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A Humanistic Perspective for Management Theory: Protecting Dignity and Promoting Well-Being

“The general objective of the Academy shall be therefore to foster: a) a philosophy of management that will make possible the accomplishment of the economic and social objectives of an industrial society with increasing economy and effectiveness: the public’s interests must be paramount in any such philosophy, but adequate consideration must be given to the legitimate interests of capital and labor…..”

Editor’s preface, Journal of the Academy of Management, 1958, 1(1): 56.

Abstract

The notion of dignity as that which has intrinsic value has arguably been neglected in economics and management despite its societal importance and eminent relevance in other social sciences. While management theory gained parsimony, this paper argues that the inclusion of dignity in the theoretical precepts of management theory will: (a) improve management theory in general, (b) align it more directly with the public interest, and (c) strengthen its connection to social welfare creation. The paper outlines the notion of dignity, discusses its historical understanding, and explains its relevance in the context of management theory. Furthermore, it proposes a framework of paradigmatic assumptions along two dimensions: (a) understanding human dignity as unconditional or conditional and (b) understanding social welfare as wealth creation or well-being creation. I propose alternative management theory archetypes and discuss these archetypes’ theoretical implications for management research. I also suggest how management theory can be shifted to contribute toward social welfare creation more directly.

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Fig. 1

Adapted from Haslam 2006

Notes

  1. See, for example, http://www.gabriel-zucman.eu/files/SaezZucman2014.pdf.

  2. It is important to note that utility in the original sense was understood as an ethical concept, and utilitarianism pursued an ethical goal, namely to achieve the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. In that original sense utilitarianism can serve to justify a more humanistic management theory.

  3. Reviewers rightly point out that utilitarian philosophy does not endorse de-ethicalization; rather, it could provide a rationale for a humanistic form of management.

  4. I understand that this categorization may provoke “speciest” criticism. For the remainder of the paper I will develop the categorization to highlight that even such a speciest perspective could help broaden, improve, and enhance management theorizing.

  5. I found three articles in AMJ that examine well-being, and four that examine health as a dependent variable.

  6. Paradigmatic here refers to the original meaning of paradigm as example or exemplary (Kuhn 1996). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions: University of Chicago Press.

  7. One can well argue that the first type is not humanistic and I would agree. However, for parsimony sake I stick with the label economistic and humanistic types.

  8. http://aom.org/Divisions-and-Interest-Groups/Academy-of-Management-Division---Interest-Group-Domain-Statements.aspx.

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Pirson, M. A Humanistic Perspective for Management Theory: Protecting Dignity and Promoting Well-Being. J Bus Ethics 159, 39–57 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-017-3755-4

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Keywords

  • Humanistic management
  • Economism
  • Humanism
  • Dignity
  • Well-being