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The Rudolf Steiner Archive

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The Social Future
GA 332a


The system of collectivist economy developed through governmental administration in Russia since 1917, (these lectures were given in 1919) has proved that the effort of “the abstract community at large” could not he substituted for individual initiative. The latter had to be re-introduced, at least to a limited degree, in connection with the promotion of certain incentives to individual initiative. These incentives were not, nor are they now, drawn from the concept of an abstract community which, because of its very nature, cannot be raised efficiently to the level of a true motive of action. They are to be drawn from quite different sources. The latter can be found partly in the depths of the Russian people's nature, and partly in the old incentives, more or less disguised by opportunistic ideology. These old incentives are, for instance, individual egotism with all its political and economical ramifications, integrated and fostered by the nationalistic accumulation of egotistic tendencies.

The emphasizing of the above is necessary, since the number of people is large who believe that the development and outward political success of the Russian collectivistic system offers evidence provided by history that Rudolf Steiner's statement is wrong. It seems wrong only to a superficial and wishful thinking which has lost the basis of an unprejudiced observation of facts.


It is necessary to discriminate between what Rudolf Steiner has characterized here as “company principle” and the “principle of association”. This becomes clearer by taking into account the fact that the companies (corporations, big business) start their practice with a method of financing, the aim of which is to increase the amount of monetary capital (by means of profit) with little or no consideration for genuine economic needs. The principle of association is inherent in the incentive for those having the individual capacities to associate in order to provide for the genuine needs of consumers. Investment-capital, placed freely at the disposal of able and trustworthy persons, in conformity with this associative principle, becomes the monetary medium for the realization of a conscious social purpose instead of remaining a purpose in itself.

In accordance with other numerous expositions given by Rudolf Steiner on this subject of capital accumulation, transfer, and administration, without government interference, it can be said that the “company principle” means a maintenance of an artificial, lifeless separation of finance-capital from the human being in his true social relationships, whereas the “principle of association” in the economic sphere starts from the human being with all his a is capacities and abilities, working by means of capital placed at his disposal for really productive purposes for the common benefit of all.


This was pointed out in face of the postwar condition of European economy which already showed inflationary tendencies but, nevertheless, gave evidence of the possibility of halting them and avoiding the full-scale inflation of later years by following the expert advice given by Rudolf Steiner on many other occasions. This advice supported by every imaginable reason fell on the deaf ears of those who were responsible.


In his course on World Economy, Rudolf Steiner not only gave the reasons for the inescapable necessity of considering the question of price as the central problem in economy, but also the ideas whose realization is indispensable for the timely solution of this problem on the basis of a threefold membering of the body social.


Rudolf Steiner's repeated warning that outworn habits of thinking will prove stumbling blocks to many who seek to understand his ideas, refers especially to this recommendation of taxes on expenditure, preferably when applied to the investment of capital. This recommendation can only be rightly appreciated when it is borne in mind that the full realization of this tax principle demands the threefold membering of the social organism as a prerequisite. If this prerequisite is taken fully into account, it becomes evident that taxes on expenditure would not be inimical to the consumer nor to the producer. For it is presumed that the consumer enjoys a sufficient income so that when he is taxed on his expenditures, he will find it fair and equitable to pay taxes to the extent that advantage is taken of society's labor as a whole. He does this by buying goods, and investing money in their production. In any case, the amount of capital put at the unrestricted disposal of the producer will be sufficient for the production of essential gods, because decisions on capital transfer intended for productive investment will come from sources quite different from those to which we are accustomed at present.


This paragraph is exposed to the danger of being completely misunderstood. It could be taken as not being in conformity with democracy at all, because Rudolf Steiner's ideas on the appointment of judges by the cultural administration seem to make the judge a representative of the cultural life only, divesting the state and its government of all judicial power and transferring the latter to the cultural sphere.

Such an opinion is only possible to those who continue to hold the traditional static concept of democracy and have failed to learn from the events of this century that only an organic and dynamic idea of democracy will permit the necessary development of the social organism. Such an evolving democracy, by its very nature, calls for the threefold social order as a guarantee of the democratic practice of life and, therefore, for the transfer of the judicial power to the cultural sphere, just as it calls for the re-transference of the economic control from the political government to the economic sphere of life. The legislative function is relegated to the political organism (the state). This function should be concerned only with the democratic preparation, formulation, and acceptance of laws through an adequate representative system as a legal guarantee of equal rights. The executive power should also be left to the state in as far as the government has to care for the upholding of the law and the execution of sentences issued by law courts, independent of political interference.

