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Spiritual Capital

Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, CEO of the Roosevelt Group and Professor at Yale University has written a wise and informative book on the success of spiritual enterprise. Just what is spiritual enterprise? In the beginning of the book, Malloch notes that the best way forward for wealth creation "is the idea that wealth can be created, and that it is most successfully created when we employ skills and talents given to us by God" (4). Malloch defends off critics of captialism by situating a philosophy of capitalism in connection with the concept that wealth created by "virtuous means" is good all humankind (5). Yet, Malloch is quick to point out in the first chapter of his book that this kind of spiritual capital isn't necessarily linked to one religion, but to religious traditions in the goal of to 'attach people to the transcendental source of human happiness' (18). What does this amount to? For one, it represents the funamental reality of the spiritual component of worker's lives. Models of business that seek only profit will do anything to gain money lose sight of the fundamental fact of that humans desire more than a buck. Rather, true faith for workers is not a crutch but 'a fount of wisdom and inspiration that leads and generates action and provides the real purpose in all that we say and do' (21). Malloch is not content with a hyper-spiritualized understanding of fulfilling our bodily desires, but rather wants to see spiritual capital in terms of its wholistic value.

In the chapter on virtue Malloch introduces us to some classic virtues of the both the Greek philosophers and the ancient Christian tradition. In writing about compassion, he describes the opposite conditions of a compassionate philosophy in connection to Ayn Rand by saying, "The kind of self-assertion extolled by Rand is really a brittleness of character, an unyielding self-centeredness that is soon fractured by the conflicts it genders" (37). Malloch is right to intimate that ultimate self-centeredness only ends in unending conflict because the quest for satisfaction and dominance is never in reach. Yet, Malloch is wrong to commit that 'compassion enables us to pursue our goals without conflict by arousing the sympathy and good of others' (37). How? The very act of compassion, of leading a compassionate life which is concerned about the needs of others is radically opposed to the common asessement of the human person. To lead compassionately is in one sense to relinquish the power that others seek for the benefit and care of another. This kind of life, the life of caring will inevitably come into conflict with those who seek to win by all means. Yet, the point that Malloch is right in this sentence is that people want to have sympathy, they are drawn to the compassionate life.

In the discussion of soft virtues, Malloch goes on to speak of forgivenss in a way that has much to say about the time in which we live. The virtue of forgiveness in the business world is 'being able to forgive the person who does not acknowledge his wrong, who is determined to seize the advantage and who perhaps even rejoices in your affliction' (94). This kind of forgiveness is radical because it seeks to shut out the gut feelings of retribution and vengeance for a greater reward. I would say, however, that this kind of virtue might be more ably looked at not as something we possess but something we inculcate through our character through many different actions. Indifference only perpetuates unforgiveness, as Malloch notes, because it 'disregards its victims' (94). To connect this with the Christian faith, the message, life, and action of Jesus embodies this virtue because at the highest point in which Jesus was challenged by hatred and contempt, he offered forgiveness, in exchange for hatred he offered a glass of water.

Lastly, this book has a helpful appendix in the back to let the reader know about those in the business world who put this idea of spiritual captial to work. I was surprised to find many leaders I did know about and their spiritual roots that have caused them to do business differently. This book is a welcome addition to the discussion concerning spiritual values in the workplace.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and The Book Sneeze program for a review copy of the book.


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