Rethinking How Business Purpose is Taught in Catholic Business Education

24 Pages Posted: 1 Nov 2013 Last revised: 19 Dec 2013

Lyman Johnson

Washington and Lee University - School of Law; University of St. Thomas, St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN - School of Law

Michael Naughton

University of St. Thomas, St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN - School of Law

William Stanley Bojan, Jr.

Integrated Governance Solutions, LLC

Date Written: October 31, 2013

Abstract

Business education at a Catholic university should engage students and faculty across the university in critically examining the purpose of business in society. Following the best practices of leading business schools, the Catholic business curriculum has mostly focused on the shareholder and stakeholder approaches - with the shareholder approach being the predominant view. Creatively engaging the Catholic Social Tradition (especially the “community of persons”) can bring a richer appreciation of the purpose of business in our contemporary society than either the shareholder or stakeholder approaches. We argue that far more discretion to pursue various corporate purposes in manifold ways exists than is frequently appreciated by business managers and those who educate them. This article examines how, given this legal and moral discretion, the Catholic Social Tradition is a rich resource for teaching corporate purpose, and reveals how tapping into a religious tradition with a long philosophical discourse can shape a rich dialogue in the curriculum as to a company’s moral direction. We contrast two philosophies of business: an Association of Individuals (the shareholder and stakeholder approaches) and a Community of Persons (mission-centric approach), and their respective views of corporate purpose. While business scholars tend not to question their underlying anthropological presuppositions because of the desire to be “practical,” a business education grounded in the liberal arts must engage the first principles of its discourse.

Keywords: business education, Catholic social thought, Catholic university, Catholic higher education, corporate purpose

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Lyman and Naughton, Michael and Bojan, Jr., William Stanley, Rethinking How Business Purpose is Taught in Catholic Business Education (October 31, 2013). Washington & Lee Legal Studies Paper No. 2013-19. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2348470 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2348470

Lyman P. Q. Johnson (Contact Author)

Washington and Lee University - School of Law ( email )

Lexington, VA 24450
United States
540-458-8515 (Phone)
540-458-8488 (Fax)

University of St. Thomas, St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN - School of Law

MSL 400, 1000 La Salle Avenue
Minneapolis, MN Minnesota 55403-2005
United States

Michael Naughton

University of St. Thomas, St. Paul/Minneapolis, MN - School of Law ( email )

2115 Summit Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55105
United States

William Stanley Bojan, Jr.

Integrated Governance Solutions, LLC ( email )

MN
United States

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