Essay Writing Help on Influence of Confucianism, Buddhism and Shintoism on enterprise management in East Asia

Influence of Confucianism, Buddhism and Shintoism on enterprise management in East Asia

Abstract

            The East Asian economy has experienced significant progress in the past decades, which has drawn attention on the wider global society. Shintoism, Confucianism and Buddhism perpetuate significant influences on East Asian economy as they offer a religious philosophical foundation upon which managerial approaches are based. The purpose for this paper is to investigate the influence that these religious foundations have on enterprise management in East Asia. The scope for the inquiry will include six firms in China, Japan and South Korea. Telephone interviews and emailed questionnaires will be used to collect information from organizational managers and subordinate employees. Findings of the inquiry indicate that East Asian corporations employ paternalistic management style, hierarchical managerial and decision making procedures, cooperative work relations and informal human resource practices. This is however not the case with western corporations, which adopt participatory management and decision making practices, formal recruitment procedures and formal work relations. Corporations seeking to collaborate with East Asian corporations should adopt favorable business policies that are bound to perpetuate mutual benefit between participating organizations while on the other hand promoting collective social benefit.

Key words: Confucianism, Shintoism, Buddhism, East Asia, Shinto, Confucian, Buddhist, enterprise management, management practices.

Introduction

            For the past two decades, the East Asian economy has experienced enormous development, which has in return given this region a growing significance in the contemporary global world. The East Asian region comprises of a wide variety of dynamic economies that range from those that are highly advanced to those that are newly emerging. Each of these economies tends to rapidly compete with others in a unique manner thereby exhibiting diverse business characteristics[1]. In particular, highly advanced diverse economies in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea have experienced significant development compared to major economies mainly in United States and Europe. For instance, real wages in United States have declined and productivity growth weakened while trade deficit has continued to increase in a spectacular trend with the East Asian economies. This has in return seen most leading scholars arguing that the current century will ultimately be described as an “Asian Century”. Some of the major East Asian countries that mainly include Japan and South Korea have made major strides in venturing in the American economy particularly by means of Foreign Direct Investment[2]. Similarly, it is approximated that more than five hundred thousand American citizens are employed in major Japanese and Korean American-based transplants and the number is bound to rise by the end of the century. As a result, significant interest pertaining to the enterprise management practices employed by the East Asian countries has emerged. This is because East Asian corporations have exhibited influences of major philosophical and religious foundations that range from Shintoism, Confucianism and Buddhism[3]. Although significant scholarly inquiry has been conducted pertaining to the approach and effectiveness of East Asian management practices, very little inquiry has been conducted on the philosophical and religious foundations for the management practices. It would be outright naivety to believe that the religious and philosophical foundations can explain all the East Asian managerial practices[4]. The fact that these foundations inform almost all daily life aspects justifies the need to believe that they equally perpetuate significant influence on the region’s enterprise managerial practices. This research investigates the influence of Confucianism, Shintoism and Buddhism in enterprise management in East Asia.

Literature review

            Evidence throughout history indicates that most scholars that have exhibited significant interest in understanding the East Asian region mainly incline their attention towards certain popular themes that range from political transformation, modernization and collision in civilization between the East and the West. The scholars however overlook the important role that philosophical and religious foundations play in shaping the modern economic aspect of this region[5]. Exploring this area is however important given that the East Asian economy has drawn a significant amount of global attention following its rapid advancement in the recent past. It is particularly important to explore the influence that these foundations have on enterprise management, as this is bound to influence the relationship that East Asian business corporations can have with nations upholding distinct philosophical and religious doctrines.

Shintoism

            Shintoism defines an indigenous religion adopted in East Asia and it commonly defines “aspects of the gods.” While this religion has constituted to an integral part in Japanese culture throughout history, the most significant aspect of that history is that Shintoism has had significant impact on the country’s spiritual, social, economic, cultural and political realms; a responsibility that it has equally shared with Buddhism and Confucianism[6]. The indigenous people in Japan mainly clung to the Jamon Culture but were later displaced by people from Taiwanese and Okinawa origin. These people established the Yayoi culture, which eventually translated to a form of nature worship that is presently referred to as Shintoism. The term Shinto was not employed until the rise of Buddhism when it became necessary to distinguish between the two forms of religion[7].

