Слово — мысль — дело: Опыт исследования исторической семантики понятия «дело»
The article discusses an episode in the history of the concept of delo ‘matter, affair, work, case, deed’, relating it to the social changes in Russia at the turn of the 19th century. At that time the concept of delo started to drift apart from that of ‘rank’, as human beings began to be conceived separately from the kind of activity that had been specific to their place in society. These processes motivated the individual to set out on a search for his or her delo. This search has its internal logic, whose integral part was making sense of the very concept of delo. This necessitated the development of a new language that arose out of a collision between the word’s different contexts of use, as the previously established meanings were turned inside out and new patterns emerged. Behind his wordplay hid the question of the moral validity of the subject, one that the Russian literary tradition related to the ability to correlate word/thought with action (the criticism of “beautiful souls”). The history of this concept also discloses the quest for a new kind of unity, for a new synthesis of thought, word and delo in the making of history (Russian history, in the first place), as well as an awareness that a radical change was called for in civil service, personal life, and ultimately in society at large.