Tuesday, May 10, 2011

economically rich vs socially miserable? ...

Henry Mintzberg, my favourite management guru wrote in his book 'Managers: Not MBAs'that in a democratic society, we do not exist for our social and economic institutions; they exist for us. He went on to say that in recent years, we have been experiencing a glorification of self-interest perhaps unequaled since the 1920s. Greed has been raised to some sort of high-calling; corporations are urged to ignore broader social responsibility in favour of narrow shareholder value; chief executives are regarded as if they alone create economic performance. A society devoid of selfishness may be difficult to imagine, but a society that glorifies selfishness can be imagined only as cynical and corrupt, he goes on complaining. He went on further to say that our societies have been tilting increasingly out of balance, in favour of the economic against social, correspondingly in favour of markets at the expense of other social institutions. We need both, he says, but are finding ourselves increasingly dominated by one. This is interesting...he says that MBA education plays a significant role in all this...hmmmm...

He then taks about the degradation of human values, and then quoted Jensen & Meckling who said that 'there is no such thing as a need, everything is a trade-off (except of course, the need for more...' and illustrated it with a rather startling example: George Bernard Shaw, the famous playwright and social thinker, reported once claimed that while on an ocean voyage he met a celebrated actress on deck and asked her whether she would be willing to sleep with him for a million dollars. She was agreeable. He followed with a counter proposal: "What about ten dollars?" "What do you think I am?" she responded indignantly. he repiled, "We've already established that-now we're just haggling over price."

He also talks about analytical and economic immorality, legal corruption and a society of meanness.... In the real world of decision making, he says the economic and social decisions get all tangled up. Put it in another way, there's always discretion in business decision making, to thwart social needs or to take them into consideration. Business may not exist to serve social needs, but it cannot exist if it ignores them.

This was written in 2003...almost 10 years ago. You were right then and may still, to a certain extent, be right but alot of things have changed professor! The world now has the likes of Yunus looking at microfinance in a different light. We now have social entrerpreneurship. New technologies especially internet technologies have transformed the world much more than the invention of telephone did to mankind.

The Russian novelist Aleksandr Solzenitsyn (1978) made his point with lucidity when he wrote while living in America: I have spent all my life under a communist regime, and I will tell you that a society without an objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale but the legal one is not quite worthy of man either. A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking a very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have beneficial effect on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man's noblest impulse.