Table of Contents
PART III THE ALLEGED INEVITABILITY OF SOCIALISM
SECTION I Social Evolution
1 The Nature of Society
The idea of human destiny dominates all the more ancient views of social existence.
Society progresses towards a goal fore-ordained by the deity. Whoever thinks in
this way is logically correct if, in speaking of progress and retrogression, of
revolution and counterrevolution, of action and reaction he lays on these concepts
the emphasis adopted by so many historians and politicians. History is judged according
as it brings mankind nearer to the goal or carries it farther away.
Social science, however, begins at the point where one frees oneself from such habits,
and indeed from all valuation. Social science is indeed teleological in the sense
in which every causal study of the will must be. But its concept of purpose is wholly
comprised in the causal explanation. For social science causality remains the fundamental
principle of cognition, the maintenance of which must not be impaired even by teleology.
Since it does not evaluate purposes, it cannot speak of evolution to a higher plane,
in the sense let us say, of Hegel and Marx. For it is by no means proved that all
evolution leads upwards, or that every later stage is a higher one. No more, of
course, can it agree with the pessimistic philosophers of history, who see in the
historical process a decline, a progressive approach to a bad end. To ask what are
the driving forces of historical evolution is to ask what is the nature of society
and the origin and causes of the changes in social conditions. What society is,
how it originates, how it changes—these alone can be the problems which scientific
sociology sets itself.
That the social life of men resembles the biological process is an observation of
ancient date. It lies at the basis of the famous legend of Menenius Agrippa, handed
down to us by Livy. Social science did itself little good when, inspired by the
triumph of Biology in the nineteenth century, voluminous works developed this analogy
to the point of absurdity. What is the use of calling the products of human activity
"social intercellular substance"? Who was enlightened when scholars disputed
which organ of the social body corresponded to the central nervous system? The best
comment on this form of sociological study was the remark of an economist, to the
effect that anyone who compared money with blood and the circulation of money with
the circulation of blood would be making the same contribution to economics as would
be made to biology by a man who compared blood with money and the blood-circulation
with the circulation of money. Modern biology has borrowed from social science some
of its most important concepts—that of evolution, of the division of labour, and
of the struggle for existence. But it has not stopped short at metaphorical phrases
and conclusions by analogy; rather has it proceeded to make profitable use of what
it had gained. On the other hand biological-sociology did nothing but play a futile
word-spinning game with the ideas it borrowed back. The romantic movement, with
its "organic" theory of the state has done even less to clear up our knowledge of
social interrelations. Because it deliberately cold-shouldered the most important
achievement of social science up to that date—the system of classical Political
Economy—it was unable to utilize the doctrine of the division of labour, that part
of the classical system which must be the starting point of all sociology, as it
is of modern biology.
Comparison with the biological organism should have taught sociology one thing:
that the organism can only be conceived as a system of organs. This, however, merely
means that the essence of the organism is the division of labour. Only division
of labour makes the parts become members; it is in the collaboration of the members
that we recognize the unity of the system, the organism. This is true of the
life of plants and animals as well as of society. As far as the principle of the
division of labour is concerned, the social body may be compared with the biological.
The division of labour is the tertium comparationis (basis for comparison) of the
The division of labour is a fundamental principle of all forms of life. It was
first detected in the sphere of social life when political economists emphasized
the meaning of the division of labour in the social economy. Biology then adopted
it, at the instigation in the first place of Milne Edwards in 1827. The fact that
we can regard the division of labour as a general law must not, however, prevent
us from recognizing the fundamental differences between division of labour in the
animal and vegetable organism on the one hand and division of labour in the social
life of human beings on the other. Whatever we imagine to be the origin, evolution,
and meaning of the physiological division of labour, it clearly does not shed any
light on the nature of the sociological division of labour. The process that differentiates
and integrates homogeneous cells is completely different from that which led to
the growth of human society out of self-sufficient individuals. In the second process,
reason and will play their part in the coalescence, by which the previously independent
units form a larger unit and become parts of a whole, whereas the intervention of
such forces in the first process is inconceivable.
Even where creatures such as ants and bees come together in "animal communities,"
all movements and changes take place instinctively and unconsciously. Instinct may
very well have operated at the beginning and in the earliest stages of social formation
also. Man is already a member of a social body when he appears as a thinking, willing
creature, for the thinking man is inconceivable as a solitary individual. "Only
amongst men does man become a man" (Fichte). The development of human reason and
the development of human society are one and the same process. All further growth
of social relations is entirely a matter of will. Society is the product of thought
and will. It does not exist outside thought and will. Its being lies within man,
not in the outer world. It is projected from within outwards.
Society is co-operation; it is community in action.
To say that Society is an organism, means that society is division of labour.
To do justice to this idea we must take into account all the aims which men set
themselves and the means by which these are to be attained. It includes every inter-relation
of thinking and willing man. Modern man is a social being, not only as one whose
material needs could not be supplied in isolation, but also as one who has achieved
a development of reason and of the perceptive faculty that would have been impossible
except within society. Man is inconceivable as an isolated being, for humanity exists
only as a social phenomenon and mankind transcended the stage of animality only
in so far as co-operation evolved the social relationships between the individuals.
Evolution from the human animal to the human being was made possible by and achieved
by means of social cooperation and by that alone. And therein lies the interpretation
of Aristotle's dictum that man is the ζωον πσλιτιχον(the living body politic).
2 The Division of Labour as the Principle of Social Development
We are still far from understanding the ultimate and most profound secret of life,
the principle of the origin of organisms. Who knows whether we shall ever discover
it? All we know today is that when organisms are formed, something which did not
exist before is created out of individuals. Vegetable and animal organisms are more
than conglomerations of single cells, and society is more than the sum of the individuals
of which it is composed. We have not yet grasped the whole significance of this
fact. Our thoughts are still limited by the mechanical theory of the conservation
of energy and of matter, which is never able to tell us how one can become two.
Here again, if we are to extend our knowledge of the nature of life, understanding
of the social organization will have to precede that of the biological.
Historically division of labour originates in two facts of nature: the inequality
of human abilities and the variety of the external conditions of human life on the
earth. These two facts are really one: the diversity of Nature, which does not repeat
itself but creates the universe in infinite, inexhaustible variety. The special
nature of our inquiry, however, which is directed towards sociological knowledge,
justifies us in treating these two aspects separately.
