Quality of life/quality of management: the importance of relational consciousness

European Business Review

ISSN: 0955-534X

Article publication date: 1 August 2004




Hay, D. (2004), "Quality of life/quality of management: the importance of relational consciousness", European Business Review, Vol. 16 No. 4. https://doi.org/10.1108/ebr.2004.05416dab.002



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Quality of life/quality of management: the importance of relational consciousness

Quality of life/quality of management: the importance of relational consciousness

AbstractWestern economic thought remains moulded by the industrial era’s narrow individualism. This means that, all too often, the disciplines of economics and business studies lag behind those of psychology, the biological sciences, anthropology and comparative religion. These now point towards far more complex patterns of human interaction. This paper brings a theologian’s perspective to business ethics and economic philosophy. If business rediscovers a spiritual dimension, it is argued, it will adapt itself better to an increasingly interdependent world.

Keywords: Quality of life, Quality management, Employee relations, Business ethics

We have to fight uphill to rediscover the obvious, to counteract the layers of suppression of the modern moral consciousness. It’s a difficult thing to do (Charles Taylor).

Relationship and human wellbeing

In a television comedy sketch I once saw two people are lying in the middle of a field on a hot summer afternoon. One of them says reflectively, “Isn’t life strange.” The other asks, “Compared with what?” The strangeness is that we body forth, seemingly from nothingness into an intense relationship, enclosed in the warmth of another person for three-quarters of a year. No greater intimacy is possible. For our mother it is a profoundly physical experience, changing her biochemistry, her shape, the way she walks, as well as the thoughts and feelings that fill her whilst we are developing inside her uterus. At a certain stage we make our presence felt by kicks against the walls of her abdomen that are perceptible to an outsider. In all probability she talks to us, expressing her feelings about the relationship. Then, approximately nine months after the process began, we have the experience of moving out of the enclosed universe of her body and into yet another world.

It is the normal (as opposed to abnormal, nightmarish) experience, that the intimacy is not broken at birth. When we emerged from our mother’s body it is highly likely that we were looked at intently, cradled, embraced, stroked, washed and fed. This relationship with the newborn infant is not one way, for the baby not only returns the mother’s intimate inspection but also initiates the gaze. And the baby does more than gaze. In Budapest during the 1990s the Hungarian medical scientist Dr Emese Nagy was able to show beautifully the mutual physical interactions between adults and infants. In a remarkable videotape she demonstrated interchanges of signals between an adult and babies ranging from 3.5 hours to 40 hours old. In some shots the adult sticks her tongue out and the babies stick their tongues out in return. In another part of the tape she raises a finger and the babies respond by raising a finger in return. She lifts her head back and the infants reply similarly. In one extraordinary moment a baby initiates the signalling, apparently trying to evoke a response from the adult. More recent studies at the University of Reading in England show that quite complicated infant communication begins even earlier, not within hours but within minutes of birth. In summary, the physical and emotional intimacy of relationship both inside and outside the womb is intense and it is immediate. It is very obvious that the biological process of becoming a human being is the extreme opposite of an isolated, abstract affair. It is here, in this most natural of processes, that relational consciousness is first made manifest.

Psychologists tell us that this intimate participation in the “here-and-now” relationship to the world dominates the awareness of young children until about the age of 18 months. But after that age, the dominance of the here-and-now begins to be replaced by a detachment from immediacy and more and more of our consciousness is filled by “there-and-then”. Memories of the past and anticipations of the future take up an increasing proportion of consciousness. We spend less and less time participating in the intense world of immediate awareness of our surroundings that was natural to us as infants.

