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The Renewal of the Social Organism
GA 24

17. The Basis of the Threefold Social Order

[ 1 ] The essence of the threefold social order is that it looks at social relations without party or class prejudice and poses the question: what must be done at this juncture of human evolution in order to create viable social forms? Anyone who strives earnestly and honestly to answer this question shall confront one fact he or she cannot possibly disregard: namely, that in modern times the economic and political spheres have come into devastating conflict with one another.

The class strata that are the basis of contemporary social life arose out of economic circumstances. In the course of economic evolution (and as a result of that evolution) one person became a worker and another an industrialist, while a third became engaged in some cultural activity. Socialist thinkers never tire of putting this fact in the forefront of their programs, thinking it will lend them an aura of necessity. However, they do not realize that the important point is to see why economics was able to exert such a tremendous influence upon the stratification of society. They do not see that this stratification came about because the industrial system was not opposed by a political and legal system that could have counteracted its influence. Each person was swept by the forces of the economy to a point where he stood alone. It was possible to live only within the conditions that economic life afforded. One person ceased to understand the other; he could only hope to outvote or overpower him with the help of those who stood upon the same ground. There has yet to arise from the depths of human evolution a political or legal form capable of bringing together the isolated groups of humanity. People did not see that the old currents of politics and law run counter to the new economic forces.

[ 2 ] One cannot carry on economic life in the way made necessary by the circumstances of the last two centuries, and at the same time put people into social positions evolved from political theories belonging to bygone times. Nor should one hope that the class structure, which arose apart from any new political aspirations, can represent a point of departure for the reconstruction of the social organism. Obviously, the classes who feel themselves oppressed will not acknowledge the justice of this statement. They say, “We have had new political aspirations for more than half a century.” In my Toward Social Renewal, I demonstrated that this is not the case as a first premise for all further consideration of social renewal. Karl Marx and his adherents have certainly summoned one class to battle; yet they have merely set forth the same thoughts learned from the adherents of those classes they are to oppose. Therefore, even if the battle could bring about what many desire, nothing new would come of it. It would lead to the same old end; there would merely be a different group at the helm.

[ 3 ] This realization does not, of course, lead directly to the idea of the threefold order; but it is a necessary step in that direction. Until this realization has dawned upon a sufficiently large number of people, they will go on trying to extract from old ideas of politics and law the impulses that are supposed to be equal to present economic conditions. Until they see this, they will be afraid of a threefold articulation of the social organism because it clashes with their accustomed thinking.

[ 4 ] It is understandable that, in times that have brought so many disasters, people should shrink from any call for original thinking—thinking born of the depths of human life. Many feel themselves crushed by the weight of the times, and despair of the power of ideas as creative forces. They are “waiting” until “circumstances” produce a more favorable state of affairs. However, circumstances will never produce anything but what has been implanted in them by human ideas.

[ 5 ] “Yet, after all,” many say, “the very best ideas are powerless in actual practice if the circumstances of life reject them!” This is precisely the point of the threefold social order. The threefold idea begins with a recognition that neither praxis without theory nor impractical ideas can ever lead to a viable social organism. Accordingly, it does not promote an old-fashioned program. There are enough of such programs to teach one that they may be very “excellent” or “high-minded” or “inspiring” in the abstract, but that reality rejects them. In the field of economics, the threefold idea works with the natural and social realities of modern life; it works with the sense of right and justice that has evolved over the last few centuries; it works with a cultural life that provides the social organism with men and women who understand its organic laws and promote them to the benefit of society. It believes that, within a threefold order of the social organism, human beings will find it possible to work together in such a way that out of this cooperation, they shall create what cannot be brought about by any programmatic theory.

[ 6 ] Anyone who is unwilling to see the distinction in principle between the threefold idea and the usual programs will refuse to be convinced that it could bear fruit. The idea is one attuned to reality; it does not try to tyrannize life with a program, but aims at creating a basis that allows the life from which social impulses spring to develop freely. The questions of the present and the near future are not of the kind that can be solved by the intellect; they must be solved in a life-process, and that life-process must first be created. Modern humanity has only a first inkling of the real nature of the social question. It will assume its real form when the structure of the social organism is such that the three life forces underlying all human existence can rise in their true form from a vague instinct into conscious thought. Much that is said today about the social question, when measured against a real understanding of life, gives the impression of immaturity. It is said that people are too immature to shape their lives by ideas. That is not the case: people will be mature enough for answers as soon as they are presented with questions that are divested of ancient prejudices.