It is obvious that as soon as human action becomes conscious and logical it must
be influenced by these two conditions. They are indeed such as almost to force the
division of labour on mankind. Old and young, men and women co-operate by making
appropriate use of their various abilities. Here also is the germ of the geographical
division of labour; man goes to the hunt and woman to the spring to fetch water.
Had the strength and abilities of all individuals and the external conditions of
production been everywhere equal the idea of division of labour could never have
arisen. Man would never of himself have hit upon the idea of making the struggle
for existence easier by co-operation in the division of labour. No social life could
have arisen among men of equal natural capacity in a world which was geographically
uniform. Perhaps men would have joined together to cope with tasks which were
beyond the strength of individuals, but such alliances do not make a society. The
relations they create are transient, and endure only for the occasion that brings
them about. Their only importance in the origin of social life is that they create
a rapprochement between men which brings with it mutual recognition of the difference
in the natural capacities of individuals and thus in turn gives rise to the division
Once labour has been divided, the division itself exercises a differentiating influence.
The fact that labour is divided makes possible further cultivation of individual
talent and thus co-operation becomes more and more productive. Through co-operation
men are able to achieve what would have been beyond them as individuals, and even
the work which individuals are capable of doing alone is made more productive. But
all this can only be grasped fully when the conditions which govern increase of
productivity under co-operation are set out with analytical precision.
The theory of the international division of labour is one of the most important
contributions of Classical Political Economy. It shows that as long as—for any reasons—movements
of capital and labour between countries are prevented, it is the comparative, not
the absolute, costs of production which govern the geographical division of labour.
When the same principle is applied to the personal division of labour it is found
that the individual enjoys an advantage in co-operating not only with people superior
to himself in this or that capacity but also with those who are inferior to himself
in every relevant way. If, through his superiority to B, A needs three hours' labour
for the production of one unit of commodity p compared with B's five, and for the
production of commodity q two hours against B's four, then A will gain if he confines
his labour to producing q and leaves B to produce p. If each gives sixty hours to
producing both p and q, the result of A's labour is 20p + 30q, of B's 12p + 15q,
and for both together 32p + 45q. If however, A confines himself to producing q alone
he produces sixty units in 120 hours, whilst B, if he confines himself to producing
p, produces in the same time twenty-four units. The result of the activity is then
24p + 60q, which, as p has for A a substitution value of 3 : 2q and for B one of
5 : 4q, signifies a larger production than 32p + 45q. Therefore it is obvious that
every expansion of the personal division of labour brings advantages to all who
take part in it. He who collaborates with the less talented, less able, and less
industrious individuals gains an advantage equally as the man who associated with
the more talented, more able, and more industrious. The advantage of the division
of labour is mutual; it is not limited to the case where work is done which the
solitary individual could never have carried out.
The greater productivity of work under the division of labour is a unifying influence.
It leads men to regard each other as comrades in a joint struggle for welfare, rather
than as competitors in a struggle for existence. It makes friends out of enemies,
peace out of war, society out of individuals.>
3 Organism and Organization
Organism and organization are as different from each other as life is from a machine,
as a flower which is natural from one which is artificial. In the natural plant
each cell lives its own life for itself while functioning reciprocally with the
others. What we call living is just this self-existence and self-maintenance. In
the artificial plant the separate parts are members of the whole only as far as
the will of him, who united them, has been effective. Only to the extent to which
this will is effective are the parts within the organization inter-related. Each
part occupies only the place given to it, and leaves that place, so to speak, only
on instructions. Within this framework the parts can live, that is, exist for themselves,
only in so far as the creator has put them alive into his creation. The horse which
the driver has harnessed to the cart lives as a horse. In the organization, the
"team," the horse is just as foreign to the vehicle as is an engine to the car it
drives. The parts may use their life in opposition to the organization, as, for
instance, when the horse runs away with the carriage or the tissue out of which
the artificial flower is made disintegrates under chemical action. Human organization
is no different. Like society it is a result of will. But in this case the will
no more produces a living social organism than the flower-maker produces a living
rose. The organization holds together as long as the creating will is effective,
no longer. The parts which compose the organization merge into the whole only so
far as the will of the creator can impose itself upon them and their life can be
fixed in the organization. In the battalion on parade there is one will, the will
of the commander. Everything else so far as it functions within the organization
is lifeless machinery. In this destruction of the will, or that portion of it which
does not serve the purpose of the body of troops, lies the essence of military drill.
The soldier in the phalangial order, fighting in line, in which the body of troops
must be nothing more than an organization—is drilled. Within the mass there is no
life. Whatever life the individual lives is by the side of, or outside the body
of troops—against it perhaps, but never in it. modern warfare, based on the skirmisher's
personal enterprise, has to make use of the individual soldier, of his thought and
his will. So the army no longer simply drills the soldier. It seeks to educate him.
Organization is an association based on authority, organism is mutuality. The primitive
thinker always sees things as having been organized from outside, never as having
grown themselves, organically. He sees the arrow which he has carved, he knows how
it came into existence and how it was set in motion. So he asks of everything he
sees, who made it and who sets it in motion. He inquires after the creation of every
form of life, the authors of every change in nature, and discovers an animistic
explanation. Thus the Gods are born. Man sees the organized community with its contrast
of rulers and ruled, and, accordingly, he tries to understand life as an organization,
not as an organism. Hence the ancient conception of the head as the master of the
body, and the use of the same term 'head' for the chief of the organization.
In recognizing the nature of the organism and sweeping away the exclusiveness of
the concept of organization, science made one of its great steps forward. With all
deference to earlier thinkers one may say that in the domain of Social Science this
was achieved mainly in the eighteenth century, and that Classical Political Economy
and its immediate precursors played the chief part. Biology took up the good work,
flinging off all animistic and vitalistic beliefs. For modern biology the head is
no longer the crown, the ruler of the body. In the living body there is no longer
leader and followers, a contrast of sovereign and subjects, of means and purpose.
There are only members, organs.