Spirituality understood in terms of relationship

I have come to believe that this intimate here-and-now relationship with reality is the necessary condition for leading a life that is fulfilled and spiritually aware. I am a zoologist by profession and the start point for this work is the conjecture of the Oxford zoologist Alister Hardy that spiritual awareness, or an awareness of a sacred dimension to one’s life experience, is biologically natural to us and has evolved through the process of natural selection because it has survival value. Hardy claimed that such awareness is “hard-wired” into the human organism. I need to say in passing, that from my perspective as someone who happens to be a Christian believer it is through this awareness that God makes himself known to us in our spiritual experience. Nevertheless, I also have to add that if Hardy is right, everybody, including people who hold no religious beliefs whatsoever, must be at least potentially in possession of such awareness.

My evidence for this comes from my work over the past 25 years on the biology of religion, and in particular from my research on the spirituality of six-year-old and ten-year-old children. My doctoral student Rebecca Nye and I chose to work with young children because we reasoned that in a highly secular country like Britain (less than 8 per cent of the population regularly attend church and most of those are elderly) spiritual awareness would most easily be found amongst such children, before they have learned to cover up or forget about their spirituality.

Our three-year project involved getting the children to talk about spirituality without introducing religious language, unless they themselves chose to introduce it. Among the ways that we encouraged them to talk about these areas of experience, was to show them a set of photographs of children in circumstances where we believed spiritual awareness was most likely to be aroused (for example, a girl gazing at the embers of an open fire, a boy looking at the stars, a girl crying because she has found her pet gerbil dead in its cage).

The children were interviewed individually by Rebecca and asked in relation to each photograph what they thought the person might be thinking and feeling. As we expected, she got projective responses from the children, that is, they told her what they would be thinking and feeling in similar circumstances. In every case, without exception, the children quite obviously referred directly to (and showed that they did indeed have) a spiritual life, though quite often they avoided the use of traditional religious language

Once the research conversations were completed and transcribed, we used a computer programme to try to identify the overall concept that linked all the spiritual talk of the children. At the end of an extremely thorough and repeated line by line analysis of over a thousand pages of transcribed conversations, the term we came up with, linking all the passages of spiritual talk, was “relational consciousness”. In our book The Spirit of the Child (Hay and Nye, 1988) Rebecca Nye describes this as having two aspects:

  • an unusual level of consciousness or perceptiveness, relative to other passages of conversation spoken by that child;

  • conversation expressed in a context of how the child related to things, other people, him/herself and God.

I believe that relational consciousness is the necessary biological precursor of spirituality, and as the result of my research I have also come to believe that it is the underpinning of ethics. I know from literally hundreds of conversations with adults about their spirituality, that the typical result of spiritual insight is the experience of a “shortening of the psychological distance” between oneself and one’s surroundings. When a person realises this, it matters more to them when some aspect of reality is harmed, whether it is another person or a part of the environment, for they are much more likely to experience it as a shared damage; the feeling is “I too am damaged by what has happened to the other.” If the natural antecedent of both religion and morality is relational consciousness, this may help to make sense of the traditional intuition that there is a close link between morals and religion, without insulting the morality of those who happen not to hold conventional theistic belief.

The reason that this is relevant to my talk is because the acts that lie at the core of practical religious activity are intensely concerned with sharpening our immediate awareness of relationship, that is, our relational consciousness. When a person prays – genuinely prays that is, not merely mouthing religious platitudes – they attempt to place themselves here-and-now in the presence of God. The writings of the great spiritual teachers all emphasise the essential nature of immediacy of relationship. Thus the eighteenth-century French Jesuit, Jean Pierre de Caussade, talks about the importance of what he calls “the sacrament of the present moment” in the following terms:

We are well instructed only by the words God speaks to us personally. It is not by reading and historical study that we become wise in the science of God: such methods alone produce but a vain, confused and self-inflating science. What instructs us is what happens from moment to moment …

This seems to be a universal human religious insight, for it is not confined to our own religious culture; there are similar instructions in the texts of all the great world religions. When undertaking vipassana meditation, the devout Buddhist attempts to stay aware of the in-breath and the out-breath, here-and-now, or of the movements of the feet during walking. The Hindu sage follows a similar practice and parallel instructions are found in the mystical branches of Judaism and Islam. Incidentally, I noticed in preparing this essay that simply writing about the immediacy of these religious practices in itself shifts my awareness so that I am more physically aware of the here-and-now.

