Economic interest as a factor of economic behavior

In the process of conscious activity, a person masters, i.e. makes “his own”, the world around him, forming connections and relationships with the objects of this world. What, in this case, motivates the person himself, makes him be active? First of all, it is the need to satisfy material and spiritual needs with the help of a wide range of appropriate goods. At the same time, it can be noted that different people satisfy the same needs with different goods from each other and, on the contrary, similar goods are sometimes used to satisfy different needs. Why? The obvious answer is that different people have different available opportunities (financial, organizational, etc.). This is true, but the differences in the ways of satisfying needs do not disappear even when people have the same opportunities. What guides their behavior in this case? To answer this question, we use an excerpt from the book by P. Heine “Economic Way of Thinking” (Moscow, 1991. pp. 73 – 74).

“Let’s take a look at the student dormitory on an autumn evening on Monday and listen to the next dialogue.

Great, Jack. Will you go to a new movie with Wim Wenders? Today is the last day. I wish I could, but I can’t. Tomorrow we have a foreign test. I still need to memorize the words. Otherwise, I’ll get two points. Yeah, quit. Tomorrow on a free pair you will take my cards with words. An hour of classes before the test – “four” is guaranteed to you. ” Okay, but redskins and Miami play tonight. If you do not practice, then it is better to watch this match. And we’ll go to a six-hour session and have time to go back to the beginning. Ok. Just let me calculate how much money I have left before the scholarship: five, six, seven, eight dollars until Thursday. And I ran out of food stamps! Eat sandwiches with nut butter! And I thought you actually want to see this movie. I really want to. Okay, my stomach will endure until Thursday. Go out without quarter six?

In the above example, Jack built a model of behavior based on an assessment of the degree of importance for him of various incentives (the possibility of obtaining a satisfactory score on the control, the opportunity to watch the match of his favorite team, the opportunity to watch a new movie) in order to “weigh” the benefits and costs of each of the alternatives. When Jack, with the help of a friend, managed to develop a model of behavior that ensures the acceptable implementation of all stimuli (satisfaction of all actualized needs), he thereby formed an internal motivation to implement this model in practice – a motive.  The main concepts reflecting the essence of the described thought processes were evaluation and choice.  As a result of such processes, the stimulus, as an external object of aspiration, as an actualized need, is transformed into an actualized need motive as an internal motivation for action, which is aimed at mastering the object, i.e. at satisfying the need. The mechanism of thinking that ensures the transformation of a stimulus into a motive is called interest (from the Latin interest – to have meaning, it is important).

In economic sociology, to explain the behavior of people in the economic sphere, the concept of economic interest is used, associated with the assessment and choice of goods, the potential or real value of which a person can determine for himself in the economic coordinate system, for example, to express in money. As the results of the republican sociological research conducted by the Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus in April-May 2001 show, it is money that is the decisive incentive that affects the behavior of 45% of young people under the age of 21 and 56% – from 21 to 30 years. The leitmotif of the type of economic behavior formed in them is “I try to increase my income in all possible ways.” This type of behavior is a natural consequence of the low property status of young families, a significant part of which exists in survival mode. Only 2.6% of young people under the age of 21 rate their family’s financial situation as “very good”; 8.5% of respondents in this age group – as “rather good”; 55.6% – as “average”; 19.6% – “rather bad”; 7.4% is “very bad”. In the age group from 21 to 30 years, a similar range of assessments is even more shifted to the negative area of the scale: only 1% of respondents rate the financial situation of their family as “very good”, 6.2 – as “rather good”; 45.6% – “average”; 34.9% – “rather bad”; 8.1% is “very bad”. The revealed shift in assessments to the negative side is largely due to the departure of young people (young families) to “their bread”, as well as to the appearance of children in families. If in the age group up to 21 years only 4.2% of young people support dependents (children, spouse, parents); 88.5% – do not have anyone dependent and 7.3% are dependent, then 56.2% of respondents aged 21 to 30 years have someone dependent. Moreover, the complication of the family budget associated with this circumstance is not compensated by the expected increase in the income of young people associated with an increase in the level of education, qualifications, an increase in work experience, etc. Thus, for most young people, money is the main incentive affecting their behavior.

Since people satisfy their needs primarily with goods produced, i.e. goods with value, it may seem that all the interests of a person are his economic interests. Is this true? Of course, the economic interests of people as consuming subjects in the production society, as a rule, play a dominant role in the formation of individual types of economic behavior, but their role is not always decisive. For example, we use an excerpt from the book by R. Heinlein “Double Star” (Mn., 1993. pp. 10 – 11) – an episode when the main character, a professional actor of the highest qualification, was offered to play the role of a double of a famous political figure.