To seek to organize society is just as crazy as it would be to tear a living plant
to bits in order to make a new one out of the dead parts. An organization of mankind
can only be conceived after the living social organism has been killed. The collectivist
movements are therefore fore-doomed to failure. It may be possible to create an
organization embracing all mankind. But this would always be merely an organization,
side by side with which social life would continue. It could be altered and destroyed
by the forces of social life, and it certainly would be destroyed from the moment
it tried to rebel against these forces. To make Collectivism a fact one must first
kill all social life, then build up the collectivist state. The Bolshevists are
thus quite logical in wishing to dissolve all traditional social ties, to destroy
the social edifice built up through countless centuries, in order to erect a new
structure on the ruins. Only they overlook the fact that isolated individuals, between
whom no kind of social relations exist, can no longer be organized.
Organizations are possible only as long as they are not directed against the organic
or do it any injury. All attempts to coerce the living will of human beings into
the service of something they do not want must fail. An organization cannot flourish
unless it is founded on the will of those organized and serves their purposes.
4 The Individual and Society
Society is not mere reciprocity. There is reciprocity amongst animals, for example
when the wolf eats the lamb or when the wolf and she-wolf mate. Yet we do not speak
of animal societies or of a society of wolves. Wolf and lamb, wolf and she-wolf,
are indeed members of an organism—the organism of Nature. But this organism lacks
the specific characteristic of the social organism: it is beyond the reach of will
and action. For the same reason, the relation between the sexes is not, as such,
a social relation. When a man and a woman come together they follow the law which
assigns to them their place in Nature. Thus far they are ruled by instinct. Society
exists only where willing becomes a co-willing and action co-action. To strive jointly
towards aims which alone individuals could not reach at all, or not with equal effectiveness—that
Therefore, Society is not an end but a means, the means by which each individual
member seeks to attain his own ends. That society is possible at all is due to the
fact that the will of one person and the will of another find themselves linked
in a joint endeavour. Community of work springs from community of will. Because
I can get what I want only if my fellow citizen gets what he wants, his will and
action become the means by which I can attain my own end. Because my willing necessarily
includes his willing, my intention cannot be to frustrate his will. On this fundamental
fact all social life is built up.
The principle of the division of labour revealed the nature of the growth of society.
Once the significance of the division of labour had been grasped, social knowledge
developed at an extraordinary pace, as we see from a comparison between Kant and
those who came after him. The doctrine of the division of labour as put forward
by eighteenth-century economists, was far from fully developed when Kant wrote.
It had yet to be made precise by the Ricardian Theory of International Trade. But
the Doctrine of the Harmony of Interests had already anticipated its far-reaching
application to social theory. Kant was untouched by these ideas. His only explanation
of society, therefore, is that there is an impulse in human beings to form a society,
and a second contrary impulse that seeks to split up society. The antagonism of
these two tendencies is used by Nature to lead men towards the ultimate goal to
which it wishes to lead them. It is difficult to imagine a more threadbare idea
than such an attempt to explain society by the interplay of two impulses, the impulse
"to socialize oneself" and the impulse "to isolate oneself." Obviously it goes no
farther than the attempt to explain the effects of opium from the virtus dormitiva,
cuius est natura sensus assupire (the sleep-inducing property whose nature is to
dull the senses).
Once it has been perceived that the division of labour is the essence of society,
nothing remains of the antithesis between individual and society. The contradiction
between individual principle and social principle disappears.
5 The Development of the Division of Labour
In so far as the individual becomes a social being under the influence of blind
instinct, before thought and will are fully conscious, the formation of society
cannot be the subject of sociological inquiry. But this does not mean that Sociology
must shift the task of explaining the origins of society on to another science,
accepting the social web of mankind as a given fact. For if we decide—and this is
the immediate consequence of equating society and division of labour—that the structure
of society was incomplete at the appearance of the thinking and willing human being
and that the constructive process is continuous throughout history, then we must
seek a principle which makes this evolution intelligible to us. The economic theory
of the division of labour gives us this principle. It has been said that the happy
accident which made possible the birth of civilization was the fact that divided
labour is more productive than labour without division. The division of labour extends
by the spread of the realization that the more labour is divided the more productive
it is. In this sense the extension of the division of labour is economic progress:
it brings production nearer to its goal—the greatest possible satisfaction of wants,
and this progress is sociological progress also, for it involves the intensification
of the social relation.
It is only in this sense, and if all teleological or ethical valuation is excluded,
that it is legitimate to use the expression "progress" sociologically in historical
inquiry. We believe that we can observe a certain tendency in the changes of social
conditions and we examine each. single change separately, to see whether and how
far this assumption is compatible with it. It may be that we make various assumptions
of this kind, each of which corresponds in like measure to experience. The problem
next arises of the relations between these assumptions, whether they are independent
of each other or whether they are connected internally. We should then have to go
further, and define the nature of the connection. But all that this amounts to is
a study, free from valuation and based on a hypothesis, of the course of successive
If we disregard those theories of evolution that are naively built up on value judgments,
we shall find, in the majority of the theories claiming to interpret social evolution,
two outstanding defects which render them unsatisfactory. The first is that their
evolutionary principle is not connected with society as such. Neither Comte's law
of the three stages of the human mind nor Lamprecht's five stages of social-psychical
development gives any clue to the inner and necessary connection between evolution
of the mind and evolution of society. We are shown how society behaves when it has
entered a new stage, but we want to know more, namely by what law society originates
and transforms itself. The changes which we see as social changes are treated by
such theories as facts acting on society from outside; but we need to understand
them as the workings of a constant law. The second defeat is that all these theories
are "stage" theories (Stufentheorien). For the stage-theories there is really no
such thing as evolution, that is, no continuous change in which we can recognize
a definite trend. The statements of these theories do not go beyond establishing
a definite sequence of events; they give no proof of the causal connection between
the stages constituting the sequence. At best they succeed in establishing parallels
between the sequence of events in different nations. But it is one thing to divide
human life into childhood, youth, maturity, and old age, it is another to reveal
the law which governs the growth and decay of the organism. A certain arbitrariness
attaches to every theory of stages. The delimitation of the stages always fluctuates.
