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Review: Doing Virtuous Business by Theodore Roosevelt Malloch

We’ve all heard the idea that business is about being greedy, exploiting workers, and destroying the environment.  Well, Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, Yale researcher, disagrees.

He has written Doing Virtuous Business: The Remarkable Success of Spiritual Enterprise to show that successful business depends on a civilization’s ‘spiritual capital’, the sum of values and ideas, derived from religion, that defines a people’s conscience and behaviour.  Although immoral companies can succeed for a while, companies and business people that embrace virtue tend to do better in the long run.  None of this is theoretical, because “…in business you … are thrust into moral relation with others in ways that require a far more robust and serious morality than is needed to survive in some cushioned state bureaucracy or in a comfortable academic chair.”

Malloch presents and defends his ideas in 6 meaty chapters, frequently citing examples of companies and businessmen. 

  • First he defines spiritual capital, explaining both what it is and what it isn’t. 
  • Then he discusses virtue, what it means, what it is, and how it’s expressed.  
  • Spiritual entrepreneurship, based on faith, hope, and charity, is fundamental to meeting the challenges of the new global economy.
  • The ‘hard’ virtues (leadership, courage, patience, perseverance, and discipline) obviously benefit business. 
  • What’s surprising is that the ‘soft’ virtues (justice, forgiveness, compassion, humility, and gratitude) also increase business success. 
  • Finally Malloch outlines and answers criticisms from the cynic, the Christian, and the pragmatist

In conclusion he states that although occasionally “there is a short-term cost to doing business virtuously in the global economy, there is also a significant long-term benefit, both personal and commercial.

It is important to note that the essence of spiritual capital, and the virtue that results from it, is not that it benefits business.  Rather its essence is the deep faith commitment that leads a person or company to strive for goodness rather than only profit; surprisingly such companies often do better than those that strive only for profit.  Though Malloch is Christian, he emphasizes that all religious traditions generate spiritual capital.

While I wonder about some of the ‘virtuous’ companies Malloch lists, I appreciate learning about the concept of spiritual capital.  I found this book difficult and time consuming because it is so full of ideas that are new to me, especially in the fields of business and philosophy.  In fact, an occasional paragraph could leave me pondering for a few weeks.  On the other hand, it was an illuminating glimpse into a very important part of our world and has left me better equipped to understand our society.

While this book is written for adults, understanding the concept and value of spiritual capital and the resultant virtues can be important for young people as well.  If your homeschooled student is interested in business, politics, or philosophy, this would be a very helpful book.

Disclosure I received a free review copy of this book from Booksneeze in order to share my honest opinions.

Doing Virtuous Business: The Remarkable Success of Spiritual Enterprise is my 35th book in the 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge.

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