Immediacy of relationship has to be worked on in adult life if it is to be sustained, as everyone knows who has tried to meditate. Our attention strays all too easily. For most of our lives the immediacy that is the heartland of the religious exercises I mentioned may well become fairly minimal, especially in a secularised country like Britain. It rarely features in everyday consciousness, except on those occasions where someone formally chooses to “de-automatize” their perception in prayer or meditation. Or it can also occur at times of heightened awareness such as happen in appreciating works of art, or during intense concentration in a sporting activity. Or it can happen involuntarily when we are momentarily shocked or intensely moved by a situation.

The shift away from relational consciousness

I assert that in any human group, whether it be a nation, a city, a church, a voluntary organisation or a business corporation, the quality of life depends on the degree to which relational consciousness (spiritual and ethical awareness) is diffused through the community. Very often that is not the case and I now want to specify some examples of the sequence of social processes that encourages this loss of connectedness. In particular, I will refer to processes that affect people who are literate and (often) immersed in a European cultural background.

The power of speech

I begin with John McCrone’s (1990) remarks in his book The Ape that Spoke on the effect of language on consciousness. Animals that are without language are perfectly aware of their environment, but whilst they quite clearly have a memory, they have no mechanism for reflecting upon their memories or to consider the fact of their own existence. Effectively, they live almost entirely in the here-and-now of the immediate events around them. With the coming of language, a radical change occurs, as is clear when we consider the acquisition of language in young children. The developmental psychologist Margaret Donaldson points out that for the first months of life, small children remain mostly in the here-and-now, or as she describes it, the “point mode”. It is only gradually that children’s thoughts dwell more in recollection of the past or anticipation of the future. This seems to have to do with the emergence of language at around 18 months. When we are able to name something it makes it stand out for us in contrast to its surroundings. McCrone remarks that once we have symbols available to represent the contents of our reality, they become more clearly “objects” for us that can be reflected upon remotely, at other times and in other places. One of the most prominent objects that an infant learns about through language is its self, something that is drawn attention to constantly by the infant’s parents when they teach it to say “I”. The awareness of “I” as an object of consciousness means that it can be reflected upon in the same way as any other object. “I” has become an individual, separable from the rest of reality.

Learning to read and write

Next, a general social process found in all literate societies. Becoming literate has a major effect on the structure of human consciousness. This was vividly demonstrated nearly 70 years ago in the work of the Russian psychologist Alexander uria. The 1930s were a time of radical, not to say violent social restructuring throughout the Soviet Union. Stalin had begun to introduce the collectivisation of agriculture and alongside this there was a national campaign to eliminate illiteracy. uria wanted to use this unique piece of social engineering to observe how the arrival of literacy affected the cognitive processes of people who were hitherto illiterate. In 1931 he set out from the Institute of Psychology at Moscow University to begin a two-year study of illiterate Muslim peasants living in the remote villages and mountain pasturelands of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

The people uria was investigating were members of a primary oral culture, that is, a culture untouched by literacy. In case you think of this as unusual, let me remark that primary orality is the normal situation for the human species. The great majority of human beings for most of history have been illiterate. The American literary scholar Walter Ong tells us that of the tens of thousands of languages that have been spoken by human beings, only 106 have been committed to writing to the degree that they can be said to have a literature. Of the 3,000 or so languages spoken today, only 78 have a literature.