Modern German economic history has undoubtedly done right in making the division
of labour the basis of its theory of evolution. But it has not been able to free
itself from the old traditional scheme of development by stages. Its theory is still
a stage-theory. Thus Bücher distinguishes the stage of the closed domestic economy
(pure production for one's own use, barterless economy), the stage of town economy
(production for clients, the stage of direct exchange), and the stage of national
economy (production for markets, the stage of the circulation of goods). Schmoller
differentiates the periods of village economy, town economy, territorial economy,
and state economy. Philippovich distinguishes closed domestic economy and trade
economy, and within trade economy he finds the period of the locally limited trade,
the period of trade controlled by the state and limited to the state area, and the
period of free trade (developed national economy, Capitalism). Against these
attempts to force evolution into a general scheme many grave objections have been
raised. We need not discuss what value such classification may have in revealing
the characteristics of clearly defined historical epochs and how far they may be
admitted as aids to description. At any rate they should be used with great discretion.
The barren dispute over the economic life of the nations of antiquity shows how
easily such classifying may lead to our mistaking the shadow of scholastic word-splitting
for the substance of historical reality. For sociological study the stage theories
are useless. They mislead us in regard to one of the most important problems
of history—that of deciding how far historical evolution is continuous. The solution
of this problem usually takes the form either of an assumption, that social evolution—which
it should be remembered is the development of the division of labour—has moved in
an uninterrupted line, or by the assumption that each nation has progressed step-by-step
over the same ground. Both assumptions are beside the point. It is absurd to say
that evolution is uninterrupted when we can clearly discern periods of decay in
history, periods when the division of labour has retrogressed. On the other hand,
the progress achieved by individual nations by reaching a higher stage of the division
of labour is never completely lost. It spreads to other nations and hastens their
evolution. The fall of the ancient world undoubtedly put back economic evolution
for centuries. But more recent historical research has shown that the ties connecting
the economic civilization of antiquity with that of the Middle Ages were much stronger
than people used to assume. The Exchange Economy certainly suffered badly under
the storm of the great migration of peoples, but it survived them. The towns on
which it depended, were not entirely ruined, and a link was soon made between the
remnants of town-life and the new development of traffic by barter. In the civilization
of the towns a fragment of the social achievements of antiquity was preserved and
carried over into the life of the Middle Ages.
Progress in the division of labour depends entirely on a realization of its advantages,
that is, of its higher productivity. The truth of this first became fully evident
through the free-trade doctrines of the physiocrats and the classical eighteenth-century
political economy. But in rudiments it is found in all arguments favouring peace,
wherever peace is praised, or war condemned. History is a struggle between two principles,
the peaceful principle, which advances the development of trade, and the militarist-imperialist
principle, which interprets human society not as a friendly division of labour but
as the forcible repression of some of its members by others. The imperialistic principle
continually regains the upper hand. The liberal principle cannot maintain itself
against it until the inclination for peaceful labour inherent in the masses shall
have struggled through to full recognition of its own importance as a principle
of social evolution. Wherever the imperialistic principle is in force peace can
only be local and temporary: it never lasts longer than the facts which created
it. The mental atmosphere with which Imperialism surrounds itself is little suited
to the promotion of the growth of the division of labour within state frontiers;
it practically prohibits the extension of the division of labour beyond the political-military
barriers which separate the states. The division of labour needs liberty and peace.
Only when the modern liberal thought of the eighteenth century had supplied a philosophy
of peace and social collaboration was the basis laid for the astonishing development
of the economic civilization of that age—an age branded by the latest imperialistic
and socialistic doctrines as the age of crass materialism, egotism and capitalism.
Nothing could be more perverted than the conclusions drawn in this connection by
the materialistic conception of history, which represents the development of social
ideology as dependent on the stage of technical evolution which has been attained.
Nothing is more erroneous than Marx's well-known saying: "The handmill produces
a society with feudal lords, the steam-mill a society with industrial capitalists."
It is not even formally correct. To try and explain social evolution through the
evolution of technique is merely to side-track the problem without in any way solving
it. For on such a conception, how are we to explain technical evolution itself?
Ferguson showed that the development of technique depends on social conditions,
and that each age gets as far in technique as is permitted by the stages it has
reached in the social division of labour. Technical advances are possible only
where the division of labour has prepared the way for their application. The mass
manufacturing of shoes presupposes a society in which the production of shoes for
hundreds of thousands or millions of human beings can be united in a few enterprises.
In a society of self-sufficing peasants there is no possible use for the steam mill.
Only the division of labour could inspire the idea of placing mechanical forces
at the service of manufacture.
To trace the origin of everything concerned with society in the development of the
division of labour has nothing in common with the gross and naive materialism of
the technological and other materialistic theories of history. Nor does it by any
means signify, as disciples of the idealistic philosophy are apt to maintain, an
inadmissible limitation of the concept of social relations. Neither does it restrict
society to the specifically material. That part of social life which lies beyond
the economic is indeed the ultimate aim, but the ways which lead to it are governed
by the law of all rational action; wherever they come into question there is economic
6 Changes in the Individual in Society
The most important effect of the division of labour is that it turns the independent
individual into a dependent social being. Under the division of labour social man
changes, like the cell which adapts itself to be part of an organism. He adapts
himself to new ways of life, permits some energies and organs to atrophy and develops
others. He becomes one-sided. The whole tribe of romantics, the unbending laudatores
temporis acti (praisers of time past), have deplored this fact. For them the man
of the past who developed his powers "harmoniously" is the ideal: an ideal which
alas no longer inspires our degenerate age. They recommend retrogression in the
division of labour, hence their praise of agricultural labour, by which they always
mean the almost self-sufficing peasant.
Here, again the modern socialist outdoes the rest. Marx promises that in the higher
phase of the communist society "the enslaving subjection of individuals under the
division of labour, and with this also the contrast between mental and bodily labour,
shall have disappeared." Account will be taken of the human "need for change."
"Alternation of mental and bodily labour" will "safeguard man's harmonious development."
We have already dealt with this illusion. Were it possible to achieve all human
aims with only that amount of labour which does not itself cause any discomfort
but at the same time relieves the sensation of displeasure that arises from doing
nothing, then labour would not be an economic object at all. To satisfy needs would
not be work but play. This, however, is not possible. Even the self-sufficient worker,
for the most part, must labour far beyond the point where the effort is agreeable.
One may assume that work is less unpleasant to him than to the worker who is tied
to a definite task, as he finds at the beginning of each job he tackles fresh sensations
of pleasure in the activity itself. If, nevertheless, man has given himself up more
and more to the division of labour, it is because he has recognized that the higher
productivity of labour thus specialized more than repays him for the loss of pleasure.
