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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 13: Redefining Economic Reason

1 Criticizing the Profit Principle


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Redefining Economic Reason*

Despite Martin Heidegger’s warning, it’s not modern technology but modern economizing that destroys the Being. With its exclusive focus on profit-making modern economizing endangers the integrity and diversity of natural ecosystems, autonomy, and culture of local communities, and the chances of future generations for a decent life.

This paper gives a critique of the profit principle and redefines economic rationality in a more holistic, substantive, and humanistic form.

The devastating effects of profit-centered corporate business organizations are accurately described by American social critique David Korten. In his influential book When Corporations Rule the World he argues that today’s global economy has become like a malignant cancer, advancing the colonization of the planet’s living spaces for the benefit of powerful corporations and financial institutions. It has turned these once useful institutions into instruments of a market tyranny that is destroying livelihoods, displacing people, and feeding on life in an insatiable quest for money. It forces us all to act in ways destructive to ourselves, our families, our communities, and nature (Korten 1995).

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