Author WILLIAM F. MAY
Publisher WESTMINSTER JOHN KNOX PRESS
The author of this book is a professor emeritus at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas Texas. He was founding director of the Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility at SMU and of a department of religious studies at Indiana University. This will alert anyone considering reading this book as to what they should expect. Although it is not overtly a Christian book the whole content rises from that perspective. Those in the professions such as lawyers, medical practitioners, corporate executives, professors and politicians, (to name but a few) wield enormous public power affecting their clients, patients, workers, students and citizens whilst they themselves do not perceive their impact and this book examines the vital need for the clear moral and ethical underpinnings in the way that all these holding influence in society should espouse. I found this book full of instruction; its subtitle “the public obligation of the professional” indicates the author’s emphasis. Although primarily dealing with life in the United States, much is pertinent to other western countries. The author concentrates on questions of professional character and virtue and examines the way that financial considerations are defiling the professions. This is a book with an expansive perspective and the historical analyses are illuminating. The changes that have occurred and the way they have unfolded leading to a state of affairs where professionals lack moral courage and are the playthings of the market place mentality is challenging to consider. These shifts have changed society, the emerging power of the non-professional body, the media means that multitudes of us are being taught and informed by those who are themselves untaught and who have only a slight acquaintance with the matters about which they pontificate. Chapters in the book include those about money and the professions, adversarialism and the professions, professional engineers and their relations with nature whether as adversary or friend, as well as a serious look at the unacknowledged public rulers, the corporate executives and the power that they wield. There is plenty of food for thought as this author examines teaching in the Universities and colleges as well as the unordained celebrities who are allowed to become instructors on all sorts of matters. All in all this is a ‘large’ book and for those in the Christian Ministry there is one chapter devoted to that subject entitled ‘Ordained to what public purpose.” This book is not for the casual reader, but for those prepared to do some serious thinking.