Humanistic management advocates often challenge how we define ourselves in relation to management and business. On one end, they would define a person as homo economos; i.e., a self-interested and uncaring individual. At the other end is the human person as homo sapiens, or a caring individual who has (human) dignity and care for the common good. If the latter is true, then this definition can gain more acceptance, and a management theory to generalize human behavior accordingly can be developed.
What is a human being?
The answer is complex. The Second Vatican Council, in its document Gaudium et spes, described how we can be torn between the demands of practicality and efficiency and those of moral conscience. There is a tension in the world, created by sociocultural, industrial, commercial, and other forces, that resonates within us.
The same Council invites us to see ourselves as persons with dignity, with individual needs and goals, but living within a social context. It stresses a reverence for human persons, where we see our neighbors as living with the same dignity that we recognize in ourselves.
Thus, when we see ourselves as we really are, we can build a society — the business community included — that takes care of the common good.
We are all intelligent and free. We are all capable of setting our personal visions and goals. We are all capable of choosing plans and actions that lead us closer or farther from these visions and goals. We are free to do good or bad things. We are both individual and social beings. We are both consumers and producers. We live in time, but are destined for eternity. If we recognize all these as true, then we recognize the foundation for the common good.
If this is what a human person is, what does it mean to be human? How can we relate with and respond to other human persons? Pope St. John Paul II offers an answer: “… I formulated the concept of a personalistic principle. This principle is an attempt to translate the commandment of love into the language of philosophical ethics. The person is a being for whom the only suitable dimension is love. We are just to a person if we love him.”
Thus, human beings are not “homo economos”: mere consumers, resources, or a means to some other person’s profitable end. Human beings are “homo sapiens” capable of loving, caring, and extending themselves so that others may gain and move forward not only materially, but totally, in a completely personalistic way.
Do business organizations play a role in this advancement of love, of the good for all, or are they meant to merely to generate profit? Perhaps one could say that businesses don’t need to think of the common good or humanistic management — if it is possible to make profits without involving human beings.
But for as long as business and management exist within a social context, and there are human actors involved, then human persons need to be considered as free agents who are ends in themselves, and who can rightfully demand not only that their actions be justly compensated, but also that they be brought closer to their personal and ultimate goals.
Denver Bingski Daradar is a lecturer and graduate student of the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University.