One of the significant issues that has been transformed by the catastrophe of the Great War is that of democracy. Anybody with an open mind for historical change ought to see that inevitably democracy must permeate the various nationalities completely. The worldwide catastrophe has also shown that the factions opposing democracy have no future. Everything anti-democratic has brought on its own destruction. Advocates of anti-democratic institutions should not forget what reality has demonstrated with torrents of blood.
The question of how to make democracy a reality requires that adherents take a stand not previously possible in the same way. Before the social movement entered its present historical stage, it could still be considered in a different way. But now we must ask, “How can the social movement be incorporated into democratic life?”
It is not just a matter of promoting vague political ideals or demands, nor of shaping political ideals as a result of that which one-sided interest groups understandably raise as demands. A true understanding of the social organism becomes more necessary with every passing day.
The servants of capitalism were not alone in their apprehension when they considered the consequences of the social wave threatening to inundate contemporary life. In addition to a majority of self-centered individuals, a few honest persons recognized in the precise shape assumed by this wave a danger to true democracy. When spiritual life, even in practical affairs, comes to be seen as an ideological superstructure of economic life, how will a genuine unfolding of human individuality be possible? For it has become such a superstructure in the thinking of those who want to make a social form of life dependent upon humanity's adopting a materialistic view of history. If it does not make possible the free unfolding of human individuality, socialism will not be able to liberate culture from its capitalistic prison, but rather it will bring death with no hope of revival.
If one judges the demands made by the social movement not in accordance with the interests that have resulted from its earlier stages, but rather as a historical necessity that is not to be avoided, a very grave question emerges: How can these demands of the movement be accomplished without suppressing human talent or creativity, the free unfolding of which determines the extent and future of human development? In a social order founded upon a capitalist economy, democratization was something entirely different from what it must be in an order imbued with social impulses.
Ever more urgent is the need to seek possibilities of developing the life of the human spirit together with social impulses. One should not allow oneself to be hypnotized by the dogma: Socialism in the economy will generate, on its own, a healthy spiritual-cultural life as a superstructure. An economy standing alone without constant fertilization by a cultural life founded on free human individuality cannot continue to develop and becomes rigid. Only those immersed in such a dogma can fail to understand this. That quality of human individuality which must creatively influence and direct the social life has to be wrought from the very essence of human nature through impulses that economic life cannot produce. Economics are the foundation of human existence; but human spirit rises above it. Economic forces are confined within much narrower boundaries than human nature as a whole. As obvious as this may seem for the comprehension of the individual, it has not been assimilated by contemporary thinking. More and more, public opinion and, above all, public action reveal a trend of thought that resists this self-evident truth. Men become accustomed to certain conditions, and come to demand modes of existence that would seem impossible to them if they truly wanted to think about it. By deadening their sensibilities to this contradiction, they conceal it from themselves and are thus able to live with it.
A significant fact of life reveals itself in this contradiction. Our innate powers of judgment and feeling, which should be developed through a healthy nurturing of cultural life, do not find their way into our modern social institutions. These institutions then smother the free development of the individual.
This suppression makes itself felt from two sides: from that of the state, and from that of the economy. Consciously or unconsciously we fight against the oppression. Here lies the real cause underlying the social demands being raised. What lives in these demands is like a wave driven along the surface, hiding what really is at work in the depths.
The rebellion against state oppression manifests itself in the aspiration of the people to true democracy; their revolt against an oppressive economy finds expression in their endeavor to structure economic life in a truly social way.
For that which has developed over the last three to four centuries, humanity demands democracy. If democracy is to become a reality, then it must be built upon those forces in human nature that actually unfold themselves democratically. If nations would become democracies, then they must become institutions that permit human beings to bring into play that which governs relationships among all who have come of age. Every adult citizen must share equally in the regulatory process. Administration and representation must provide a climate in which a healthy consciousness of rights and responsibilities is allowed to unfold.
Can such administration and representation also regulate the cultural life — life that must bring about the full development of individual human potential — if this development is not to wither and be thwarted to the detriment of social life? The premise for such a development is that it be tended in a milieu encouraging only such actions as have their source in the cultural life itself. Specific talent can be truly recognized and properly nurtured only by someone endowed with the same abilities. Emerging talent can be properly channeled only if a knowing guide acts from experience gained precisely in that realm of life into which he is to show the way. The proper nurture of a socially sound community requires individuals who, through their own experience, have acquired intimate knowledge of the various branches of life, and who have cultivated within themselves the ability to explain their experience to those who need to know. Think for a moment about the socially most significant branch of cultural life-schools on every level! Is it not true that development of individual human capacities and their preparation for life in a particular field can best be guided by that teacher who has personal experience in the field? Or can social renewal ever take place if the criterion for hiring such teachers is something other than their own individual capabilities? Democratic sentiments can relate only to that which each adult has in common with every other adult. It is impossible to find within democratic processes a regulatory function for matters that lie entirely within the domain of the individual. If true democracy is to become a reality, then one must exclude from its province everything that belongs in the domain of the individual. Within the province of democracy and the administrative establishments growing out of it, no impulse directing the free flow of individual human talent can arise. Democracy has to declare its impotence to provide such an impulse if it wants to be a true democracy. If a true democracy is to be formed out of the state that has existed heretofore, then one must remove from it and deliver to full self-regulation all those matters for which only the individual development of each particular person can manifest the right impulses. Such matters cannot be regulated just because a person is of age and is a citizen.
