Социальный успех и экономический идеал: грани взаимодействия

UDC 1; 123; 174; 177
Publication date: 07.01.2019
International Journal of Professional Science №1-2019

Социальный успех и экономический идеал: грани взаимодействия


Гельфонд Мария Львовна
Мищук Оксана Николаевна
Мирошина Евгения Юрьевна
1. доктор философских наук, доцент, заведующий кафедрой гуманитарных дисциплин Тульского филиала РЭУ им. Г.В. Плеханова, г. Тула
2. кандидат филологических наук, доцент кафедры гуманитарных дисциплин Тульского филиала РЭУ им. Г.В. Плеханова, г. Тула
3. кандидат экономических наук, доцент кафедры гуманитарных дисциплин Тульского филиала РЭУ им. Г.В. Плеханова, г. Тула

Gelfond Mariya Lvovna,
Mishchuk Oksana Nikolaevna,
Miroshina Evgeniya Yurievna,

1. Doctor of Philosophical Sciences, Associate Professor, Head of the Department of Humanities, Tula Branch of Plekhanov Russian University of Economics
2. Candidate of Philological Sciences, Assistant Professor, Tula Branch of Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, Tula
3. Сandidate of Economic Sciences, Assistant Professor, Tula Branch of Plekhanov Russian University of Economics, Tula
Аннотация: Актуальность авторского замысла статьи обусловлена социально-политическими, экономическими реалиями современного социума. Целью исследования, лежащего в основе данной статьи, является категориально-логическая реконструкция и сравнительный анализ понятий «социальный успех» и «экономический идеал». Авторы статьи демонстрируют мультидисциплинарный подход к изучаемой проблеме, используя для ее решения методы философского, лингвокультурологического и социологического анализа. Методология исследования носит новаторский характер и позволяет реализовывать комплексный подход к изучению «пограничной» проблемы в области гуманитарного и социально-экономического знания. Результаты исследования подтверждают авторскую гипотезу, о том, что социальный успех и экономический идеал, анализируемые в качестве понятий и феноменов общественной жизни, соотносятся по принципу взаимодополнительности. Достижение успешности в развитии общества может быть интерпретировано как оптимальный выбор стратегических целей, определяемых образом экономического идеала. Этот вывод косвенно подтверждают данные социологических исследований, проведенных Фондом общественного мнения (ФОМ), иллюстрирующие соотношение материальных и духовных ценностей в контексте понимания взаимосвязи общественных представлений о критериях успешности и возможностях реализации экономического идеала. Проблематика статьи может стать предметом широкой общественной дискуссии о выборе стратегии успешного развития общества в переходный период.

Abstract: The relevance of the authors’ idea of the article is determines by social, political and economic facts of the modern society. The goal of the research is the categorial and logical reconstruction and comparative analysis of the phenomena “social success” and “economic ideal”. The authors of the paper apply multidisciplinary approach to the studied problem, using the methods of philosophic, linguacultural and sociologic analysis. The methodology of the research is innovative and allows to apply a complex approach to studying the borderline problem in the area of humanitarian and socioeconomic expertise. The research results prove the authors’ hypothesis that social success and economic ideal analyzed as the phenomena of the social life correlate on the principal of complementarity. The success achievement may be interpreted as an optimal choice of strategic aims determined the economic ideal. The conclusion is indirectly proved by social research conducted by Public Opinion Foundation. The data show the balance between material and spiritual values in the frame of understanding the ties of social ideas about the criteria of success and the ways of the possible implementation of the economic ideal. The problematique of the article may be the subject of a wide-ranging public discussion about the choice of the strategy of the successful development at the transition stage.
Ключевые слова: социальный успех, экономический идеал, общество, культура потребления, ценности

Keywords: social success, economic ideal, society, values, culture of consumption.


A complex interpretation of the economic ideal is a key characteristic of the contemporary culture. “One of the distinguishing features of the historical health of our epoch is economism. We can confirm without any exaggeration that neither of a historical era understands the economic nature of life and tends to perceive the world as a household”. (Bulgakov,1993). These words pronounced by S.N. Bulgakov more than a hundred years ago are of vital importance today and draw our attention to the matter about the nature and aims of economy and the role of its entities. So, understanding the particularity of the economic ideal as a primary trend of the successful social development both in its historical and futurological facets may become a challenge either for academic elite or for modern society in general.