uria discovered that there were indeed radical differences between people belonging to the primary oral culture and those who had begun to be literate. In summary, the thinking of oral people tends to be “situational” rather than abstract. For example one of the studies uria made was of colour perception, inviting people to name the colours of a variety of skeins of dyed wool. He found that semi-educated collective farm activists named colours in much the same way as Moscow people would, in terms of category, shades of blue, red, yellow and so on. On the other hand illiterate peasant women who were expert embroiderers, and therefore perfectly aware of subtle variations of colour, usually named the skeins concretely, with terms like “pig’s dung”, “a lot of water”, “cotton in bloom”, “rotten teeth”. When asked to classify the colours into groups, the women would say things like “It can’t be done, they’re not at all alike; this is like calf’s dung, this is like a peach.” Similarly, when asked to complete syllogisms, illiterate men were unable to break away from practicality. One man being told “In the North, all bears are white. Novaya Zemblya is in the North”, then asked what colour the bears are in Novaya Zemblya, answered “I don’t know. I’ve seen a black bear. I’ve never seen any others.” People also seemed not to have much conception of themselves as individuals. For example when asked questions such as “What sort of person would you say you were?” illiterates appeared to be unable to describe themselves and would refer uria to other people in the village.

uria realized that such responses were not due to lack of intelligence, but to the structure imposed on thought by illiteracy. Literacy extends memory. It permits us to classify and to generalize; it gives us the ability to move in thought out of the concrete here-and-now and into lengthy abstraction. It permits the possibility of the subtle and cumulatively developing thought that is necessary for scientific and political progress. Most crucially of all literacy also introduces the possibility of a private world, where we can realize ourselves to be individuals rather than simply part of a collective. It permits the development of individuality, the ability to have a personal point of view; in a sense to feel free. No doubt we see this in almost entirely positive terms, especially as we ourselves are part of that literate world. But it has its drawbacks.

The down side of literacy is that it constructs a private world that weakens our awareness of our relationship to the here-and-now. Walter Ong offers a simple illustration. Suppose I am working on some problem with a class of students. We get on well together and there is a sense of communal achievement about our work. Then I ask the class to turn to a page in a textbook. Immediately what was a community a moment before, becomes a set of isolates, separately absorbed in the text they are reading. Think how much reading and writing dominate our lives as literate adults in a technological culture. Add to that the revolution in electronic communication that is happening around us at the moment. John L. Locke in his book The De-Voicing of Society (Locke, 1998) claimed that we are becoming a society of strangers. It is not hard to imagine that in adult life the mode of action of our consciousness is very different from that of our non-literate forebears. It is more difficult, less natural, for literate people to enter the immediacy of awareness that is commonplace amongst primary oral peoples. As I mentioned above, in literate but highly religious societies there are cultural practices that function to protect people from the loss of the sense of relationship, in particular daily prayer and meditation. With the coming of secularization of course, these practices tend to disappear.

An increased emphasis on transcendence in Christian theology after the fourteenth century

Now an illustration of the effect of historical events. A third suggested factor is the influence of past traumata in Europe on theology and hence on our self-concept. There has always been a world denying aspect to Christian theology. We can see this in St Paul and in St Augustine for example. But, according to the Irish ecologist and theologian Sean McDonagh[1], following the disasters of the plague years in the fourteenth-century Christian theology developed this emphases particular strongly. The Black Death, which started in Constantinople in 1334, is reckoned to have killed at least one-third and in some areas as much as two-thirds of the population of Europe within 20 years. We have only to think of the psychological effects of the Holocaust in the twentieth century, which though horrific was relatively on a much smaller scale, to recognize the power of such a catastrophe to shift people’s patterns of thought. The four perspectives to which McDonagh refers all relate to a turning away from a world in which such a disaster could occur:

  • The identification of the Divine as transcendent to the natural world. This undoubtedly facilitates a deep and intimate Divine-human relationship but it can also be seen as denying the natural world as the locus of such a meeting.

  • The predominant emphasis in our tradition and theological training on salvation dynamics to the neglect, and almost exclusion, of creation dynamics, and a recognition of the God who lies at the heart of material creation.

  • The constant presentation of human beings as transcending the natural world.