[ 7 ] Such is the present situation perceived by one who, out of a living experience of the full reality, has struggled through to the idea of the threefold order. He would like to see this perception translated into action. However, words enough will have been exchanged only when deeds are born of them.

Der Boden der Dreigliederung

[ 1 ] Das Wesentliche des Dreigliederungsgedankens ist, daß er die sozialen Verhältnisse ohne Partei- und Klassenbefangenheit von dem Gesichtspunkte aus ansieht, der ihm durch die Frage gegeben wird: Was ist im gegenwärtigen Zeitpunkte der Menschenentwickelung zu tun, um zu einer lebensmöglichen Gestaltung der Gesellschaftsorganismen zu gelangen? Wer es ernst und ehrlich mit dem Ringen nach einer Antwort auf diese Frage meint, der kann nicht achtlos an einer Tatsache vorbeigehen, wie die ist, daß in der neueren Zeit das wirtschaftliche und das politisch-rechtliche Leben in einen zerstörungsbringenden Widerstreit gekommen sind. Die Klassenschichtung der Menschheit, in der gegenwärtig gelebt wird, ist aus wirtschaftlichen Grundlagen heraus entstanden. Innerhalb der wirtschaftlichen Entwickelung und aus dieser heraus ist der eine zum Proletarier, der andere zum Unternehmer, ein dritter zum Arbeiter an der geistigen Kultur geworden. Sozialistisch Denkende werden nicht müde, diese Tatsache in den Vordergrund ihrer Forderungen zu stellen, um diese dann hinter ihr wie etwas Selbstverständliches erscheinen lassen zu können. Man bedenkt dabei nur nicht, daß es darauf ankommt, zu sehen, warum das Wirtschaftsleben übermächtig hat auf die Schichtung der Menschheit einwirken können. Man sieht nicht, wie diese Schichtung sich deshalb vollzogen hat, weil dem wirtschaftlichen Wirken kein politisch-rechtliches gegenüberstand, das ihm entgegengewirkt hätte. Der Mensch wurde durch den wirtschaftlichen Kreislauf auf einen Boden gestellt, der ihn isolierte. Er konnte sich nur in den Verhältnissen einleben, die ihm aus dem Wirtschaften heraus geboten wurden. Einer verstand so den andern nicht mehr. Er konnte sich mit ihm nicht verständigen; er konnte nur noch hoffen, ihn mit Hilfe derjenigen zu überstimmen, oder zu überwältigen, die auf gleichem Lebensboden standen. Aus den Tiefen der Menschheitsentwickelung ist kein politisch-rechtliches Leben heraufgezogen, das die isolierten Menschengruppen hätte zusammenführen können. Man hat nicht gesehen, daß ein Fortdenken in den alten politisch-rechtlichen Antrieben den neuen Wirtschaftskräften wider-strebt.

[ 2 ] Man kann aber nicht so wirtschaften, wie es die Verhältnisse der beiden letzten Jahrhunderte notwendig machten, und dabei die Menschen in soziale Lagen kommen lassen, die einem Denken aus politisch-rechtlichen Untergründen entsprechen, wie sie den vorangegangenen Zeitaltern eigen waren. Man sollte aber auch nicht hoffen, daß die Klassenschichtung, die ohne neues politisches Streben entstanden ist, den Ausgangspunkt für eine Neugestaltung des Gesellschaftsorganismus bilden könne. Es ist selbstverständlich, daß die sich unterdrückt fühlenden Klassen diese Behauptung nicht als eine berechtigte anerkennen. Ihre Angehörigen sagen: Wir haben seit mehr als einem halben Jahrhundert ein neues politisches Streben. In meinen «Kernpunkten der sozialen Frage» bildet der Nachweis, daß dies nicht der Fall ist, die Unterlage für die weiteren, einen sozialen Aufbau kennzeichnenden Gedanken. Karl Marx und seine Anhänger haben wohl die Menschen einer Lebensklasse zum Kampfe aufgerufen; aber sie haben diesen Menschen nur die Gedanken gegeben, die erlernt waren von den Angehörigen derjenigen Klassen, die bekämpft werden sollen. Deshalb würde, wenn auch der Kampf zu dem von vielen erwünschten Ende führen könnte, nichts Neues entstehen, sondern das Alte mit Menschen in der Führerschaft, die einer andern Klasse angehören als diejenigen, die bisher diese Führerschaft behaupteten.

