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Philosophy of Economy

Philosophy of Economy: The World as Household

Sergei Bulgakov
Translated, Edited, and with an Introduction by Catherine Evtuhov
Copyright Date: 2000
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 360
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    Philosophy of Economy
    Book Description:

    The writings of Sergei Bulgakov (1871-1944), like those of other major social thinkers of Russia's Silver Age, were obliterated from public consciousness under Soviet rule. Discovered again after eighty years of silence, Bulgakov's work speaks with remarkable directness to the postmodern listener. This outstanding translation ofPhilosophy of Economybrings to English-language speakers for the first time a major work of social theory written by a critical figure in the Russian tradition of liberal thought.What is unique about Bulgakov, Catherine Evtuhov explains in her introduction to this book, is that he bridges two worlds. His social thought is firmly based in the Western tradition, yet some of his ideas reflect a specifically Russian way of thinking about society. Though arguing strenuously in favor of political and social liberty, Bulgakov repudiates the individualistic basis of Western liberalism in favor of a conception of human dignity that is compatible with collectivity. His economic theory stresses the spiritual content of life in the world and imagines national life as a kind of giant household. Bulgakov's work, with its singularly postmodern balance between Western and non-Western, offers fascinating implications for those in the process of reevaluating ideologies in post-Soviet Russia and in America as well.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13285-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-34)
    Catherine Evtuhov

    The end of a century and the beginning of a new one can be a moment of self-consciousness, when people pause in their usual activities to reflect on the direction of their civilization and to wonder what the future might hold. The cities of Europe—from Paris to St. Petersburg, from Berlin and Vienna to Moscow and Kiev—became consumed, in the final years of the nineteenth century, by a passion for introspection and experimentation, by a rejection of old moral norms and a taste for the good life, by a joyful creative energy and a worldly decadence. In Russia...

  4. Preface
    (pp. 35-38)
  5. CHAPTER 1 The Problem of the Philosophy of Economy
    (pp. 39-76)

    One of the most outstanding traits of contemporary humanity’s outlook is something we might call theeconomismof our epoch. So-called economic materialism constitutes merely the most radical and perfect formulation of this general attitude and, however questionable this doctrine may seem to us, however shaky its philosophical, scientific, metaphysical, and empirical foundations, this deeper significance makes it something more than just a scientific doctrine that crumbles when it is shown to be inadequate. In a certain sense, economic materialism is actually indestructible, insofar as it describes the immediate reality of a particular experience or apperception of the world that...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Natural-Philosophical Bases of the Theory of Economy
    (pp. 77-94)

    Every economic act consists in a certain objective action and requires a man’s coming out of himself to act in the external world. It is a certain exertion in the world of things and an action on things: whether this is the labor of an agriculturist, an industrial worker, a mechanic, an engineer, or a scientific researcher, or whether this is work to organize a factory with mechanical division of labor or trade and speculation, economy in all these cases is an action on things, that is, objective action.Im Anfang war die Tat,says economic practice; and it is...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Significance of the Basic Economic Functions
    (pp. 95-122)

    Economic life can ultimately be reduced to a metabolic process, to something like circulation or an alternation of inhaling and exhaling. In the language of political economy, production corresponds to inhalation, consumption to exhalation. The economic cycle consists in these two acts, production and consumption; these are the essential economic functions. For this reason the general questionHow is economy possible?reduces to two more particular questions, namely: How is production possible, and how is consumption possible?

    Let us begin with consumption.

    Every living organism, as a body, as organized material, is inextricably connected with the universe as a whole,...

  8. CHAPTER 4 On the Transcendental Subject of Economy
    (pp. 123-156)

    What we call economy is empirically expressed as a plurality of disparate economic acts performed by separate people over the course of time and space,¹ just as knowledge (science) exists only in the form of separate acts of cognition, scientific experiments, specialized investigations. But when we takeeconomyas a generic term (just as when we think of knowledge as a conceptual whole), we unquestionably transcend this division into disparate acts and regard them as the manifestation of a singleunifiedand coherent function that is more than merely the algebraic sum of its parts.We then see these separate acts...

  9. CHAPTER 5 The Nature of Science
    (pp. 157-195)

    Truth is not an immediate object for theoretical knowledge. The single Truth is inaccessible or transcendent to discursive knowledge; it therefore constitutes, to use Kantian language, but an “ideal” of knowledge. Because Truth is beyond history, only movement, rather than a clear goal, is evident in the latter; history stretches out in an endless series of discourses in knowledge and action. Truth as such doesn’t fit into any one of these particular projects, with the result that, in practice, there is no one truth but only the many truths of various sciences and only particular historical goals. Knowledge and history...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Economy as a Synthesis of Freedom and Necessity
    (pp. 196-222)

    The reflecting (“epistemological”) subject, abstract and lifeless, confronts the object, or topic, of cognition, as something outside himself; his only relation to this object is the function of cognition—that ideal assimilation into science that is but one of the activities of man as living, concrete subject. The same subject, in his capacity as an economic actor, not only reflects on the object before him butfeelsit outside himself, alienated from himself. He experiences the object not only as a problem of knowledge (or his own ideal limit) but as the limit of his power, his very being, and...

  11. CHAPTER 7 The Limits of Social Determinism
    (pp. 223-244)

    The currently popular doctrine of social determinism, which conceives human life as a mechanism of cause and effect and views history as subject to immutable laws, conflicts with our understanding of life as a ceaselessly interactive synthesis of freedom and necessity—ascreativityor ashistory.A deterministic view of history likens its movement to the wound-up mechanism of a clock and therefore considers itself capable (in principle if not in fact) of scientifically predicting the future, of “prognosis” based on a calculation of causes and effects; sociology then becomes a sort of inferior or incomplete astronomy or, more generally,...

  12. CHAPTER 8 The Phenomenology of Economy
    (pp. 245-261)

    The sense of economy as an interaction of collective humanity and nature, sophic in its foundations and endowed with cosmic meaning, is not of course present in the minds of particular economic actors as they go about their practical lives. Their attention, riveted to the particular, remains ignorant of the whole. Disparate cognitive acts are addressed only to a particular problem rather than to knowledge generally, as an interaction of man and the world, though ultimately they together comprise the phenomenology of knowledge; disparate households, or disparate economic acts, are addressed toward particular economic aims rather than the ultimate goals...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Economic Materialism as a Philosophy of Economy
    (pp. 262-286)

    It is very easy to criticize so-called economic materialism, demonstrating its roughness and incompleteness, its ugly onesidedness. It has too many aspects that are indefensible and open to criticism. Among philosophers it evokes only disdain for its crude dogmatism and naive materialism, and this inadequacy of form precludes any desire on their part to examine its substance. For the educated public, which “sympathizes with all that is lofty and beautiful” and prizes aesthetic culture above all else, economic materialism reeks too strongly of workers’ sweat and industrial smoke; to them it looks like barbarism, incapable of appreciating “cultural values,” and...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 287-327)
  15. Glossary of Greek Terms
    (pp. 328-328)
  16. Glossary of Names
    (pp. 329-338)
  17. Index
    (pp. 339-348)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 349-350)