            According to beliefs of Shintoism, the world was initiated by a divine couple that had settled on an island and created several other islands that later came to be referred to as Japan. Izanagi, the male partner assumed the major responsibility in creation as he dipped his spear in the underlying sea and formed the first island from the droplet that dripped from his spear. Izanami, the female partner, did not participate in most creation work as she was badly injured and eventually died while delivering the god of fire[8]. This saw Izanagi assuming all the responsibilities in the remaining creation work after which he toured the land of the dead to get his wife. While Izanagi had to purify himself upon his return from the land of the dead, his act resulted to the formation of the goddess of the sun, god of the storm and god of darkness[9]. The story of the divine couple is important in helping to understand how Shintoism has influenced relationships among the Japanese people as well as how they relate to other people in the wider global society. According to this tale, the divine male partner was the sole initiator and aggressor of all the acts of creation and his dominion ensured that all the creation work was successful[10]. The story helps to explain the relative position that Japanese men assume compared to women. Men, as derived from the divine relationship, assume major responsibilities including occupying major enterprise managerial positions while women assume minor responsibilities particularly those included in subordinate work positions[11]. This practice is equally applicable in other East Asian countries that profess Shintoism. The masculine aspect has particularly influenced enterprise management activities in East Asian corporate enterprises founded on this religious philosophy as women are not allowed to participate in decision making and innovative activities within organizations. This responsibility is solely assumed by men who generate innovative ideas that ought to be implemented in the entire organization[12]. The story of the divine couple further provides a clue that can help to explain why Japanese belief that their territory and its inhabitants possess special qualities compared to members of the wider society. This belief has significantly influenced decision making activities in enterprise management in that Japanese enterprise managers assume the key responsibilities in making major decisions that are eventually implemented in Japanese owned organizations[13]. Similarly, Japanese owned companies as well as other companies founded on Shintoism create a religious atmosphere to help employees accept a religious-based business philosophy. This is usually achieved through dispensing managerial skills to organizational employees irrespective of whether they have a Japanese descent or not. This in return integrates employees’ ideology with the ideology adopted in the wider organization thereby resolving any disputes that might emanate from religious incompatibility[14].

Buddhism

            Buddhism describes a nontheistic religion that is often interpreted as the “just way of living” and it usually integrates various traditions, conducts and beliefs that are based on Buddha’s teachings. According to Buddhist beliefs, Buddha, who is commonly referred to as an enlightened teacher, lived and gave significant teachings in the Indian subcontinent. He is renowned for his insightful teachings that he gave to aid sentiment beings in ending their life challenges by ending ignorance and craving[15]. According to Buddhist beliefs, this can be achieved through equipping the sentiment beings with significant knowledge about dependent arising as well as the four noble truths. The eventual goal of Buddhism is to enhance the attainment of the inspirational status of Nirvana by adopting the Noble Eightfold Path[16].

            According to Buddhist beliefs, the Four Noble Truths, which constitute to the conceptual framework for Buddhism, explain the concept of dukkha, its causes and how it can be addressed. The first Noble Truth, which describes dukkha as a state of suffering, anxiousness and dissatisfaction, helps to understand dukkha’s nature. This truth expresses dukkha as a form of suffering that emanates from bodily ailments, old age and death. According to this truth, anxiousness emanates from attempts to cling on worldly things that are continually changing[17]. It further expresses the state of dissatisfaction as prevailing in all aspects of life particularly because all aspects of life are constantly changing. At this level, dukkha portrays dissatisfaction as being perpetuated by the fact that material things do not measure to human expectations. The second truth explains that the source of dukkha can be known as it usually emanates from craving and is perpetuated by ignorance[18]. The third noble truth explains that total cessation of dukkha is possible while the fourth truth presents a path that can followed to enhance this cessation. This path, which is commonly referred to as the Noble Eightfold Path, comprises of eight interlinked conditions that can be integrated to enhance complete cessation of dukkha. These conditions, which include the right actions, speech, livelihood, effort, thoughtfulness, motive, impression and concentration, define the correct way of life among individuals professing Buddhism[19]. Within the modern East Asian society, values associated with these conditions are often inclined towards elimination of desire, which leads to dissatisfaction due to lack of material possessions. These values impact business in several ways, which in return influence enterprise management practices in the modern economy. According to these values, as long as managerial practices are perpetuated by the right motive, the need to enhance livelihood, the right impression, actions, effort, thoughtfulness, speech and concentration, they can be hierarchical, flexible, individualistic and paternalistic. The practices can as well allow for external control of events that might be affecting the wider organization as well as the moderation of ambition[20].

