From Publishers Weekly
In straightforward language, Novak (Belief and Unbelief) sets out to refute the popular conception that business leaders are materialistic and rapacious, asserting that "business not only creates social connections, lifts its participants out of poverty, and builds the foundation of democracy, but also can and must be morally uplifting." His central conceit is that, like the work of priests and ministers, the labors of businessmen and -women are often animated by a sense of calling. Novak cites a 1990 poll that found that after military officers, "more people in business attended church every week than any other elite." While it remains to be proven that the morals espoused in church or temple can and do hold sway on the battlefields of market competition, Novak's meditations should cause those who believe "enlightened capitalism" to be an oxymoron to think twice. Author tour. (June) FYI: Novak won the 1994 Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
A spirited defense of commerce as a worthy career and of democratic capitalism as the best socioeconomic system among known alternatives. Like John M. Hood (The Heroic Enterprise, page 504), Novak (The Catholic Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, 1992, etc.) finds much to admire. Indeed, he argues that business has a vested interest in goodness if only because it cannot advance in the absence of such cardinal virtues as cooperation, courage, honesty, industry, innovation, practicality, and realism. The author goes on to document the many ways in which for-profit concerns benefit host communities and the wider world simply by measuring up to their basic obligations--creating new jobs, earning appropriate returns on investments, producing wealth, promoting respect for the rule of law, satisfying customers, et al. He also notes ways in which trade unions might play more constructive roles in an era of corporate downsizing, e.g., by organizing labor collectives to offer pools of skilled contract workers to employers. Novak (a sometime seminarian who makes no secret of his Roman Catholic faith) is at pains to couch his message in ecumenical rather than ecclesiastic terms. To this end, he dwells on studies indicating that, among America's elites, businesspeople trail only the clergy and military officers in the degree of their religiosity. While the author cites the achievements of a wealth of entrepreneurs and executives, moreover, he singles out Andrew Carnegie for extended attention as a sort of secular saint. In particular, Novak is fascinated by the migr industrialist's resolve to give away all his riches before he died. The author devotes the best part of his concluding chapter to this largesse and what he believes are the lessons to be learned from it. Vocational counseling of an unusual order, as tough-minded as it is good-hearted. (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.