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Opinion

Brahman and modern business

AT RANDOM - Fr. Miguel A. Bernad, SJ -
Those interested in the history of ideas should read the books of Leonardo Silos. Dr. Silos is a professor at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) but his approach to management is not on the level of the "how to" but on a deeper level, the level of the "why". Kissinger, when he was Secretary of State of the United States, used to talk about "linkages" in international diplomacy. That is the virtue of Dr. Leonardo Silos. As a philosopher he sees linkages between things that seem totally disparate. Who would have thought that modern ideas of management had any connection with the thinking of the ancient Chinese philosophers or the religious beliefs of the ancient Indians?

His first book was an inquiry into the roots of modern management in Greek philosophy. Its title was "Oikos", the Greek word for house or home, from which we get the word economy.

His second book was "Management and the Tao", comparing modern ideas with those of the ancient Chinese.

His third book, much influenced by Max Weber, was a comparison between Occidental and Oriental ideas of management. The Occidental focuses on results, on the product. The Oriental is more interested in the welfare of the members of the organization itself. (It may explain some of our practices of graft and corruption.)

His fourth book was on "The Power of the Leader." (This includes a chapter on Machiavelli.)

His fifth book traces the development of trade and industrial organizations from the medieval guild to the modern corporation.

His sixth book is just off the press. It is an inquiry into the roots of modern ideas in Indian philosophy. It is entitled "Brahman and the Ethos of Management." It has chapters on Brahman, on the Vedas and the epics, on the Upanishads, the Caste System, etc. Some of those ideas influenced the thinking of Plotinus (A.D. 205-270) the founder (or at least the best known representative) of Neoplatonism. That was the philosophy that profoundly changed the mind-set of St. Augustine. And Augustinian theology was the dominant influence on Christian thinking for a thousand years. Even the Protestants have been influenced by him. Dr. Silos reminds us that Luther had been an Augustinian monk.

We might perhaps add that Calvinistic theology might be considered an exaggerated interpretation of some of Augustine’s ideas.

How does all this influence modern ideas of management? That is the subject of the last chapter of Silos’s book. He entitles it "Continuities and Discontinuities."

Teachers of philosophy and of theology will find much in this book that will interest them. As for teachers of management, if their focus is entirely on the "how to", this book will not interest them. But if they are also interested in the "why" of things and in the development of ideas, this book will open for them avenues of thought and reflection.

The book will be launched at the AIM in Makati on October 5.

ASIAN INSTITUTE OF MANAGEMENT

BOOK

BRAHMAN AND THE ETHOS OF MANAGEMENT

CASTE SYSTEM

CONTINUITIES AND DISCONTINUITIES

DR. LEONARDO SILOS

DR. SILOS

EVEN THE PROTESTANTS

IDEAS

MANAGEMENT

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