KULAVKOVA: The intercultural strategy as a form of (cultural) economy



First of all, it necessary to point out several semantic aspects of the term economy in order to introduce the larger socio-cultural and linguistic-communicational context of the economy in contemporary terms, especially in South-Eastern Europe.

  • Generally, economy (οἰκονομία, oikonomia) is defined as: to save, to restrain, to reduce, to restrict, to deprive oneself of or sacrifice certain cultural goods, all in the name of a ‘higher purpose’. Economy implies a long-term strategy, a postponed gratification. The logos of economy suggests that we build such a culture where we would sacrifice ephemeral or personal things in the name of something more substantial, more universal, something that would last longer. However pragmatic it may be, the economy must not be seen as being focused only on the material. On the contrary, the logic and strategy of the economy encompass metaphysical parameters, as well – moral, ideological, religious/sacral/divine.
  • There are two sides to sacrificing the lesser good in the name of a higher/more important interest/good (religious, national, cultural). One side justifies sacrifice as a means of economising, the other reminds us that in the history of mankind, so called higher purposes have been used and abused for the purposes of ephemeral, lucrative ends. For example, the explicit motto “in the name of the people” (“in the name of God”) often leads to tragic politics, conflicts, wars, ethnic or religious cleansings.
  • Economy also encompasses the ability to harmonise the relationship between state and society, between individual, local and general intentions and needs, in order to find the most practical and feasible solution. In that sense, economy is by definition transindividual and transethnic, and it might as well be the best accepted intercultural skill in multicultural countries. By means of economic methods (methods of economising), cultural radicalisms – which are, by definition, eccentric and lucrative – can be managed successfully.
  • Radoslav Petković’s novel Perfect Remembering of the Death (Belgrade, Stubovi culture, 2009) actualises the interpretation of economy from the point of view of higher divine principles, of religion as a supreme principle, which has, in practice, in the lives of people and in the history of mankind, shown its cruel and merciless face. Let us remind ourselves of Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of his son Isaac in the name of the more important God principle and of religion. It is a parable, of course, but as such it communicates how it can be used and abused in reality, in contexts where it is read literally and vulgarly.
  • Radoslav Petković illustrates the case of the brothers Jakov and Esav. Jakov passes as Esav on his father’s deathbed in order to deceive him into handing over to him the inheritance his brother was supposed to receive. It is a sin both against the father and the brother, which St. Vasilij interprets through the prism of the principles of oeconomy: the damage he causes by committing the sin is much lesser than what humankind gains from the act of sinning. (2009, 86).
  • This raises the question of the justifiability and the need of ‘oeconomy’, in cases when summoning God or the angels is of no help (2009, 85). Quite clearly, it suggests that the economic principle is more powerful than the religious. Economic politics are, in fact, more efficient than religious. Petković’s novel also advocates the economical nature of theurgy (a field in philosophy), often very simplified and interpreted as the use of magical strategies in cases when there is a need to save something Important (to the civilisation) and when pragmatism has collapsed (2009, 393). This also makes room for the justifiability and the need of ‘betrayal’, ‘heresy’, ‘paganism’, even of some radical revolution in the name of the development of humankind and of the survival of a civilisation (2009, 399, 435). This, in turn, raises the importance of the need to value the maxim “History is the mother of all knowledge” – which our highly politicised contemporary world tends to forget. To remember history means to learn from it lessons we need in order to not repeat tragic mistakes (wars, persecutions, genocides, destructions). History (nevertheless) repeats itself, only the actors change. Therefore, it is all the more economical to learn from history than to ignore it and devalue its significance and the significance of prior civilisations.
  • The term economical [1] in Macedonian is related to terms such as home, housekeeping, work, management, reasonable spending of both personal and common goods for the general well-being of the community (the family, the state, the nation). In other words, economising consumption in a society implies that one needs to be rational, wise, to protect common interests, to recognise the common interests of a community, to deprive oneself of certain personal desires, to minimalise luxury to its essentials and, if necessary, to sacrifice a specific personal interest.

It is a fact that needs to be emphasised that economy and ideology are tightly connected and complementary, just like: economy and philosophy, economy and religion, economy and psychology, economy and culture, economy and health, economy and ecology, economy and rhetorics, the economy of time, the economy of space, the economy of imperialism…

Such interdisciplinary reflections and projections give rise to many questions: What is more economical? To invest in prevention and healthy living or in expensive, long-term and often ineffective therapies? What is more economical? To invest in the harmonisation of differences and the prevention of conflicts or to cure the consequences of conflicts? The question of what is more economical, what pays off, what is cheaper, is actually the question of what is better. Hence the ethical implications of the term economy/economical – what is better, more human, more civilised?

