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  • Author or Editor: László Zsolnai x
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The paper explores Buddhist economics as a major alternative to the Western economic mindset. Buddhism is centred on want negation and purification of the human character. Buddhist economics, developed by Schumacher, Payutto, Welford and others, challenges the basic principles of modern Western economics: (1) profit-maximisation, (2) cultivating desires, (3) introducing markets, (4) instrumental use of the world, and (5) self-interest-based ethics. Buddhist economics proposes alternative principles such as minimising suffering, simplifying desires, non-violence, genuine care, and generosity. It is suggested that Buddhist economics is not a system but a strategy, which can be applied in any economic setting.

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Why Buddhist economics?

Society and Economy
Author: Laszlo Zsolnai
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Business activities considerably affect the fate and survival of natural ecosystems as well as the life conditions of present and future generations. In the light of Hans Jonas' theory of responsibility we can state that business has a one-way, non-reciprocal duty caring for the beings affected by its functioning. To become a fully ethical enterprise, business is to be carried out in sustainable, pro-social and future enhancing ways. Doing ethical business is not a luxury of advanced societies. It is a requirement for modern business to survive in a world of large-scale ecological disruption and social disintegration.

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The paper gives an interdisciplinary overview of the emerging field of spirituality and business. It uses insights from business ethics, theology, neuroscience, psychology, gender studies, and philosophy to economics, management, organizational science, and banking and refers to different religious convictions including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, the Baha’i faith, and the North-American aboriginal worldview. The authors argue that the materialistic management paradigm has failed. They explore new values for post-materialistic management: frugality, deep ecology, trust, reciprocity, responsibility for future generations, and authenticity. Within this framework profit and growth are no longer ultimate aims but elements in a wider set of values. Similarly, cost-benefit calculations are no longer the essence of management but are part of a broader concept of wisdom in leadership. Spirit-driven businesses require intrinsic motivation for serving the common good and using holistic evaluation schemes for measuring success. The Palgrave Handbook of Business and Spirituality, edited by the authors, is a response to developments that simultaneously challenge the “business as usual” mindset.

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Over the centuries, Buddhist monks applied economic models in the operations of their monasteries to make them sustainable while also observing Buddhist principles. The large variety of economic practices observed demonstrate the creativity of monastics in acquiring the resources to support their large monasteries in a way that was viewed as compatible with Buddhist ethics embodied in the Noble Eightfold Path. Researchers have analyzed the integration of faith-based and financially related monastic needs for different countries in different eras. The Buddhist economics approach as it has been developed in the last 40-50 years aims to create an alternative worldview that challenges the main underlying assumptions of Western economics. The mainstream Western economics model is originally based on the following assumptions: rational, selfish behavior; profit-maximization; competitive markets; and instrumental use of the environment. Buddhist economics is based on a different set of assumptions: dependent origination (“pratityasamutpada”), where people are interdependent with each other and with Earth; people are aware of enlightened self-interest based on interdependence and thus are altruistic; firms care about the well-being of workers, customers, shareholders, and community; and all activities include caring for the environment. With these assumptions, the Buddhist economic model has shared prosperity in a sustainable world with minimal suffering as its goal.

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