[RSArchive Icon]
Rudolf Steiner Archive Section Name Rudolf Steiner Archive and e.Lib



Basic Issues of the Social Question

Basic Issues: Chapter Three: Capitalism and Social Ideas

On-line since: 13th July, 2002


Chapter Three

Capitalism and Social Ideas
(Capital, Human Labour)

It is not possible to judge what kind of action is demanded by the resounding events of the times without the will to be guided in this judgement by an insight into the basic forces of the social organism. The preceding presentation is an attempt to arrive at such an insight. Measures based on a judgement which derives from a narrowly circumscribed field of observation cannot have positive results today. The facts which have grown out of the social movement reveal disturbances in the foundations of the social organism — and by no means superficial ones. Therefore, it is necessary to arrive at insights which penetrate to these foundations.

When capital and capitalism are spoken of today, they refer to what proletarian humanity considers to be the causes of its oppression. It is only possible to form a worthwhile judgement concerning the way in which capital furthers or hinders the social organism's circulatory processes by perceiving how individual human capabilities, rights legislation and the forces of economic life produce and consume capital. When human labour is spoken of it refers to the function that, together with the natural base of the economy and capital, creates the economic values through which the worker becomes conscious of his social condition. A judgement as to how this human labour must be introduced into the social organism in a manner which does not disturb the worker's sense of human dignity will only result from observing the relation which human labour has to the development of individual capabilities on the one hand and to rights-awareness on the other.

People are asking today — and rightly so — what is the first step to be taken in order to satisfy the demands which are arising in the social movement. Even the first step will not be taken in a worthwhile manner if it is not known what relation this step should have to the foundations of the healthy social organism. One who knows this will be able to find the appropriate tasks wherever he happens to be, or wherever he decides to go. Acquisition of the insight referred to here has been prevented by what has passed over, during a long period of time, from human will into social institutions. People have become so accustomed to these institutions that they have based on the institutions themselves their views about what should be preserved in them and what should be changed in them. Their thoughts conform to the things, instead of mastering them. It is necessary today to perceive that it is only possible to arrive at factual judgements through a return to the primal thoughts which are the basis for all social institutions.

If adequate sources are not present from which the forces that reside in these primal thoughts constantly flow into the social organism, then the institutions take on forms which inhibit rather than further life. The primal thoughts live on, more or less unconsciously, in the human instinctive impulses however, while fully conscious thoughts lead to error and create hindrances to life. These primal thoughts, which manifest themselves chaotically in a life inhibiting world, are what underlie, openly or disguised, the revolutionary convulsions of the social organism. These convulsions will not occur once the social organism is structured in such a way that the tendency is prevalent to observe at what point institutions diverge from the forms indicated by the primal thoughts, and to counteract such divergences before they become dangerously powerful.

In our times, divergences from the conditions required by the