  • The emphasis on a transcendent future to which everyone aspires and which is expected to usher in the millennial bliss.

According to McDonagh, each of these emphases has had far-reaching effects, both consciously and unconsciously, on our mentality up to the present day. First, they tend to separate us from the sacredness of our relationship to the earth. We are inclined to see ourselves as spectators of reality rather than participating in reality, or finding God in the midst of reality. The detached attitude of traditional empirical science may also have its roots here. The effect of the fourth factor is to shift our human perspective away from the “here-and-now” experiences of the immediate world towards a vision of future bliss, either in this life or in the after-life.

In summary, McDonagh believes that the extreme trauma created by the Black Death made people feel that the environment was no longer benevolent; it could deliver death universally, without warning, and anonymously. The balance of trust and mistrust of the cosmos swung significantly in the direction of mistrust.

The increasing power of individualism as an ideology

My fourth point is to do with the rise of individualism in the centuries succeeding the Black Death. Most British commentators identify the seventeenth-century English materialist philosopher Thomas Hobbes as one of the central figures in the creation of modern Western individualism.

Hobbes is a master of mistrust. He is best known from his masterwork Leviathan published in 1651 where, as every schoolboy used to know, he comes to the conclusion that human life in the state of nature is “solitary, nasty, brutish and short”. He was born in 1588 and lived through what historians see as one of the most violent periods of turmoil in European history. In particular the Thirty Years War ravaged the continent throughout his early adult life. It is perhaps no surprise that he had a particularly sceptical attitude towards the possibility of human benevolence. His materialist interpretation of human nature led him to the view that in the state of nature life is a warfare of all against all. If we cooperate with other people it is only because we see these interactions as in our interest. His assumption that each of us is in a struggle for power against everyone else is based on a materialist metaphysics that states that “minds never meet, that ideas are never really shared and that each of us is always and finally isolated from every other individual”.

This extremely bleak individualism was attacked in Hobbes’ own day. It is perhaps apposite after my opening reference to the intense relationship between mother and child at birth to note that one critical contemporary of Hobbes said that he:

… might as well tell us in plain terms, that all the obligation which a child hath to parent, is because he did not take him by the heels and knock out his brains against the walls, so soon as he was born.

Though he was writing in the seventeenth century, Hobbes is anything but out-of-date. C.B. MacPherson, one of the most influential modern interpreters of the seventeenth-century English Revolution, charges Hobbes with creating the doctrine on which bourgeois liberal society still operates, or as he calls it “the theory of possessive individualism”. Karl Marx identified this individualism in full flood in the masters of nineteenth-century Europe, when he depicted the typical capitalist entrepreneur as unencumbered by any social ties:

… that is, an individual separated from the community, withdrawn into himself, wholly preoccupied with his private interest and acting in accordance with his private caprice … [for him] the only bond between men is natural necessity, need, and private interest.

Such people are by no means a dying breed, and the ideal of the unencumbered self is very much alive in all walks of life, including management. The unencumbered, isolated self, is a self that has succeeded in destroying or suppressing relational consciousness.

Spirituality and quality of life – the recovery of relational consciousness

Relational consciousness is diametrically opposed to individualism. This was true of biblical times as well as today, for people have always been tempted by individualism. But genuine religious cultures have always resisted it. The outrage of the Old Testament prophet Amos against the unjust practices of his time indicates as much. The political leaders of the nation wanted to get rid of him. They said:

Go away, seer; get back to the land of Judah; earn your bread there, do your prophesying there. We want no more prophesying in Bethel; this is the royal sanctuary, the national temple (Amos 7: 12-13).

What angered them was Amos’ insistence that spirituality was inseparable from justice:

Listen to this, you who trample on the needy and try to suppress the poor people of the country, you who say, “When will New Moon be over so that we can sell our corn, and Sabbath, so that we can market our wheat? Then by lowering the bushel, raising the shekel, by swindling and tampering with the scales, we can buy up the poor for money and the needy for a pair of sandals, and get a price even for the sweepings of the wheat” (Amos 8: 4-6).

