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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

a project of Steiner Online Library, a public charity

The Threefold Social Order
GA 23

Translator's Preface

The purpose of this translation, a free rendering, is to make available to the American reader the essence of a book that describes a sound social order and the means by which it can be achieved. It is as timely today as when it was published in 1919 in German. The original English translation is now out of print. The problems of society have intensified but their basic pattern has, as Rudolf Steiner predicted, remained the same.

Considering that the work was not something intellectually thought out but arrived at by a penetrating study of what still works in the inner depths of society and of the men striving for social change, its continuing validity is perhaps not surprising. Steiner, of course, was addressing himself to European social thinkers, always more interested in an “ideological” approach than the American, who is primarily a doer. Even European socialists have come to think far less in terms of ideologies today than used to be the case. In Germany there has been a departure from the principle of nationalization of industry, and this is true to a large extent in Great Britain also.

One might say that ideologies have, everywhere, given way to pragmatism. If Steiner were to write this book today he would describe economic conditions as they have developed after World War II, and still come to the same basic conclusions. In close contact with many of the men involved, he was in a position that made possible both external study of the social phenomena and a penetration into the realities behind them. For the latter he could use the methods of approach presented in his philosophical world conception.

The effort here has been, besides omitting topical material no longer of such immediate interest, to break up the original lengthy sentence structure that is appropriate in the German language. Dr. Steiner himself said that if he had been writing this book for England and America he would have written it quite differently. For students of history interested in details concerning the break-up of the German and Austrian Empires, important background facts related to that time are available in the original German work, Die Kernpunkte der socialen Frage. For this and other omissions from the text, the undersigned takes full responsibility.

Special thanks are due to Lisa D. Monges, who corrected certain errors in the original English translation, and to S. J. Kingsley, E. Hinternhoff and H. Mehrtens, for their editorial help with the entire text or portions of it.

Frederick C. Heckel

Threefold Farm
Spring Valley, N. Y.
August, 1966