Wednesday, July 31, 2013


A few days ago I watched a news contribution on a manipulated scientific medical study about a pill. It turns out that several employees of a pharmaceutical company where involved in the construction and completion of this study without disclosing this fact. The manipulation of the data led to positive outcomes of the study, helping to make this pill very popular and thus very lucrative. In this particular study some criminal intention was clearly at play. But many of these medical studies are financed by pharmaceutical companies, says the expert on the news report. This got me thinking about the influence of conflict of interest on the outcome of studies.

In a documentary on fracking I recently watched, I found a similar pattern. The people involved in making money or allowing this technique of oil production, conducted studies showing that this way of flowing oil is harmless to humans and nature. The NGOs concerned with the destruction of the environment found converse results. How can this be? Both parties have a big motivation to prove their arguments. Both parties have a specific mindset when constructing their study. This leads to a frame of thinking and a way of perceiving the world. I think every scientist should have a look at their basic motivation of research and their underlying assumptions of how the world works or ought to work in their eyes. It is very hard to fight one’s own frame of thinking, but by making these implicit assumptions explicit and communicating them, others can better understand your where you are coming from. If obvious conflict of interest is given as is the case in the example of the manipulated study and in my opinion also in the case of financing, I think it will prevent a scientist from performing rigorous research and should be excluded from the carrying out the study.

This is my mind frame and my motivation for this article: I am a psychologist and stakeholder theory enthusiast and think that explicating and communicating thoughts and assumptions helps to find common grounds. Further, I think the world is not black or white but should be looked at nuanced. Further we are working on a paper on mindsets and basic assumptions of different theories, which got me to pay more attention on this issue. So in this sense: Q.E.D.
Vanessa McSorley



Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Purpose matters

This weekend I was visiting my father who is spending four weeks in a little village in the Swiss mountains for recovery. When I entered the hotel I was pleased with the warmth of the receptionist. She gave me the feeling that I was really welcome and that she cares for me. It was not the usual customer orientation we experience in many hotels from employees who are trained to be customer oriented. It was an encounter between human beings. During the entire stay in this hotel I met various people who love their work because they like caring for others.

The hotel belongs to a foundation, which aims at providing services to human beings in all phases of life. Besides hotels they are engaged in child and elderly care.

In doing business we often have a weak connection to why we are doing this work. Rendering a good service is much easier when we know why we are doing it and what we stand for when providing these services.

This hotel stands for doing good to people. Whether we base this on Christian values or on a humanistic commitment in a philosophical sense does not matter that much. What matters is that we know with which purpose we are serving whom. Customer orientation in this perspective is not a mere technical term but a humanistic commitment in the broader sense.

Sybille Sachs

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Changing from economic to political primacy: Why this is necessary

Recently many publications of economists and philosophers were released which question and want to contain the dominant role of the economy and the market in our societies of today (e.g. R. and E. Skidelsky, T. Sedlacek, L. Herzog, M. Sandel). They demand that the role of the economy has to be debated publicly. This corresponds basically to the demand for a primacy of politics over economy. But why is it important to contrast the primacy of politics with the one of economy?
First of all it is decisive to see that among all political views of a society also such exist according to which the economy and its material fruits indeed are not seen as an end in itself. In a society living the primacy of real democratic politics institutional conditions are in place which enable to include all (non-radical) political views and matters of a society. Of course, and this is fully clear, also in such case economy will play an important role simply because people want sustenance and wealth.
In a society in which the primacy of economy rules economic issues are basically considered as the most important ones. Principles like the market, growth or profit maximization become to end purposes of all existence. All forces which potentially constrain the forces of the pure market as the only regulative force will be fought. Factually (and although democratic institutions may still exist) this model of society shows fundamental and even totalitarian traits: everybody has to subjugate herself to the primacy of economy and its principles, if she wants or not.
Once established, to depart from this model is difficult: each concept of economy other than the one of a neoliberal economy acknowledges also other matters than pure economic ones to have a meaning or value on their own (e.g. stakeholders, society, environment). This of course endangers the economic primacy. But a society with e.g. a primacy of religion has similar problems: all its members have to subordinate themselves to religious principles if they want or not.
Only the primacy of politics which is committed to a democratic order can provide remedy: only in this way the full colourfulness of views of a society can be integrated. Despite this also caution has to be exercised: material power asymmetries between political actors e.g. can influence the formation of majorities. Moreover, it has to be acknowledged that politicians like R. Reagan or M. Thatcher which have contributed significantly to the primacy of economy were democratically elected.
Because today we know to what such primacy is able to do critic at it has become good form even in economic circles. But the voyage has not ended yet: the actual requirement is the return to the primacy of politics and also to stay there. To stay there it is also necessary to debate in Aristotelian manner what is good and hence moral. To think about the good helps preserving before leaving the primacy of politics: nobody will then voluntarily leave this primacy for a fundamental-totalitarian system, be it of religious, economic or of other character.
Claude Meier