[ 3 ] Zu dem Dreigliederungsgedanken führt die Einsicht in diese Tatsache wohl noch nicht; allein sie muß den Weg zu ihm vorbereiten. Solange sie nicht einer genügend großen Anzahl von Menschen einleuchtet, wird man fortfahren wollen, aus den alten politisch-rechtlichen Gedanken Antriebe herauspressen zu wollen, die den wirtschaftlichen Verhältnissen der Gegenwart gewachsen sein sollen. Man wird ohne dieses Einleuchten vor der Dreigliederung des sozialen Organismus zurückschrecken, weil man auf sie stößt mit dem, was man zu denken gewohnt ist.

[ 4 ] Es ist begreiflich, daß in einer Zeit, die so viel des Unheiles gebracht hat, die Menschen zurückschrecken vor dem Ansinnen zu eigenem, aus der Tiefe des Menschenlebens heraus geborenem Denken. Viele fühlen sich niedergedrückt durch diese Zeit und verzweifeln an der Kraft der schaffenden Ideenkräfte. Sie «warten», bis die «Verhältnisse » eine günstigere Lage schaffen. Allein nie werden die «Verhältnisse» etwas anderes schaffen, als was von menschlichen Ideen ihnen eingepflanzt ist.

[ 5 ] Aber - so sagen viele - die besten Ideen können doch praktisch nichts ausrichten, wenn sie von den Lebensverhältnissen zurückgewiesen werden. Gerade mit diesem Einwande rechnet der Dreigliederungsgedanke. Er geht von der Einsicht aus, daß weder die ideenlose Praxis noch die unpraktische Idee zu einem lebensfähigen sozialen Organisinus kommen können. Deshalb stellt er nicht in der alten Form ein Programm auf. Solcher Programme gibt es genug, um zu lernen, daß sie zwar «gut», oder «edel», oder «geistvoll» gedacht sind, daß aber die Wirklichkeit sie zurückweist. Die Dreigliederungsidee rechnet auf dem wirtschaftlichen Gebiete mit den durch Natur und Menschenleben gegebenen Wirklichkeiten der neueren Zeit. Sie rechnet mit dem Rechtsbewußtsein der Menschheit, wie es sich im Laufe der letzten Jahrhunderte durch die Entwickelung ergeben hat. Und sie rechnet mit einem Geistesleben, das Menschen in den sozialen Organismus hineinstellt, die seine Lebensbedingungen verstehen und sie fördern, so daß ihm die Daseinsmöglichkeit geschaffen werde. Sie vermeint zu durdischauen, daß in einem dreigliedrigen sozialen Organismus die Menschen im Leben so zusammenwirken werden können, daß aus diesem Zusammenwirken entstehe, was eine abstrakte Programmidee nicht bewirken kann.

[ 6 ] Wer diesen prinzipiellen Unterschied der Dreigliederungsidee und gebräuchlicher Programmgedanken nicht ins Auge fassen will, der wird sich von der Fruchtbarkeit der ersteren nicht überzeugen lassen. Diese ist eine Wirklich keitsidee, weil sie das Leben nicht im Sinne eines Programmes tyrannisieren will, sondern zuerst die Grundlage zu schaffen bestrebt ist, auf der dasjenige Leben frei erwachsen kann, aus dem die sozialen Antriebe sich entwickeln. Die Fragen der Gegenwart und der nächsten Zukunft sind nicht solche, die an den Intellekt gestellt werden können, sondern die aus einem Leben sich ergeben müssen, das erst herbeizuführen ist. Die gegenwärtige Menschheit ahnt eigentlich erst die sozialen Fragen. Ihre wirkliche Gestalt wird sich ergeben, wenn die Struktur des sozialen Organismus so beschaffen sein wird, daß die drei in dem Menschendasein liegenden Lebenskräfte ihre wahre Wirklichkeit aus einem instinktartigen Empfinden in bewußtes Denken heben können. Vieles, was heute über sie gesagt wird, macht einer wirklichen Erkenntnis des Lebens gegenüber den Eindruck des Unreifen. Da sagt man, die Menschen seien unreif, nach Ideen ihr Leben zu gestalten. Nein, die Menschen werden reif für Antworten sein, wenn die Fragen erst unverhüllt durch uralte Vorurteile ihnen gegenübertreten werden.

[ 7 ] So sieht derjenige die Lage der Gegenwart, der sich zur Dreigliederungsidee aus dem Erleben der vollen Wirklichkeit durchringt. Und aus diesem Sehen möchte er, daß gehandelt werde. Der Worte aber werden erst genug gewechselt sein, wenn aus den Worten die Tat wird geboren sein.

