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Book Reviews ..':.-, 143 In conclusion, we find the results of an immense sweep of investigation, well documented and clearly written. Lloyd Bailey Visiting Professor ofReligion Methodist College, Fayetteville, NC Business Ethics: A Jewish Perspective, by, Moses L. Pavao New York: Ktav Publishing House and Yeshiva University Press, 1997. 206 pp. $25.00. Professor Pava's Business Ethics: A Jewish Perspective is a welcome addition to the unfortunately sparse literature on the subject. The author, a highly respected authority on business ethics, plumbs the resources ofthe Jewish tradition to show how its insights could be harnessed for practical guidance on contemporary issues, for both Jews and non-Jews, in spite ofthe fact that they were formulated under altogether different socioeconomic conditions from those prevailing nowadays. He offers an "integrative approach," which attempts to "integrate the best of the growing academic business literature with authoritative Jewish sources" (p. 4), with the aim ofaddressing the realities ofa modern, pluralistic society. His first objective is to establish that the rationality ofbusiness decisipns cannot be evaluated merely in terms ofmaximal self-interest (maximization ofprofit) but must also take account ofethical considerations. In"stressing the role ofJewish ethical teachings, he correctly points out that Jewish ethics transcends sheer legal norms and provides models of aspiration as well. He argues that although one cannot impose the legal norms of Halakhah in a pluralistic society, Jewish ethical models of aspiration continue to be relevant und~r modern conditions. It seems to this reader, however, that there is no justification for such a dichotomy between legal norms and models ofaspiration, the components ofJewish ethics. A case could be made that adoption ofa number ofspecific provisions of Jewish religious law could improve the ethical climate of our society considerably. For example, the application of the Jewish legal prohibition ofgeneivat da 'ati (deception) would curb the dissemination ofdisinformation and prevent many other forms ofmisrepresentation. One might even suggest that many questionable accounting practices relating to disclosure would fall under this rubric. From the biblical narrative, describing the consequences of Joseph's taking advantage of knowledge about a forthcoming famine as well as his treatment of his brothers who did not recognize him, the author extracts ethical lessons about the impropriety of the utilization of "inside information." He cites these events as 144 SHOFAR Winter 1999 Vol. 17, No.2 demonstration of "the need of a religious ethics to move beyond purely legalistic approaches" (p. 9). Pava's general thesis that there is such a need is correct. But his evidence for the need to utilize non-Halakhic resources for ethical guidance is weak, even if one were to accept his rather controversial interpretation ofthe Joseph narrative. To condemn unethical use of "inside information," we need not rely on extra-legal material, since ample Halakhic sources are available for this objective. Perhaps Pava resorts to the Joseph narrative for what could be extrapolated from Jewish law, because he is reluctant to utilize Jewish legal norms for guidance in the pluralistic setting ofmodem business operations. He states that "at the institutional level ... religiously derived legal norms have no status" (p. 181). This is why in his opinion only "models of aspiration [which] unlike legal norms, are not coercive" (p. 182) can be invoked in a pluralistic world. But it is hard to see why Jewish legal norms which reflect ethical insights could not also provide modern pluralistic society with highly important ethical guidance. Pava himselfseems to agree with this, because he endorses Aaron Levine's questioning, on the basis of Halakhic sources, "the legitimacy of the tobacco industry and the manufacture and sale of war toys" (p. 72). One may also question another aspect of the radical dichotomy between legalistic norms and models of aspiration made by the author. He contends that "the explicit motivation for accepting them [the former] is fear ofGod rather than the love of God or imitation ofHis ways" (p. 58). But this contrast is incorrect, since both legal norms and models of aspiration may be followed either out of love or out of fear. Especially fascinating is Professor Pava's advocacy ofcorporate social responsibility . Resorting to the notion oflifnim mishurat hadin (going beyond the strict limits of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-5165
Print ISSN
0882-8539
Pages
pp. 143-145
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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