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Social Issues: Meditative Thinking and the Threefold Social Order

Rudolf Steiner

Buy this book at Amazon.com or try Amazon.co.uk in England, Amazon.ca in Canada, Amazon.de in Germany, Amazon.fr in France, Amazon.it in Italy, Amazon.es in Spain. ASIN=0880103582, Category: Philosophy, Language: E, cover: PB, pages: 149, year: 1991(1919).

Review © (2005) by IBS

Rudolf Steiner proposes a so-called triformation of society as solution of the burning social question. To transform the current chaotic social organism (i.e.: state socialism aka Volksbeglückung*) into a healthy one, three autonomous members of society must be created:

Steiner's critique of socialism*, labour unions, and state regulations, as well as his critique of proletarians' demand for the transfer of means of production (and private property) to the community (socialization of means of production), fits nicely with Ludwig von Mises' writings. Steiner identifies the roots of real problems of the proletariat, i.e.: taking an ideology (socialism) for spiritual life and proposes the above threefold organisation of society to overcome the spiritual gap and to restore human dignity of the workers in technology and captitalism.

Admittely, this book is difficult to read - even for those who know Steiner already and who are educated in political and economical philosophy (see Ludwig von Mises' masterpiece Economic Policy, 1958).

Works based on Steiner's Threefold Social Order:

Some quotes selected (and headlined) by IBS

All quotes were taken from Basic Issues of the Social Question (GA23), first published in 1919, original German title: "Die Kernpunkte der Sozialen Frage in den Lebensnotwendigkeiten der Gegenwart und Zukunft" (GA23), translated by Frank Thomas Smith.

Requirement for abstraction in analysing complex tasks:

"Only when we think in abstractions does everything appear to us in clearly defined outlines. ... Social tasks can be grasped with this type of thinking."

Political state must not interfere with economy:

"Economic activity has expanded in the course of human evolution. Town economies developed from closed household economies and in turn grew into national economies. Today we stand before a global economy. Any attempt to organize economic forces into an abstract world community is erroneous. ...

"In the course of evolution private economic enterprise has, to a large extent, become state economic enterprise. But the political states are not merely the products of economic forces, and the attempt to transform them into economic communities is the cause of the social chaos of modern times. Economic life is striving to structure itself according to its own nature, independent of political institutionalization and mentality. It can only do this if associations, comprised of consumers, distributors and producers, are established according to purely economic criteria."

State must not interfere in education:

"[It is wrong that the state educational system] results in the individual becoming well adjusted to contemporary life, [it is wrong] that the state is best qualified to organize the educational system - and therewith the foundation of public cultural affairs - for the benefit of the community. ... This book must assume the unpopular task of showing that the chaotic condition of our public life derives from the dependence of spiritual life on the political state and economic interests. ... This involves attacking certain wide-spread errors.

"For people with socialistic ideas it is inconceivable that society should do anything but shape the individual according to its standards and for its service. ... [T]o persist in [state education] arrangement is a grave social error.

"[Member of the social organism must be fullt autonomous.] The administration of education, from which all culture develops, must be turned over to the educators. Economic and political considerations should be entirely excluded from this administration. Each teacher should arrange his or her time so that he can also be an administrator in his field. ... No one should make decisions who is not directly engaged in the educational process. No parliament or congress, nor any individual who was perhaps once an educator, is to have anything to say. What is experienced in the teaching process would then flow naturally into the administration. By its very nature such a system would engender competence and objectivity."

State must not support artists:

"Anxious artists and other spiritual workers will question whether talent would be better off in a free culture than in one which is provided for by the state and economic interests, as is the case today. [...] If we consider life from experience instead of theoretical preconceptions, we will agree that creative individuals would have better prospects of seeing their work fairly judged if a free cultural community existed which could act according to its own values."
-- quote from Preface to the Fourth German Edition 1920

Means of production must be private and not socialized:

"[T]he modern proletariat has come to see the only remedy for the social organism in the transfer of all privately owned means of production to community operation or even community property."

Labour union must be abolished:

"[T]he labour-unions which, although operational in the economic field, are established according to political instead of economic principles. Basically parliamentary bodies, they do not function according to economic principles of reciprocal output. ...

"The economic process, by its very nature, tends to utilize labour power in the most expedient manner and will continue to do so as long as labour regulation remains one of its functions. "

Economic body must become autonomous and state-independent through secession:

"[T]he economic system is dependent on human labour. ... [T]he human labour system [must not] be regulated by the same forces which activate the economy.

"If men carry over their economic interests into the legislation and administration of the rights-state [i.e.: political state], then the resulting rights will only be the expression of these economic interests. When the rights-state manages the economy it loses the ability to regulate human rights. ... The necessary contact between the responsible persons of the legal and economic bodies will ensue in a manner similar to that at present practised by the governments of sovereign states. : ... As things are now this effect is hindered by one area trying to develop in itself what should flow toward it from the other.

"[E]verything which underlies the legal relationship between persons [should] be regulated, in a healthy social organism, by a rights-state which, like the natural base, is autonomous in its relation to the economy. ...

"[T]he state must be relieved of all economic functions."

Liberty, equality and fraternity refuted - but practicable in triformation:

"[R]ealizing these ideals of fraternity, equality and liberty in a uniform social organism [is impossible], [because they are] contradictory if practised in society, e.g.: individual freedom [is] not possible if the equality principle [is] practised.¹

[T]rue social meaning of these three ideals only becomes evident through an understanding of the necessary triformation of the social organism. ...

"It [is] evident that human cooperation in economic life must be based on the fraternity which is inherent in associations [ed.note: i.e.: laissez-faire economy]. In the second member, the civil rights system, which is concerned with purely human, person-to-person relations, it is necessary to strive for the realization of the idea of equality [ed. note: i.e.: equality before the law]. And in the relatively independent spiritual sector of the social organism it is necessary to strive for the realization of the idea of freedom [ed.note: i.e.: free spirit - independent thinking].

"No abstract, centralized social structure is able to realize the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity in such disarrangement; but each of the three sectors of the social organism can draw strength from one of these impulses and cooperate in a positive manner with the other sectors."

A positivists way to bash the proponents of the contradictory triplicity:

"Those individuals who demanded and worked for the realization of the three ideas - liberty, equality and fraternity - as well as those who later followed in their footsteps, were able to dimly discern in which direction modern humanity's forces of evolution are pointing. But they have not been able to overcome their belief in the uniform state, so their ideas contain a contradictory element. Nevertheless, they remained faithful to the contradictory, for in the subconscious depths of their souls the impulse toward the triformation of the social organism, in which the triplicity of their ideas can attain to a higher unity, continued to exert itself. The clearly discernible social facts of contemporary life demand that the forces of evolution, which in modern mankind strive toward this triformation, be turned into conscious will."²

Notes:
*) Rudolf Steiner designated the welfare-state as Volksbeglückung - which could be translated with happiness impressed on the population [by the nation state] - in "Richtkräfte im Chaos", 1916).

¹) and Frederic Bastiat pointed out that fraternity kills liberty.

²) Only a reincarnation of Hermes would be capable to transform the aspirations of the contradictory, triplicity-based socialist (and communist) ideology into a positive idea of awareness; this is what Steiner achieved in this quote.