Rethinking the Purpose of Business

Interdisciplinary Essays in the Catholic Social Tradition

If we shake our heads at the actions of officers, directors, or auditors at Tyco, Enron or Worldcom, if we are prepared to ask “What could they have been thinking?” we should also be prepared to answer the question “What should they have been thinking?” The essays collected in Rethinking the Purpose of Business: Interdisciplinary Essays within the Catholic Social Tradition pursue that question. This volume was edited by Michael Naughton, director of the John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought of the Center for Catholic Studies, and Steven Cortright from St. Mary’s College of California.

In this volume, a select group of management theorists, moral theologians, legal scholars, ethicists, and economists engage in conversation with each other over the complicated dimensions of the shareholder and stakeholder models of the firm. Informed by the Catholic social tradition and its moral vision of property, work, contracts, and community, the contributors of this volume engage in an interdisciplinary conversation that is unusual in our secular and highly specialized society.

The authors share a respect for the power of markets, but also share respect for the ligaments of community, common goods and personal virtues. They are willing to pursue questions down to their philosophical and theological grounds. Accordingly, the essays marry technical, organizational and management theory to philosophical and theological accounts of human purpose. It is no small part of the argument of the book that all (Catholic and non-Catholic) find, in the tradition of Catholic social thought, common principles that allow for shared arguments across disciplines.