Human Flourishing and New Economic Paradigms: Explorations in Anthropology and Leadership

What is human flourishing? To what end economics? What has economics to do with people, and how can economics contribute to help us and nature flourish? And what implications do answers to these questions have for leadership in organizations? These kind of questions concern us in the Homo florens project as supported by the Goldschmeding Foundation since Summer 2018. Over the past two months, we were fortunate to address these questions and develop in this framework a pilot-course entitled “Human Flourishing and New Economic Paradigms: Explorations in Anthropology and Leadership” to be taught at 28 students in economics of Windesheim Honours College in Zwolle, the Netherlands, and the Institute for Leadership and Communication Studies in Rabat, Morocco.

During the course, taught over six lectures, we addressed the need for a refined anthropology in economics due to the proven shortcomings of the dominant model of Homo economicus. This model assumes that people are rational and self-interested individuals who always try to maximize their own well-being. Its promotion since the late eighteenth century, however, is part of the cause that (Western) economics has reached its limits in terms of pollution, climate change, inequality between the rich and poor, and a growing number of people feeling unhappy. Over the years, alternative economic models have been developed to counter the obsessive individual capitalist strive for happiness, such as the Rhineland model and the capabilities approach. Stressing the importance of anthropological reflection by using insights taken from ancient philosophy, theology, and modern science, we propose that such movements are in need of an anthropological model preliminary entitled Homo florens. This hypothetical model assumes that people are socially conditioned and search for meaning (“to have faith”), long for a good future (“to hope”), and desire meaningful relations (“to love”). Such an understanding of man requires a humanistic approach to leadership and management, developing responsible leaders who have a moral compass, which enables them to continuously discern how they can help people to flourish.

The course was taught online due to covid-19, but nevertheless turned out to be a success. It helped us to structure our current thoughts on the relationship between economics, anthropology, and human flourishing. Based on the positive course evaluation of students, Windesheim has expressed their interest in making the course part of their regular curriculum. In the near and long future, we hope to continue refining this course and will look out for more institutes of higher education that are willing to expose their students to the research findings of the Homo florens project.

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