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Chapter 7 Anthropology of Administration's Approach o the Study of Management Philosophy as “Spiritual Capital”

Noriya Sumihara

Abstract Business people are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of management philosophies as a core tool of corporate integrity and governance.

This paper provides a new perspective on management philosophies by briefly reviewing how they have been practiced and studied in Japan. This review demonstrates the importance of examining management philosophies ontologically—by focusing on the dynamic interactions between management philosophies and daily corporate practices—because a management philosophy exists only insofar as it is interpreted and reinterpreted during its application to those practices. This paper argues that a management philosophy embodies a “spiritual capital” that influences how firm assets such as funds, materials, and human resources are used.

7.1 Introduction

Many corporations in Japan, the USA, and Europe announce their mission statements, a practice that is becoming more popular in China and other developing Asian countries. From among the many English and Japanese terms used to refer to management policy, such as “mission statements,” “value statements,” “principles,” and “creed,” I will employ “management philosophy” and “business philosophy” interchangeably as comprehensive terms.

I have been studying the relationship between management philosophy and the business/management practices of mostly Japanese corporations since 2006 along with scholars in other disciplines. Since 2010, I have also been studying India's Tata Group from within the same general framework (see Sumihara 2011, 2013, 2014b).

I have found that Japanese companies are increasingly formulating written management philosophies or rewrite existing ones, as they become increasingly global. Unified management philosophies are becoming increasingly important to corporate identities currently being threatened by aspects of the globalizing economy, such as M&A and overseas offices and factories.

As will be discussed in detail, I believe that a management philosophy constitutes a kind of “capital,” a “spiritual capital” that may have a significant influence over the use of all other “forms of capital,” such as human resources, commodities, and financial assets. Although the term, “spiritual capital”, can be found in recent studies such as by Zohar and Marshall (2004) and Rima (2013), I use the term in my own way independently as is discussed in details in Sect. 7.5.

In this section, I describe the management philosophies of Japanese corporations by briefly reviewing their development since the Edo period. In Sect. 7.2, I review the history of the study of management philosophy in Japan, in which no anthropologists have yet been involved. In Sect. 7.3, I argue that a multidisciplinary approach, which includes anthropology, can make a unique contribution to this subject, by providing a new perspective. Finally, I clarify the nature of what I call “spiritual capital” by illustrating it using concrete examples.

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