S.N. Bulgakov, Russian economist, philosopher and theologist, is considered to be an initiator of such a dispute and the author of the article “About economic ideal”, written in 1903 and published in the collection of scientific articles “From Marxism to idealism”. Bringing up a common scientific question about the nature and specific features of the economic ideal, S.N. Bulgakov writes about metaphysical and ethics and axiological aspects of the problem: a heteronomous or absolute and relative status of the economic ideal; antinomy of hedonism (tough Epicureanism, according to the author’s terminology) and asceticism to understand wealth as a value of the economic life, and also the problem of the criteria of a personal success and a society as economic agents.

The article is founded on his inaugural lecture to the course “Critical introductory to political economy” that does not de-emphasize the original ethics and philosophic intention of Bulgakov’s idea. Moreover, the existence of political economy as a scientific subject is determined not by “theoretical but ethical requirements of a contemporary humanity”, so “political economy … is applied ethics, that is  ethics of the economic life(Bulgakov,1903), that is a part of the ethical science or a type of the normative ethics that is able to coordinate universal imperative valuable moral principals with certain tasks, the specificity of differentiated social practices and different spheres of human activity (in this case, economic one) (Gelfond,2013).

It is also an interesting fact that in the introduction to the first part of his fundamental work “Philosophy of economy” – “The world as a household” which “discloses the common bases of economy and its ontology” S.N. Bulgakov tells about the incompleteness of his plan and about the perspectives of writing the second part of his work where “the problem of the justification of economy, its ontology and eschatology” will be discussed, and  “the problem of the relations of flesh and spirit (ethics of economy) and about the sense of history and culture” will be researched (Bulgakov,1993). However, this idea did not come true.

The key-note of Bulgakov’s arguments is the obvious fact that one of the primary problems both in the history of philosophical and scientific thought and in the life of any individual and various human communities is the search for the ideal (Gelfond, Mishchuk, Miroshina, 2018; Gelfond, Mishchuk, Miroshina, 2018). The multifaceted nature of the notion is determined by the research interest of different philosophic and scientific schools in the search for the reply to the questions: “What is an ideal? Where is a borderline between familiar notions and ideal ones? Is an ideal a social myth or reality? How do human perceptions of an ideal modify?” All the above mentioned and many other existing matters tell of an open discussion for well-founded answers. There are not obvious answers to these questions in the frame of modern social philosophic and social political discourse.

Methodological framework

All of the above determines the originality and scientific value of the research project forming the basis of the article. Its methodological foundation is based on an integrated approach to the analysis of the concept «ideal». Despite the fact that the problem of understanding the phenomenon “ideal” has been widely analyzed for a long time by various branches of the humanities, these studies were restricted by narrow-disciplined approaches. Therefore, the purpose of this research is to form a multi-faceted view on the concept “ideal».

A comprehensive analysis of the concept «ideal» is based on the multidisciplinary research strategy. This strategy is grounded on the synthesis of methods and techniques of the following human sciences: linguistics, philosophy, psychology, sociology, historiography, cultural studies, etc. The authors use such methods as linguoculturological, etymological, comparative, structural and functional analysis, the method of categorical and logical reconstruction, questioning, interviewing, content analysis, etc.

The similar innovative analytical strategy has already been applied by the authors for studying another controversial phenomenon “success” (Gelfond, Mishchuk, Miroshina, 2017) and the results of the study are taken as a theoretical and methodological basis for the following research.

The main phases and the results of the research

An etymologic excursus is the first step in an analysis of any notion because its understanding through the spectacle of contemporary scientific views will not be complete without analyzing the evolutionary development of the notion.

The word “ideal” rooted back to the German language and came into the Russian language in the XV century and it was initially used as an adjective. The word “ideal” in the meaning “ultimate implementation of something” became widespread in 1820s.

