Twenty Articles From
The Threefold Social Order
Economic Profit and the Spirit of the Age
are conflicting views on the
profits made by economic entrepreneurs. Its defenders say that
human nature is such that we will engage our talents for the good of
the whole only when induced to do so by the expectation of profit. It
is true, they say, that profit is the offspring of egotism; yet profit
performs a service to the community — a service the community
would have to do without were it to eliminate profit from the economic
process. The opponents of this viewpoint say that production should not
be pursued with a view to profit, but rather with a view to consumption.
One must devise institutions that will motivate men to continue to employ
their powers for the benefit of the community even when not enticed
to do so by the expectation of profit.
there are such conflicting opinions in public life, usually people
do not think them out to the end, but rather let power decide. If one
is democratically-minded, one thinks it quite right that institutions
should be established (or allowed to remain) that correspond to the
interests and wishes of the majority. If one is single-mindedly convinced
of the legitimacy of one's own interests, then one's aim is an authoritarian
central power that shall develop institutions to conform to these particular
wishes and interests. One then desires only to obtain sufficient influence
over this central power to ensure its accomplishing what one wants.
What is today called “the dictatorship of the proletariat”
stems from this attitude. People who demand this “dictatorship”
are motivated by their wishes and interests; they make no at-tempt to
think correctly so as to discover whether their demand entails institutions
that are in themselves really possible.
is presently at a point in its evolution when it is no longer possible
to conduct human affairs simply by insisting upon what is wished. Quite
apart from what this or that person, this or that group may want, from
now on in the sphere of public life only efforts proceeding from ideas
that have been thought through to the end will promote social health.
However strongly human passions may resist it, in the end people will
be obliged to introduce into social life these thoroughly considered
ideas demanded by the spirit of humanity, because people will see the
pathological consequences that result from their opposite.
that a threefold structuring of the social organism is a necessity is
one such idea thought through to its logical conclusion. In light of
this intent, it is certainly odd that many of its opponents think the
idea an unclear one. The reason for this is that these opponents are
interested not in clear thinking, but merely in agreement with their
interests, wishes and prejudices. When faced with ideas that have been
fully and concretely considered, they can see nothing in them but opposition
to their preconceived opinions; they justify themselves unclearly
in their own eyes, by saying that the opposition is unclear.
the economic significance of profits, im-pertinent opinions often intrude.
Certainly profit-making is an egotistical aim. However, it is unjustified
to use this egotism as an argument for eliminating profit from economic
activity. For there must be something in the economy that can serve
to indicate whether there is a need for a manufactued article. In the
modern form of economics, the only indicator of this need is the fact
that the article yields profits. An article can be manufactured if it
yields profits that, in the economic context, are sufficiently large.
An article that yields no profits must not be produced because it will
upset the price balance of articles in actual circulation. Profits may
represent what they will in ethical terms; in conventional economic
terms, they represent an indicator for the need to produce an article.
evolution of economics does require the elimination of profits, but
for the following reason: because they make the production of articles
dependent on accidents of the market, which the spirit of the age demands
be abolished. One clouds one's judgement if one argues against profit
because of its egotistical nature. Real life demands that within any
field one must mount arguments appropriate to the particular situation.
Arguments drawn from another field of life may be perfectly true in
themselves, but they cannot guide one's judgement toward the real facts.
necessary for economic life is that profits as indicators should be
replaced by groups tasked with establishing a rational correspondence
between production and consumption that will abolish accidents of the
market. The change from profits-indicator to a rational coordination
of production and consumption, if correctly understood, will result
in the elimination of the motives that have hitherto clouded judgment
on this issue by removing them to the legal and cultural spheres.
people recognize that the idea of the threefold social order has been
shaped by an effort to create sound bases for realistic and practical
conduct in each of life's different spheres, will they begin to do this
idea justice and to have a proper estimation of its practical value.
So long as motives proper to the legal and spiritual-cultural spheres are
expected to proceed indiscriminately from the administration of economic
life (which can be practical only when ruled solely by businesslike
considerations and transactions) — so long will social life remain
unhealthy. Today's party groupings are still quite removed from what
the spirit of the age is shown here to demand. Thus it is inevitable
that the idea of the threefold social order should meet with much prejudice
stemming from opinions prevalent in these party groupings. However,
it is time to put an end to the belief that any change can be effected
in today's unsound social conditions through further activity along
the old party lines. The very first thing to be considered is rather
a change in these party opinions themselves. The way to do this, however,
is not by splitting off sections of existing par-ties and establishing
ourselves as representatives of “true” party opinion, while
reproaching others for deserting “the true party views.” This
only leads from fighting over ideology to a much worse struggle for
the power of specific groups of people. What is needed now is not this,
but rather an unprejudiced insight into the demands of the “spirit
of the age.”