Amos adds that the distancing from justice brings with it an estrangement from spiritual awareness:

See what days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – days when I will bring famine on the country, a famine not of bread, a drought not of water, but of hearing the word of the Lord. They will stagger from sea to sea, wander from north to east, seeking the word of the Lord and failing to find it (Amos 8: 11-12).

Spiritual awareness is always potentially counter-cultural since it contradicts the free play of the unencumbered self. But in a secularised culture spiritual awareness may be sufficiently suppressed so that people truly believe that the nature of human relationship is a thinly disguised warfare of all against all. The ethical fabric that is woven from our relational consciousness becomes very threadbare. Instead, surveillance cameras (as in every main street in Britain’s cities) and all the other electronic paraphernalia of corporate control become a necessity to maintain order. The implied belief is that the only criterion that prevents us from attacking the communal fabric, if it suits our purposes, is the fear of being caught. In such a situation the quality of life has deteriorated to an inhuman level.

It is therefore encouraging to note a whole series of changes taking place in the human eco-environment that suggest that the individualistic assumptions of the nineteenth-century entrepreneur are becoming less and less appropriate. One obvious piece of evidence is the burgeoning of courses and literature on spirituality and business. A search on the internet will demonstrate that this is a rapidly growing phenomenon in the USA. In 2001 for the first time my former university in the UK opened a department of business ethics in the School of Management. These changes are associated with a new understanding of the nature of the environment in which commerce has to operate.

The work of Gordon Lawrence

For the last part of this article I want to draw upon the work of my colleague Gordon Lawrence, Honorary Professor in the Centre for Organizational Renewal at Cranfield University[2]. Lawrence has been reflecting for some years on the relation between business and spirituality. He begins by referring to the ecological turn taken in scientific understanding during the past 30 years. One way of formulating this relationship is via the so-called “anthropic principle” that states that “the only things that can be known are those compatible with the existence of knowers”. Lawrence illustrates this by suggesting a simple experiment. Raise up your hand and look at it. You are observing yourself. But you are a part of the universe – as you look, the very cosmos is observing itself. Now turn and glance at some other object, say a tree. The universe is still observing itself. Study the distant parts of the universe with the Hubble telescope, or the nucleus of the atom. Still, one piece of the cosmos is observing another.

What is being emphasised here is the continuum of which we are a constituent. Participation (recognized in relational consciousness) is the true mode of relationship with reality. The idea of an objective world out there that we observe coldly and scientifically from some Archimedean point, detached and serene, is no longer tenable. The cosmos is one, indivisible whole. Now from the perspective I have been discussing, this deep ecological world-view is ultimately spiritual. When we look at the essence of spiritual experience we find that it is the sense of being here-and-now connected to the cosmos as a whole, (and I would add as a Christian, the pervading presence of its Creator).

Lawrence goes on to suggest that these insights have grown along with the technological transformation of the world in the last 100 years. For much of human history we depended on “work” machines, starting with a piece of wood or bone and culminating in the jet engine. These machines multiply the strength of physical effort. Then in our own era of information technology, electronic machines have multiplied information. Third, we are entering an age that is governed by the paradigm that von Bertalanffy has called “organismic”. That is to say the interlocking network of systems is such that the idea of coercing the environment as an external observer is becoming more and more redundant. We have to find a symbiosis with it. This is particularly clear in Third Wave industries like:

… electronics, lasers, optics, genetics, communications, alternative energy, ocean science, space manufacture, ecological engineering, and eco-system agriculture.

This ushers us into what has been postulated as the “global brain” that is a “synaptical network” the relevance of which lies in its connections. During the Gulf War politicians talked of “linkages”; tracing out, as best they could, the causes, effects and consequences of the Middle East conflict. The linkages proliferated endlessly and as I write continue to do so in terms of world politics, increasing fear of terrorism, economics, ecology and so on.

