100 Years of Validity and Modernity of the Lectures Held at the Bucharest University of Economic Studies. Applied research - Virgil Madgearu’s Economic Discourse

economic education
economic education


The present paper was built around the discourse analysis of the opening lecture entitled "Introduction to the practical study of commercial and industrial enterprises" held by Professor Virgil Madgearu at the Academy of High Commercial and Industrial Studies on 25 January 1916. The aim of the paper is to demonstrate how topical and modern Professor Madgearu’s message is, as an illustration of how the high quality and professional commitment of the teaching staff at the Bucharest University of Economic Studies have persisted over time, resulting in the training of genuine specialists endowed with the appropiate theoretical and practical competences to respond to the requirements of the economic environment. The research methodology applied, based on critical discourse analysis, aims to highlight how the proposed outcomes were reached and to demonstrate that the teaching-learning process is understood as an on-going endeavour to develop and modernise, building on two inseparable, fundamental components: the scientific and the technical approach to each discipline. The conclusions reached by the present paper are that in spite of the 50 years of discontinuity in the economic paradigm, the Bucharest University of Economic Studies is the public institution which, for more than 100 years, has been dedicated to education and research to the benefit for and the training of the Romanian youth.


JEL Classification: A11, B25, B31


Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Problem Statement

3. Research Questions/Aims of the research

4. Research Methods

5. Findings

5.1 Coherence and unity

5.2 Intentionality

5.3 Informative character

5.4 Contextual framing

6. Conclusions


1. Introduction

The teaching staff’s deep concern with a highquality economic education in our country has a tradition of over 100 years, which has manifested itself in symbiosis with the institutional evolution of the Bucharest University of Economic Studies. Celebrating 105 years of existence of the Bucharest UES, the first Romanian institution of high commercial and industrial studies, may also be considered a good time to reveal how the solid, modern and practice-oriented structuring of the economic studies started.

Modern teaching didactics combined with the scientific content of specialised courses aimed at offering higher education to the Romanian youth have always been the sacred mission of all the teachers who served the Romanian educational system.

Professor Virgil Madgearus theoretical and practical discourse was not an exception, but a genuine, powerful model with a modern approach which has perpetuated until the present day.

On the anniversary of 105 years from the setting up of the Bucharest University of Economic Studies, the present paper intends to bring homage to all those who have served the Romanian school of economics, who, with modesty, but also with professionalism and determination, have made it their objective to contribute to the well-being of this country by training generations of economists in agreement with the practical requirements of the economic environment of every age, thus proving to be genuine professionals and patriots.

The critical discourse analysis was performed mainly on the paper existing in the library of the University of Economic Studies, in the old books section - Virgil N. Madgearu “Introduction to the practical study of commercial and industrial enterprises, Bucharest, Dimitrie C. Ionescu Professional Printing House, 1916.


2. Problem Statement

According to specialised literature (Săvulescu, 2001), we understand discourse as a number of statements/utterances formulated by a producer/author/speaker on a certain topic, addressed to a receiver/audience, with the intention of influencing them.

Critical discourse analysis is in fact a framework used to scrutinise the discourse, the knowledge process and the respective social environment.

The discourse is deeply anchored in the producer’s personal knowledge, being refined through his/her own understanding, culture and personal experience.

When performing the critical analysis of a public discourse, it becomes utterly important to highlight the control over the receiver/audience/beneficiaries in case the respective receivers are open to accept beliefs, knowledge and opinions transmitted through the discourse, coming from authorised, trustworthy sources (researchers, experts, professionals, reliable media) (Nestler et al., 1993).

Stubbs (1983) and Coulthard (1985) differentiate between the text - as written language - and discourse - as spoken language.

Since the text chosen for the illustrative critical study is a transcript of a lecture delivered in class, the terms text” and discourse” will be used interchangeably throughout the present paper, this approach being also supported by Halliday and Hassan (1976), who consider text to be a unit of language in use’, which can be any excerpt, either spoken or written, of any length, which forms a unified whole.


3. Research Questions/Aims of the research

The aim of the present paper is to demonstrate the rigour of structuring an academic lecture in the field of economics in the form of a public discourse, as well as to demonstrate (within the anniversary context in which this study was carried out) the perenniality and modernity of the message in the courses that have been taught in economic higher education in Romania from the very beginning, compared to the current requirements and realities in this area.

