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Individual and organizational behaviors are profoundly affected by our sense of beauty. In Greek philosophy, beauty was considered a form of truth. In the last lines of his Ode to the Grecian Urn, Keats immortalized the idea of beauty as truth: “beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”. So, it is not surprising that in recent years, management studies have begun developing an aesthetic understanding of organizations. Beauty and art are often used in management in instrumental ways to enhance the appeal and quality of products and communication with customers (advertising). Our focus in this paper is on critically examining the very idea of “beauty”, and exploring its implications to address global environmental, economic and social sustainability challenges and to provide an associated basis for business education.
On the one hand, beauty is a concept well propounded in Western and Eastern art and aesthetics, but the Chinese perspective is often ignored (Jullien, 2016, 2018, 2020) especially in education (Chemi et al., 2019). On the other hand, aesthetics practices are more and more used in management education (Mack, 2012, 2015; Sutherland, 2013; Taylor & Ladkin, 2009), some joining aesthetics and business ethics (Koehn & Elm, 2014) or advocating a holistic perspective to engage sustainability and social challenges for students (Ivanaj et al., 2014) and for leaders (Scharmer & Kaeufer, 2019). It is therefore relevant to specify the conceptual basis for beauty in management education…


Aesthetic practices are increasingly used in management education. Beauty is a concept well propounded in Western and Eastern art and aesthetics, however the Chinese perspective is often ignored, especially in education. The purpose of this theoretical article is to question the conceptual basis of art and aesthetics used in management education in order to foster sustainability education. Our specific approach is to open a dialogue with the Chinese conception of aesthetics, particularly focusing on its link to life and flourishing. By looking at different conceptions of beauty in Western and Chinese thoughts, we review the dominant Western perspective. We provide a non-ethnocentric conception of beauty and offer relevant insights into beautifying management education.
Three stages mark this conceptual article on the challenges of beauty in management in the context of sustainability. First, we present and analyze the living ARTEM case, a 20-year experience in higher education in France. Second, we question the Western concept of “beautiful” vis-à-vis the Chinese relational view of beauty as interpreted by philosopher and sinologist Francois Jullien. Finally, we analyze the potential of beauty to sustainably “enliven” management education. We suggest that beauty, in line with the concept of connivance as suggested by Jullien, can serve as an enlivenement process to beautify management and business education. Connivance works as sensory and relational knowledge, especially adapted to better understand and mobilize aesthetics practices in sustainability education.

  • aesthetics
  • beauty
  • enlivenment
  • sustainability
  • business education

Art et esthétique dans l’éducation au développement durable. L’éclairage de François Jullien pour embellir la formation au management

La beauté se déploie conceptuellement dans les champs de l’art et de l’esthétique, en Occident comme en Orient, même si la perspective chinoise est souvent ignorée en éducation. Par ailleurs, les pratiques esthétiques sont de plus en plus utilisées dans la formation au management. Le but de cet article théorique est de questionner les bases conceptuelles des pratiques dans le champ de la formation en lien avec un développement durable. Notre approche se caractérise par le dialogue ouvert avec la conception chinoise en art et esthétique, dans ses connections nourrissantes avec le vivant. La prise en compte des deux conceptions, occidentale et chinoise, permet de dépasser l’approche européenne dominante et d’éviter une lecture ethnocentrique pour offrir un éclairage pertinent à un « embellissement » de la formation au management. Trois étapes scandent cet article conceptuel sur les enjeux du beau au service du développement durable. Nous présentons et analysons d’abord le cas ARTEM et ses 20 années d’expérience dans le champ de l’enseignement supérieur en France. Nous questionnons ensuite le concept du beau en vis-à-vis de la conception chinoise avec le philo sophe et sinologue François Jullien. Enfin, nous analysons le potentiel esthétique pour vivifier durablement la formation au management. Le concept du beau associé à celui de connivence peut servir un processus vivifiant d’embellissement du management et de la formation. La connivence stimule une connaissance sensorielle et relationnelle, particulièrement adaptée pour comprendre et mobiliser les pratiques esthétiques en matière de développement durable.

  • esthétique
  • beauté
  • enlivenment
  • développement durable
  • formation au management
Sybille Persson
Sybille Persson (PhD, HDR) is a Research Affiliate, affiliated with the Department of Human Resource and Organizational Behavior at ICN Business School, and a member of CEREFIGE, the research laboratory of Management sciences at The University of Lorraine. She regularly publishes in scientific and professional journals. For ten years, aside from her work on coaching and mentoring, she specifically focused on the impact of traditional Chinese thought on management via the work of philosopher and sinologist François Jullien. The goal is to foster the strategic and ethical evolution of managerial practices in line with the “thoughts”, but also the “unthought”, which feed those practices. That is how Sybille joined the board of the Association Décoïncidences established in September 2020 around François Jullien. The board is multi-disciplinary and is intellectually, civically and actively engaged in public life. Learn more at:
Paul Shrivastava
Paul Shrivastava, is Chief Sustainability Officer at Pennsylvania State University, Director of the Sustainability Institute, and Professor of Management. He is a member of the Club of Rome. Previously, he was the Executive Director of Future Earth, where he established the secretariat for global environmental change programs. He served as David O’Brien Distinguished Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at Concordia University, Montreal. He leads the UNESCO Chair in Arts and Science for Sustainable Development Goals at ICN Business School, Nancy, France, and is an advisor to the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Kyoto, Japan. He has published 17 books and over 130 articles in refereed and scholarly journals.
Dr. Laszlo Zsolnai
Laszlo Zsolnai is professor and director of the Business Ethics Center at The University of Budapest, Corvinus. He is chairman of the Business Ethics Faculty Group of the CEMS – The Global Alliance in Management Education. He is president of the European SPES Institute in Leuven, Belgium and a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts in London, UK. He has been a guest professor/visiting scholar at The University of Cambridge, The University of Oxford, The University of California at Berkeley, Georgetown University, The University of Richmond, Concordia University Montreal, The University of St. Gallen, Bocconi University Milan, and the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study. His most recent books include The Palgrave Handbook of Spirituality and Business (2011. Palgrave Macmillan); Beyond Self: Ethical and Spiritual Dimensions of Economics (2014. Peter Lang Academic Publishers, Oxford); The Spiritual Dimension of Business Ethics and Sustainability Management (2015, Springer), and Ethics, Meaning and Market Society (2018, Routledge). His website:
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