Failure to correctly adopt these conditions can allow for the development of Karma, which is a force that perpetuates rebirth of the cycle of suffering. According to this concept, the current state of life that individuals may be experiencing is often a reflection of how they lived in the past. While this concept reinforces the prevailing social order, it influences managerial relationships by promoting organizational hierarchies[21]. The need to promote legitimacy in prevailing hierarchies however obliges leaders to act in a manner intended to promote the best interests of their subordinates. These factors can help to explain why most East Asian organizations with Buddhist foundation opt for a paternalistic style of management, which demands for flexibility as opposed to innovativeness.

Confucianism

            Confucianism describes a philosophical foundation that may occasionally be described as a religion, which is often based on teachings of a Chinese scholar Confucius. This scholar had a great impact on Chinese character and he is renowned for being a great teacher, a critical thinker and a victorious politician. He believed in honesty, kindness as well as perfection, and his victory in life was greatly perpetuated by his character, which in return impacted the Chinese intellect[22].  His dedication to dispense quality education to Chinese citizenry was attributed by the urge to “educate all irrespective of their social status” and to “dispense quality education that would comply with students’ attributes”. A key principle that encouraged this scholar to integrate quality education in his religious philosophy was to promote social welfare. On this note, Confucianism intends to perpetuate collective interests of the wider society members by emphasizing on education as a remolding tool for serving the common interest of the society[23]. This principle has significantly influenced societal practices that include enterprise management approaches in East Asian region particularly in China. In this region, business entities that are founded on Confucianism have their managerial practices inclined towards promoting the collective interest of the wider society rather than aiming to promote individualistic success. Human resource managers within business enterprises for example encourage employees to give a significant percentage of their earnings to the government to help develop the country for the collective interest of the wider society and help to reduce the gap prevailing between first tier and lower tier towns[24].

            Another important principle associated with Confucianism is the concept of harmony, which demands that an individual has to co-exist in harmony with everything within his immediate environment and be free from any blame or sin. In order to promote harmony in everything prevailing within the immediate environment, individuals should use any available knowledge within the wider social context. This can explain why Chinese government is for example employing the past experiences of other nations and social systems so as to ensure that China is able to realize a Confucius harmony[25]. China for example learnt from past mistakes that led the Soviet Union into problems after initiating a free market. It was therefore able to avoid repeating these mistakes by inclining its free market system towards promoting harmony in the country. This can as well help to explain why enterprise managers in this region employ harmony as a strategic intent to promote mutual success between business enterprises and the collective wider society. This in return ensures that organizational managers are able to effectively address diversity issues to promote mutual success, which would eventually promote successful business organizations and individuals[26].

            Scholarly evidence has shown that Shintoism, Buddhism and Confucianism are important philosophical foundations that have perpetuated significant influences on social practices that include enterprise management in East Asian countries. Proper distinction between these foundations however cannot be made as they have continuously been harnessed to collectively guide the East Asian communities[27]. An inquiry in this area is important to establish how the richness of Confucianism, Shintoism and Buddhism jointly influence enterprise management in East Asia.

Methodology

            Scholarly evidence has shown that Confucianism, Shintoism and Buddhism perpetuate significant influences on social practices that include enterprise management in specific countries in East Asia. This methodology outlines procedures that were be followed to establish the specific influences that these religious foundations jointly perpetuate on enterprise management. An exploratory study was carried out to help examine the impact of Shinto, Confucian and Buddhist values on enterprise management. Six locally owned firms in China, Japan and South Korea will be identified with two of these firms being indentified from each location. Firms that were included in this inquiry included: a Chinese owned hotel and restaurant that offers tourist services (firm 1) and a beverage company (firm 2) in China; a family-managed tailoring shop (firm 3) and a fitness center (firm 4) in Japan; a steel company (firm 5) and a foreign owned pharmaceutical company (firm 6) in South Korea. Telephone interviews and emailed questionnaires were used to collect data from organizational managers and a few subordinate employees from each firm. Comparative analysis on these firms was conducted to allow for comprehensive conclusions about the influence of Confucianism, Buddhism and Shintoism on enterprise management in East Asia.

