This text by Herbert Witzenmann is translated from a program paper with the original title “Krisis und Alternative – Sinnstiftendes Recht und Rechtschöpfende Sinnstiftung in der Sozialorganik Rudolf Steiners” for the Social Scientific Conference “Beiträge zur Weltlage” (Contributions to the World Situation) held in 1980 in Switzerland, a standing yearly conference based that year on Rudolf Steiner’s Course onWorld Economy. In this course, Rudolf Steiner developed a new way of thinking concerning the idea of the threefold social organism, an idea originally presented in his book “Towards Social Renewal” in 1919 (freedom in the cultural sphere, equality in the rights sphere and brotherhood in the economic life). Even though this Course was given some ninety years ago, the present text shows that in spite of the apparent easing of the tension between East and West, its introduction to an “inner-economic value-creating right” has lost none of its actual value and significance. (For that reason a Dutch translation of this text was recently circulated and discussed during the translator’s visits to members of the Occupy-movement presently occupying the square in front of the Stock Market in Amsterdam.)
The program paper was first published in the Basler Zeitung, the main newspaper of this Swiss city on the Rhine (circulation 111 000) on September 27, 1980, for the occasion of which Herbert Witzenmann added the last paragraph. The author, who in 1974 gave an introduction in the form of three lectures to Rudolf Steiner’s World Economy Course (soon to be republished in English under the title “The Just Price – World Economy as Social Organics”), was at that time an independent member of the board of the Anthroposophical Society based in Dornach, a village near Basel and in effect freely exercising his function as the leader of the Social Science Section at theGoetheanum, Free School for Spiritual Science. This school was publicly inaugurated by Rudolf Steiner during the so-called Christmas Conference in 1922/23 in Dornach as the center for research and development of the newly reconstituted Anthroposophical Society attended by some 800 anthroposophists from around the world. During this conference it became clear from the discussion on the statutes, later called principles, that the Course on World Economy, just as all the other professional courses given by Rudolf Steiner to renew the various scientific, religious and artistic disciplines, was to be regarded as a manuscript for the members of this School and as such also to be furthered by the Anthroposophical Society at large in the world.
With the new term social organics, coined by Herbert Witzenmann, nothing short of a new living principle of civilization has been created and waiting in the wings, as it were, to take its proper place on the world stage. For as Witzenmann has e.g. shown in his studies “The Principles of the Anthroposophical Society as a Basis for Life and Path of Training” (published by the Willehalm Institute) and “To Create or Administrate – Rudolf Steiner’s Social Organics/ A New Principle of Civilization” (not yet available), this new paradigm can not only be used as an inspiring guideline for the much-needed reformation of the world economy, but also as such for the setting up of associations, societies, firms and any other form of people working together in communities that seek to present and sustain themselves in accord with the spirit of the age, commonly known in anthroposophical terms as the age of the consciousness soul. With that is meant an attitude of soul striving for the eternal good, beauty and truth that has, in spite of many symptoms pointing to the opposite, characterized humanity for the last 400 years (for more particulars see Rudolf Steiner’s basic workTheosophy).
With the aim of exploring this new concept of Social Organics in all its various aspects and possible applications the blog “Social Organics – A New Principle of Civilization”, beginning with “The Just Price”, has recently been activated by the new secretary of the Willehalm Institute, the Brazilian lawyer Paula Deiró. Soon regular meetings will be held in Amsterdam to try to come to grips with this “new principle of civilization”.
Robert Jan Kelder
Dir. Willehalm Institute,
Amsterdam, October 30, 2011
The crisis of present-day mankind is just as often headlined as white-washed. For on the one hand, only those unable to read the signs of the times can remain oblivious to the current social, political and economic tensions and threats. On the other hand, spokesmen in both West and East, while simultaneously rejecting each other, shower their own systems with the highest of praise.
Granted, there is a strong undercurrent of feeling that the things thus glorified as great achievements and conquests present on the inside quite a different picture; real insight into this critical state of affairs however is largely wanting. From this general sense of wrong and uncertainty springs the constantly growing desire and demand for alternatives surging more and more uncontrollably into the fore.
It is therefore one of the most urgent and inevasible demands of our time to penetrate through the surface manifestations to the source of the current crisis. Yet this bottom line is suppressed; most people, no matter where they stand, are not really willing to admit it.
The quantity principle is the strong thrust propelling the social and economic distribution of goods and services. The resultant changes are the greatest events of our time – from their storm-lashed waves a new mankind disembarks onto the shore. Partly guided, partly propagated by an innate energy rendered autonomous, this procession slowly and stealthily moving forward, even during a calm, drags everything else with it, or shoves it aside.
