Through the Lens of the Other: Implementing Liberal Management Education

Stephen Matthias Harney, Singapore Management University
Howard THOMAS, Singapore Management University
Thomas Gene ESTAD, Singapore Management University


The purpose of this paper is to explore the prerequisite conditions for implementing a liberal management education and for fostering ethical students using examples from the core curriculum at Singapore Management University (SMU).

Beginning with a reading of the Carnegie Foundation's Rethinking Undergraduate Business Education: liberal learning for the professions (2011), the paper examines the contribution and limits of the findings and recommendations before discussing the place of the liberal arts in the modern university and describing a case study of liberal management education in process at SMU. It concludes with a reading of the work of Emmanuel Levinas and Asian philosophy as the basis for an ethical management education.

The paper uncovers a central shortcoming in an otherwise important Carnegie study: that business education is unlike other professional education because it lacks an autonomous discipline that studies business knowledge production as an object. Consequently, applying the liberal arts to business education risks neglecting the critical side of the liberal arts. With only the reflective side of the liberal arts in operation, management education cannot be grasped as a specific sphere of values within the pluralism of spheres advocated by the Carnegie report. Only by recreating the function of an autonomous discipline with an objective lens on business knowledge within the core curriculum at SMU can that university attempt to incorporate both the critical and reflective side of the liberal arts in management education. This kind of liberal management education can indeed lead to respect for the values of the others in the way that ethical philosopher Emmanuel Levinas envisioned.