The social relationships that every adult is competent to judge are the legal relationships between one person and another. At the same time, they represent conditions of life that can maintain their social character only because in democratic institutions they manifest the collective will — a composite of equal individual human wills working together. By contrast, the collective will cannot express what is to arise from individual human abilities; here institutions must function so as to allow the individual to achieve full expression. In away, the human being might be compared to a natural landscape. One cannot cultivate and manage an expanse of land without considering its different aspects. The nature of each part must be studied so that one can learn what it might produce. Thus, in the realm of culture, individual initiative based on individual capabilities must become socially effective; cultural life may not be determined through the will of all. Within the realm of culture this universal will becomes antisocial because it deprives the community of the fruits that individual human capabilities can provide.
Thus self-administration of the cultural life is the only way to promote individual abilities. Only through self- administration will conditions exist that give rise not to a universal will that suppresses the fruitfulness of the individual for social life, but rather a condition in which individual human accomplishments can be taken up into the life of the whole for its benefit.
Certain criteria will be established from within such a self-governing spiritual-cultural life whereby the right people may be put into the right positions, and immediate, vital trust can take the place of laws and regulations. Educators will not look to laws and regulations for their educational aims; instead, they will become observers of life and seek to learn, by listening to life, what it is they have to inculcate. It will be possible within the cultural sphere to avail oneself of persons who, through years of experience in practical life, are well versed in the ways of law and economics. In the cultural sphere, they will in turn encounter people with whom they can, through lively intercourse, exchange and reshape, their practical experience and bring it to educational fruition. On the other hand, administrators in the cultural sphere may occasionally feel the need to enter the arena of practical life in order to utilize and revitalize their own knowledge.
If the structuring of the social organism is done in such a way that a self-governing cultural life can unfold within it, this will not destroy the vital unity of the organism; on the contrary, it will support and enhance it. Only the administration is articulated: in the life of the people, unity will be allowed to develop. One will no longer need to isolate oneself from life by encapsulating oneself within a rigid condition. A lively exchange can take place between the cultural organism and other branches of society. When tradition and public opinion is reshaped in the cultural life, the potential for vitality is far greater than in an inflexible system. The structuring of the social organism should, in the future, be based on real social facts, and these concrete forces should develop, through self-regulation, into something that is a source of a power that can leave us free.
There should be no doubt that the economic and legal spheres can develop only when people are allowed to think and feel socially. Unbiased experience of present conditions should convince one that cultural life fused with the legal system cannot accomplish this. Anyone who has sound judgment and comprehends life in its fullness has difficulty being understood at present. He finds himself dealing with people whose souls do not resound with life experience in thinking and feeling; people whose educations in state-run schools have given them an abstract disposition, divorced from life. Those who believe they are the most practical, show the least practicality. They have achieved a certain routine in the narrow channel in which they function. They call this their practical sense and regard with arrogance anyone who has not tied himself to their routine, calling him impractical. But all the rest of their thinking, feeling, and willing is permeated with and ruled by abstractions inimical to life. Such personalities are made to flourish by state-governed education, which remains impervious to life-experience. All that can enter into this kind of education, allowed to act exclusively, is the abstract thinking and feeling that is accessible to every adult apart from any special experience. This is the reason why in so many quarters social needs meet with so little understanding. Even the origins of social sensibilities show themselves to be inadequate to the demands of the social organism. One thinks: many people are calling for a restructuring of society! Let one come to meet them, and create laws and ordinances. But the restructuring of society cannot be accomplished that way. Today's needs are such that their fulfIllment cannot be found in a temporary transfer of power. The “social question” has reached the surface of humanity's historical evolution, and will remain there now forever. It will demand new ways of thinking and feeling that presuppose a living intercourse between the cultural sphere and life as a whole. To socialize only to be done with it, once and for all, will not be possible. The effort has to be renewed constantly; or rather, social life will have to be subject to a constant process of socialization.
