Volume 19.1 – Love and the Transformation of Business



Karen Blakeley argues that love is the only solution to the current increasing trend by big corporations of instrumentalising human beings as being simply costs or resources. She rejects empathy and compassion as being implicitly negative or selfish. She begins by suggesting that we need to ‘see’ the employee in the way Christ asked Simon the Pharisee to ‘see’ the woman who bathed his feet.

Luke’s Gospel, chapter 7.36-50, sets the scene for understanding how love could transform business ethic and practice. Jesus has just been invited to dinner with Simon, a Pharisee. As they both recline at the table, a woman enters, a prostitute who has lived a ‘sinful life’. She enters in distress but approaches Jesus, wiping his feet with her hair and bending down to kiss them. Eventually she pours perfume from an alabaster jar over Jesus’ feet, anointing them in a deeply moving act of humility and worship.

Simon is disgusted. Immediately he starts to judge the scene and in particular Jesus. If this man were truly a prophet he would have known that this woman was a prostitute, a sinner. Jesus, as ever, had the perfect response. He turned toward the woman and said to Simon, Do you see this woman?

The suggestion is that Simon does not ‘see’ her at all. Simon sees only a sinner with no name, a prostitute who is ‘unclean’. To ‘see’ this woman Simon would have had to suspend his tendency to judge, a tendency which would have been deeply rooted in his identity as a Pharisee. To truly ‘see’ someone is to see them through divine eyes, the eyes of love rather than judgement. The

Instrumentalisation of humanity
Moving on to 2017 and the world of business. The Fourth Industrial Revolution has arrived with intelligent automation, the internet of things, nanotechnology, big data, hyper-connectivity and machine learning. In the UK and the USA this has emerged in the context of neoliberalism – a philosophy which promotes the deregulation of markets, free flows of capital throughout the world, a diminution in the role of the state and legal restrictions on workers’ abilities to protect their economic interests. Along with this we have seen the rise of zero-hour contracts, the gig economy, the loss of job security, and for many, the loss of pensions and rights to sick pay.

What has all this to do with love?

Business has always had a tendency to see employees as tools or costs, but this tendency has increased in recent years and will continue to do so. The technology of control has enabled our most powerful companies and organisations to perpetrate the widespread instrumentalisation of the human beings that are the source of their…

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