From oriental utopia to business ethics: Europe’s search for new socio-economic paradigms in eastern religions and philosophies
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AbstractIn the eyes of European commentators Asia represented utopias, romantic oriental empires and spiritual wisdom. Europe re-invented Asia, sometimes from an inferior position, sometimes from a superior position. In general this ‘European Asia’ had not much to do with the real Asia. Asian philosophies and religions were used to make a point in a European context. But in doing so some traces of an authentic Asia, sometimes even forgotten in Asia itself, came to the surface. So far the study of the impact of Asia on European thinking focused the cultural or literary fields. Not much attention was paid to its impact on the socio-economic field. To what extent did Eastern philosophies and religions influence European economic thinking? What was the image of Asia or the ‘East’ and how did it fit into the way Europeans were reacting against their own societies and economies? Concepts like ‘economic equilibrium’ and ‘sustainable development’ are usually considered as concepts which originated from a growing awareness in the so-called ‘Western’ world. Actually, these concepts are very old and, among others, have Eastern origins. Clearly, even if modern economic thinking was dominated by ‘Western’ economists, its concepts and ideas may indirectly have been of Eastern origin.
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