The scientific question we have tried to answer is whether these academic courses in the economic field contain the structural elements of public discourse and if, in spite of the numerous and in-depth changes of the paradigm of economic sciences, they include perennial and modern traits of an economic discourse capable of supporting professional continuity and the experts in this domain over the last 100 years.


4. Research Methods

In the present paper discourse is understood as social practice (Fairclough, 2003), an alternative definition to the narrow” one which refers to critical text analysis in a restrictive manner. Thus, according to the Foucauldian approach, discourse means general and prevalent systems for the formation and articulation of ideas in a particular period of time, functioning as a powerful ordering force (Fairclough, 2003).

Within the chosen educational context and applied study, the discourse is the academic course-understood as lecturing, teaching of a subject as a cycle of lessons or lectures* using spoken or written language.

The critical discourse analysis of the chosen text aims to identify the latter’s main characteristics within the context of academic lectures in economics, namely: coherence and unity, intentionality, informative character, contextual framing and intertextuality. (Hymes, 1980; van Dijk, 1976, 1980).

In the next section, these traits will be illustrated with arguments resulting from the analysis of the chosen text.

Performing rhetorical discourse analysis on the chosen text has allowed us to highlight the elements of perenniality and modernity in approaching an economic discourse.

The text used to illustrate the critical analysis was Virgil N. Madgearus Introduction to the practical study of commercial and industrial enterprises, Bucharest, Dimitrie C Ionescu Professional Printing House, 1916.

Using this type of analysis as a research method is justified by the aim of the paper and the research questions, especially since this approach facilitates the argumentation endeavour:

Narrative analysis looks at the statement produced by individuals. The thinking behind the narrative analysis is that the personal voice reflects the priorities, values, concerns and attitudes of the narrator and get us closer as researchers to an individual, personal experience” (Newby2014).

Besides this, the rhetoric discourse analysis component (Alvesson & Kärreman, 2000) will attempt to find answers to questions such as: how is the argumentation used in an attempt to develop strong beliefs, how does the author/speaker inform, persuade or motivate an audience in a certain context, how are the arguments used justified and validated, what kind of vocabulary, phrases or metaphors are used, how does the author position himself/herself or in relation to others who enjoy authority in the respective area.


5. Findings

The main elements identified after having performed the analysis will be presented in detail and contrasted with the characteristics of both critical discourse analysis and the analysis of discourse rhetoric.


5.1 Coherence and unity

According to Halliday and Hasan (1976), a text is coherent, all the parts of a text must be connected through a logical thread and they logically follow one after another forming a well- connected whole.

The logical sequencing of the e parts of Professor Madgearu’s discourse is presented in Fig1.

The discourse coherence is given by the logical succession of the easily identifiable aspects addressed, which is easy to notice in the structure of the studied discourse and that is also present nowadays in course design.

From a didactic view point, the discourse observes the special rules of pedagogical communication which confer unity to the endeavour, and they can be easily identified: definition of concepts, content presentation, content explanation (Ionescu, 2000).

Figure 1
Figure 1. Sequencing the text parts in the analysed discourse


Source: by the authors of the current text analysis

Discourse unity is an obvious concern of the great professor with respect to each and every lecture, as well as with the entire course, which is seen as a unitary set of lectures.

“Only such a course can be expected to fulfil its whole mission: to facilitate the students’ aquisition of knowledge in a scientific area, but also to show them the path followed in order to reach that knowledge and how the different components are inter-related, uncovering the existing relationships. This can only be achieved if the course is considered to be a system of knowledge.

Doing otherwise, following here, in a young higher education institution, the obsolete system of courses without a beginning and without an end would contribute to killing that spirit of methodical work which lies at the foundation of its development...” (Madgearu, 1916, 3).

Virgil Madgearu draws attention to the frivolous tendency of transforming the successive lectures of a course into a series of disparate conferences; we can still notice this tendency nowadays with some excellent practitioners who believe that a mere narration - albeit enthusiastic - of their rich practical experience can replace an academic course. The structuring elements based on a unitary concept, the specific method, organic unity and systematically planned process are seen as imperative.

“... an academic course cannot be a series of disparate conferences,however attractive this might be. Instead, they must form an organic entity, which implies a concept, a method and a systematic plan(Madgearu, 1916, 3).


