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Durable Goods

Durable Goods

A Covenantal Ethic for Management and Employees

Stewart W. Herman

Perhaps no other aspect of business ethics is today more germane to Christian belief and practice than the quality of relationship between management and employees. Here the raw forces of the global market and the more subtle currents of power relations within corporations have tangible impacts upon millions of lives.

How can managers and employees work together toward an atmosphere of mutual trust and fairness? For people of faith, what does it mean to covenant under conditions of recurrent labor conflict? What moral claims are evident in the long struggle by management to run their enterprises as they see fit, as opposed by the efforts of employees to achieve a collective voice through unions?

By melding the biblical account of covenant with a social-scientific understanding of organizations, Stewart W. Herman presents a groundbreaking theory. Herman examines the strategies and tactics which management and employees have used to control each other. He explores the deep historical roots and complexities of the management-employee relationship in the US, taking into account the initiatives and responses of both sides during the past two hundred years.

As this narrative unfolds, the rudiments of a covenant become evident, not in a steady evolution, but in a turbulent intertwining of achievement with failure. The author tracks the development of two enduring goods which have emerged tentatively in this history: the enlarged freedom both management and employees have gained by seeking cooperation from each other, and the respect they have internalized for the moral principles central to the action of each other.

Genuine cooperation requires that the moral claims of both sides must receive impartial consideration. To achieve such fairness, this book sets aside both the easy optimism of managerial ideology and the pessimism of disillusioned employees and takes an unsparing look at labor-management history in light of the long covenanting experience narrated in the Bible. In both histories, genuine cooperation emerges from a passionate dialectic between ideal possibilities and realistic human limitations. This shared struggle engages the will and spirit-and the creativity and insight-of both managers and employees.

In _Durable Goods _, the disciplines of biblical theology, organization theory and labor history cross-fertilize to produce a rich harvest of insight about the nature and costs of genuine cooperation between management and employees. Those who teach in the fields of business and Christian ethics as well as business and labor leaders will find here a lucid guide for discerning the possibilities and limits upon covenantal cooperation in the employment relation.

Reviews:

“Herman succeeds brilliantly in applying Christian faith to business ethics. Focusing on management-labor relations, he draws the analogy between the biblical image of ‘divine covenant’ on the one hand and labor contracts negotiated in good faith on the other. The striking comparisons drawn include the mutual recognition of the opposite parties’ fundamental goals, commitment to shared purpose, inevitable resistance in the fulfillment of agreements, tactics and strategies to draw the other into compliance, including justifiable forms of coercion.” -Vincent P. Branick, University of Dayton

ISBN: 978-0-268-00885-7
256 pages
Publication Year: 1998

Stewart W. Herman is associate professor in religion and liberal-arts studies at Concordia College.

“Herman is to be recognized and commended for his genuine contribution to the credibility of any proposal for a covenantal business ethic.” — Markets & Morality

“… a fine, even wonderful, book.” — Journal of Lutheran Ethics

“Herman succeeds brilliantly in applying Christian faith to business ethics.” — Religious Studies Review

“This is a pioneering work of Christian ethics. Stewart Herman has opened up promising possibilities for a more realistic and hopeful ethical approach to the frequently conflictive relationships of working people and those who manage modern economic enterprises. His comprehensive and accurate portrayal of the history, concerns, and struggles of both employees and their employers, his insightful and helpful appropriation of biblical materials, his innovative and plausible theory of a covenantal ethic, and his scrupulous fairness, all commend this study to a wide readership. Union leaders, managers, pastors, executives of church-related social ministry and educational institutions, seminary professors and lay persons seeking guidance in their daily vocations, would all benefit from this outstanding study.” — Trinity Seminary Review

“This provocative and thoughtful text is a well-argued analysis of the history and embedded values of U.S. labor relations from the 19th century to the present. It stimulates the reader to think how management/employee relations might become truly free networks of interdependent human action wherein constituents bind themselves—despite the inevitable conflicts—to trust and respect each other and to pursue the firm’s best interest.” — Theological Studies

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Durable Goods

A Covenantal Ethic for Management and Employees

Stewart W. Herman

 Durable Goods: A Covenantal Ethic for Management and Employees
Paper Edition

Perhaps no other aspect of business ethics is today more germane to Christian belief and practice than the quality of relationship between management and employees. Here the raw forces of the global market and the more subtle currents of power relations within corporations have tangible impacts upon millions of lives.

