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My Renaissance

By Casey Hartle
The college experience is one without boundaries and, often, it is a great challenge for
the student to discover who they truly are, what interests them, and what career they would like
to pursue. Some students find this path relatively easily, having either family tradition or other
strong influence to assist in making a decision. I have been a college student for several years
now and, having pursued a number of different fields, it has occurred to me that I have an
interest in all of many things and not just one. The experienced student is constantly processing
information, and constantly thinking of the future. They constantly ponder whether their pursuits
in education have, not only placed them in a more advantageous state in the workplace, but
increased their understanding of their own interests and passions. I have often pondered these
things throughout my education, which has led me to consider the value of what I am studying
and whether it suits me as an individual.
In this course, Foundations of Business, I have learned of the failures and successes of
business pursuits and standards around the world. Buying and selling often describes the world
of business, with profit and gain as the end pursuit. The history of business, however, provides a
much more refined definition and purpose of business that, rather than being a means for profit,
it is a means to serve people and the society in which they live. It is the individuals within the
realm of business that influence the main purpose or function of that industry; buying and selling
or service to people. The student has the ability to observe historical business practices through
reason. Reason is the highest, most exquisite form of thought and often frustrates other
people.1 This is because reason is rational thinking, eliminating contradictions between what is
perceived by the individual, and what is real or actually occurring. The use of reason in this
class helps the student understand how to think critically, analyzing various practices for their
ethicality, and applying that analyzed data to modern business and society.
One of the main questions in business is how business and society can relate; namely
without business being too self-centered. Robert Heilbroner described this primitive relationship
of self-centeredness and cooperation as taken care of by the environment. Because the
modern community is at the mercy of a thousand dangers by critical tasks not being completed,
there are three ways that society can protect itself. The first way is by organizing society based
on tradition, such as in ancient Egypt. The second method is by the whip of authoritarian rule,
inflicting penalty on those who do not work. As the first two did not yield a plausible method for
the modern societys survival, a third method was developed, known as the market system. The
market system entails that each individual should do what was to his best monetary
advantage. In other words, there was freedom for man to pursue what was in his best interest
and, as a result, the critically important tasks of society were completed. 2
Religion played a major role in the development of many business principles in the
middle ages, not all of which, were successful. R.H. Tawney notes that different churches

1Engh,

Edward. "Introduction to Critical Thinking." Critical Thinking: Reading From the Literature
of Business and Society. Second ed. 7. Print.
2

Heilbroner, Robert. "The Economic Revolution." Critical Thinking: Reading From the Literature
of Business and Society. Second ed. 1953. 65-67. Print.

produced characteristic differences of social opinion. The differing viewpoints resulted in


various inequalities in power and money and left wealth as the primary motive. 3
It is interesting to note the effects of mania in business. A society can be influenced such
that the individuals therein feel the need to possess certain things in order to gain admiration
from others. Mania causes one to obsess over something that isnt usually sought after without
some form of social stimulus. For this reason, one may invest abnormal amounts of time or
money into obtaining something and, thus, the price increases due to an incredibly high demand
due to an obsession. The example is given of the tulip flower in The Tulipomania, in which the
flower was initially only possessed by the wealthy which paid extravagant prices for them. As
the reputation increased for the flower, the mania spread from the exclusive upper class to the
middle class. The price paid for a single tulip root was more than four fat oxen, eight fat
swine, twelve fat sheep, wine, beer, butter, a complete bed, and a suit of clothes
combined.4 Mackey describes this phenomenon as persons growing insensibly attached to that
which gives them a great deal of trouble. Mania still exists in modern society. Obvious
examples include gambling, and collection of expensive things. More prevalent, however, is the
mania among the middle class to gain status by possessing certain things, from clothing to cars,
or even computers and related items. It will be interesting to see the effect of the Apple Watch
Edition, priced from $10,000 to $18,000. Could such an item be the cause of a future mania,
and could this be the motive behind selling such a thing? Galbraith asks a similar question of
whether the deprivation of hunger is more painful than the deprivation which afflicts [man] with
envy of his neighbors new car. 5 The answer is found in the dependence effect, or the creation
of want, that the process by which wants are satisfied is also the process by which wants are
created. This concept was echoed by Steve Jobs who said a lot of times, people dont know
what they want until you show it to them. The concept of the Apple Watch is interesting for this
reason, in that the motive behind the watch wasnt necessarily that people wanted a better
wristwatch. It is the concept of something new, and something that is both sought by the richest
in the world, as well as the middle class by providing three different levels of construction
material and price - thus bridging the gap in attainability and increasing desirability of the device
among consumers.
Society can be heavily influenced by business and one must consider, alternatively, the
influence of business on the worker. Ethics in the workplace have varied throughout history. One
of the most interesting examples of the effect a workplace and industry can have on the
individual worker is that of Mike LeFevre, a steel mill worker who tells his story of the life of a
process worker. Working conditions for Mike were difficult, both physically and mentally.
Physically because the work was labor-intensive, with the risk of getting smashed. Mentally,
because Mike never has the opportunity to see his finished work, only pulling steel and
performing his specific tasks. Mike wants to send his son to college so that he doesnt end up in

