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Morrissey College of Arts and Science

UN535 Business as a Calling

capstone program

Harold A. Petersen

Associate Professor of Economics

This course is also offered as EC435

This seminar explores the question of business as a calling, as an activity that yields great personal satisfaction quite apart from the money it brings. Is business a noble activity, or is it a rather crass but necessary pursuit? How does the economist’s model view business? How is it viewed by society at large? Does a view of business as a calling help us to bridge the spiritual and the temporal? Does it have a positive impact on relationships with family and with community? For an economy to work, do we need moral and political capital as well as economic capital? If so, how do we sustain our moral and political capital, or rebuild it if it is eroding, or develop it where it is missing? Does how we look at business make a difference? Can we reconcile the recent corporate scandals with a view that business is a noble pursuit? Finally, how do the events of September 11 impact our view of business and of capitalism?


A good deal of reading and discussion of the readings.

Seminar format, with professor as facilitator and students taking turns leading the discussion.

Five short reflective papers and a final summary paper.

The grade will be based on participation in class 30%, the short reflective papers 40%, and the final summary paper 30%.

Readings and Video

  • Novak, Michael. Business as a Calling: Work and the Examined Life, 1996.
  • Sennett, Richard. The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism, 1998.
  • Plato. The Republic.
  • Lewis, Michael. Liar’s Poker, 1989.
  • Helgesen, Sally. The Female Advantage: Women's Ways of Leadership, 1995, Chs. 1, 2, 8, 9, 10.
  • Hochschild, Arlie, with Machung, Anne. The Second Shift, 1989, Chs. 1, 2.
  • Coelho, Paul. The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream, 1988.
  • Video: Andrew Carnegie. The Richest Man in the World
  • Shore, Bill. The Cathedral Within, 1999, Chs. 1 and 4.
  • Coles, Robert. The Call of Service: A Witness to Idealism, 193, Ch. 7 (on Dorothy Day).
  • What are We? An Introduction to Boston College and its Jesuit Tradition, 2000.
  • The Autobiography of St. Ignatius Loyola, Fordham University Press, 1992.
  • Gardner, John. Redemption, from The Art of Living and Other Stories.

Plus additional works to be handed out or selected by the class as we go along.