The extent of the division of labour cannot be curtailed without reducing the productivity
of labour. This is true of all kinds of labour. It is an illusion to believe that
one can maintain productivity and reduce the division of labour.
Abolition of the division of labour would be no remedy for the injuries inflicted
on the individual, body and soul, by specialized labour, unless we are prepared
to set back social development. It is for the individual himself to set about becoming
a complete human being. The remedy lies in reforming consumption, not in "reforming"
labour. Play and sport, the pleasure of art, reading are the obvious way of escape.
It is futile to look for the harmoniously developed man at the outset of economic
evolution. The almost self-sufficient economic subject as we know him in the solitary
peasant of remote valleys shows none of that noble, harmonious development of body,
mind, and feeling which the romantics ascribe to him. Civilization is a product
of leisure and the peace of mind that only the division of labour can make possible.
Nothing is more false than to assume that man first appeared in history with an
independent individuality and that only during the evolution which led to the Great
Society did he lose, together with material freedom, his spiritual independence.
All history, evidence and observation of the lives of primitive peoples is directly
contrary to this view. Primitive man lacks all individuality in our sense. Two South
Sea Islanders resemble each other far more closely than two twentieth-century Londoners.
Personality was not bestowed upon man at the outset. It has been acquired in the
course of evolution of society.
7 Social Regression
Social evolution—in the sense of evolution of the division of labour—is a will-phenomenon:
it depends entirely on the human will. We do not consider whether one is justified
in regarding every advance in the division of labour and hence in the intensification
of the social bond, as a rise to a higher stage; we must ask whether such a development
is a necessary phenomenon. Is an ever greater development of society the content
of history? Is it possible for society to stand still or retrogress?
We must reject a priori any assumption that historical evolution is provided with
a goal by any "intention," or "hidden plan" of Nature, such as Kant imagined and
Hegel and Marx had in mind; but we cannot avoid the inquiry whether a principle
might not be found to demonstrate that continuous social growth is inevitable. The
first principle that offers itself to our attention is the principle of natural
selection. More highly developed societies attain greater material wealth than the
less highly developed; therefore they have more prospect of preserving their members
from misery and poverty. They are also better equipped to defend themselves from
the enemy. One must not be misled by the observation that richer and more civilized
nations were often crushed in war by nations less wealthy and civilized. Nations
in an advanced stage of social evolution have always been able at least to resist
a superior force of less developed nations. It is only decaying nations, civilizations
inwardly disintegrated, which have fallen a prey to nations on the up grade. Where
a more highly organized society has succumbed to the attack of a less developed
people, the victors have in the end been culturally submerged, accepting the economic
and social order, and even the language and faith of the conquered race.
The superiority of the more highly developed societies lies not only in their material
welfare but also quantitatively in the number of their members and qualitatively
in the greater solidity of their internal structure. For this, precisely, is the
key to higher social development: the widening of the social range, the inclusion
in the division of labour of more human beings and its stronger grip on each individual.
The more highly developed society differs from the less developed in the closer
union of its members; this precludes the violent solution of internal conflict and
forms externally a closed defensive front against any enemy. In less developed societies,
where the social bond is still weak, and between the separate parts of which there
exists a confederation for the purposes of war rather than true solidarity based
on joint work and economic co-operation—disagreement breaks out more easily and
more quickly than in highly developed societies. For the military confederation
has no firm and lasting hold upon its members. By its very nature it is merely a
temporary bond which is upheld by the prospect of momentary advantage, but dissolves
as soon as the enemy has been defeated and the scramble for the booty sets in. In
fighting against the less developed societies the more developed ones have always
found that their greatest advantage lay in the lack of unity in the enemy's ranks.
Only temporarily do the nations in a lower state of organization manage to co-operate
for great military enterprises. Internal disunity has always dispersed their armies
quickly. Take for example the Mongol raids on the Central European civilization
of the thirteenth century or the efforts of the Turks to penetrate into the West.
The superiority of the industrial over the military type of society, to use Herbert
Spencer's expression, consists largely in the fact that associations which are merely
military always fall to pieces through internal disunity.
But there is another circumstance which advances further social development. It
has been shown that it is to the interest of all members of society that the social
range should be extended. For a highly developed social organism it is by no means
a matter of indifference whether or not nations outside its range continue to lead
a self-sufficient existence on a lower plane of social evolution. It is to the interest
of the more advanced organism to draw the less advanced into the area of its economic
and social community, even though its persistence in remaining on a lower plane
makes it politically and militarily innocuous, and even though no immediate advantages
are likely to accrue from the occupation of its territory, in which, presumably,
the natural conditions of production are unfavourable. We have seen that it is always
an advantage to widen the range of workers in a society that divides labour, so
that even a more efficient people may have an interest in co-operating with a less
efficient. This is what so often drives nations of a high social development to
expand their field of economic activity by absorbing hitherto inaccessible territories.
The opening up of the backward regions of the Near and Far East, of Africa and America,
cleared the way for a world-wide economic community, so that shortly before the
World War we were in sight of realizing the dream of an œcumenical society. Has
the war merely interrupted this development for a brief period or has it utterly
destroyed it? Is it conceivable that this development can cease, that society can
This problem cannot be approached except in connection with another: the problem
of the death of nations. It is customary to talk of nations aging and dying, of
young and old communities. The comparison is lame—as are all comparisons—and in
discussing such things we are well advised to discard metaphorical phrases. What
is the core of the problem that here presents itself?
It is clear that we must not confuse it with another not less difficult problem,
the problem of the changes of the national quality. A thousand or fifteen hundred
years ago the Germans spoke a different language from that of today, but we should
not think of saying, on that account, that German medieval culture was "dead." On
the contrary we see in the German culture an uninterrupted evolutionary chain, stretching
(without mentioning lost monuments of literature) from the "Heliand," and Otfried's
Gospels to the present day. We do indeed say of the Pomeranians and Prussians, who
in the course of centuries have been assimilated by the German colonists, that they
have died out, yet we shall hardly maintain that as nations they grew "old." To
carry through the simile one would have to talk of nations that had died young.