5.2 Intentionality

Intentionality means that the message is sent deliberately and with full awareness. The      philosophical approaches nuance this characteristic of the discourse.

“... this attitude is the third, fully modern level of intentionality expressed by the phrase oriented towards” an object … such orientation is not intentional in the sense of looking for its object - like with Husserl, where the act of addressing is achieved through a corresponding act of intuition, but it is intentional in the sense that it is oriented and it expresses an attitude towards an already envisaged object(Tănăsescu, 2011).

Certainly, the intentionality of Professor Madgearus discourse obviously stems from his personality and character, also noticed by his contemporaries.

... this hardworking man, but full of negative electricity, had set his mind to conquer hearts, to become a leader of masses”.

“... he had already studied tens and hundreds of volumes and considered himself to be the repository of all theories, especially the German ones, in the field of political economy and sociology. He was convinced that he was the only economist and financial specialist in Romania and that in this capacity he was called upon to organize the new postbellum establishments, an endeavour which was only possible in a democracy such as this one: the less proven its benefits, the higher the intransigence”. (Argetoianu, 1996).

As regards the intentionality of the discourse, it is certain that Professor Madgearu himself revealed his attitude towards the audience.

The first contact between the students and the professor is considered to be extremely important.

At the first encounter with the students he signalled that it was compulsory to present some elements related to course design, structure and approach.

The normative request is not enunciated as mandatory, but as a need stemming from the depth of the professional being.

The elements to be specified - the course outline, its rationale and main aims - are presented in a clear and simple manner, with a view to achieving a dual purpose: to clarify, and also to raise the interest of the audience.

Also today the requirements of modern pedagogy impose that these elements should be presented.

A special place among the elements that must be presented to the students at the beginning of the course is held by the research method used in support of the scientific activity incorporated into the teaching-learning process.

It is interesting to note that Professor Madgearu clearly understands that the fundamental course components are closely related to the person and personality of the course coordinator, who leaves a deep imprint on the characterstics of these elements.

“..When coming for the first time in front of the students s/he should  feel the same need, to present how s/he understands the object of his/her course, what is the research method used to collect and process the data and which is the course objective, its intended outcomes(Madgearu, 1916, 3).

By mentioning the role of the course, once again Professor Madgearu reveals his intention of becoming involved in creating a class of educated young Romanians, capable to understand and lead the destiny of the companies of those times.

The practical study of commercial and industrial enterprises as a subject of our academic commercial education, showing the students the circumstances and phases which constitute the life of companies, as well as the causalities which frame their existence, making them understand the underlying principles of company organisation and management, familiarising students with relevant methods for knowing and understanding such phenomena, then by showing them different company types and enabling them to see and notice, all this is meant to ease the solving of one of the most serious problems of our economic life: training Romanian company managers”. (Madgearu, 1916, 18-19).


5.3 Informative character

By its intrinsic nature, the discourse has an informative character, implying the transfer of interesting, convincing and well argumented information to an audience.

This is where one can find the main elements of the previously mentioned analysis of discourse rhetoric.

Within the institutional space of a young school of economic culture, the course is deemed to be a symbiosis between two inseparable components: a subject of study included in a training programme, and simultaneously, a scientific discipline, with its own research area.

What is extremely modern is the outlook on the interdependence of the two components, with a view to ensuring the successful acquisition of knowledge.

The same is true about the very modern idea that the scientific area” of a discipline can be treated multidisciplinarily or analysed with methods and tools which are specific to another scientific specialisation.

... The practical study of commercial and industrial companies according to two aspects: as a scientific discipline per se, therefore as a scientific research area, and as a subject of study, especially as part of the curriculum of an educational institution of high commercial culture like this one.

Obviously, both aspects condition each other: knowledge of the former, of the scientific discipline, is indispensable for understanding the latter, its application as a subject of study; this axiom cannot prevent anyone, in a country of encyclopedists, whatever their scientific specialisation might be, to express their opinion about the way in which this subject should be taught. (Madgearu, 1916, 4).

When creating a new discipline and positioning it in the curriculum, it is of utmost importance to specify its identity, its peculiarities, specificity and the rationale for its study, as compared to the other disciplines. This is particularly relevant in case there is a whole-vs- part type of interconditionality in the economic environment.

