The Renewal of the Social Organism
Twenty Articles from the Newspaper The Threefold Social Order
16. The Roots of Social Life
In my book Toward Social Renewal, the comparison between the social organism and the natural human organism is used as an analogy; at the same time it is pointed out how misleading it is to suppose that concepts acquired from the one can simply be transferred to the other. Anyone who forms a picture of the function of the cells or of an organ of the human body, as natural science represents them, and who then proceeds to look for the social cell or the social organs in order to learn the construction and conditions of life in the social body will very soon fall into an empty game of analogies.
It is a different matter to point out, as in Toward Social Renewal, that by an intelligent study of the human organism one can train oneself in the kind of thinking required for a real understanding of the working of social life. Through such a training, one acquires the ability to judge social facts not according to preconceived opinions, but to judge them according to their own laws of existence. This above all is necessary in our present times. People today are tied up tightly in their party opinions regarding social judgment; and party opinions are not formed on grounds that lie in the conditions of life and organic requirements of the entire social organism, but by the blind feelings of particular people or of particular groups. If the methods of judgment employed in party programs were transferred to the study of the human body, it would soon be seen that instead of assisting an understanding of it, these methods are only a hindrance.
In an organic body, the air that is inhaled must constantly be converted into an unusable substance; oxygen must be converted into carbon dioxide. Accordingly, there must be arrangements by which the changed and no longer usable substance is replaced by a usable one. Anyone who now brings to bear a judgment schooled by study of the human organism, and applies it with common sense and without preconceptions to the study of the social organism, will find that there is one system within this social organism, the economic system, which, if functioning properly, is constantly bound to produce conditions that must be counteracted by other functions. Just as the organ system in the human body that is designed to consume inhaled oxygen cannot be expected to make the oxygen usable again, it should not be supposed that the economic circulation itself can give rise to the functions needed for making good what it is the business of this system to convert, out of life, into a life-restricting product.
The necessary counteraction can be supplied only by the separate working of two other systems alongside the economy: a body of laws that determines its own form out of its own proper nature, and a spiritual-cultural life growing freely from its own roots, completely independent of the economic system and the legal system. Only a superficial critic will say, “What, then! Is the cultural life not to be bound in its pursuits by existing legal relations?” Certainly it must be bound by them. However, it is one matter if the people, who pursue the cultural life, are dependent on the legal life; and quite another matter if the pursuit of the cultural life rises on its own from the institutions of this legal sphere. The idea of the threefold social order will be found to be one that makes it very easy for objections that abide by preconceived notions; but also that these objections fall to pieces when one thinks them through to the end.
The life of the economy has a lawfulness of its own. In following this lawfulness, it creates conditions that destroy the social organism, if only this law is at work. If, however, one tries to abolish these conditions by means of economic measures, one then destroys the economic process itself. In the modern economic process, evils have arisen through control of the means of production by private capital. If one tries to exterminate these evils by an economic measure, such as the communal control of the means of production, one undermines modern industry. One can, however, work against these evils, by creating alongside the economy an independent legal system and a free life of the spirit. In this way, the evils that result — and result continually — from the economic life will be removed as they arise. It will not be a case of the evils arising first and people having to suffer under them before they disappear; rather, the other organic systems that exist alongside the economic institutions will, in each instance, turn aside the mischief.
The party opinions of recent times have distracted men's judgment from the laws of life in the social organism and have diverted it into the currents of sectarian passion. It is urgently necessary that these party opinions should undergo correction from a quarter in which one can learn to be impartial. One can learn this through the study of conditions which of their own nature elicit impartial judgment, and in which thinking therefore becomes its own corrective. The human organism affords such conditions.
Of course, if only the conventional scientific concepts are applied as correctives, they will not go far. In many respects, these concepts lack the kind of force necessary to strike deep into the facts of nature. Yet if one tries to keep to nature herself, and not merely to these concepts of nature, one will be in a better position to learn impartiality than one would be amid party views. Despite the good will of many natural scientists, who have endeavored to overcome materialist convictions, the usual concepts of natural science are today still strongly imbued with materialism. A spiritual contemplation of nature will shed this materialism; and spiritual contemplation of nature will provide means for the kind of training in thought which, among other things, makes it possible to comprehend the social organisms.
The idea of the threefold social order does not simply borrow facts from natural science and transplant them into the field of social life. It uses the study of nature only as a way of gaining the ability to observe social facts impartially. This should be kept in mind by those who learn about the idea in a superficial fashion — the threefold idea talks of a threefold division of social life in much the same way as one might talk of a threefold division of the natural human organism. Anyone who studies seriously the characteristics of the human organism will be made aware that the one can-not be simply transferred to the other. However, the method of study one is obliged to use on the human organism will awaken the kind of thinking that will enable one to find his way among the social facts.
Such a method will be thought to remove all social ideas to the far-off region of “gray theory.” It may perhaps be said that such an opinion can only be maintained as long as one regards this “removal” from outside. Then, certainly, everything that is seen indistinctly at a distance seems gray. On the other hand, those things that are born of more immediate passions will have color. Yet go nearer what seems gray and one will find that something begins to stir which is not unlike a sort of passion — but it speaks to all that is truly human, that of which one loses sight when looking from the standpoint of parties and group opinions.
There is today a burning need to draw nearer to what is truly human. The polemical postures of rival camps have done enough. It is time that one comes to see that the damage cannot be undone with new rival camps, but rather only by observing what history itself demands at this present moment of humanity's evolution. It is easy to see evils and demand programs for their abolition, but what is necessary is to penetrate to the roots of social life. By healing these roots, healthy blossoms and fruits can be brought forth as well.