The difference here is that the doppelganger should be so similar as to mislead people who know his face well, and not reveal himself even in a personal conversation. This is not just a reception of the parade from the stands or awarding medals to young scouts. You have to be a real artist to reincarnate like that. No, I said quickly, but why, lord, why? You have no idea how much we will pay you. Money doesn’t play a role, I said firmly, “I’m an actor, not a doppelganger. Don’t understand. A lot of actors are happy to make money, publicly appearing instead of celebrities. I consider such people to be prostitutes, not colleagues. Let me explain my point. Is it possible to respect a person who writes books for another? Is it possible to respect an artist who allows you to sign your painting for money?… Would you be able to take control of the ship for MONEY, while someone else would walk in  your uniform and, completely ignorant of the art of controlling the ship, publicly called a pilot. How’s that? I think I’m starting to understand you… For an artist, sir, the most important thing is fame and recognition. Money is just a despicable metal with which he can safely create. Hmmm… well, therefore, you just don’t go for money to do it. Maybe you are interested in something else? What if you knew it was necessary and that no one else could do it better than you? I admit this possibility, although I do not imagine such circumstances. And you do not need to present them, we will explain everything to you ourselves… So do you agree to this job? My friend Broadbent assured me that I would not have to make a deal with my own conscience – and I believed him. He claimed he needed an actor. But the material side of things is not my concern. In short, I agree. Will a hundred imperials a day be enough for you?

I hesitated, remembering how easily he took my minimum price for a small interview, and decided that now was the time to make a broad gesture. I just brushed it off.

It’s not worth it now. Without a doubt, your fee will correspond to the level of my representation.

As can be seen from the above example, the economic interest of the protagonist was not enough factor to take on the proposed work simply for money. And only when the actor realized (realized his interest) that this work opens up an opportunity (incentive) to satisfy his need for professional self-realization, he agreed to fulfill it (expressed readiness to act – motive). Consequently, the decisive factor in the choice of the proposed alternative (i.e. the direction of economic behavior associated with employment under these conditions) was not economic, but professional interest. Let’s try to answer the question of whether in such a situation only professional interest would be enough for the emergence of the same motive. Obviously not. In this case, the incentive for the possibility of professional self-realization would not be transformed by interest into a motive for action due to the high costs associated with the lack of material benefits. In other words, the actor would not be interested enough and would reject the offer. Thus, the existing hierarchy of interests of our hero, in which the interest of professional self-realization is in the first place, the economic interest is in the second place, predetermines the professional type of his economic behavior.

The structure of human interests looks even more diverse when we turn to the analysis of the patterns of occurrence of the volunteer type of behavior associated with gratuitous (in the purely economic sense of the word) economic activity. In this case, the use of monetary incentives is limited or non-existent. It gives way in the stimulation field of a person to other goods, including “indirect-monetary”. In the age group of young people from 14 to 21 years old (older schoolchildren and students), whose economic problems are fully or significantly solved by parents (often by limiting their own interests), the practice of volunteering can develop quite successfully. According to the State Committee for Youth Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, in 2001 more than 5,000 people were employed in volunteer and so-called “pedagogical” camps, including 1358 young citizens of Belarus who worked in the Russian Federation, 231 people in Ukraine, 158 people in the Czech Republic, Germany and France. As we can see, economic interest does not exhaust the entire sphere of human interests, although it is a mechanism for rationalizing these interests. Therefore, such incentives as the possibility of free outdoor activities outside the Republic of Belarus can work and, as practice shows, work here; the possibility of obtaining new information or acquiring additional work skills; All these incentives can be significant in the implementation of the professional type of behavior of a young person.

Thus, economic interest, being the “core” of individual interest, does not exhaust the content of the latter, but rather acts as a mechanism for rationalizing the choice of ways to meet the needs of the subject. The hierarchy of needs, and hence the corresponding structure of interests, is formed in the process of human socialization and this process unfolds under the influence of many objective and subjective factors. The objective factors of socialization include the conditions of the social environment in which the individual is formed (features of upbringing, education, employment). To the subjective – inclinations and inclinations inherent in a person from nature. The specificity of objective factors is decisively determined by the position that a person occupies in the socio-economic stratification of society and, accordingly, his place in the system of social distribution of goods. Therefore, the interest of a person in general and his economic interest in particular, on the one hand, is objective, since it is formed under the influence of environmental factors independent of a person, and on the other hand, it is subjective, since it always belongs to a specific subject – the bearer of this interest. In view of this, the consideration of economic interests in isolation from their specific carriers does not make sense if we really want to know the real patterns in the formation and development of these interests.