Rethinking the MBA
As the global financial crisis has subsided, some business schools have added one or two courses on ethics to their MBA programs. The courses are mostly an afterthought. The thinking behind them is: “Our financial institutions have behaved badly, so maybe it would be a good idea to add a touch of ethical instruction to the curriculum.” Nothing could be more revealing of the mindset of our economic thinkers than that business ethics has become a sideshow, an add-on, an extra frill.
The prevailing view of the economy as a giant autonomous mechanism following inexorable laws is a highly abstract, quasi-scientific conception. Like the laws of gravity, there isn’t much room for ethics. But, in fact, this prevailing view conflicts sharply with how we actually experience the economy in our day-to-day encounters.
The Hungarian philosopher Karl Polanyi emphasized the importance of what he called “tacit knowledge,” or non-conscious knowledge that accumulates from our experience with ideas, objects, people or institutions without our being fully aware of it.