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Homo economicus under the microscope

The Faculty of Economics of the University of Valencia hosts the first IECO Training Seminar open to the university community which discusses the ethical assumptions that foster new models for people management.

About a hundred students, academics and professionals in business administration attended the IECO seminar “Challenge to Homo Economicus based on ethical thinking. Another way of managing people is possible.” The event took place on November 10, 2014 at the Faculty of Economics of the University of Valencia and was supported by the attendance of the Vice President of Sustainability and Planning, Clara Martínez. As Vicent Soler, the Dean of the Faculty, emphasized in his presentation, the interest that this seminar and its subject matter have triggered in the university community is worthy of note. It is certainly a timely and much needed debate at a moment when corruption and misconduct unfortunately flood the pages of newspapers and media content practically every day.

The Dean of the Faculty addressed the large group of university students and encouraged them to ensure that something like this does not happen again in the future. He also stressed the importance of in-depth thinking about the economy based on the ethical dimension, as promoted by the activities carried out by the Institute for Ethics in Communication and Organizations (IECO). Vicent Soler thanked Professor Manuel Guillén, Director of the Institute and head of the IECO-UNESCO International Chair in Management, Governance, Trust and Otherness, part of the VLC Campus of Excellence project, for organizing the seminar.

The seminar was delivered by Tomás Baviera Puig, PhD in Communication Science from the University of Valencia, a graduate in Telecommunications Engineering from the Universitat Politécnica de València and Project Director at IECO.

In his talk, Tomás Baviera noted the limitations of the anthropological and ethical assumptions of the most widespread theories in the field of business administration, with particular emphasis on agency theory. He also stressed how the vision of homo economicus that underlies these theoretical approaches leads to a self-interested, opportunistic model of business management that is focused primarily on the bottom line. Citing the posthumous work by Professor Sumantra Ghoshal, an eminent scholar at the London Business School, Dr. Baviera showed how bad management theories (amoral in their content) end up leading to bad management practices (immoral in their implementation). As Ghoshal put it, “unlike theories in the physical sciences, theories in the social sciences tend to be self-fulfilling.”

Tomás Baviera suggested that the existing anthropological model in management science can be reviewed by going back to the thought of classical philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Thomas Aquinas. The session was full of practical ideas based on a vision of business administration rooted in understanding affectivity itself, the formation of consciousness and shaping the character of the people who carry out such a responsible task for our society.

Following the huge interest generated by this seminar and the appreciation expressed by those attending, IECO is keen to run other similar events in the coming months in partnership with the Faculty of Economics.

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