We are not concerned with national transformation; our problem is different. Neither
does the decay of states come into the question, for this phenomenon sometimes appears
as a sequence to the aging nations and sometimes independently of it. The fall of
the ancient state of Poland had nothing to do with any decay of Polish civilization
or of the Polish people. It did not stop the social development of Poland.
The facts which are present in practically all the examples brought forward of the
aging of a culture are: a decline in population, a diminution of welfare, and the
decay of the towns. The historical significance of all these phenomena becomes clear
as soon as we conceive of the aging of nations as the retrogression of the social
division of labour and of society. The decline of the ancient world for instance,
was a social retrogression. The decline of the Roman Empire was only a result of
the disintegration of ancient society which after reaching a high level of division
of labour sank back into an almost moneyless economy. Thus towns were depopulated
and thus, also, did the population of the countryside diminish and want and misery
set in simply because an economic order working on a lower level in respect of the
social division of labour is less productive. Technical skill was gradually lost,
artistic talent decayed, scientific thought was slowly extinguished. The word which
most aptly describes this process is disintegration. The Classical culture died
because Classical society retrogressed.
The death of nations is the retrogression of the social relation, the retrogression
of the division of labour. Whatever may have been the cause in individual cases,
it has always been the cessation of the disposition to social co-operation which
actually effected the decline. This may once have seemed an incomprehensible riddle
to us, but now that we watch with terror the process at work in our own experience
we come nearer to understanding it, though we still fail to recognize the deepest,
most ultimate causes of the change.
It is the social spirit, the spirit of social co-operation, which forms, develops,
and upholds societies. Once it is lost, the society falls apart again. The death
of a nation is social retrogression, the decline from the division of labour to
self-sufficiency. The social organism disintegrates into the cells from which it
began. Man remains, but society dies.
There is no evidence that social evolution must move steadily upwards in a straight
line. Social standstill and social retrogression are historical facts which we cannot
ignore. World history is the graveyard of dead civilizations, and in India and Eastern
Asia we see large-scale examples of civilization at a standstill.
Our literary and artistic cliques whose exaggerated opinion of their own trifling
productions contrast so vividly with the modesty and self-criticism of the really
great artists, say that it does not matter much whether economic evolution continues
so long as inner culture is intensified. But all inner culture requires external
means for its realization, and these external means can be attained only by economic
effort. When the productivity of labour decays through the retrogression of social
co-operation the decay of inner culture follows.
All the older civilizations were born and grew up without being fully conscious
of the basic laws of cultural evolution and the significance of division of labour
and co-operation. In the course of their development they had often to combat tendencies
and movements inimical to civilization. Often they triumphed over these, but sooner
or later they fell. They succumbed to the spirit of disintegration. Through the
social philosophy of Liberalism men became conscious of the laws of social evolution
for the first time, and for the first time clearly recognized the basis of civilization
and cultural progress. Those were days when hopes for the future ran high. Unimagined
vistas seemed to be opening up. But it was not to be. Liberalism had to meet the
opposition of militaristic-nationalist and, above all, of socialist-communist doctrines
which tended to bring about social dissolution. The nationalist theory calls itself
organic, the socialist theory calls itself social, but in reality both are disorganizing
and anti-social in their effect.
Of all accusations against the system of Free Trade and Private Property, none is
more foolish than the statement that it is anti-social and individualistic and that
it atomizes the body social. Trade does not disintegrate, as romantic enthusiasts
for the autarky of small portions of the earth's surface assert; it unites. The
division of labour is what first makes social ties: it is the social element pure
and simple. Whoever advocates the economic self-sufficiency of nations and states,
seeks to disintegrate the ecumenical society; whoever seeks to destroy the social
division of labour within a nation by means of class war is anti-social.
A decline of the ecumenical society, which has been slowly forming itself during
the last two hundred years under the influence of the gradual germination of the
liberal idea, would be a world catastrophe absolutely without parallel in history
as we know it. No nation would be spared. Who then would rebuild the shattered world?
8 Private Property and Social Evolution
The division of individuals into owners and non-owners is an outcome of the division
The second great sociological achievement of Classical Political Economy and the
"individualistic" social theory of the eighteenth century was to recognize the social
function of private property. From the older point of view property was always considered
more or less a privilege of the Few, a raid upon the common stock, an institution
regarded ethically as an evil, if sometimes as an inevitable one. Liberalism was
the first to recognize that the social function of private ownership in the means
of production is to put the goods into the hands of those who know best how to use
them, into the hands, that is, of the most expert managers. Nothing therefore is
more foreign to the essence of property than special privileges for special property
and protection for special producers. Any kind of constraint such as exclusive rights
and other privileges of producers, are apt to obstruct the working of the social
function of property. Liberalism fights such institutions as vigorously as it opposes
every attempt to limit the freedom of the worker.
The owner takes nothing away from anyone. No one can say that he goes short because
of another's abundance. It is flattering the envious instincts of the masses to
give them a calculation of how much more the poor man would have to dispose of,
if property were equally distributed. What is overlooked is the fact that the volume
of production and of the social income are not fixed and unchangeable but depend
essentially upon the distribution of property. If this is interfered with, there
is danger that property may fall into the hands of those not so competent to maintain
it, those whose foresight is less, whose disposal of their means is less productive;
this would necessarily reduce the amount produced. The ideas of distributive
Communism are atavistic, harking back to the times before social relations existed
or reached their present stage of development, when the yield of production was
correspondingly much lower. The landless man of an economic order based on production
without exchange is quite logical in making the redistribution of fields the goal
of his ambition. But the modern proletarian misunderstands the nature of social
production when he hankers after a similar redistribution.
Liberalism combats the socialist ideal of transferring the means of production to
the hands of organized society with the argument that socialist production would
give a lower yield. Against this the Socialism of the Hegelian school seeks to prove
that the evolution of history leads inevitably to the abolition of private ownership
in the means of production.
It was the view of Lassalle that "the course of all legal history consists, generally
speaking, in an ever greater limitation of the property of the individual, and in
placing more and more objects outside private ownership." The tendency to enlarge
the freedom of property which is read into historical evolution is only apparent.
