When Daniel Bell penned The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism in 1976 he was on to something. He wrote:
When the Protestant ethic was sundered from bourgeois society, only the hedonism remained, and the capitalist system lost its transcendental ethic . . . While the business corporation wants its employees to work hard, pursue a career, and delay gratification, at the same time its products and advertisements promote the vision of pleasure, instant joy, relaxing, and letting go. One is to be “straight” by day and a “swinger” by night. This is self-fulfillment and self-realization.
Evagrius Ponticus, a fourth-century Christian monk and ascetic, drafted the logismoi, a thoughtful primer on eight evil temptations that have the potential to transform a virtuous man into a sinner.
The logismoi was intended to instruct. Ponticus wanted to ensure that people were aware of temptation, vice, and identification of their fallibility. With similar intentions, in 590 A.D. Pope Gregory the Great refined the logismoi to a list of seven. From then on, the seven deadly sins were formally established.
Fast-forward to today and we have a postmodern culture, where the public vocabulary no longer is keenly aware of the teachings of the logismoi. On a worldwide cultural level, we lack the urgency to maintain consistent standards of virtue and ethics.
Our MBA students, some of the best and brightest on the planet, actually ask in courses on business ethics, “What is virtue?” They ...