERABLE P.A. PAYUTTO, 1994

This paper explores Buddhist economics as a major alternative to the Western economic mindset. Buddhist economics, developed by E.F. Schumacher, Venerable P.A. Payutto, Richard Welford and others, challenges the basic principles of modern Western economics: (i) profit-maximization, (ii) cultivating desires, (iii) introducing markets, (iv) instrumental use of the world, and (v) self-interest-based ethics. Buddhist economics proposes alternative principles such as minimizing suffering, simplifying desires, non-violence, genuine care, and generosity. Buddhist economics is not a system but a strategy, which can be applied in any economic setting. It is argued here that Buddhist economics is rational, ethical, and ecological and can lead to happiness, peace and permanence.

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