The phenomenon “ideal” may be studied by different scientific disciplines. Along with philosophy, sociology, psychology such sciences as semiotics, linguistics, cultural linguistics, and axiological linguistics studied the following phenomenon. The idea of anthropocentrism is one of the principal paradigms of modern linguistics, in other words, close ties of language and society or language and linguistic personality. We can speak about a constant aspiration of the human society to the development through the improvement of all forms of being. The society is thought to be a united community with common goals, beliefs and values, or is associated with any individual with his own personal ideals.

The language reflects culture and it is its tool as well as an important component of the valuable world picture, that’s why the authors speak about a verbal ideal. A language society improves a communicative process while self-developing and reaching ideal characteristics (Gelfond, Mishchuk, Miroshina, 2017; Gelfond, Mishchuk, Miroshina, 2018).

The pursuance of reaching a communicative ideal went back to the Ancient times and connected with rhetoric that is rhetoric ideals. The Russian rhetoric ideal dated back to the Socratic type and is characterized by a dialogic and harmonious speech. According to S.N. Bulgakov, there are two models of homo communicans: homo loquens “heroic” taking over the world, and “ascetic”, who sees the world as something needs to be blessed.

However, the retrospective view on the development of the Russian society, when the search for not only moral and spiritual ideals but also economic well-being was in progress, reveals communication regress. The “gold rush”, total westernization, consumer society, so the aspiration to the economic ideal, results in losing the national language ideal. Anglicisms, lost Russian verbal traditions and substituted values ruin that esthetic language ideal which formed for centuries and handed down from generation to generation.

Analyzing Bulgakov’s ideas about the economic ideal from the linguoculturological and axiological points of view, the authors would like to tell that the search and rethink of one group of ideals can lead to the regress of the others. So, one must memorize that the truth is where there is a word and “a man is a man only thanks to the language” (Humboldt, 1984).

The category “ideal” is discussed in the philosophic discourse. It has a wide range of facets and connotations such as perfection, sample, the highest mark, maxima, global tasks and optimal results of human activity or certain personal qualities.

However, in spite of a great variety of contextual particularities the term “ideal” is often associated with a sample setting goals, standards, which are able to regulate effective ways and methods of reaching them and includes the criteria of estimating the received results. Moreover, both the “umbrella” complex of imperative and valuable characteristics of behaviour of individuals or social communities, and an image of a person who can have perfect features and unique capabilities may become the personification of the ideal.

The philosophic interpretation of the phenomenon “ideal” accumulates the triad of the following attributes:

  • Ontological, which is teleology of perfectionism where the ideal is associated with the goal itself;
  • Ethics and standard, which means the highest good as a source of moral responsibilities;
  • Axiological, that forms the image of the ideal as the top of the hierarchy of values in the cultural society.

For this very reason the absolute ideal has an incontestable existentialistic priority for any individual. Meanwhile, there is a key paradox showing that gnosiological narrow-mindedness of a human being as a knower turns out to be an insuperable obstacle which does not allow us to perceive and identify the ideal as the Absolute entirely and adequately.

In this case only faith can create a precedent of a subjective overcoming the gap between the imperfection of the human nature and the perfection of the absolute origin. So, only the religious ideal may be accepted as the equivalent of the absolute ideal because it initiates the immanence of the person’s existence and his highest good in opposition to the existence of the universum, because the latter is not restricted by the natural or social life.

In all other cases we deal with the diametrically opposed disposition when the image of the perfection standing in as the goal or personification of the highest good is certainly transcendent to the human life. Hereby the ideal appears relative in the imperfect human consciousness and falls into separate ideals filling the symbolic field of the human culture and generates pluralism of its guides that are familiar to our everyday perception of the social historical reality.

Stated differently, relative ideals are the representation of the highest perfection in any human activity: social, moral, ethical, scientific economic, etc. It is necessary to mention that there is not any common principle of their correlation, so it is impossible to build their hierarchy.  There are various approaches and points of views in this ideological frame which vary from the total subordination of ideals to their indifferent relation to each other.

There are a few dilemmas between moral and other types of ideals, particularly, between ethic and economic ideals. The correlation of ethic and economic ideals is in the focus of our research interest based on the Bulgakov’s article “About an economic ideal”.