However much the "idea of the increasingly rapid reduction of the sphere of private
property as a principle working in the cultural and historical development of law
could be held to be paradoxical," yet, according to Lassalle it survived the most
detailed examination. Unfortunately Lassalle produced no details of the examination
of this idea. According to his own words he "honoured it (the idea) with a few very
superficial glances instead." Neither has anyone since Lassalle's time undertaken
to provide a proof. But even if the attempt had been made, this fact would by no
means have demonstrated the necessity of the development in question. The conceptual
constructions of speculative jurisprudence steeped in the Hegelian spirit serve
at best to exhibit historical tendencies of evolution in the past. That the evolutionary
tendency thus discovered must necessarily continue to develop is a thoroughly arbitrary
assumption. Only if it could be shown that the force behind evolution was still
active would the hypothetical proof which is needed be adduced. The Hegelian Lassalle
did nothing of the kind. For him, the matter is disposed of when he realizes "that
this progressive reduction of the sphere of private property is based on nothing
else than the positive development of human liberty." Having fitted his law of
evolution into the great Hegelian scheme of historical evolution, he had done all
that his school could ask.
Marx saw the faults in the Hegelian scheme of evolution. He too holds it to be an
indisputable truth that the course of history leads from private property to common
property. But unlike Hegel and Lassalle he does not deal with the idea of property
and the juristic concept of property. Private property "in its political-economic
tendencies" is drifting towards its dissolution, "but only by a development independent
of it, of which it is unconscious, which is taking place against its will, and is
conditioned by the nature of the question; only by creating the proletariat qua
proletariat, the misery that is conscious of its spiritual and physical misery,
the dehumanization that is conscious of its dehumanization." Thus the doctrine
of the class struggle is introduced as the driving element of historical evolution.
Cohen, Logik der reinen Erkenntnis, 2nd ed.
(Berlin, 1914), p. 359.
As is done by Lilienfeld, La pathologie sociale
(Paris, 1896), p. 95. When a government takes a loan from the House of Rothschild organic
sociology conceives the process as follows: "La maison Rothschild agit, dans cette
occasion, parfaitement en analogie avec l'action d'un groupe de cellules qui, dans le corps
humain, coopèrent à la production du sang nécessaire à l'alimentation du cerveau dans
l'espoir d'en être indemnisées par une réaction des cellules de la substance grise dont
ils ont besoin pour s'activer de nouveau et accumuler de nouvelles énergies."
("The House of Rothschild's operation, on such an occasion, is precisely similar to
the action of a group of human body cells which cooperate in the production of the blood
necessary for nourishing the brain, in the hope of being compensated by a reaction of the
gray matter cells which they need to reactivate and to accumulate new energies.")
(Ibid., p. 104.) This is the method which claims that it stands on "firm ground"
and explores "the Becoming of Phenomena step by step, proceeding from the simpler to
the more complex." See Lilienfeld, Zur Verteidigung der organischen Methode in der
Soziologie (Berlin, 1898), p. 75.
It is characteristic that just the romantics
stress excessively society's organic character, whereas liberal social philosophy has
never done so. Quite understandably. A social theory which was genuinely organic did not
need to stress obtrusively this attribute of its system.
Cohen, Logik der reinen Erkenntnis, p. 349.
Hertwig, Allgemeine Biologie, 4th ed.
(Jena, 1912), pp. 500 ff; Hertwig, Zur Abwehr des ethischen, des sozialen und des
politischen Darwinismus (Jena, 1918), pp. 69 ff.
Izoulet, La cité moderne (Paris, 1894), pp. 35 ff.
Durkheim, De la division du travail social
(Paris, 1893), pp. 294 ff. endeavours (following Comte and against Spencer) to prove
that the division of labour prevails not because, as the economists think, it increases
output but as a result of the struggle for existence. The denser the social mass the sharper
the struggle for existence. This forces individuals to specialize in their work, as
otherwise they would not be able to maintain themselves. But Durkheim overlooks the fact
that the division of labour makes this possible only because it makes labour more productive.
Durkheim comes to reject the theory of the importance of the greater productivity in the
division of labour through a false conception of the fundamental idea of utilitarianism and
of the law of the satiation of wants (op. cit., 218 ff., 257 ff.). His view that civilization
is called forth by changes in the volume and density of society is untenable. Population
grows because labour becomes more productive and is able to nourish more people, not vice
On the important part played by the local variety
of productive conditions in the origin of the division of labour see von den Steinen,
Unter den Naturvölkern Zentralbrasiliens, 2nd ed. (Berlin, 1897), pp. 196 ff.
Ricardo, Principles of Political Economy and
Taxation, pp. 76 ff.; Mill, Principles of Political Economy, pp. 348 if.; Bastable,
The Theory of International Trade, 3rd ed. (London, 1900), pp. 16 ff.
"Trade makes the human race, which originally has
only the unity of the species, into a really unitary society." See Steinthal, Allgemeine
Ethik (Berlin, 1885), p. 208. Trade, however, is nothing more than a technical aid of the
division of labour. On the division of labour in the sociology of Thomas Aquinas see
Schreiber, Die volkswirtschaftlichen Anschauungen der Scholastik seit Thomas von Aquin
(Jena, 1913), pp. 19 ff.
Therefore, too, one must reject the idea of
Guyau, which derives the social bond directly from bi-sexuality. See Guyau, Sittlichkeit
ohne Pflicht, translated by Schwarz (Leipzig, 1909), p. 113 ff.