Tawney, R.H. "The Social Organism." Critical Thinking: Reading From the Literature of
Business and Society. Second ed. 1926. 85-89. Print.
4

Mackey, C. (1841). The Tulipomania. In Critical Thinking: Reading From the Literature of
Business and Society (Second ed., pp. 111-113).
5

Galbraith, J. (1958). The Dependence Effect. In Critical Thinking: Reading From the Literature
of Business and Society (Second ed., pp. 119-121).

the same situation.6 Mikes example of the workplace is concerning in modern business. Andrew
Carnegie addressed the potential for poor working conditions with a solution built on
cooperation, where workers are to become part owners in enterprises, and share their
fortunes. The motivation for such labor-intensive jobs is the sharing of responsibility and
corresponding net prices received for product month by month, or the sliding scale.7
Pertaining to my personal future, and involvement in business - perhaps even managing
my own business: It is crucially important to be a good leader. As described by Peter Drucker, a
leader is someone who has followers, not loved or admired but whose followers do the right
things, are highly visible and set examples, and do not see leadership as rank or privilege;
rather, they see leadership as responsibility.8 Furthermore, I believe it is absolutely crucial to
maintain perspective on ethics in business practices. The question will always remain of how to
retain ethics among human individuals. Following the story of watching Apollo 17, Jacob
Needleman perhaps states it best that these were suddenly moral people because wonder, the
sense of wonder, the experience of wonder, had made them moral. I believe that wonder is
derived from human contact and interpersonal relationships. The world is at a great risk of
losing such contact through the overwhelming usage of social media rather than social
interaction, for when youre in touch with something inner, you just are naturally sharing and
caring to other people.9 In order to maintain ethics among humans, and essentially in business
and society, there must be human connection, and there must be consciousness within the
individual. A conscious self, an autonomous individual, intentionally choosing, after pondering
and reflecting and consulting with his or her neighbor, consciously choosing what to do and how
to live is the kind of individual required for the success of modern business and society, rather
than the individual who is constantly pulled by the forces around us and the influences that
impinge on us from all of the media, books, and educators, and values that come from
outside. I have obtained great knowledge from the readings in this class, and hope to improve
on these concepts as an individual. This is my renaissance.

Terkel, S. (1972). Mike LeFevre, Steel Worker. In Critical Thinking: Reading From the
Literature of Business and Society (Second ed., pp. 183-187).
7

Carnegie, A. (1889). An Employer's View of the Labor Question. In Critical Thinking: Reading
From the Literature of Business and Society (Second ed., p. 195, 201).
8

Drucker, P. (n.d.). Not Enough Generals Were Killed! In Critical Thinking: Reading From the
Literature of Business and Society (Second ed., p. 252).
9

Moyers, B. (1989). Jacob Needleman, Philosopher. In Critical Thinking: Reading From the
Literature of Business and Society (Second ed., p. 318, 320).