Focus: The International Journal of Management Digest: Special Edition
Ethical Leadership, India, Orientalism, Business Ethics, History of Economic Thinking, Religion and Economics
Indian Spiritual Traditions: an Inspiration for Managerial Ethics in Europe? The purpose of the paper is to explore the influence of Indian Hindu, Buddhist and Sufi traditions on the work on management by West-European economists or executives during the 20th century. While many management and organizational scholars now recognize that cultural differences can have a significant influence on management and work behaviour, the impact of comparing with or opting for other cultures (in casu the Indian culture) on management remains largely an unknown field. Here we argue that the economists or executives concerned contributed to the revival of the original management concepts and ethics of West-European traditions. The inspiration for this approach comes from the Catholic economist E.F. Schumacher who adopted Buddhist and Gandhiist (Vedantic) points of view. To him there was no contradiction between “East” and “West”. The East was only to be used for reminding the West of the core values of its own traditions.The methodology of the paper includes an analysis of the work of A. Osborne (influenced by Sri RamanaMaharshi, a Tamil guru advocating Advaita Vedanta), A. Schweitzer (influenced by the Bhagavad Gita and karma yoga), E.F. Schumacher (influenced by Buddhism and Gandhism) and H.J. Witteveen (influenced by Inayat Khan, an North-Indian Sufi), and adopts a reflective and historical approach to the topic. In doing so the paper aims to provide a useful background to introduce ethical principles from Indian spiritual traditions into international management while demonstrating that they are not contradicting so-called “Western” ethical principles. We conclude that comparing Indian and West-European traditions illustrates how religion does not necessarily divide but on the contrary creates a common ground for business communication and ethics.