As we move more and more into this eco-land it too requires different social, psychological and spiritual bases for experiencing and thinking through the nature of the relatedness of human beings to their “cosmos in the mind”. Lawrence asserts that this is also true for business management. During the twentieth century it developed a range of techniques to deal with a rational, predictable world “out there”. As Denis Pym describes it we have:

A massive arsenal of symbolism, meetings, objective setting games (management by objectives), appraisals and assessments, information systems (e.g. computer printouts), graduate recruitment programmes, management sciences and job redesigns which provide the delusions of purpose, tangibility, personal responsibility and performance.

In short, management has possessed to date concepts and a language to deal with a specific and predictable environment, one that could be mapped out using the methods of detached, empirical science.

In the new global environment that affects us all, the weakness and ethical emptiness of a detached and manipulating approach to management becomes clear[3]. More and more managers are experimenting with the idea that management is the work of experiencing as directly as possible the business-as-a-series-of-events-in-its- environment through participating in bringing them into being and interpreting the experiences mutatively. Here the word “mutatively” is used by Lawrence to give sense that the interpretation itself leads to new insights and understanding which, in turn, enlarges the nature of the experiencing, and as a result alters the interpretation. The closest analogy is with that form of contemplative prayer in which one stays in touch with one’s experience of the here-and-now. The perspective if you like, is one of “revelation” rather than salvation. The manager does not so much stand back, solve the problem and save the business. Rather the task is to immerse oneself in the community that forms the business and, within that environment, to allow new understanding to emerge. This is a continuous rather than discontinuous process.

In a business enterprise we can describe the psychic and political connectedness of human beings as they cooperate, or otherwise, on the work of the enterprise. From this we can infer their spiritual connectedness both to each other and the enterprise embedded in its market and other environments. We can infer the imago of the cosmos in the mind from observing and participating in the actual relationships in the workplace. To give a concrete, albeit special, example: through participating in work with religious congregations (i.e. consultancy) Lawrence notes that he can infer the imago of God they hold in their minds, through trying to understand the nature of their psychic, political and spiritual relationships within their particular institution. Similarly, it is possible to intuit the imago of “management in the mind” that is held in a business enterprise. All this is the product of the members of the enterprise co-creating the reality of the enterprise and its relationships to the environment in which it survives commercially. So, for example, if the enterprise is organised hierarchically, as was done in the times of “scientific management” the people in their work roles will feel that they have no authority in their roles to examine the realities in which their business is embedded and makes its living, because they are dependent on someone higher in the hierarchy to define the market and other realities. They have no responsibility for what happens; they are subject to the politics of salvation. As Lawrence puts it, the politics of revelation offers another way, one in which the quality of life within the institution is constructed from an awareness and respect for the spiritual integrity of the working community.

David HayDepartment of Divinity and Religious Studies, Aberdeen University, Aberdeen, UK


  1. 1.

  2. 2.

    I am grateful to Professor Gordon Lawrence for pointing out McDonagh’s argument.

  3. 3.

    Professor Lawrence has kindly permitted me to draw the substance for this part of my talk from the draft chapter of a book.

  4. 4.

    In The Unconscious Civilization, Saul (1999) argues for a clear division between the economic and political, maintaining that economic structures such as capitalism possess of themselves no mechanisms for the protection of people’s rights, the environment, or the public interest.

AcknowledgementsThis article is based on a talk given at the School of Management, University of Warsaw, where Dr Hay is a visiting professor.


Hay, D. and Nye, R. (1988), The Spirit of the Child, HarperCollins, London

Locke, J.L. (1998), The De-Voicing of Society, Simon & Schuster, London

McCrone, J. (1990), The Ape that Spoke, Picador, London

Saul, J.R. (1999), The Unconscious Civilization, The Free Press, New York, NY

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