, Volume 99, Issue 1, pp 37-49
Date: 21 Jan 2011

Ethics and Economics: Towards a New Humanistic Synthesis for Business

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Abstract

The Encyclical-Letter Caritas in Veritate by Pope Benedict XVI suggests to advance towards a new conceptualization of the tenuous relationship between economics and ethics, proposing a “new humanistic synthesis.” Where social encyclicals have traditionally justified policy proposals by natural law and theological reasoning alone, Caritas in Veritate gives great relevance to economic arguments. The encyclical defines the framework for a new business ethics which appreciates allocative and distributive efficiency, and thus both markets and institutions as improving the human condition, but locates their source and reason outside the economic sphere. It places a clear accent on the ontological connectedness of the economic and ethical dimensions of human action. It is the proper ordering of means towards the end of integral human development that allows mankind to leave a vicious circle of consumerism and enter a virtuous circle that applies the creativity fostered by markets. This vision implies a new model of business management that integrates considerations of vocation, purpose, and values at a theological level.

A preliminary version of this paper was presented at the 16th International Symposium on Ethics, Business and Society organized by IESE Business School (Barcelona, 13–15 May, 2010).