Its principal thesis is that the economic ideal can not be understood entirely without understanding its correlation with the ethic ideal. What is more, in regard to the latter, the author summarized that “this absolute and relative ideal … is not independent, not absolute on its own as it is accepted by political economy, but gets its restriction from outside, lights with reflected light and is acknowledged as a means for a specific goal. Consequently, the ideal is not independent, it is heteronomous, and the appeal to the highest noneconomic echelon is possible in many cases in economic policy…”  (Bulgakov,1903), and this echelon can be defined in terms of the absolute moral and its ideal of the ethic perfection (Ethics: encyclopedia, 2001).

The letter is well known to have a variable and sometimes ambivalent character causing a number of metaphysical and ethic representations in history of philosophy. S.N. Bulgakov reduces all its complicated and contradictory ideological and imperative variety to the two main conceptual groups: hedonism and asceticism.

The author studies their opposition either as an example of a fundamental ontological and axiological antithesis of material and spiritual origins of the universe, or for creating a methodological base for reconstructing and analyzing the ways of reaching the ideal. According to the author’s beliefs, the economic ideal can be put into practice only being accepted as a logical and mental synthesis of hedonistic justification of human needs and an ascetic approach to their ranking, that is by means of “control of an ascetic origin over hedonism, finding a right correlation between them…both in a personal life, and in human history…” (Bulgakov,1903). Only in this context “the true, in other words, spiritual civilization which can be free from spiritualism or asceticism and from bourgeois hedonism” may exist (Bulgakov,1903), and the growing well-being and needs of a free personality might be a security of her constant spiritual and moral development and the anchor of her social and cultural identity (Gelfond, 2014).

So, Bulgakov is trying to find and explain the economic ideal by solving the problem with the production and wealth allocation which in its turn bounds up with the matter of the development of human needs.

Since antiquity sophists and scientists have spoken about the ways of accumulating wealth, about its optimal volume. For instance, Aristotle answered in the affirmative to the question “Is there a wealth limitation?” In his opinion wealth is livelihood. He criticized saving for saving. John Chrysostom told that a man’s desire to have more than he needs is evil. Mercantilists, the representatives of the first economic school, saw the source of wealth in saving gold and silver. Adam Smith, the representative of a classical school, considered labour to be a source of wealth.

  1. N. Bulgakov notes in his work that an important condition for the growth of wealth is the multiplication of needs. The author, trying to determine whether the wealth and growth of needs is a benefit, considers two opposite worldview paradigms: hedonism and asceticism. According to the first one, wealth is evil and needs must be reduced; in accordance with the second, one must not miss any pleasant sensations (it is necessary not only to increase the needs, but also to refine them).

Of course, a man of today cannot support the asceticism position. All the surrounding reality contradicts this. Today’s society is considered to be a consumer society. A person is obliged to buy more and more. Advertising and fashion working for the manufacturer form the needs and make the customer constantly feel that a particular product is required; change almost new things for more fashionable. The consumption becomes an end in itself (Miroshina, 2017).

In the modern world people often forget that needs are not only material, but also spiritual. Despite the fact that the focus on the material wealth has been seen as a path to the spiritual unification and moral depravation throughout the history of our country the spiritual has always been placed above the material. Today a lot of people are proud of possessing expensive mobile phones, luxury houses, prestigious work, but they forget about their inner world and self-realization. Others don’t read, don’t go to museums, don’t learn on their own, but also don’t want to do it because the most important thing for them is the possession of status items and financial resources (Miroshina, 2015).

At the same time wealth allows a person to develop because spiritual needs often require significant costs. When the survival problem arises, needs for self-development, communication, respect and others come second and even disappear. As S. N. Bulgakov rightly pointed out, the material life and wealth should not be an end in itself, they are only means to serve a higher, absolute purpose. This goal is spiritual work, expressed in various spiritual benefits, the set of which is called the cultural acquisition of this or that era.

What are the cultural achievements of the modern world? Most of books, films and paintings are for the mass consumption and are suitable for «single use» only (one can read, watch and forget). They don’t cause strong emotions, don’t make us worry about the characters; don’t impose the need to think about the work’s sense. The main task of the «popular culture» products is to make a profit, not to meet the spiritual needs.

