The paper poses the problem of the background as the conceptual apparatus of economic science, which is formed in the process of its historical development. The subject of the research is the study of fundamental works on the history and theory of scientific thought of the economic life of society; textbooks on the history of economic thought, economics and the economic way of thinking; scientific works that claim a notable contribution to the formation of a conceptual background. We have suggested that the diverse scope of ideas and concepts about the economic life of society needs to be aligned in a systematic approach that includes two basic options. In the traditional systemic-structural approach, the studied phenomena are derived from a single cause and a single foundation, which is most fully expressed in the Marxist labour theory of value. Difficulties arising in substantiating the key provisions of this theory have cast doubt on its scientific status and the possibility of practical application. General systems theory (GTS) has proven its heuristic potential in various fields of scientific knowledge, including modern microeconomic theory, which widely uses not only differential equations but also set theory, game theory, etc., and looks more promising for most representatives of the scientific community. The rejection of the cognitive potential of the systemic-structural approach seems premature. It makes it possible to analyze at the categorical level of scientific knowledge, starting from the foundations of Plato and Aristotle dialectics, using the logic of the scientific thought development presented in Hegel’s works, and its peak in the materialistic dialectics of Karl Marx. We should not forget what an important part of neoclassicism is the Austrian school, which ignores the calculus of infinitely small increments of utility and costs and gives preference to the systemic and structural vision of the subject. The authors advocate the synthesis of two fundamental directions of the systemic approach to the economic life of society, which will preserve the achievements of classical political economy as a background for modern economic thought.