How can managers and employees work together toward an atmosphere of mutual trust and fairness? For people of faith, what does it mean to covenant under conditions of recurrent labor conflict? What moral claims are evident in the long struggle by management to run their enterprises as they see fit, as opposed by the efforts of employees to achieve a collective voice through unions?

By melding the biblical account of covenant with a social-scientific understanding of organizations, Stewart W. Herman presents a groundbreaking theory. Herman examines the strategies and tactics which management and employees have used to control each other. He explores the deep historical roots and complexities of the management-employee relationship in the US, taking into account the initiatives and responses of both sides during the past two hundred years.

As this narrative unfolds, the rudiments of a covenant become evident, not in a steady evolution, but in a turbulent intertwining of achievement with failure. The author tracks the development of two enduring goods which have emerged tentatively in this history: the enlarged freedom both management and employees have gained by seeking cooperation from each other, and the respect they have internalized for the moral principles central to the action of each other.

Genuine cooperation requires that the moral claims of both sides must receive impartial consideration. To achieve such fairness, this book sets aside both the easy optimism of managerial ideology and the pessimism of disillusioned employees and takes an unsparing look at labor-management history in light of the long covenanting experience narrated in the Bible. In both histories, genuine cooperation emerges from a passionate dialectic between ideal possibilities and realistic human limitations. This shared struggle engages the will and spirit-and the creativity and insight-of both managers and employees.

In _Durable Goods _, the disciplines of biblical theology, organization theory and labor history cross-fertilize to produce a rich harvest of insight about the nature and costs of genuine cooperation between management and employees. Those who teach in the fields of business and Christian ethics as well as business and labor leaders will find here a lucid guide for discerning the possibilities and limits upon covenantal cooperation in the employment relation.

Reviews:

“Herman succeeds brilliantly in applying Christian faith to business ethics. Focusing on management-labor relations, he draws the analogy between the biblical image of ‘divine covenant’ on the one hand and labor contracts negotiated in good faith on the other. The striking comparisons drawn include the mutual recognition of the opposite parties’ fundamental goals, commitment to shared purpose, inevitable resistance in the fulfillment of agreements, tactics and strategies to draw the other into compliance, including justifiable forms of coercion.” -Vincent P. Branick, University of Dayton

ISBN: 978-0-268-00885-7

256 pages

“Herman is to be recognized and commended for his genuine contribution to the credibility of any proposal for a covenantal business ethic.” — Markets & Morality

“… a fine, even wonderful, book.” — Journal of Lutheran Ethics

“Herman succeeds brilliantly in applying Christian faith to business ethics.” — Religious Studies Review

“This is a pioneering work of Christian ethics. Stewart Herman has opened up promising possibilities for a more realistic and hopeful ethical approach to the frequently conflictive relationships of working people and those who manage modern economic enterprises. His comprehensive and accurate portrayal of the history, concerns, and struggles of both employees and their employers, his insightful and helpful appropriation of biblical materials, his innovative and plausible theory of a covenantal ethic, and his scrupulous fairness, all commend this study to a wide readership. Union leaders, managers, pastors, executives of church-related social ministry and educational institutions, seminary professors and lay persons seeking guidance in their daily vocations, would all benefit from this outstanding study.” — Trinity Seminary Review

“This provocative and thoughtful text is a well-argued analysis of the history and embedded values of U.S. labor relations from the 19th century to the present. It stimulates the reader to think how management/employee relations might become truly free networks of interdependent human action wherein constituents bind themselves—despite the inevitable conflicts—to trust and respect each other and to pursue the firm’s best interest.” — Theological Studies

Soundings: A Series of Books on Ethics, Economics and Business