“Regarding the Practical study of companies as a scientific discipline, we notice from the very beginning that its subject: commercial and industrial enterprises, is one of the most important components of the object of another science, Social Economy, the objective of which is to research the peoples’ national economy”. (Madgearu, 1916, 4).

An extremely strong message for the audience, but also for all those who have read the written discourse over time, is connected to the sources from the real economic life which should be at the basis of the development of a scientific and study object, transposed into an academic course.

The words are most powerful, the truths” and practical conclusions” are considered to be the foundation stones, and the close relationship between theory and practice is signalled in an anticipative manner.

The arguments presented in this part of the discourse overlap entirely with the requirements of modern pedagogy: only if a course is built in this way can it serve the students, only in this manner can one develop the necessary skills for meeting the intended course objective, only like this will the receivers valorize and appreciate the learning process and its outcomes, only like this will all the parties involved stay open to lifelong learning, adapting and improving themselves in relation to the economic realities.

Regarding the sources of information from the practice, it is our opinion that the researchers of all times recognise themselves in the statement referring to the difficulty of gaining access to company data.

“After having decided on the study object, it is necessary to indicate the sources from where one can draw the facts and knowledge related to the life of commercial and industrial enterprises, and the method to research them”.

“... because only he who knows where from and how the truths and practical conclusions have been drawn can realise their worth and value what he is learning. Also, since this is a study meant to allow the students to develop the qualities they will need as future company managers, how could we prevent them from knowing where and how to look for the organisational and management principles of the companies tomorrow, after having started their practical activity? Finally, the sources are also important because in most cases the information regarding commercial and industrial companies is hidden from the scientist’ eye, making research extremely toilsome”. (Madgearu, 1916, 11).

In terms of solutions and suggestions pertaining to the scientific endeavour, there are paths which are still being followed by many researchers in this area: from the individual to the general and then back to the individual; studying the documents in relation to their public nature and context, references, using the conclusions of previous research, building on reports emerging in response to various needs to synthesize practical realities etc. Extremely moving is the passage where Professor Madgearu expresses his own feelings about the detailed analysis of company documents: it is an ever-lasting urge to interpret the figures beyond their value metrics significance and to decrypt the entrepreneurs’ personality, aspirations, aims in order to better understand the microcosmos which is the company.

“... companies offer the researcher the opportunity to perform an in-depth study of the documents related to bankruptcyin their most intimate relationship with the entrepreneur’s personality and the whole realm of his endeavours and calculations one can find the bankruptcy processes, point by point, forming an invaluable treasure for research. These documents offer the researcher a kind of photography of a part of the reality which can be very useful to him”. (Madgearu, 1916, 11-12).

The important place occupied by the research component in the teaching-learning process constitutes an extremely important part of the discourse message.

Besides mentioning it, the author insists on the details of the scientific research method and compares the stages of research in economics with those in other sciences, static research with dynamic research, clustering results, signalling similarities and differences and basing all the explanations about how companies operate on clearly identified causes.

“... what research method should be used. Firstly, the researcher should isolate the object of the research, look at it isolated from the influence of the outside world, just like in anatomy, disect it, in order to identify its inner structure, ...(Madgearu, 1916, 12).

The perennial and modern character of the content ideas is obvious in numerous excerpts which seem to be taken as such from current textbooks: they are closely related to the deep theoretical fundament of the discipline (i.e. accounting), as well as to a correct interpretation, already 100 years ago, of how the data should be used.

For illustration, in the excerpt below we have selected the reference to the information from the balance sheet which is perfectly valid nowadays too, including a recommendation about the approach to use in scientific research.

An economic analysis of the balance sheet clarifies the economic situation of a company at a given moment and makes it possible to critique its future development and prospects”.

It is easy to understand that from one balance sheet only one can never understand the exact situation of a company, the more so as most balance sheets lack clarity and precision, but by taking several balance sheets over a number of consecutive years, one can grasp a  certain relativity of the phenomena, which, together with the absolute annual results, provide the key to the economic enigma of a company”. (Madgearu, 1916, 12-13).

The development of the argumentation related to setting the scientific basis for academic course design is extremely powerful, and the relationship between theory and practice is underlined as a first priority.

