The Humanities and Business: A War or a Conversation

By Maureen Goldman.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Since the 1960’s in the United States, the historically contentious relationship between business and the humanities has been especially intense to the extent that this relationship might seem to be closer to a war rather than simply fodder for a good conversation. Before the 1960’s business dominance seemed taken for granted. One of the enduring remarks in American business, credited to the then CEO of General Motors, Erwin Wilson, speaking before Congress in 1953, “What’s good for General Motors is good for America.” The remark endures because it neatly sums up the centrality and high regard for business in the American culture, a regard very apparent lately in the government of President George W. Bush and in much of the civil society of the U.S. This high regard for business was and still is often accompanied by a low regard for the humanities. By the 1960’s in some areas of the United States, the term “humanist” combined with “secular” became used as an insult, partly because humanism supposedly contains both anti-religious and anti-business and therefore anti-American ideas and values. In response, and most intensely since the 1960’s, some explicators and defenders of the humanities express their distrust and contempt for capitalism, business and “business values,” insisting on the intrinsic value of the humanities and resisting any impulse to arguments to bolster the humanities by saying that they are “useful” to business because, for example, workers with a humanistic education are able to think more logically, behave more ethically, or express themselves more clearly.

Keywords: Humanities, Business, Activist/Scholar, Secular Humanist, Capitalism, Diversity, Values, Business Ethics, Education, Experiential Learning, Culture Wars

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 12, pp.9-14. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 463.841KB).

Dr. Maureen Goldman

Professor of English, English Department, Bentley College, Waltham, Massachusetts, USA

Maureen Goldman, Professor of English, has been an associate dean of the undergraduate College, chair of the Enghlish Department and Director of the Intererdisciplinary Program at Bentley College. She is is a co-founder of the Institute for Women in Leadership and recently helped win a grant to study humanities and business at Bentley College. She has won numerous grants to support gender studies and the arts and sciences at Bentley College. She has also been a fellow at the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College, Harvard University. A former NEH fellow and Fulbright recipient, she has published in the areas of early American literature, gender studies, biography, expository writing and women and technology. She is currently working on a biography of historian and author, Mercy Otis Warren, sometimes called the conscience of the American Revolution, and the only woman to have written a history of the American Revolution.

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