Reconnecting Management Theory and Social Welfare: A Humanistic Perspective - Dignity as the Missing Link

55 Pages Posted: 18 Mar 2014 Last revised: 9 Apr 2014

See all articles by Michael Pirson

Michael Pirson

Fordham University - Gabelli School of Business; Humanistic Management Network; Harvard University

Claus Dierksmeier

Global Ethic Institute; Humanistic Management Network

Date Written: March 17, 2014


Utilitarianism arguably provides the philosophical justification for suboptimal management theory. We provide a historical perspective on the development of management theory from its utilitarian basis, and highlight the missing conceptual link between management theory and human dignity. We argue that the notion of human dignity has been erased from economics and management despite its societal importance and eminent relevance in other social sciences. While management theory thus gained parsimony, we argue that the inclusion of human dignity in the theoretical precepts of management theory will: a) improve management theory in general, b) align it more directly with the public interest, and c) strengthen its connection to social welfare creation. We outline the notion of dignity, discuss its historical understanding, and explain its relevance in the context of management theory. Furthermore, we outline a framework of paradigmatic assumptions along two dimensions: a) understanding human dignity as unconditional or conditional, and b) understanding social welfare as wealth creation or well-being creation. We derive alternative management theory archetypes. Finally, we discuss these archetypes’ theoretical implications for management research and suggest how management theory can be shifted to contribute towards social welfare creation more directly.

Keywords: Welfare, Dignity, Humanistic Management, Well Being

JEL Classification: I3, I30, I00, M00, M1, L00, L1, L2, N00

Suggested Citation

Pirson, Michael and Dierksmeier, Claus, Reconnecting Management Theory and Social Welfare: A Humanistic Perspective - Dignity as the Missing Link (March 17, 2014). Fordham University Schools of Business Research Paper No. 2410374, Humanistic Management Network, Research Paper Series No. 14-13, Available at SSRN: or

Michael Pirson (Contact Author)

Fordham University - Gabelli School of Business ( email )

140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10018
United States

Humanistic Management Network ( email )

St. Gallen

Harvard University

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Claus Dierksmeier

Global Ethic Institute ( email )

Waldhäuser Strasse 23
Tübingen, 72076

Humanistic Management Network ( email )

St. Gallen


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