Global Citizens, Global Learners 1. Values and Premises

Nussbaum (1997) identifies three capacities requisite for global citizenship education: 1. critical examination; 2. empathy; and 3. narrative imagination. All three – albeit with definitional liberty – have relevance to the teaching of global citizenship (hereafter “GC”) as applied in the specific context of business studies. The three capacities are here interpreted thus:

  1. A lens of “critical examination” opens this essay. The values and premises of business as academic discipline and practice are presented.
  2. Discussed in the second and third section is a particular curriculum within this discipline. “Empathy” here is the teacher’s understanding of students’ needs as inflected by GC issues, current globalizing trends, the requirements of employers, and the activities of multinational businesses.
  3. “Imagination” describes the possibilities that an intellect, informed by the curriculum and methods described, can bring to bear on business-relevant problems.[1]

Business is more than anthropocentric, it is anthropophilic. In an appropriately facilitative economic environment, any individual or body of cooperating individuals capable of providing value can reap the rewards of their industry or labour. Industry subjugates the natural world to the interests of humans, so is anthropocentric and emblematically “technocentric” (Morgan, 2001). Industry endeavours to convert the physical environment to resources of value to human beings, and reward producers according to the value of their product – that value being determined by the buyer. Compensation motivates the acquisition of tradable skills and knowledge, stimulates peaceful cooperation, and, ideally, channels wealth according to contribution.

Philosophically, because it exalts the potential greatness of the individual, the positives of worldly existence, the cultivation of civility, and the virtues of creativity and betterment, business invokes the ideals embodied in Nietzsche’s rationally selfish, uncompromising, transgressive Übermensch. If an antithesis is required, Berlant’s “cruel optimism” (2011) is probably appropriate. To the industrious optimist, cruel optimism rationalises retreat, stasis, fatalism, and the suffocation of ambition. Cruel optimism denies the essential human drive toward improvement and is therefore a condescending dismissal of the value and pleasure intrinsic in the pursuit and possession of the symbols and accoutrements that are the signifiers of success as determined by the individual.

Anthropophilic optimism is fundamental in Peripatetic thought: the external world both exists and is knowable through the ordinary senses. Hence, the faculties of reason and logic are sufficient for understanding; the rationality of claims is testable and such testing is necessary; and virtues are intuitively comprehensible by lived experience and observation of effects.

Voltaire’s optimism is rooted in a secular appreciation of an innate human quality: history testifies to human progress, relapses are aberrant, and the preference for happiness and reduced hardship is universal. At all times in history, individuals have been trying to improve their conditions and expand their control and understanding of their environment.

The American philosopher Rorty (1989) restates the optimist tradition: he emphasises the fulfilment that is obtainable by striving for wealth and happiness, but notes that the possibility of such is conditional upon the existence of a peaceful environment and economic structure that permits participation and free choice in exchange. This condition precludes the command economics and utopian engineering advocated by Plato, Hegel, and Marx – and strongly rebutted by Popper (Keuth, 2004). The anthropocentricity and anthropophilia of business is perceptible in the ideals that dominate operations theory: ([2]) anti-command principles are abundant because they reduce waste and increase profits; and ([3]) the customer – not the collective – is both the benefactor and driver of every activity.

Neoliberal capitalist thinking is a powerful socio-economic force in the present world. Philosophically, it is premised on the possibility of positive sum gains. Multinational enterprises (MNEs), by accessing overseas resources (such as labour and materials) can provide better value to the customer and improve the conditions of their suppliers in the less developed countries (Wolf, 2004; Mooney and Evans, 2007).

The economies that result from applying Smith’s principle of division of labour (1782) are uncontested, and, alongside location factors inter alia (Dunning, 1988 inter alios) are likely contributors to the specialisation evident in today’s global supply/demand phenomenon. Smith proposed a system of free market capitalism that improves with reduced state involvement, so shares commonalities with physiocratic (C.18th) political libertarianism and its economic counterpart, laissez-faire capitalism.

Among others, Hayek (1988) claims the free market is superior to command economics and statism generally. Citing the economic failures and misanthropies that characterised socialist states (limited freedom of speech, movement, and trade, etc.), pragmatists argue that the theories underpinning such systems are flawed in both practice and theory. On the other hand, the ability of capitalist states to engender multinationals that employ millions and offer a historically unprecedented quantity and quality of goods and services is, to the pragmatist and neoliberal free market advocate, testimony to the superiority of its supporting philosophies and the relative weaknesses of the alternatives (sentiments argued convincingly by Bhagwati, 2004; and Wolf, 2004).

For GC education, the ramifications of such sequiturs are likely profound. If GC is enabled by private corporations (through travel or employment) and motivated by economic factors, a fuller acknowledgement of the efficacy of global capitalism and the veracity of philosophies of self-interest, might be due.[4] If value judgements are to be made, i.e. GC is to be framed as positive not only inevitable, by implication, global capitalism and its supporting philosophies grow in credibility, and the disciplines that advocate or apply them – such as business studies – acquire market value and academic prominence.

According to the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) and the categories of Oxley and Morris (2013), business, although highly social in the view of Smith (1782), is a primarily economic activity so occupies the Economic portion of the three-sphere model (Figure 1).[1] Business impacts civic society variously (Roorda et al, 2012): through consumerism, consumption, taxes, employment, and education (via science and work skills).   

The pursuit of competitive advantage has, according to most models of internationalization (Glowik, 2009), led to overseas venturing for markets, labour, resources, and human capital. In this sense, business is a major driver of population movement, transnational resource flow, and technological improvement (by spill-over). Rare indeed is the complex product whose elements, buyers, and producers reside within a single nation’s borders (Christopher, 2011). On the premise that most business today entails international activity, the necessity for business studies to incorporate GC education – and vice versa – seems undeniable.

In business studies – as in business actual – any theory lacking practicability (as usually determined by profit performance), is redundant. Similarly, any concept lacking robust definition is of little value beyond argument. Business and industry are acutely pragmatic, in both philosophy and practice. James and other pragmatists refute the dualistic tendency and the value of debate without useful outcomes (Thayer, 1968). To the pragmatist, as to the engineer/manager, the separation of theory and practice, and reality from experience/appearance, is resoundingly valueless.

Epistemologically, operations management is compliant with Comte’s positivism and operative Popperian falsifiability principles. Its ontological foundations are rooted in engineering, probability thinking, and the application of scientific methods and quantification to the problems of measurement of quality, performance, and efficiency.



[1] Adapted from the model developed by the University of Maryland (2007).

[1] The quality of the imagination’s contribution is likely influenced by 2.

[2] The sub-discipline of business studies that is concerned with an organisation’s supply of goods and services (Schroeder, 1993). Alternatively, operations management is the sub-discipline that theorises the management of the processes that convert or combine resources into saleable goods.

[3] Just-In-Time, lean, Efficient Customer Response, kaizen, ergonomics, quality, and many other terms signifying the primacy of the consumer that were once specific to manufacturing, production engineering, and operations management can now be found in non-business discourses.

[4] Economic GC highlights the interaction of power, forms of capital, labour, resources, and the human condition, so is often presented as “international development” (Oxley and Morris, 2013).