The unsocial, often even antisocial, feelings of those who claim to be today's socialist thinkers, stem from the cultural life of an earlier era, especially as it is manifested in the educational system. This spiritual-cultural sphere alienated from life itself has called forth a twisted notion of spiritual life. Broad segments of the populace believe that the genuine human impulses reside within economic forms. According to them, cultural life is nothing but a “superstructure” with its foundations in the economy, an ideology arising from a particular mode of economic activity. This view has been adopted (consciously or unconsciously) by almost the entire working class, the bearers of the social demands of the age. This working class developed during an age in which spiritual culture has foregone the attempt to find a direction and a goal of itself; an age in which the outward social form this spiritual culture has adopted is the result of political and economic life. Only self-administration can rescue the spiritual-cultural life from its present condition. Yoked firmly to the economy by the capitalistic system and technology, the proletariat now believes that mere organization of economic life will necessarily bring about “by itself” the needed reforms in the legal and cultural domain as well. The working class was obliged to experience how modern cultural life had become a mere adjunct to political and economic life, and so they formed the opinion that all cultural life must be such an appendage.
If, in truth, they could see this dismal concept embodied within a social organism, it would be a bitter disappointment actually to discover that a cultural life arising from a social reform based on economic principles alone would lead to even more dire and pitiful conditions than the present ones. The proletariat will have to struggle through to the insight that the present situation cannot be improved through a mere reorganization of the economy, but only through separation of the cultural and legal spheres from the economic, thus creating a healthy threefold social organism. The proletarian movement will find the right track only when its members cease to reiterate, “Modern economic life created a cultural and a legal sphere which have an asocial effect; it is time for an economic change which, in turn, will generate from within itself brand new cultural and legal forms.” The proletarian movement will succeed only when its members can say, “Modern culture has led to an economic system that can be transformed only when both the cultural and legal spheres are separated from it and are released to their own administration.” For this modern cultural life has led to a situation in which everything non-economic is dependent on the economy: the healing processes can start only with the elimination of this dependency, and not with an even greater subjection. The fact that today's working class has been harnessed into the economic system has led to the notion that only economic reconstruction can cure the ailment. The day that sets the working class free from this superstition; the day that allows people to become aware of their own instincts and to recognize that cultural and legal life cannot function as an ideology born from the economic environment; the day the proletariat perceives that the calamity of the modern age lies precisely in the fact that such an ideology has emerged; that will be the day that brings the dawn awaited by many.
An economy in which the state does not participate will be able to proceed from independent economic experience on the one hand and the support of particular individuals and economic groups on the other. Economic experience cannot play itself out in the sphere where the rights due every adult should come to the fore, but rather only in the sphere of the self-governing economic body. Recognition given a person because of work in a special field of the economy cannot be expressed in the structure of the state, where only that which is valid for all persons equally prevails, but rather only in the effect this person exerts upon other branches of the economy. Persons who belong to the same branch of the economy will have to unite with each other; they will have to form associations with those from other economic sectors. Through a lively intercourse between such associations and cooperatives the interests of producers and consumers will be able to organize themselves. In this way, economic impulses alone will be able to work within the economy.
When blue collar and white collar workers meet with each other, they need only consider economic issues because legal matters will be dealt with separately under the state's jurisdiction. The blue collar worker can associate freely with the manager of the business, because only the division, on economic principles, of that which they have earned together will be allowed; there will be no economic compulsion resulting from the greater economic resources of the manager. The associative structuring of the economic body will place the blue collar worker's contractual relationship to the business manager in a totally different light. Up to now, he has been forced to fight against the interests of the business manager, but in his new associative role he will share in the fruits of production. Through the heightened awareness he has gained as a consumer, he will cultivate and profit by — rather than oppose — the same interest in production as the manager. This can never happen in an economy the aim of which is the profitability of capital assets; it can happen only in an economy that regulates the value of products on the basis of self-equilibrating processes of production and consumption within the social structure as a whole. A social partnership such as this is possible only if the interests of special professionals, consumers and producers can find expression in various self-subsisting associations and can come to agreements within the economic body as a whole. The special interests of the individual branches of industry give rise to the individual associations; determinations of economic value will arise out of the coalition of these associations, and in the central administrative body that will emerge from these economic interests.
