Capitalism and compassion: are they incompatible? In a society devastated by unemployment, in which the richest 1% of Americans own nearly half of the country’s wealth, can compassionate organizing succeed?
In her guest editorial “Compassion and Capitalism: Implications for Organizational Studies,” forthcoming in the Journal of Management and now available in the journal’s OnlineFirst section, Dr. Jennifer George of Rice University seeks answers:
…[A] growing body of literature focuses on compassion in organizations, primarily at the individual and group level of analysis. However, the current economic system under which the U.S. economy operates might create a fundamental tension in this regard. That is, the tenets of American corporate capitalism (ACC) might be in contradiction to compassionate organizing. ACC is an ideology that emphasizes, among other things, the pursuit of self-interest, competition, market exchange, consumerism, and using a profit/loss criterion to make decisions in organizations. Members of a society in which ACC is dominant may come to internalize the beliefs and values underlying ACC, which may be at odds with compassionate organizing. Indeed, management scholarship has tended to be dominated by a concern with economic performance and efficiency. In addition to this focus on efficiency and competitiveness as ultimate outcomes of interest, perhaps management scholars should also focus on social problems and social welfare concerns. Consistent with contemporary interest in compassion, key to advancing our knowledge in this area would be identifying the conditions under which organizations inflict the least harm and alleviate the most suffering.
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