Humanism In Business – Towards A Paradigm Shift?

35 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2010 Last revised: 2 Nov 2013

See all articles by Michael Pirson

Michael Pirson

Fordham University - Gabelli School of Business; Humanistic Management Network; Harvard University

Paul R. Lawrence

Harvard University, Harvard Business School (HBS) (deceased)

Date Written: February 21, 2010


Management theory and practice are facing unprecedented challenges. The lack of sustainability, the increasing inequity and the continuous decline in societal trust pose a threat to ‘business as usual’ (Jackson and Nelson, 2004). Capitalism is at a crossroad and scholars, practitioners and policy makers are called to rethink business strategy in light of major external changes (Hart 2005, Arena 2004). In the following we review an alternative view of human beings that is based on a renewed Darwinian theory developed by Lawrence and Nohria (2002). We label this alternative view ‘humanistic’ and draw distinctions to current ‘economistic’ conceptions. We then develop the consequences that this humanistic view has for business organizations, examining business strategy, governance structures, leadership forms, and organizational culture. Afterwards we outline the influences of humanism on management in the past and the present, and suggest options for humanism to shape the future of management. In this manner we will contribute to the discussion of alternative management paradigms that help solve the current crises.

Keywords: Economism, Humanism, Paradigm, Crisis Management, Sustainability, Management Theory, Business Strategy

JEL Classification: A00, B00, B3, L00, L2, M00, M1, N0

Suggested Citation

Pirson, Michael and Lawrence, Paul R., Humanism In Business – Towards A Paradigm Shift? (February 21, 2010). Journal of Business Ethics, Forthcoming, Fordham University Schools of Business Research Paper No. 2010-005, Available at SSRN:

Michael Pirson (Contact Author)

Fordham University - Gabelli School of Business ( email )

140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10018
United States

Humanistic Management Network ( email )

St. Gallen

Harvard University

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Paul R. Lawrence

Harvard University, Harvard Business School (HBS) (deceased)

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