The surveys of the Public Opinion Foundation have shown that about 30 percent of the respondents prefer watching entertainment programmes on TV, whereas a smaller part of people are interested in educational programmes. A great number of the participants watch TV programmes to rest, have a good time and forget about troubles (Data base of Public Opinion Foundation).

Scandals, aggression, horrors, «empty» TV programmes and series, advertising are constantly on TV. Children’s programmes don’t practically occur on the national television (or they are broadcast at an inconvenient time).  Upbringing of a whole generation has been in isolation from the national roots, building on materialistic and individualistic values without a clear and understandable vision of the future.

Freedom as well as economic freedom is an indispensable condition for achieving the higher purpose. There are several approaches to its definition (Miroshina, 2016) S. N. Bulgakov links it to the dependence on the nature. Despite the fact that nowadays a man has already come closer to the conquering nature, he is still far from true freedom (the attempts to control the weather lead to hurricanes and floods, the use of synthetic products leads to numerous diseases).

The growth of not only material, but also of spiritual needs contributes to the progress of the society. The thirst for knowledge stimulates the science; the communication need provides the improvement of means of communication, forms of social solidarity (Badzagua G.Zh., Mezhueva E.O., Klyuzova M.L., Ohendushko S.S., Volodin S.F. & Podrezov K.A., 2006) and ways to solve social problems, involving non-violence (Gelfond, Mishchuk, 2016). The development of spirit aims at the increase in its requests. It means that the optimal balance between the increase in requests and the degree to which they are satisfied defines the success of personal and social development.

From the S. N. Bulgakov’s point of view the formula for the economic ideal as well as for economic success is as follows. “Multiply your needs while the life of spirit and human dignity require, but be able to cut them as far as it requires” (Bulgakov,1903). One has to agree with him, the main thing is to avoid crossing one of the extremes – consumerism or strict self-restraint.   They violate this parity.

Thus, only an intellectual individual, capable of finding a middle ground between hedonism and asceticism, can be truly successful in the modern world. A spiritually autonomous person aiming at innovations will remember about the traditions of the past. The main responsibility for upbringing a reasonable consumer falls on the family and state institutions. A lot of habits and basic rules of behavior are educated in the family. The important task of the state is the family support (including material) and the organization of children and youth leisure. It is also necessary to promote spiritual and moral guidelines, preserve traditions, and cultivate family, labor and other values.

Therefore, the economic ideal as an image of the successful economic strategy is quite achievable, but requires serious efforts both from the individual and the society.



The contemporary society needs a consolidating value platform. In our opinion, the multifaceted concept “ideal” can be one of its aspects, which include both powerful motivating force for any human activity and an image of expected results.

However, there are ambivalent ideas about ideals, which have both negative and positive value characteristics in the public opinion. In the first case, we are talking about the ideal associated with Utopia, in other words, with an unreal model of personal and social development. In the second one, the ideal is considered to be an image of an expected result of natural, professional, creative and other achievements of an individual and a society.

In the present context, a comprehensive study and system analysis of the problem of understanding the concept “ideal” as a fundamental axiological category and a complex socio cultural phenomenon is relevant. Since this aspect has not been studied before, the research is innovative.


Thus, understanding the nature and fundamental facets of the economic ideal, the essential factors of its achievement depend on a particular society, on the prevailing values, on the existing codes of conduct. Nevertheless, the image of the economic ideal is not only an ideological abstract construction but also the most important indicator of success of social economic state and at the same time the criterion of further perspectives of the successful development of any society. The achievement of success as an essential motivator of activity and conduct of a contemporary man can become a determinant of social and economic and moral and spiritual progress of a nation and a modern civilization in general. The forming models and criteria of success can outline the national idea or alternative forecasting scenarios of the future of the whole humanity (Gelfond, Mishchuk, Miroshina, 2018): from hedonistic eschatology of the consumer society to ascetic soteriology of the religious transformation.


The empirical and analytical materials of the article may be of great interest and value for a wide range of potential readers.

Firstly, for specialists of humanitarian sciences who are interested in studying a variety of attributes of the phenomenon “economic ideal” and related socially relevant phenomena.

Secondly, for students, master’s students, post-graduate students, professors.

Thirdly, for wide audience interested in current problems of the modern society.


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