To what degree and how conscientiously the essence of true democracy is safeguarded by Rudolf Steiner's suggestions can be seen from the fact that they include the proposal that everyone should have the right to choose his own judge from the panel of judges nominated by the spiritual-cultural organism.

Rudolf Steiner's additional suggestion for safeguarding true democracy can be found in the following quotation from his book, The Threefold Commonwealth, pages 177, 178:

“For more detailed acquaintance with points of law, the judges thus appointed and the courts will be assisted by regular officials whose election will also be determined by the spiritual administration, but who will not themselves decide cases.”


For a deeper understanding of this, the reader is referred to Rudolf Steiner's The Story of My Life, page 274:

“It is my impression that if the workers' movement had been followed with interest by a greater number of unprejudiced persons, and if the proletariat had been dealt with understandingly, this movement would have developed quite differently. But we have left the people to live in their own class, and we have lived in ours. The conceptions of each class of men held by the others were merely theoretical. There was discussion of wages when strikes and the like forced it; and all sorts of welfare movements were established. These latter were exceedingly creditable.

“But the submerging of these world-stirring questions into a spiritual sphere was wholly lacking. And yet only this could have taken from the movement its destructive forces.”

We offer this quotation in order to show that the many remarks made by Rudolf Steiner in these lectures, characterizing the proletarian movement and its Marxian ideology, should not give the impression that he was hostile toward the proletariat. Quite the contrary was the case. His untiring efforts in 1919 and later were deeply concerned with the need of establishing a mutual understanding between the two classes—the bourgeoisie and the proletariat—which were fighting one another for political power.

In 1919, when the workers were in power in Central Europe—in Russia since 1917—Rudolf Steiner continued this effort by offering a cultural, instead of a political-economic viewpoint. In doing this, he found it necessary for an understanding of the problem to make clear to the proletariat the nature of the destructive forces at work in their midst, embodied in an erroneous materialistic ideology. It must be emphatically stressed, too, that Rudolf Steiner made it clear that the same destructive forces were at work with an equal degree of fatality in the egotistic and unintelligent attitude of the members of the other class—the bourgeoisie—toward life and its world problems.


The original statement about the nature of the nerves can be found in the appendix of Rudolf Steiner's previously mentioned book, The Riddles of the Soul, (Von Seelenraetseln, not translated [Riddle of the Soul was translated in 1996]).

This most important statement shows how Anthroposophy solves the crucial problem of modern physiology and psychology, that is to say, it explains the relation between body and soul. The reader will learn that the human body functions in a threefold way, or one may say, there are three systems of organic activity: (a) the nervous system, including the senses; (b) the metabolic system, in connection with the limb-system; and (c) the rhythmic system, i. e., blood circulation and breathing.

The important discovery made by Rudolf Steiner reveals the fact that the human soul in her entirety is not limited to a mere relationship with the nervous system, for this is only one of her several special functions, manifest in thinking, in so far as this activity depends on sense perception. Another function of the soul—feeling—is supported by the bodily rhythmic system, and a third soul function—willing—finds its bodily counterpart in the metabolic system. All this means that the human soul, as a whole, with her three functions is connected with the bodily organism as a whole. She functions through three systems which are intimately interwoven and mutually interplaying.

Rudolf Steiner's statement shows further that by devoting herself to a certain training, the soul is able to detach herself, bond by bond, from the connection with the body and to turn her perceptions with transformed thinking, feeling, and willing toward the spiritual world.

It must be emphasized, however, that the discovery of the threefold physiological and mental organism of man did not lead Rudolf Steiner to develop forthwith the idea of the three-fold social organism. The threefold structure of the body-social was discovered by him through independent research without taking the human organism into account. To quote the words of Rudolf Steiner:

“The present comparison is not an attempt to take some natural science truth and transplant it into the social system. Its object is quite different: namely, to use the human body as an object lesson for training human thought and feeling to a sense of what organic life requires, and then to apply this perceptive sense to the body social.” (The Threefold Commonwealth.)

Bernhard Behrens.