Fouillée argues as follows against the utilitarian
theory of society, which calls society a "moyen universal" ("universal means") (Belot):
"Tout moyen n'a qu'une valeur provisoire; le jour où un instrument dont je me servais
me devient inutile ou nuisible, je le mets de côté. Si la société n' est qu'un moyen, le
jour où, exceptionellement, elle se trouvera contraire à mes fins, je me delivrerai des lois
sociales et moyens. sociaux.... Aucune considération sociale ne pourra empêcher la révolte
de l'individu tant qu'on ne lui aura pas montré que la société est établie pour des fins qui
sont d'abord et avant tout ses vraies fins à lui-même et qui, de plus, ne sont pas simplement
des fins de plaisir ou d'intérêt, l'intérêt n'étant que le plaisir différé et attendu pour
l'avenir ... L'idée d'intérét est précisément ce qui divise les hommes, malgré les
rapprochements qu'elle peut produire lorsqu'il y a convergence d'intérêts sur certains
points." ("Every means has only a temporary value; the day when a means ceases to serve me
or becomes harmful to me, I cast it aside. If society is only a means, the day when, by some
special circumstances, it is found to act contrary to my ends, I will free myself from its
social laws and social means.... No social consideration can prevent an individual from
rebelling when it has not been demonstrated to him that society exists for ends which are
primarily and above all his own true ends and, further, which are not simply for the ends
of pleasure or self-interest, self-interest being only pleasure postponed and expected in
the future.... The idea of self-interest is precisely what divides men, in spite of the
cooperation it can produce when self-interests coincide in certain instances.") Fouillée,
Humanitaires et libertaires au point de vue Sociologique et moral (Paris, 1914),
pp. 146 ff.; see also Guyau, Die englische Ethik der Gegenwart, translated by Peusner
(Leipzig, 1914), pp. 372 ff. Fouillée does not see that the provisional value which
society gets as a means, lasts as long as the conditions of human life, given by nature,
continue unchanged and as long as man continues to recognize the advantages of human
co-operation. The "eternal," not merely provisional, existence of society follows from
the eternity of the conditions on which it is built up. Those in power may demand of social
theory that it should serve them by preventing the individual from revolting against society,
but this is by no means a scientific demand. Besides no social theory could, as easily as
the utilitarian, induce the social individual to enrol himself voluntarily in the social
union. But when an individual shows that he is an enemy of society there is nothing left for
society to do but make him harmless.
Kant, "Idee zu einer allgemeinen Geschichte in
weltbürgerlicher Absicht" (Collected Works, Vol. I), pp. 227 ff.
Bücher, Die Entstehung der Volkswirtschaft,
First collection, 10th ed. (Tübingen, 1917), p. 91.
Schmoller, Grundriss der allgemeinen
Volkswirtschaftslehre (Munich, 1920), Vol. II, pp. 760 ff.
Philippovich, Grundriss der politischen
Ökonomie, Vol. I, 11th ed. (Tübingen, 1916), pp. 11 ff.
On the stages theory see also my Grundprobleme
der Nationalökonomie (Jena, 1933), pp. 106 ff.
Dopsch, Wirtschaftliche und soziale Grundlagen
der europäischen Kulturentwicklung (Vienna, 1918), Vol. I, pp. 91 ff.
Marx, Das Elend der Philosophie, p. 92. In the
formulations which Marx later on gave to his conception of history he avoided the rigidity
of this earliest version. Behind such indefinite expressions as "productive forces" and
"conditions of production" are hidden the critical doubts which Marx may meanwhile have
experienced. But obscurity, opening the way to multitudinous interpretations, does not make
an untenable theory tenable.
Ferguson, Abhandlung über die Geschichte der
bürgerlichen Gesellschaft, trans. Dom (Jena, 1904), pp. 237 ff.; also Barth, Die Philosophie
der Geschichte als Soziologie, 2nd ed. (Leipzig, 1915), Part I, pp. 21 578 ff.
All that remains of the materialist conception of
history, which appeared with the widest possible claims, is the discovery that all human and
social action is decisively influenced by the scarcity of goods and the disutility of labour.
But the Marxists can least admit just this, for all they say about the future socialist order
of society disregards these two economic conditions.
Adam Müller says about "the vicious tendency to
divide labour in all branches of private industry and in government business too," that man
needs "an all round, I might say a sphere-round field of activity." If the "division of
labour in large cities or industrial or mining provinces cuts up man, the completely free
man, into wheels, rollers, spokes, shafts, etc., forces on him an utterly one-sided scope
in the already one-sided field of the provisioning of one single want, how can one then
demand that this fragment should accord with the whole complete life and with its law, or
with legality; how should the rhombuses, triangles, and figures of all kinds accord
separately with the great sphere of political life and its law?" See Adam Müller,
Ausgewählte Abhandlungen, ed. Baxa (Jena, 1921), p. 46.
Marx, Zur Kritik des sozialdemokratischen
Parteiprogramms von Gotha, p. 17. Innumerable passages in his writings show how falsely
Marx conceived the nature of labour in industry. Thus he thought also that "the division of
labour in the mechanical factory" is characterized by "having lost every specialized
character ... The automatic factory abolishes the specialist and the one-track mind."
And he blames Proudhon, "who did not understand even this one revolutionary side of the
automatic factory." Marx, Das Elend der Philosophie, p. 129.
Bebel, Die Frau und der Sozialismus, pp. 283 ff.
See pp. 166 ff.
Durkheim, De la division du travail social,
pp. 452 ff.
The romantic-militarist notion of the military
superiority of the nations which have made little progress in Capitalism, completely refuted
afresh by the World War, arises from the view that what tells in a fight is man's physical
strength alone. This, however, is not completely true, even of the fights of the Homeric Age.
Not physical but mental power decides a fight. On these mental powers depend the fighters'
tactics and the way he is armed. The A B C of the art of warfare is to have the superiority
at the decisive moment, though otherwise one may be numerically weaker than the enemy.
The A B C of the preparation for war is to set up armies as strong as possible and to
provide them with all war materials in the best way. One has to stress this only because
people are again endeavouring to obscure these connections, by trying to differentiate
between the military and economic-political causes of victory and defeat in war. It always
has been and always will be the fact, that victory or defeat is decided by the whole social
position of the combatants before their armies meet in battle.
On the decline of Ancient Greek Civilization
see Pareto, Les Systèmes Socialistes (Paris, 1902), Vol. I, pp. 155 ff.
Izoulet, La Cité moderne, pp. 488 ff.
"The laws, in creating property, have created
wealth, but with respect to poverty, it is not the work of the laws—it is the primitive
condition of the human race. The man who lives only from day to day, is precisely the man
in a state of nature.... The laws, in creating property, have been benefactors to those
who remain in the original poverty. They participate more or less in the pleasures,
advantages and resources of civilized society," Bentham, Principles of the Civil Code,
ed. Bowring (Edinburgh, 1843), Vol. I, p. 309.
Lassalle, Das System der erworbenen Rechte,
2nd ed. (Leipzig, 1880), Vol. I, pp. 217 ff:
Lassalle, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 222 ff.
Marx, Die heilige Familie. Aus dem literarischen
Nachlass yon Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels und Ferdinand Lassalle, ed. Mehring, Vol. II
(Stuttgart, 1902), p. 132.
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