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A New Hope for the Business School

Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria.
Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria. By Sharleen Y. Loh
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board.

Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria in a recent interview spoke to the growing mistrust in capitalism, particularly among young people. His comments addressed the Business School’s role in restoring that confidence and working to support developments in the curriculum like the popular course, “Reimagining Capitalism.” Nohria went on to highlight other areas of change, such as directing more research to issues affecting economically-marginalized communities and improving delivery of social and public goods like healthcare and education. The interview also touched on ongoing efforts at the Business School to foster better racial and gender diversity at the school.

As the leader of a premier global institution of capitalism, Nohria’s comments underscore the extent to which capitalism as a totalizing economic system is facing a crisis of political sustainability. Far-right movements in the U.S. and around the world, worsening inequality, and rampant economic exploitation — not to mention a sense that young Americans are getting the short end of the stick — only serve to underline this trend. As dean of the Business School, Nohria is in a unique position to set a vision and agenda for the school that seek to consciously and systematically reform capitalism and educate its newest leaders to combat these systemic issues.

We are fully cognizant of the conflicts and difficulties inherent in this kind of deliberate self-transformation — especially for an institution like the Business School, whose existence is tied so inextricably to the perpetuation of often-pernicious market forces and the empowerment of a moneyed upper class. In particular, Nohria’s statements that focused on restoring society’s trust in capitalism seemed to suggest that the primary problem with capitalism is its image.

We disagree with that assessment. A broader view of the challenges to the modern economic system demands a more systemic rethink of the Business School’s role in the business community and the economic system it champions more broadly.

That rethink requires change far beyond the work already being done at the school, not least in terms of directing research dollars and devising a new curriculum. Efforts at improving diversity and inclusion at the school, though admirable, do not go nearly far enough in laying out a way forward. Rather, the Business School can and should reorient itself to searching for systemic reforms and researching them to address the above matters.

Whether or not Nohria expands on the spirit of his comments to grapple with the enormity of the problem facing capitalism, we as a Board feel it is important to emphasize the opportunity that stands before him and the Business School.

We are at a moment in history marked by political instability and dissatisfaction with capitalism, as Nohria acknowledges. If the school wishes to stay relevant, it seems to have two choices. It can seek to perpetuate capitalism in its current form and benefit from its position as an important educational center in that system, accepting the inequalities that go with that choice. Or it can stake a claim to leading a vital new project, reimagining the shape and role of capitalism in our society and world.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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