It seems opposition to proposals intended to help the greater mass of people, such as providing a livable wage or ensuring healthcare for all or having regulations that ensure a healthy and safe environment, quite often is that they would not be good for business. It does seem that business is opposed to being helpful to people in society, which is consistent with Milton Friedman’s (neoliberal) contention that a business enterprise has no responsibility apart from maximizing profit and shareholder value (over the next quarter).
So, who’s for business? Of course, the obvious answer is the business-minded among us. In a capitalist society, what might, being business-minded mean and what might be its implications?
What does being-for-business mean?
With business more specifically being capitalistic business, we must first acknowledge that capitalism doesn’t serve people, people serve capitalism. People aren’t respected as fellow human beings but as a resource to be employed/used—cogs in the machinery. Moreover, this requires a society of malleable compliant people. Thus, it is best if people relate to each other as objects in service to (their own) economic interest, with the only thing shared is a concern for the freedom to act as unencumbered material self-interest seeking individuals.
Therefore, it goes without saying that being-for-business requires submitting to, if not advocating for, the dictates of the system of capitalism. This means that everything revolves around business, placing business and its’ profit maximizing intent as the raison d’état of society, if not human existence. Further it creates both a materialistic and individualistic focused society—a society self-absorbed about its individualism. Unfortunately, as discussed here, being business-minded in this context presents contradictions that are unsustainable.
In essence, because everything is viewed with a capitalist (i.e. materialistic/mechanistic) worldview, the business-minded believe we are here (living on planet earth) solely for economic purposes. This requires business to extract, manipulate and exploit all available resources in an effort to maximize its’ material self-interest in and through economic exchange—all toward unlimited wealth accumulation. When and wherever there is an opportunity to extract a profit, the business-minded will seize the opportunity. It follows, the business-minded are to do as they wish with people, society and the natural environment. This leads to the commodification of all that exists.
Why else would it be common practice to have people (a.k.a. labor, employees, human resource, assets ) working in unsafe and in both physically and psychologically unhealthy workplaces for less than livable wages? Why else, in America, would purely economic arguments—employing the abstract cost-benefit metric—against doing what must be done to provide people a living wage, a safe product, healthcare and to mitigate the effects of capitalism’s destruction of our life supporting environment have any standing? Again, in America, why else is proposed legislation, favored by and intended to help the vast majority of people not entertained, let alone passed, yet legislation intended to serve corporate interests is readily attended to (see Gilens & Page article)? Why is it heretical to suggest that capitalism must be replaced with a system that actually aligns with and supports life itself?
If capitalism was a system grounded in moral principles that supported human progress—not solely material growth—then it would be a system with built-in space for its’ own improvement and evolution in service to humankind. But no such space exists. It is, as it always has been, a system requiring unwavering commitment to its purely material aim, unlimited wealth accumulation.
How is it that we go along with this?
We all wish to be successful in life, and we admire those who are. Who doesn’t want to be admired by others? So, what constitutes success? I’m sure you’ve heard something like, “look at all the money he (and it’s usually a he) has, he must be doing something right.” In a capitalist society, success is determined and measured by material gain. What counts is how much money you’ve accumulated; and the amount one has determines one’s class in society, thus being a member of the approved class is the ultimate success.
The class designation in society (e.g. lower class, middle class, upper class) affords commensurate acknowledgment and recognition of success. Those in the upper class are revered (if not idolized), and thought of as having worked harder and being smarter than the rest of us. Further, those who count in society are those who’ve accumulated vast sums of money. Not surprisingly, aspiring to become a member—and remaining a member—of the upper class is the goal of many. Success in life is about getting ahead—actually getting placed in and staying in the upper class—even if it is at the expense of everyone else. What matters is that you are there, not how you got there. Moreover, there is hierarchy within the upper class, so the felt need to have even more is insatiable. Clearly the system sets for us our aim in life.
As discussed here,here,hereand here, we are social beings and as such society’s values-in-practice (not those espoused) influences how we structure our life and how we will be in society. These values-in-practice most evident in management processes and systems, particularly in the business workplace, often have us in competition with each other striving to be thought of as a winner, as a success.
Far too many people structure their life in line with the dictates of capitalism and don’t even question this man-made construction as a way of living (their) life. Not surprisingly, we tend to excuse self-interested (selfish) behavior of others as way of giving ourselves a pass, thus avoiding having to face the contradiction between what we might espouse versus what we actually do. If you doubt this take a moment or two as an objective observer and look around.
Believing that life is a game that we are all playing seeking material goal—moving about on a real-life monopoly board. This game has each of us forever striving in a getting-and-spending frenzy—the insatiability of monetary gain keeps us in turn throwing the dice in staying on industry’s treadmill. In this game, being material productive matters, being humanly productive not so much. So, our time is spent playing the game (throwing the dice) and hoping we’ll win with each throw, rather than investing our time in life, learning to be and become a more fully human being.
More accurately, this materialist worldview has us living life as an automaton, not as a critical thinking, compassionately feeling/sharing and continually learning person. Sadly, not developing these qualities in our self in the process of life we lose our humanness, our sense of being human. That is, we become incapable of sharing our humanness with each other—there is no I-WE connection—and therefore the likelihood of us committing inhumane acts increases: In a sense we become less than what we potentially are. The point being, for us to develop fully as human beings, we need each other (more accurately each other’s difference)—as Amitai Etzioni asserted, each individual ‘I’ needs ‘We’ to be.
Business Can Be Helpful
As explained here, the business intent on maximizing material gain is realized by the way those in authority design and manage organizations as profit-producing machines. Since we spend a very significant portion of life trying to make a living working in these organizations—as well as preparingto do so—what we tacitly learn through experience in this capitalist economic context can’t help but influence how we-are-in-the-world.
Effectually, by being mere cogs in the machine, not only expunges our humanness from what is inherently a human system, but the disregard for ecological concerns greatly diminishes the likelihood of our continued existence on earth. Having great wealth but being humanly underdeveloped still makes for an unfulfilled life, as well as a harsh and unlivable world. We each need to awaken to our shared humanness and the stewardship of our environment, and cease the capitalist’s what’s-in-it-for-me way of being-in-the-world.
As explained here, and here, we need to change the way we view life and the world. With a what’s-in-it-for-me way of being, it is all about ‘me’ to the exclusion of a ‘we’. Hence there can be no space for ‘we’ coming together to solve our shared problems—actually there are no shared problems in a ‘me’ world. But, by letting go of our materialistic mechanistic orientation, and opening up to a different worldview will allow us to understand our responsibilities to ourselves and each other.
Clearly then, the efforts of the business-minded must serve humankind, rather than the other way around. Those conducting business can do this by taking a living systems world view, a view that makes clear our interdependence (if not dependence) upon each other and Nature. Seeing the world anew through the lens of the living systems view of life, those in authority, as explained here, will be able to envision a better and more helpful way for business and come to understand that being humanly productive is far more critical to our development as persons and viability as a species than only being materially productive.
Thus, having a living systems worldview will afford a change in the intent of business along with a view of a future that extends well beyond ‘what’s-in-it-for-me’ next quarter. As a result, the experiences we and our children will have will be humanly productive experiences; experiences that contribute to each of us realizing the joy in being and becoming more of what we potentially are. With business supporting the viability and progress of humankind we all can be for business.