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Business as a Human Enterprise: Implications for Education

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Part of the Issues in Business Ethics book series (EVBE,volume 53)


This chapter begins with a brief, stylized history of the business academy, primarily in the United States, where it finds its most dominant form and, historically, its largest audience. The authors juxtapose this history with the tremendous changes that have occurred in business over the last 40–50 years, and suggest that the time is ripe for change. Next, Freeman and Newkirk demonstrate that recent critiques rest on a faulty and outmoded view of business. Using stakeholder theory, the authors argue that we need a new approach, most easily characterized as “business as a human activity.” The chapter suggests two central questions and four problems business education must place front and center. The authors then discuss how we might draw on all of the disciplines of the academy for a more robust and useful view of business, and more powerful research and educational tools.

Originally published in: Rethinking Business Management, 131–148, 2008

Reprint by Springer, Reproduced with author’s permission

We wish to thank our many colleagues at the Darden School and elsewhere for helpful conversations about these issues. Versions of this paper have been delivered at the Schulich School, York University, and at Copenhagen Business School.

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  1. 1.

    Leon C. Marshall, “The American Collegiate School of Business,” in The Collegiate School of Business: Its Status at the Close of the First Quarter of the Twentieth Century, ed. Leon C. Marshall (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1928), 3.

  2. 2.

    Frances Ruml, “The Formative Period of Higher Commercial Education in American Universities,” in Collegiate School of Business, ed. Marshall, 47.

  3. 3.

    Drew E. VandeCreek, “Power and Order: The Ideology of Professional Business Training at Wharton and Harvard, 1881–1933,” (master’s thesis, University of Virginia, 1994).

  4. 4.

    Ruml, “Higher Commercial Education,” 54–55.

  5. 5.

    Ibid., 53.

  6. 6.

    Alfred North Whitehead, “Universities and Their Function,” in The Aims of Education and Other Essays (1929; reprint, New York: Macmillan, 1966), 92.

  7. 7.

    Thomas M. Mulligan, “The Two Cultures in Business Education,” Academy of Management Review 12 (October 1987): 593–99.

  8. 8.

    Gary Hamel, “The How, Why, and What of Management Innovation,” Harvard Business Review, February 2006, 72–84.

  9. 9.

    Michael Porter, Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors (New York: Free Press, 1980).

  10. 10.

    Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman, In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies (New York: Harper and Row, 1982).

  11. 11.

    These are laid out in more detail in R. Edward Freeman, Jeffrey Harrison, and Andrew Wicks, Managing for Stakeholders: Survival, Reputation, and Success (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2007).

  12. 12.

    VandeCreek, “Power and Order.”

  13. 13.

    Henry Mintzberg, Managers Not MBAs: A Hard Look at the Soft Practice of Managing and Management Development (San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2004).

  14. 14.

    Sumantra Ghoshal, “Bad Management Theories Are Destroying Good Management Practices,” Academy of Management Learning and Education 4 (March 2005): 75–91.

  15. 15.

    Ibid., 75.

  16. 16.

    Ibid., 81–82.

  17. 17.

    Peter Drucker, “Management’s New Paradigms,” Forbes, 5 October 1998, 156.

  18. 18.

    Peter Drucker, “The New Society of Organizations,” Harvard Business Review, September-October 1992, 100.

  19. 19.

    A recent statement that reflects our view is Freeman et al., Managing for Stakeholders.

  20. 20.

    For an analysis of brands as social texts, see Mary Jo Hatch and James Rubin, “The Hermeneutics of Branding,” Journal of Brand Management 14 (September 2006): 40–59.

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Freeman, R.E., Newkirk, D. (2023). Business as a Human Enterprise: Implications for Education. In: Dmytriyev, S.D., Freeman, R.E. (eds) R. Edward Freeman’s Selected Works on Stakeholder Theory and Business Ethics. Issues in Business Ethics(), vol 53. Springer, Cham.

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