Ethics in Management (Vedantic Perspectives)


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In this book, the author develops the themes propounded in his earlier work Management by Values: Towards Cultural Congruence (OUP 1991), to provide a systematic presentation of the relevant vedantic and allied principles in a conceptual and empirical framework. From an overall perspective of vedantic ethical vision and its application to managerial corporate ethical morality, he examines what that system can teach us about individual leadership, transformation of the work ethos and ethics, and productivity. This theme has been further carried forward in the volume Spirituality in Management: Means or End? (OUP,2008) where S.K. Chakrabroty highlights the relationship between ethically leadership performance and spirituality.

S.K. Chakrabroty is former professor and Founder Convener, Management Centre for Human Values, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta.

‘This book emphasizes the need for value-driven management, it is an invitation for experiential endeavour and transformation. The Indianness of the book is appealing.

‘This scholarly treatise [attempts to find] a remedy to the havoc wrought by the consumerist culture of modern times.’

the book argues for incorporating the wealth of power and foresight-laden information our religion has.



This book was conceived, planned, and began to be written in early 1990. This was than a year before the Bombay Securities scam and the TISCO leadership succession drama began to submerge almost everything else in India management during 1991-3. Providentially, though sadly, these later episodes have amply justified the original intuitive impulse for this endaveour.

Its writing has also coincided with the emergence of a seemingly paradoxical phenomenon in management thinking and application: the growing coexistence of globalization and localization. The latest example of this frantic search for a distinctive managerial ethos even amongst European nations. This culture-centred quest has of course been led by the japenese ‘Buddhist-Shintoist’ management style, pursued more recently by the other East Asian economies. The last group, several of whose constituents also happen to be pluralist societies, are confidently moving towards the indigenous ‘Confucian’ management ethos. The Judaeo Christian, Protestant ethic roots of management theory are thus not the only ones to be explored right across the world. Attempts are afoot in different parts of the world to support the goal of success in ‘globalized markets’ with the strengths of ‘localized cultures’. Many paths to the same goal, as the wise of the world have said.

These then are the two major scenarios which merge to form the backdrop of this work. Ever since my first book in this field was published a decade ago,* I have been trying to follow two clear and parallel routes:
(a) Human values, grounded in spiritual reality, constitute the wider framework for the significant sub-set of ethico-moral values; and.
(b) The authentic Indian mind, not the ‘shadow mind’, which could be critical of, but more importantly of, but more importantly should be sympathetic and identified with the truth of the Indian ethos, must be inspired.

At the end of little more than a decade-and-a-half of study, writing, practice, and teaching, it is my view that India's contribution to the ‘many paths’ to effective, values-driven management has to spring from Vedanta. The labours of Indian civilization are crystallized at their best, according to worldwide Indological scholarship, in Vedanta. A patchwork quilt, eclectric syncretism, will not serve. The more we waste our time cutting and grafting the more irresponsibly we behave towards posterity. Modernity is not its own testimony, nor tradition its own indictment. ‘Eternal verities are not merely a myth.

It is significant also to note that a number of western thinkers and writers on management, ecology, and related matters have been recently publishing articles, and even books alluding to vedantic psycho-philosophy. This book is an organized presentation of the relevant Vedantic and allied principles, supported also on most key poits by passing references to other Indian thought systems, whether orioriginating in India or elsewhere. The aim is to to fill, partially at least, a fatal void in the foundation of Indian management scholarship and thinking. Management movements elsewhere are also likely to enrich themselves from the ‘Vedantic ethic’ which, fourtanetly for us, is not, a ‘one book-one prophet’ system.

This book is not intended only or even principally as a scholarly venture. Comparative treatment of several world-views from an academic point of view the work of the future. For the lay reader especially such a concourse of diverse streams would be confusing. Far clearer for him/her a consistent, well- illustrated elboration of a single, self-contained scheme of ideas and practices. Besides, given the present educational system, even appreciation of the single Vedantic line of thought may not prove an altogether easy task. I have therefore spared the practicing manager the burden of such academic niceties. He can be trusted to make his own comparisons once a single scheme of basic principles has been thoroughly assililated.

The first two chapters are relatively more conceptual, although even there substantial empirical reference points have been provided. Nevertheless, those inclined first to taste and savour the more ‘concrete’, could begin with chapter 3 and travel onwards without confusion and return to the first two chapters whenever they feel they are ready for them. But the logic of the book demands that they appear where they do. Several major ideasets however reappear in various chapters-with different yet complementary interpretations. This happens spontaneously because they are holistic.

In these times when idealism has fallen into disrepute, this book is substaintially idealistic . This calls for no apology. If wholesome human development, and appropriate support for it from all kinds of institutions, is the one key goal for any society, then it is necessary to proceed from theories based on ideals (not ideologies). If business organizations are claimed to be the lever for worlds-transformation, then they cannot escape engagement with ideals. Similarly, when an individual contemplates total development for himself/ herself, he/ she cannot choose to remain insulated from idealism. Whether our heritage of intellectual labours alone, however brilliant, can nourish and educate us in this endeavour of idealism. Whether our heritage of intellectual labours alone, however brilliant, can nourish and educate us in this endeavour of idealism is extremely doubtful. Although the former cannot be bypassed, yet greater openness to trans-intellectual, experiential inner growth is a major avenue for ethico-morality in private and social existence. Undoubtedly there are a few exceptional persons who can stay and act wholesome even without such an unfolding. Perhaps they sustain this by instinct, samaskara. But we are speaking of the general population of educated, well placed persons in our society in whom this instinct is frozen or dead. I believe that the trans-intellectual, supra-egoistic path must also be cleared and opened before them.

The pages of this book, therefore do not rely on systems or structures or codes for ethico-moral rejuvenation. Instead, they are an invitation for experiential endeavour and transformation. Intellectual exposition has been employed as a means only of seeking to inspire the reader to pursue the end of inner transformation. Hints and guidelines are provided generously throughout to encourage him/her to undertake the pilgrimage. This book is a plea for personal initiative towards ethical authenticity. Engagement with ‘living the thoughts’ is our paramount responsibility.

I am grateful to Swapan Banik, Gopal Roy, and Ashis Mukherji for the patience and accuracy with which they typed the manuscript of this book.




1 Ethical Vision of Management: A Vedantic Outline 1
2 Holistics for Human Values: Retrospect and Prospect 32
3 Managerial and Corporate Ethico-Morality: The Indian Response 59
4 Ethics for Individual Motivation or Inspiration? 105
5 Leadership Behaviour or Leadership Character 149
6 Leadership Transformation: Insights from the Shastras 187
7 Transforming work Ethos: The Subjective Secret 209
8 The Source of Ethics and Values: secular Rationality or Sacred Rationality? 231
9 Work-Ethics Plus Ethics-in-work 250
10 The Indian Heritage and Productivity: A Reappraisal 262

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