The Profit Motive

Business owners do not normally work for money either. They work for
the enjoyment of their competitive skill, in the context of a life
where competing skillfully makes sense. The money they earn supports
this way of life. The same is true of their businesses. One might
think that they view their businesses as nothing more than machines to
produce profits, since they do closely monitor their accounts to keep
tabs on those profits.

But this way of thinking replaces the point of the machine’s activity
with a diagnostic test of how well it is performing. Normally, one
senses whether one is performing skillfully. A basketball player does
not need to count baskets to know whether the team as a whole is in
flow. Saying that the point of business is to produce profit is like
saying that the whole point of playing basketball is to make as many
baskets as possible. One could make many more baskets by having no
opponent.

The game and styles of playing the game are what matter because they
produce identities people care about. Likewise, a business develops an
identity by providing a product or a service to people. To do that it
needs capital, and it needs to make a profit, but no more than it
needs to have competent employees or customers or any other thing that
enables production to take place. None of this is the goal of the
activity.

Disclosing New Worlds: Entrepreneurship, Democratic Action and the Cultivation of Solidarity by Charles Spinosa, Fernando Flores & Hubert Dreyfus (MIT Press 1997)