Book Review:
Blending the Best of the East and West in Management Education
Authors: Chowdhury, S., & Bhattacharjee, S.

Chowdhury, S., & Bhattacharjee, S. (Eds.), 2002. Blending the Best of the East and West in Management Education, New Delhi: Excel Books.

Reviewed by: Werner Soontiens

To compile this text, the editors gathered the leading papers of a conference held in Calcutta in March 2001. The papers have a strong Indian focus and the book supplies a complete and excellent insight into the framework and spirituality that surrounds Indian management education. The preface to the text explains the history, complexity and symbolism of management education in India.

The first four chapters, although not integrated, compare the nature of management in specific countries in the West, with the demands and expectations of management in the traditional Indian environment. These chapters indicate that the western management style has severe shortcomings and is ‘unexportable’ in the Indian environment characterised by a search for harmony, ethics and spirituality. The authors are clearly critical of the West and point out the shortcomings of management education and practices in specific western countries. At the same time, these chapters exuberate a strong message of Indian nationalism and pride. The next three chapters consider the management styles, demands and attributes of Asian countries. In these, the reader is given a clear picture of similarities and differences of management practices in the East. These chapters explain the cultural values and principles of Confucianism, Malaysian and Australian indigenous styles and their management implications. These chapters would have added a significant contribution if they were contextualised against a similar description of Indian values. The following chapter, chapter 8, is somewhat of a stand-alone chapter in that it discusses ten deep stratum questions from a psychological and philosophical angle.

Chapters 9 to 12, commenting on the view of business, contribute in the sense of providing hands-on examples of what works and what does not work in management in India. Reference to practitioners is discussed here. Chapters 13 and 14 focus on human resource issues. These chapters spell out that in the Indian environment, spirituality is a crucial ingredient in management. The following four chapters (15 to 18) are, in my view, the most outstanding. The synthesis given in these chapters is self critical and considers the Indian management environment and its shortcomings in the context of the local values, environment, strengths and weaknesses. These chapters also constructively suppose potential solutions that would allow a localisation of Indian management and management education. These solutions include the active pursuit of attitude changes, the recognition that the Indian environment is unique and thus needs tailor-made solutions, the marrying of seemingly opposite objectives and outcomes, the gradual approach in management development and the inclusion of spirituality as an inspiration in management education.

The last four chapters (19 to 22) are more concise contributions focussed on potential solutions and changes to enhance management education in India. These chapters point out that it is important to understand both the Indian and the Western management education framework, ideologies and environment in order to optimise cross fertilisation and, indeed, blend the best of the East and the West in management education. In addition, it is reiterated that the Indian ethos, values and spirituality is most likely an important cornerstone of future management education efforts. Unfortunately, the book does not read as a unit and there is no golden thread throughout. It is a pity that the editors did not establish a higher level of integration throughout the chapters. Most of the chapters are linked merely by having similar titles, but content wise they are considerably different. With the strong focus on India, the title of the publication does not reflect the content which is more indicative of why Western management practices and, thus, education does not fit the Indian mould.

Werner Soontiens
Curtin University of Technology