Academic journal article Journal of Markets & Morality

The National Economy and the Religious Personality (1909)

Academic journal article Journal of Markets & Morality

The National Economy and the Religious Personality (1909)

Article excerpt

In Memoriam to Ivan Feodorovich Tokmakov (1)

The political economy of our times belongs to sciences that do not remember their own spiritual kinship. Its origins are lost in the quicksand of philosophy of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. At its cradle stand, on one side, the representatives of the Natural Law doctrine with their belief in the inviolability of human nature and pre-established natural harmony, and, on the other side, preachers of utilitarianism--J. Bentham and his disciples who proceed from the notion of society as a summation of disconnected atoms, mutually jostling representatives of different interests. The society is viewed here as the mechanics of these interests, the social philosophy is transformed into the "political arithmetic" of which Bentham dreamt. The political economy assimilated from him is the abstract, one-sided, simplified notion of man, a notion that still reigns in political economy. In this, among other ways, the prerequisite of the classic political economy was formed--the notion of "economic man," who does not eat and sleep but always calculates interests, seeking the greatest benefit at lowest costs; a slide rule that reacts with mathematical accuracy to the outer mechanism of redistribution and production, which is governed by its own laws of life. Already A. Smith has made a basic methodological distinction between the altruistic and egoistic instincts of man, and, notably, he studied the former in his Theory of Moral Sentiments, which falls into the department of ethics, but the impacts in the latter--The Wealth of Nations--belong to the department of political economy. Thus, political economy began its existence with a fractional value instead of a whole unit. In the future, this conventional methodological distinction has been similarly forgotten by Smith's continuators. With Ricardo, the classic political economy adopted as dogma the teaching of Bentham. In this way, a worldview was formed that later received the name of the Manchester School. The living psychological personality has been scratched out by this school and substituted by the above-mentioned methodological prerequisite of the economic man, the society has been converted as if into a sack of atoms that do not need to interfere with their mutual motion, while the atoms themselves remain mutually impenetrable. Socialism was created as if it was an antithesis to both classical political economy and Manchesterianism, but, in its basic features, it just followed the spiritual tradition of Bentham, as personified by Robert Owen in England; by Lassal and especially Marx in Germany and; in general, by the most popular form of the materialistic concept of socialism. In the same measure as Manchesterianism, it mechanizes the society and eliminates the living human personality and the idea, intrinsically linked with this personality, of responsibility and creative will. As an illustration, let us recall at least the doctrine of R. Owen that the human character is entirely formed by external circumstances and that, for this reason, personal responsibility and freedom do not exist. Notably, following this fatalistic concept in obvious contradiction with himself, Owen still found it possible to call people for social reforms, addressing their conscience, their freedom. A similar notion of personality lay in the foundations of economic materialism, and, in building on it, socialism suffers the same contradictions. As far as socialism remains in the Manchester School, it is Manchesterianism inside-out, or counter-Manchesterianism; with the only difference that instead of a lonesome individual there is a social class here, that is, a summation of personalities with a common interest--the same economic man, but not an individual, instead a group and a class. (2) Economic categories are essentially interpreted as masks or cothurnus in an ancient Greek tragedy that hide a living face. …

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