Findings

            Findings of this inquiry showed that the key management style employed in the locally owned firms that were studied were mainly paternalistic. Some of these firms in all the study locations for example supplied meals to their employees for free. None of the enterprise management in any of the studied local firms was found to engage subordinate employees in collective decisions nor did any of the subordinate employees or members of the management team seem to be pursuing radical change. Most members of the management team were men and they assumed the central decision making responsibility, while subordinate employees that mainly included women waited to receive instructions from key decision makers. These management styles, which exhibited hierarchical and paternalistic attributes, were linked to the Buddhist belief of Karma. Distinction between individuals that could participate in key decision making activities was equally linked to Shinto divinity attribute. This was however not the case in firm 6, which was managed by a foreign non-East Asian manager, as it exhibited a participatory management approach. Findings of this inquiry further showed that enterprise management practices did not rely on a formal management approach. Recruitment and selection practices for example relied on personal contact and relations between managers and the employees. Employers reported to contact friends and families so they could identify suitable candidates that could occupy certain positions. This however was not the case in firm 6 as it reported to mainly rely on formal recruitment procedures that would often be followed by formal employee appraisal. Apart from firm 6, which used formal training procedures, all the firms studied used informal training procedures to equip their employees with required skills. This can be summarized in a table as follows:

Country Corporation  Management approach Human resource practices Decision-making practices  Working environment   Operational instructions
China Firm 1 Paternalistic Informal Hierarchical and non-participatory   By word of mouth
Firm 2  
Japan Firm 3  
Firm 4  
South Korea Firm 5  
Firm 6 Participatory Formal Participatory   Both oral and written

 Conclusions drawn from these findings is that Buddhism, Confucianism and Shintoism have influenced enterprise management in East Asia by demanding for organizations to adopt paternalistic management style, hierarchical managerial and decision making procedures, cooperative work relations and informal human resource practices.

            The impact perpetuated by various East Asian religious foundations on enterprise management can inhibit business partnership with East Asian corporations. This is because corporations particularly in the west employ contrasting management practices as compared to those employed in East Asia. While western business corporations employ participatory management practices to enhance business efficiency, this is not applicable in East Asian corporation. This is because East Asian corporations belief that a hierarchical and paternalistic approach can better boost business efficiency by limiting the need for radical change, promoting harmony and improving social welfare.

Recommendations

            In order to promote cooperation between the East Asian and western business corporations, standardized business policies that can allow for unbiased business relationships should be employed. These policies should be moderate to ensure that each of the participating firms benefits from this cooperation. On this note, religious beliefs employed by East Asian corporations should be moderated to allow mutual participation between the two parties. Allowing for participatory rather than paternalistic managerial approach while on the other hand promoting harmony to enhance collective social interest can for example allow for mutual benefits by giving each party an opportunity to voice its opinions and be heard.

Conclusion

            Religious foundations play a significant role in influencing social practices that include enterprise management in East Asia. Shintoism, Buddhism and Confucianism influence the type of management practices adopted in East Asia as business corporations seek to maintain religious values that should govern every life aspect. Although each of these religious foundations has specific requirements that might impact business enterprises in a unique way, historical religious transformations have seen these foundations being continually harnessed. As a result, their impact on enterprise management has mainly been collective as they promote similar impacts in varying business enterprises in East Asia irrespective of the religious foundation employed. As a result of these religious foundations, most East Asian corporations employ paternalistic management style, hierarchical managerial and decision making procedures, cooperative work relations and informal human resource practices. This is however not the case with western corporations, which adopt participatory management and decision making practices, formal recruitment procedures and formal work relations. This explains why religious foundations employed in East Asia can inhibit partnerships with the regions’ corporations.

Bibliography

Abbassi, Hollman. “Islamic Economic Foundations and Practices.” International Journal of Social Economics 16, no.5(2009):57-88.

Ali, Hajj. “Foundations of Business Ethics in Contemporary Religious Thought: The Ten Commandments Perspective.” International Journal of Social Economics 25, no.10 (2008):52-62.

Ali, Osman. “Islamic Work Ethic: A Critical Review.” Cross Cultural Management 15, no.1 (2008): 7-21.