That it is indeed the quantity principles taking effect is such a violent and insidious manner becomes most obvious when one focuses on the two most powerful levers of our world. The operators of the first one believe to be stronger than all opposition; by the others doubt as to their viability is growing.
One of these levers is the distribution of the gross national product (GNP). The grip operating them is the concept of amount, i.e. power. To allocate the right amount of value arising out of the labor process to the right recipients is the power ascribed to one of these levers. To arrive at the most equitable decisions through the would-be participation of all concerned (in truth through the prevailing of that body of opinion with the most clout) is the power ascribed to the other lever. In one case it is a matter of wage-earning, in the other it is majority-rule. Both are quantity principles and quantity criteria.
Within both of these effective features of contemporary life that which they aim to overcome and believe to be getting rid of, continues to exist. Only the ways and means are different by which their new champions gain their powers and the foundations and utilizations thereof. It is after all a question of the possession of supply-of-demand and influence.
The root of the crisis is the continuation of the bourgeois mentality concerning possession, which only provided satisfaction through its affinity with old cultural instincts. Where this supplement falls away, the felt, if not fully understood frustration on the part of those parading their desires under other pretexts, spreads. From this stage ensues the growing inflation of claims and demands that forces its way into all branches of social and economic life.
Diagnosis alone does not bring the crisis under control, although clear-sightedness in discerning the issues at stake cannot be dispensed with. Rudolf Steiner’s social science is a real positive alternative, which does not exhaust itself in demands and detailed improvements while retaining the underlying habits of thought. It postulates instead of the quantity principle – the function principle, instead of the creation of ownership – the development of abilities, and in the legal sphere instead of executive order –productive order. And with that an alternative of a most radical and encompassing kind is characterized.
The original idea, which can only be hinted at here, runs as follows: The creation of law and rights must be achieved within the creation of value (as one of its functions), the right that decrees must be transformed into a right that is productive.
That this is indeed possible and that thereby completely new social expectations and willingness will be engendered becomes clear the moment one considers the activity that creates economic value – human labor. The latter is composed of the two functional currents: qualifying labor (so-called manual labor, i.e. work that is applied directly or with the use of tools and machines to our natural resources) and organizing labor (so-called headwork). Scientific and artistic work is also of an organizing nature, because all work directed toward human achievements and performance is primarily of an organizing nature).
The constantly occurring interaction between these two functional currents results in the formation of price. Just prices, i.e. such prices that do no falsify the value produced by one functional type of labor to the disadvantage of the other type are only brought about however when the value-creating currents are guided along the lines of a balanced price-formation by planning bodies. These can be nothing more than advisory boards (associations), in which people active in the whole spectrum of social and economic life and therefore competent, come together. Their function is not to issue directives far removed from economic reality, but to establish inner-economic justice. For by means of the steering and equalization of the value-creating currents, just prices are generated, resulting therefore also in an equitable distribution of the GNP already on the basis of its genetic conditions. Not personal advantage and profit are the inner consequences of true insight into the living conditions of the social organism. On the contrary, the devotion of skills and abilities, enhanced by being exercised, to the social organism is the motive force of an economic life permeated by productive legal development and effect.
An inner-economic value-creating right is the radical alternative that Rudolf Steiner’s social science pits against the critical disorders of our times. It supersedes the quantity principle by the function principle and does not lead to the overcoming of the desire for possession though moral imperatives but by raising the social organic functional context into conscious awareness.
In the new creation of law and rights all problems besetting and oppressing us are drawn together as in a matrix of cumulative solution.
To be sure, the new paradigm that follows from overcoming the quantitative habits of thought, their expectations and claims, requires the supporting background of a meaningful world view in which the psychic-spiritual dimension of the human being finds a harbor. The new legal development that is here merely hinted at can only then be realized when at the same time it can install new dimensions of meaning. Mankind longs for truly just law and right, but these must be a mirror in which it can recognize itself.
Every attempt to draw a mental picture that relies on bringing the positive, devotional powers of the human being to bear within a broad spectrum of mankind is today considered to be starry-eyed utopian. But still – should not the experiences we undergo with Western non-stop gratification of all desire and Eastern repression of all nonconformity serve as a warning to us reminding us of the task of the European “Middle”? Could it be true that the image of man and its corresponding image of social life so deeply engrained within out being has vanished from our consciousness – this image of man that does not point the way to matter and the collective, but to the spirit and freedom?