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Quentin Dupont, S.J.

A Jesuit Perspective on Business Schools

To many, the twentieth century has been defined by the rise of secularization. Among alternatives to religious-based value systems in the secular age, rational self-interest from economics and business, promoting the personal-utility-maximizing “homo economicus”, is arguably a leading candidate. On the campuses of Jesuit universities, business schools appear to be standard-bearers of this rational individualistic value-centered perspective, often perceived to be at odds with the mission and values of Jesuit universities as a whole. However, the “homo-economicus” framework has recently been called into question, in particular through the greater attention paid to culture and social dynamics in economic and business research, deepening the field of “cultural economics.” In this article, I contend that the turn to culture in financial economics opens a promising avenue for Jesuits and Ignatian-minded scholars in business academia. Colleagues in Ignatian education’s natural affinity with culture and cultural institutions gives them a comparative advantage as scholars and teachers of cultural economics. Based on existing work in cultural economics, I argue that Jesuit education’s roots in the humanities and understanding of religious institutions allows Ignatian educators to credibly bridge the gap between areas that would ordinarily be foreign to business scholars yet that offer research topics of interest to the growing ranks of cultural economists. Moreover, I propose that the study of cultural economics can help explain the difference in perspectives between economics and Catholic Social Teaching, and, as a result, open a new dialogue between the two. For Ignatian educators in business, cultural economics offers the challenge and opportunity of integrating the liberal-arts at the heart of Jesuit education with their business research. Such an integration can also take place in the classroom. By discussing work that focuses on the role of values in economic decision making, Ignatian teachers can help students articulate the relationship between the liberal arts core and their business school classes. In turn, these conversations offer a dual educational benefit. First, they allow business students to find a space where they can explore and express the importance of values—including religious values—in their lives. Second, they integrate these values to the learning environment, offering a real-life illustration of the education of the whole person. Our calling as Ignatian educators emphasizes the centrality of God’s self-giving love in the world. In Jesuit universities, business professors’ involvement in cultural economics enables students to place cultural and religious values at the center of their decision-making process, with the hope that our alums become women and men for others through their business careers, not just outside of them