All Rudolf Steiner's work in the sphere of practical human affairs is founded upon knowledge of Man as a being of body, soul and spirit.
In The Threefold Commonwealth, his fundamental work in the field of social life, published in 1919, Dr. Steiner shows that man has a threefold relationship to the social order. He has the task of developing his own soul and spirit, his individuality; he has the right and the obligation to live in peace with his fellow-men; and he needs certain material things for his bodily and spiritual life. The true form of social order is, therefore, one which “orders” aright these three relationships in social life. The spiritual requires freedom for its full development; the man-to-man relationships call for laws which embody simply what is fair and just, and before which all members of the community have equal rights and obligations; the economic life needs full scope for individual ability together with the impulse of brotherly trust working through an organisation of “economic associations.” In such associations the practical experience of all those persons engaged in the economic life could flow together with a force capable of applying a practical Economic Science to the new problems created by the transition (partial as yet) from national economies to World-Economy.
In 1922, Dr. Steiner, in response to a request from students of Economics, gave, in the fourteen lectures contained in this book, advice for the formation of an Economic Science which would enable mankind to master the complicated facts of world-economics. In these lectures he shows that the economic process is an organic one in constant movement and that it can be known in its reality only by a method of thinking which immerses itself in the phenomenon and creates living mobile pictures of all its changing phases. The lectures themselves manifest a new way of economic thinking and demonstrate the method by which the economic life can be mastered by the human spirit in association. It is, the author says, the task of the economic scientist to make this contribution “to the healing of our civilisation and to the reconstruction of our human life.”
Because the subject is dealt with in this fundamental way, no previous knowledge of Economics is necessary for an understanding. What is needed on the part of the reader is the goodwill to apply an activity of thinking free from pre-conception and bias. The method of presentation allows the reader to think for himself and stimulates him to do so. The diagrams, which have had to be printed in their completed form, were, in fact, built up in the course of the lecture, and the student who actually does this for himself in the course of his reading will gain a fuller understanding of them.
Economic problems are but a part of the social problem of how people can live together in such harmonious relationships that each may have scope for the exercise of individual capacities while uniting with others to satisfy the spiritual and bodily needs of the whole community. Dr. Steiner, therefore, so treats the problems of Economics that what belongs to the economic and what to the legal and spiritual members of the threefold social organism is clearly seen.
The advice for the solving of social problems which the author gives in these lectures, and in his other social works, takes the form of general ideas which can be acted upon in freedom under changing conditions of time and space. Readers who experience from these works a moral stimulus to their social aims may wish to seek in his Philosophy of Spiritual Activity enlightenment upon the way in which general ideas can be translated into free human deeds.
T. G. J.
A. O. B.