An individual business cannot be socialized; socialization happens only when the production of economic value that a separate business contributes to the total economic life has no antisocial effect. As a result of such genuine socialization, the capitalist system will lose its harmful tendencies. (In my book, Toward Social Renewal, I have described how capital must function within a healthy three-fold organism.) It should be clear by now that one cannot “do away” with capital, since capital is nothing other than the means of production working for the community. It ii not capital itself that is harmful, but rather capital in private hands, especially if this private ownership is able to control the social structure of the economic body. But if society can be structured in the manner previously described, then capital can no longer have any antisocial influence. The beneficial social structure will always prevent the capital assets from being isolated from the management of the means of production. It will also put a stop to the attempts of those who strive only for capital assets, but shirk participation in the economic process. One could readily object that others who do participate would gain nothing, should the earning of nonparticipants be “divided up.” The objection has some validity, and yet it disguises the truth, for its validity has no significance for the structuring of the social organism. The harmfulness of the nonworking recipient of divi. dends is not that to a small degree they diminish the working man's earnings, but that the sheer possibility of someone being able to have income without working for it lends an antisocial aspect to the whole economic body. The economic body that blocks the possibility to derive income from dividends differs from the one that cannot block it just as human organisms, too, differ — the one is healthy and impervious in all areas to the invasion of a tumor; the other, through the accumulation of unhealthy elements, is beset by a tumorous growth.
A healthy social organism requires, however, that certain measures unacceptable to contemporary economic prejudices growing out of the aforementioned associations be instituted. In a healthy social organism, capital goods and other means of production will have a one-time cost at the time of delivery. The producer will then be able to manage them, but only for as long as he can contribute to production by his management. The business will then have to be transferred to another not by sale nor by inheritance, but rather as a free gift to the one best able to manage it. It will have no sale value, and thus no value in the hands of an heir who does not work. Capital with independent economic power will work in the establishment of the means of production; it will dissolve itself instantly when the creation of the means of production is fmished. Now, however, capital consists mostly of such “already established means of production.”
The socially correct value of a piece of goods can only be determined by comparison with other goods. Its value must equal the value of all other goods needed by the producer to fulfill his own requirements, until the time when he can again produce a similar piece of goods. This he must do while considering all those requirements necessary in the interest of other people. (Herein must be included, for instance, the needs of his children and what he must contribute for the support of persons incapable of working, etc.) The institutions and provisions of a healthy economy must act in an intermediary capacity to guarantee the value of such goods. These institutions can only be created through a network of corporations that regulate production by considering consumption. The justification for these requirements is not the issue. The issue is the mediation between consumption and production based on economic experience and real economic relationships. If felt needs arise that cannot be borne by the economy as a whole, these needs will find no counter or reciprocal value in the goods produced by the person who feels those needs.
An economy can be regulated in this way only when its development is based on mutually supporting measures taken by individual corporations. These measures must stem from expertise and concrete facts. Any incursion of democratic principles would necessarily have a detrimental effect upon the development of expert knowledge. Similarly, economic interests would have a detrimental effect upon everything that should emerge under the influence of democracy.
The health of the social organism depends upon its articulation into three independent spheres: a spiritual-cultural sphere, a legal or rights-sphere, and an economic sphere. Far from dividing people into three social strata, the articulation will allow them to participate in all three spheres according to their interests as whole human beings. The separation will be such that in the cultural or legal spheres, for instance, no decision can be made concerning problems arising within the economy. In the unitary state, where the three systems are intertwined, an economic group will have the power to legalize its interests and declare them public rights. In the threefold organism this can never happen, because economic interests can play themselves out only within the economic cycle, and there will be no possibility of overflow into the legal sphere.
The greatest possible guarantee that one sphere of the threefold organism cannot be violated by another lies in their union, effected by the total corporate body consisting of the delegates of the three central administrations and agencies. For these central administrative committees will have to deal with actual developments within their own spheres. They will not arrive at a situation where, for instance, the rights sphere or the cultural sphere would be impinged upon by the economic, because this would place them in opposition to the developments taking place in their several spheres. Should, however, the influence of one department over another become necessary, the factual basis for such influence can lie only in the sphere of corporate interest and not in the individual group's interest.
No one should cherish the illusion that any social institution could ever create an “ideal situation.” What can be attained, however, is a viable, healthy social organism. Anything beyond that must be found through something other than social development. It is not the task of this articulation to guarantee “happiness,” but rather to find the living conditions needed by a healthy social organism. Within it, however, men must be able to seek what they need to lead a dignified human existence. Nor does the healthy physical organism create from within itself that culture which the soul alone can unfold from its own depths; but a diseased organism prevents the soul from doing so. Thus a healthy social organism can only provide the prerequisites necessary for all that human beings must nurture and develop through their own capabilities and needs.
Anyone who descries as utopian or as mere ideology what reveals itself to be a guideline for social development, and wants to leave everything to evolution, resembles a person who becomes indisposed because he sits in an unventilated room and refuses to open a window while waiting for the stale air to renew itself.
The merger of cultural life and economics with the state would rob democracy of its real foundations. Anyone desiring genuine democracy will insist on granting the cultural and the economic spheres self-determination.