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The Quarterly Journal of St. Philaret’s Institute

ISSN: 2658-7599 (print)
2713-3141 (online)

“Economic ethics” in the context of the Russian Silver Age 

Andrey Teslya, Cand. Sci. (Philosophy), Senior Research, Scientific Director of the Research Center for Russian Thought, Institute for Humanities, Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University
pp. 77–98
DOI: 10.25803/26587599_2023_46_77
Issues of economic ethics, and more broadly the transformation of economic behaviour, have been the focus of European thought since the early nineteenth century, as the capitalist economic system began to emerge and traditional models faced obvious challenges. Russia was no exception to this rule — the debates around these subjects, which began in the Free Economic Society as early as the eighteenth century, were gaining weight and importance as the establishment of capitalist relations while a universal reality became more and more evident. For Russia, the final turning point towards capitalism occurs in the 1890s, traditionally described as the debate between “Narodniks” and “Marxists”. Russian social thought, primarily connected in one way or another with Marxism (which is characteristic of such leading social thinkers and publicists of the first decade of the 20th century as P. B. Struve, S. N. Bulgakov, N. A. Berdyaev, S. L. Frank), was oriented towards German debates of the 1880s and early 1900s on similar problems: the genesis of capitalist behaviour, the cultural conditioning of this type of economy, etc. One line of reflection within a culturally conditioned understanding of contemporary Western capitalism was the question of the possibility of another modern type of economic behaviour on the basis of a different cultural foundation: the anti-capitalist character of the ideological aspirations of domestic intellectuals searched for the possibility of founding another economic reality. On the other hand, the question arose as to how the assimilation of the capitalist mentality was possible, whether it (precisely as culturally conditioned) posed a threat to the Russian spiritual tradition, i. e. whether it did not simultaneously generate a process of cultural substitution. One of the lines of these debates, including those related to the problems of brotherhood, was conditioned in this context by the experiences of reading Max Weber’s “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”. This article deals with this episode of Russian intellectual history, focusing on the interpretations given by P. B. Struve and S. N. Bulgakov in the situation of the late 1900s. Ultimately, Struve gives a negative answer to the question of the resources for the production of the economic capitalist ethic, fixing a new position of the “religious” as linked to an “individual worldview”. The formation of a new order radically transformed the very conditions that made it possible — and thus it becomes impossible to think of the emergence of a new order according to a model similar to the formation of the existing one. In fact, a similar order of reasoning can be traced in an imperceptible way for the author in Bulgakov — where the very necessity for a new economic ethic is motivated by economic needs and thereby asserts the economic order as predominant, as the final instance of the collective.
Keywords: religious ethics, economic ethics, Orthodoxy, sociology of religion, secularization, Max Weber, V. V. Rozanov, S. N. Bulgakov, P. B. Struve
For citation: Teslya A. A. (2023). “‘Economic ethics’ in the context of the Russian Silver Age”. The Quarterly Journal of St. Philaret’s Institute, iss. 46, pp. 77–98. https://doi.org/10.25803/26587599_2023_46_77.

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