The logic of economy is actually a reality check – at times a striking, harsh, painful realisation of the limitations of social, moral and existential reality. Yet this reality check is often the lesser evil in the “vicious circle” of reality. The uneconomical, lucrative, immoderate and overt manifestation of cultural, religious, traditional and political differences is a form of socio-cultural wastefulness, which in turn brings about a trivialisation of cultural identities, intercultural hatred and tensions, and a devaluation of cultural semiotics in the social and existential space. Such a tense existence creates collective traumas and frustrations which sooner or later will lead to uneconomical, uncontrolled emotions, reactions, conflicts, even political strategies. An excess of tension will result in violent processes which will culminate in fragmentation – of state structures and structures of society – and in new forms of the so called balkanisation (a new monadism).

Lucrative (uneconomical) cultural policies undermine the elementary logic of economy. Multulingualism is lucrative when it is radicalised, just as the rigid linguistic policies of devaluing the language rights of minority groups is damaging for the prosperity of a country/union.[2]

We thus come to the question of the economic and uneconomic character of multicultural language policies. From a strategic point of view, there is a need to define certain development priorities and principles of the multicultural world, especially of multicultural Europe, where there is a constant clash between the traditional, ethno-cultural concept and the contemporary, multicultural, transethnic concept.

What cultural policies can be recommended as long-term, economical, rational and culturally correct in countries and unions in which different language identity communities are integrated? Another important question is What is more economical for the civilisation?

The logic of economy seems to point out the following strategic policies:

  • To make the key shift to interculturalism, a concept based on the human and civil rights of individuals, not of ethnic communities, thereby paving the way towards the policies of intercultural economisation;
  • to introduce tools common to all – a unitary working language, an optimal degree of language diversity in culture and education, freedom in concordance with the material and financial capacity of the country and of the communities with particularistic pretentions;
  • To promote intercultural skills in order to establish financial, economic communication within the institutions of the system and to establish dialogue between different communities;
  • Of the intercultural skills, precedence should be given to linguistic competencies. It should be recommended that the language of the majority be learned as the language of culture and education, i.e. to follow the method of a common working language, or a lingua franca;
  • To acknowledge and, when necessary, to learn the language of the other, to learn foreign languages for the development of the quality of living in community;
  • To reinforce other social competences, the care for culture and cultural expression, as important elements in the building of bridges between peoples of different cultural, ethnic, religious and lingual background.

Translated by Igor Popovski




Daly, Herman E. and John B. Cobb, Jr. For the common good: redirecting the economy toward community, the environment, and a sustainable future.

Jakobson, R., 1963, Essais de linguistique génèrale: Rapports internes et externes du langage, Paris, Les Éditions de Minuit; trad. it. 1966, Saggi di linguistica generale, a cura di L. Heilmann, Milano, Feltrinelli.

Jakobson, R., 1990a, On Language, a cura di L. Waugh, M. Monville-Burston, Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

Jakobson, R., 1990b, “The Speech Event and the Function of Language“, in Jakobson 1990a.

Jameson, F., 1972, The Prison-House of Language: A Critical Account of Structuralism and Russian Formalism, Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Jakobson, R., 1990a, On Language, a cura di L. Waugh, M. Monville-Burston, Cambridge, Harvard University Press.

Jakobson, R., 1990b, “The Speech Event and the Function of Language“, in Jakobson 1990a.

Jameson, F., 1972, The Prison-House of Language: A Critical Account of Structuralism and Russian Formalism, Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Rossi-Landi, F., 1974, “Linguistics and Economics“, in Current Trends in Linguistics, 12, a cura di T. A. Sebeok, The Hague, Mouton & Co.

Shell, M., 1978, The Economy of Literature, Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Volosinov, V. N., 1930, nuova ed. 1973, Marxism and the Philosophy of Language, New York, Seminar Press.

[1] „…Oikonomia, by contrast, is the management of the household so as to increase its use value to all members of the household over the long run. If we expand the scope of household to include the larger community of the land, of shared values, resources, biomes, institutions, language, and history, then we have a good definition of ‘economics for community.’”

[2] Radical multilingualism generates socio-cultural and socio-religious tensions, alienation of languages, cultures, ethnic communities, national minorities, even hatred of the Other, a latent state of conflict, a collective feeling of jeopardy.

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