The foundation of threefolding

[ 1 ] The essence of the idea of threefolding is that it looks at social conditions without party or class bias from the point of view given to it by the question: What is to be done at the present time of human development in order to achieve the most viable organization of social organisms? Anyone who is serious and honest in his search for an answer to this question cannot carelessly ignore the fact that in recent times economic and political-legal life have come into destructive conflict. The class stratification of mankind in which we currently live has arisen from economic foundations. Within the economic development and out of it one has become a proletarian, another an entrepreneur, a third a worker in spiritual culture. Socialist thinkers never tire of placing this fact at the forefront of their demands in order to make it seem self-evident. The only thing they fail to consider is that it is important to see why economic life has been able to exert an overpowering influence on the stratification of humanity. One does not see how this stratification took place because the economic activity was not countered by any political-legal action. Through the economic cycle, man was placed on a ground that isolated him. They could only settle into the conditions offered to them by the economic system. One no longer understood the other. He could not communicate with him; he could only hope to outvote or overpower him with the help of those who stood on the same ground of life. From the depths of human development no political-legal life has emerged which could have united the isolated groups of men. It has not been seen that a continuation of the old political-legal impulses is contrary to the new economic forces.

[ 2 ] However, it is not possible to operate the economy in the way that the conditions of the last two centuries have made necessary, and at the same time allow people to find themselves in social situations that correspond to a way of thinking based on the political-legal foundations of previous eras. Nor should we hope that the class stratification that has arisen without new political aspirations can form the starting point for a reorganization of the social organism. It goes without saying that the classes who feel oppressed do not recognize this assertion as a legitimate one. Their members say: "We have had a new political aspiration for more than half a century. In my "Key Points of the Social Question" the proof that this is not the case forms the basis for the further ideas characterizing a social construction. Karl Marx and his followers have certainly called upon the people of one class of life to fight; but they have only given these people those thoughts which were learned from the members of those classes which are to be fought against. Therefore, even if the struggle could lead to the end desired by many, nothing new would emerge, but the old with people in the leadership who belong to a different class than those who have hitherto claimed this leadership.

[ 3 ] The insight into this fact does not yet lead to the threefold idea; but it must prepare the way for it. As long as it does not make sense to a sufficiently large number of people, people will want to continue to squeeze drives out of the old political-legal ideas that are supposed to be able to cope with the economic conditions of the present. Without this insight, people will shy away from the threefold nature of the social organism because they will come up against it with what they are used to thinking.

[ 4 ] It is understandable that in a time that has brought so much misfortune, people shy away from the idea of their own thinking, born out of the depths of human life. Many feel depressed by these times and despair of the power of the creative forces of ideas. They "wait" until the "circumstances" create a more favorable situation. But never will the "circumstances" create anything other than what is implanted in them by human ideas.

[ 5 ] But - many say - the best ideas can achieve practically nothing if they are rejected by the conditions of life. It is precisely this objection that the idea of threefolding reckons with. It is based on the insight that neither unimaginative practice nor impractical ideas can lead to a viable social organization. That is why he does not put forward a program in the old form. There are enough such programs to learn that they are indeed "good", or "noble", or "spiritually" conceived, but that reality rejects them. In the economic field, the idea of threefolding reckons with the realities of modern times given by nature and human life. It reckons with the legal consciousness of mankind as it has developed in the course of the last centuries. And it reckons with a spiritual life that places people in the social organism who understand its living conditions and promote them, so that the possibility of existence is created for it. It assumes to see that in a tripartite social organism people can work together in life in such a way that out of this cooperation arises what an abstract program idea cannot bring about.

[ 6 ] Those who do not want to consider this fundamental difference between the threefold idea and common program ideas will not be convinced of the fruitfulness of the former. The latter is an idea of reality because it does not seek to tyrannize over life in the sense of a programme, but first endeavours to create the basis on which that life can grow freely from which the social impulses develop. The questions of the present and the near future are not those that can be posed to the intellect, but must arise from a life that must first be brought about. Present-day humanity is only just beginning to realize the social questions. Their true form will emerge when the structure of the social organism is such that the three life forces inherent in human existence can lift their true reality from an instinctive feeling into conscious thinking. Much of what is said about them today gives the impression of immaturity in the face of a real realization of life. It is said that people are immature to shape their lives according to ideas. No, people will be ripe for answers when the questions first confront them undisguised by age-old prejudices.

[ 7 ] This is how he sees the situation of the present who has come to the idea of threefolding from the experience of full reality. And from this vision he wants action to be taken. But words will only be exchanged enough when the deed will be born from the words.