Asian Development Bank. Emerging Asian Regionalism. A Partnership for Shared Prosperity. Philippines: Asian Development Bank, 2008.

Barro, Rojas. “Religion and Economic Growth Across Countries.” American Sociological Review 68, no. 5(2003):760-781.

Cole, Nickson. “Cross-Cultural Conceptions of Organizational Justice: The Impact of Eastern Religions/Philosophies.” The Business Review, Cambridge 12, no.2(2009):18-25.

Cornwell, Barnard. “A Cross-Cultural Study of the Role of Religion in Consumers’ Ethical Positions.”  International marketing Review 22, no.5(2005):541-612.

Joseph, O’Leary. “Critical Buddhism: Engaging with Modern Japanese Buddhist Thought.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 38, no.2(2011):88-190.  

Keyes, Charles. Asian Visions of Authority: Religion and the Modern States of East and Southeast Asia. Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 2014.

Lewis, Bernard. Faith and Power: Religion and Politics in the Middle East. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Luthan, Fredrick. “Entrepreneurial Self-Efficacy in Central Asian Transition Economies: Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis.” Journal of International Business Studies 37, no.1(2006):99-132.

Rainey, Lee. Confucius and Confucianism: The Essentials. London: Wiley Blackwell, 2010.

Thierry, Meynard. “Chinese Buddhism and the Threat of Atheism in Seventeenth Century Europe.” Buddhist-Christian Studies 31, no.4(2011):121-157.

Tian, Muyu. Confucian Culture and its Influence over Modern Business Management. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2012.

Yueh-Mei, Lin. “Religion and the Making of Modern East Asia.” Journal of Buddhist Ethics 20, no.3(2013):69-111.


[1] Lee Rainey. Confucius and Confucianism: The Essentials. (London: Wiley Blackwell, 2010), 66.

[2] Ibid 70

[3] Bernard Lewis. Faith and Power: Religion and Politics in the Middle East. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010),88.

[4] Meynard Thierry. “Chinese Buddhism and the Threat of Atheism in Seventeenth Century Europe.” Buddhist-Christian Studies 31, no.4 (2011):121.

[5] Ibid 133

[6] Ibid 140

[7] O’Leary Joseph. “Critical Buddhism: Engaging with Modern Japanese Buddhist Thought.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 38, no.2(2011):89. 

[8] Ibid 100

[9] Asian Development Bank. Emerging Asian Regionalism. A Partnership for Shared Prosperity. (Philippines: Asian Development Bank, 2008), 88.

[10] Ibid 99

[11] Osman Ali. “Islamic Work Ethic: A Critical Review.” Cross Cultural Management 15, no.1 (2008): 10.

[12] Hollman Abbassi. “Islamic Economic Foundations and Practices.” International Journal of Social Economics 16, no.5(2009):57.

[13] Ibid 60

[14] Charles Keyes. Asian Visions of Authority: Religion and the Modern States of East and Southeast Asia. (Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 2014), 112.

[15] Osman 17.

[16] Barro, Rojas. “Religion and Economic Growth Across Countries.” American Sociological Review 68, no. 5(2003):760.

[17] Ibid 778.

[18] Hajj Ali. “Foundations of Business Ethics in Contemporary Religious Thought: The Ten Commandments Perspective.” International Journal of Social Economics 25, no.10 (2008):56.

[19] Ibid 62

[20] Nickson Cole. “Cross-Cultural Conceptions of Organizational Justice: The Impact of Eastern Religions/Philosophies.” The Business Review, Cambridge 12, no.2(2009):22.

[21] Lin Yueh-Mei. “Religion and the Making of Modern East Asia.” Journal of Buddhist Ethics 20, no.3(2013):79.

[22] Ibid 80

[23] Barnard Cornwell. “A Cross-Cultural Study of the Role of Religion in Consumers’ Ethical Positions.”  International marketing Review 22, no.5(2005):546.

[24] Muyu Tian. Confucian Culture and its Influence over Modern Business Management. (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2012), 7.

[25] Ibid 10

[26] Ibid 12

[27] Fredrick Luthan. “Entrepreneurial Self-Efficacy in Central Asian Transition Economies: Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis.” Journal of International Business Studies 37, no.1(2006):109.