The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The Renewal of the Social Organism
GA 24

Twenty Articles from the Newspaper The Threefold Social Order

7. What Socialists Do Not See

It appears that many people are kept from the idea of a threefold social order by the fear that it entails sundering things that in reality must work together as an undivided unity within society. Now it is true that a person engaged in economic activity is brought thereby into relationships with his fellow men that involve laws. It is also true that one's spiritual life is dependent on these legal relationships, and is also conditioned by one's economic position. In the human being, these three functions are united; in the course of life, one becomes involved in all three.

Is this, however, a reason why these three life-functions should be governed from a single center? Does it necessitate all three being governed according to the same principles? In the human being and in his activities, many currents run together that have flowed from a great variety of sources. We are dependent on the qualities inherited from our fore-fathers. We think and act according to what our education has made of us, education we received from persons to whom we are not related. How strange it would be if anyone tried to assert that our unity were destroyed because we are influenced from different quarters by heredity and education. Should it not be said, rather, that we remain incomplete if heredity and education work from a single source to shape our lives?

That such things from various sources must converge within us in order (through this very variety) to satisfy the many requirements of our nature — people can understand this, for to not understand it would be absurd. However, they will not see that the development of spiritual abilities, the regulation of legal affairs and the shaping of economic life afford us our proper place within the social order only when each is governed from its separate center and from its special viewpoint. An economy that governs the rights of human beings, and educates them according to its own interests, reduces the person to a mere cog in the economic machinery. It stunts the human spirit, which can develop freely only when it unfolds according to its own innate im-pulses. It stunts, too, those relations with our fellows that stem from the feelings, and refuse to be influenced by economic considerations — relations that are striving rather to be governed in accordance with the equality of all regarding what is purely human.

When the political sphere or the sphere of rights controls the development of our individual abilities, it weighs on this development like a crushing burden. For the interests that arise out of these spheres must naturally produce a tendency to develop such abilities according to the government's needs and not according to their own proper nature, however good may be the original intentions to allow for individual characteristics. Such a legal or political sphere also imposes an alien character upon economic matters. Those subject to this kind of political system become through constant tutelage spiritually cramped and economically hampered in the pursuit of interests inappropriate to their own nature.

A spiritual life that attempted to determine legal relations on its own terms would inevitably be led from the in-equality of human abilities to inequality in the law. It would be false to its own nature if it were to allow itself to be determined by economic interests. Under such a spiritual culture, people would never come to a true consciousness of what, in reality, the spirit may be for human life, for they would watch the spirit degrade itself through injustice and falsify itself through economic aims.

What has brought humanity to the present state of affairs in the civilized world is that during the last few centuries these three spheres have in many respects grown together into a single, unified state. And the cause of the present unrest is that an enormous number of people are struggling (while unconscious of the real nature of their striving) toward a delimitation of these three spheres of life into separate systems of the social organism, so that the spiritual-cultural life may be free to shape itself according to its own spiritual impulses; that the sphere of rights may be built up democratically through the interaction (direct or representational) of people on equal terms; and that the economic life may extend solely to the production, circulation and consumption of commodities.

Starting from any number of standpoints one can come to see the necessity of a threefold organization of society. One of these standpoints is an understanding of present-day human nature. From the standpoint of some particular social theory or party dogma, it may appear very unscientific or impractical to say that when arranging institutions for communal life, one should consult psychology to learn (so far as it can tell us) what is suited to human nature. Yet it would be a great misfortune if everyone who tried to give this “social psychology” its due in the shaping of social life were to be silenced. There are colorblind people who see the world as gray on gray; so, too, there are social reformers and social revolutionaries blind to psychology who would like to mold the social organism into an economic syndicate in which people would live and move like mechanical beings. These agitators have no idea of their blindness. They know only that there has always existed a legal and a spiritual life beside the economic life; and they imagine that if they fashion the economic life after their own ideas, all the rest will come “of itself.” It will not come; it will come to ruin. Thus it is very hard to arrive at any understanding with those blind to psychology; and thus it is, unfortunately, also necessary to take up against them — a battle begun not by those who can see, but by those who are blind.