The solution Professor Madgearu sees and assumes is a combination of the two. He brings strong, valid and topical arguments to support the need for a solid complementarity between theory and practice in order to achieve the course objectives.

The discourse presents one of the most eloquent argumentations of the effects entailed by developing a course which is preponderently based on only one of the perspectives, to the detriment of the other.

As a subject to be taught, our study, like the other disciplines of an academic commercial education, should be, first and foremost, treated exclusively scientifically. Consequently, it should bring together the Theory and the Technique of commercial and industrial companies.

Only in this way can we expect this study to be fully effective. (Madgearu, 1916, 14).

In this respect, it is impressive how topical the great teachers message of 100 years ago still is. If the message below were to be taken out of its context, namely the speech/lecture, the readers would have real difficulties to identify the year when it was formulated.

We believe that all the teachers and decision makers in the field of educational management in higher education should ponder deeply on the following excerpt.

Theory and practice are both of the utmost importance when studying an economic discipline.

The context-related purpose for which the course is introduced in the curriculum is clearly indicated: endowing the graduates with competences that would help them progress beyond the limits that they would face if they were undergoing professional training based only on practical activities, practically facilitating the development of the ability to overcome certain limitations related to their condition imposed by the big companies of the time.

If the graduates of high commercial schools work for foreign companies - and this has been proven numerous times through surveys made by the school officials - they are used only for accounting and correspondence-related activities and only in such a way that they cannot gain any insights into how the company operates. The specialization introduced by the labour division in the big companies guarantees that they will not be able to understand core of the business, and their training is not enough to bring any change in this matter. (Madgearu,1916, 18)

The objective of developing the graduates’ critical thinking” skills, as we would call them today, as the main tool for accurately and constantly relating to a complex, changing and sometimes contradictory or even opaque economic universe was assumed by Professor Madgearu 100 years ago and seen as indispensable for a specialist in economics.

Whoever will have pursued this study thoroughly, whatever position she occupies after graduation, in a company whatsoever, irrespective of how obscure that job may be, will be capable to understand its entire phenomenology, to see and to observe, to understand what they see and because they know what and how to ask, they will be able to find out what cannot be seen and observed, to check the accuracy of the data obtained in the light of the theory they have studied, which they will assimilate in more depth and they will adjust; by passing through several companies, they will compare organisational and management features and will develop their future skills.... (Madgearu, 1916, 19)


6. Conclusions

Celebrating 105 years from the setting up of the Bucharest University of Economic Studies is a perfect moment to bring homage to all those who have served the Romanian school of economics and who, with modesty, professionalism and determination have contributed to the solid training of generations of economists, in agreement with the practical requirements of the economic environment of all times.

Modernity in the didactics of economics and in the construction of the scientific content of specialist courses, aiming at offering higher education to the Romanian youth, have been the main mission of all the professors who have served the Romanian education system.

Within this context, the objectives of the present paper were to highlight the rigour in structuring an academic discourse in the economic field in the form of a public speech, as well as to demonstrate the ever-lasting and modern character of the message contained in the Romanian economic higher education courses from their very beginning, judged in correlation with the current requirements and realities.

The research methodology applied, based on critical discourse analysis, has led to meeting the proposed objectives and to understanding the teaching-learning process as an on-going endeavour to build and modernise, based on two fundamental, inseparably inter-connected components: the scientific and the technical approach to each discipline.

  The paper contains a discourse analysis applied to the opening lecture of the course entitled

Introduction to the practical study of commercial and industrial companies, taught by professor Virgil Madgearu at the Academy of High Commercial and Industrial Studies on 2January 1916.

The analysis has revealed the topical and modern character of Professor Madgearu’s message, as an illustration of how the quality and professional commitment of the teaching staff at the Bucharest University of Economic Studies have persisted over time and have led to the training of true professionals, with the adequate theoretical and practical competences to meet the requirements of the economic environment.

The conclusions of the present paper are that in spite of the 50 years of discontinuity in the economic paradigm, the Bucharest University of Economic Studies has been a public institution dedicated to education and research to the benefit and for the training of the young Romanians.

The academic courses in the economic field correspond to the structural elements of public speech and in spite of the numerous deep and fundamental changes in the paradigm of economic sciences, there are elements of perennity and modernity of the economic discourse which have supported the continuity of the profession and the professionals in the field over the past 100 years.


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