More than 30 scholars, business executives, government advisers and leaders in the global faith community came together on Nov. 12 at the New York Athletic Club to officially launch the Fordham University Consortium on the Purpose of Business.
The five-year project, initiated by Fordham’s Schools of Business, will examine the role and responsibility of business in the evolving global society and stimulate critical, creative and constructive dialogue about business in the 21st century.
“We are not interested in producing consensus—rather we are interested in evoking different perspectives and possibly conflicting views,” said David Gautschi, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School of Business Administration.
“We are particularly interested in addressing the interactions of market systems, technological progress, state policy decisions and institutions that combine to define the contexts in which business is conducted,” he explained.
Gautschi and Jonathan Story, Ph.D., professor emeritus of international political economy at the INSEAD graduate business school, kicked off the two-day event with presentations on global assessment and the purpose of the business school today.
The author of several books, Story reflected on the causes of financial crashes, the boom and bust cycle of financial markets and the diffusion of power in the global system.
“The Western shaping-power of the global system is being weakened,” he said.
Longer-term trends include the rise of China, Russia and India and the growing global dependence on the Middle East. Among the needs and challenges that lie ahead, Story said, are a “kinder global system for Africa and Latin America” and “the meshing of religions and cultures.”
Story, who earned his doctorate at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, has worked in Brussels and Washington, and routinely writes analyses for the international press on international political and economic developments.
The day’s agenda continued with Gautschi and Story’s presentation on the role of business schools, based on a position paper they wrote, titled “The Business School: Serving Mammon or the University.”
Beginning with an overview of the evolution of business schools, Gautschi explained that there is evidence that business needs have changed in a way that calls the value of many activities in a typical business school into question.
“Business and management are fraught with complexity, and we choose to view business and management as fundamentally noble,” he said. “Yet encouraging business conduct uncritically would risk imposing significant costs on society, as illustrated by the consequences of the Great Recession and the global financial crisis.”
The following day featured small study groups where participants could share ideas and develop responses to position papers and presentations. The consortium includes scholars, media correspondents, political advisers, corporate executives and religious leaders from several countries, including Turkey, Argentina, Switzerland, South America and South Africa.
The consortium will schedule meetings three times each year in different locations around the world. The next conference, titled “Islam and the Market,” will be held in Istanbul in April 2011. The third event is tentatively scheduled for late 2011 on the west coast of the United States.