In his novel Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky describes a successful businessman Luzhin who follows a “utilitarian-consumer” lifestyle. His reasoning is, "Science says: love, above all, one self, for everything in the world is based on self-interest. If you love yourself, you will do your work well, and your coat will remain intact… by acquiring solely and exclusively for myself, I am acquiring for everyone and leading to the fact that my neighbor will receive… as a result of the general prosperity." This philosophy abounds in modern life and culture. “Love yourself” tee shirts are available for purchase everywhere, as are “Love yourself” calendars, stationary, and pens.
On the surface, this philosophy sounds appealing and it is often well marketed. Many believing it is the key to happiness. However, reading through the rest of the novel, one quickly encounters it’s logical conclusion. In purely following his own self-interest, Luzhin quickly becomes the embodiment of vulgarity and a readiness to commit crime; revealing that this philosophy relies on the base of fallen human nature, covetousness, greed, vanity, envy, and lust.
Initially, the book’s protagonist, Raskolnikov, also adheres to this philosophy, destroying an elderly woman out of a false sense of the “greater good”. Seeking relief from his neighbor’s oppressive behavior, Raskolnikov justifies murdering her and stealing her money as a “service to humanity” that will bring happiness to all those she had previously oppressed. He rationalizes that because he has the will to go through with murder therefore he is a “hero” and has not only the right but the obligation to murder for the “greater good” of the “ordinary people”. However, after the crime is committed he is unable to find happiness or relief due to his conscience. Through a discussion with another character, Dostoyevsky shows that Raskolnikov’s motives in fact came from self-love, an attempt to avoid suffering, a desire for power, and a lack of true love for one’s neighbor.
By the end of the book, Raskolnikov realizes that without true self-sacrificing love is impossible to overcome the brokenness of fallen human nature and to find happiness. Through Raskolnikov’s experiences, Dostoyevsky leads the reader to the understanding that there are two diametrically opposed laws, the law of self-love and the law of true love; to follow the law of self-love is to find destruction, but to follow the law of true love through suffering is to find happiness and life everlasting.