26 January 1919, Dornach
During these lectures I have often seized the occasion to point out to you that particularly in connection with the most important problems of life, modern men may learn something from the trenchant, penetrating, almost flood-like events of the present time, though this learning from events is a method practised by few people to-day. As a rule, they think that they can learn something from the events if they simply pass judgment on them, and then these judgments are locked upon as experiences. This can be very satisfactory for some people, but it does not suffice, indeed it is quite unsuited, for what we so sorely need at present, and that is an understanding of social life. The essential thing in such matters is to learn from the events themselves; we must allow the events themselves to develop our judgment, instead of pronouncing judgment over the events. Many explanations which I have given you can show you the true methods of spiritual science; and how spiritual science applies these methods to external physical events — for instance, to the events in social life. Here I think that particularly a significant event of modern times connected with social life may teach us something. I have already drawn attention to it, but let me open to-day's lecture by developing thoughts relating to it.
Were we to discuss the social question with a member of the working class now constituting the majority of the population which counts most in the concerns of modern life, and which has, on the other hand, obtained the inner impulse for its views chiefly through Marxism — were we to speak with him on the social question, we would always find that in regard to social work and social thinking he would not attribute much importance to so-called good will, or to ethical principles. Again and again, you would come across the following attitude: Suppose you were to tell him that according to your views the foundation for a solution of the social problem lies therein that all the people who have certain leading positions, particularly those who belong to the class of the so-called employers, should begin to develop a feeling of social responsibility and feel that it is absolutely necessary to create for everyone an existence in keeping with human dignity.
To a man of the working class you speak, for instance, of raising the moral level of the middle classes. When you voice this view to the working man, he will at first smile, and then he will tell you that it is very naive of you to believe that the social question can now be solved through feeling, or an activity engendered through feeling. A member of the greater mass of the working population will tell you: Everything that flows out of the feeling of the leading class of employers does not count at all. This class of employers may think what it likes in regard to ethical or moral feelings… but since the world is now divided into employers and employees, the employers must necessarily be the exploiters. A working man does not even listen to proposals that the feeling of social responsibility should be raised, for he argues: This is quite useless, for everything depends upon the following: The working class must become conscious of the prevailing conditions, so that the working class itself may bring about a change in the social conditions, a change which ends, or at least alleviates the general misery. The essential point is not that of increasing the sense of moral responsibility, but that the oppressed, miserable working class should bring about, in the present struggle, a new non-capitalistic economic order, a change in the prevailing conditions, a new economic order.
This means, in other words, that no trust should be put in the power of thought; we should not believe that a right comprehension, a right understanding of life can bring about a change in social conditions. One might well imagine the following taking place in one of the many “Councils” which are now being formed in central European countries. A comic paper recently published the picture of a man with a long body and with tiny little legs, stating that he was the only man in Germany who did not “govern”, for everybody else already belonged to some “Council”; but the man with the short legs had always remained behind, so that he was the only one in Germany ,who did not belong to a council and who did not govern! People felt that there was a great deal of truth in this picture. If we were to speak at one of these councils of what must now be considered as right, through an insight into the development of humanity and the needs of humanity, the listeners who belonged to the working classes would answer: “What are you talking about ? You belong to the middle class! Because you are a member of this middle class, your thoughts are a priori influenced by the modern economic order. If social conditions are to be improved, it is far better to incapacitate you in one way or the other, so that you have nothing more to say in the matter; this is better than listening to any proposals you can make for a useful development of social conditions!
Things have already gone too far. Because of this, it is necessary to see things clearly. Of course, the majority of people does not wish to see things clearly to-day; least of all those who come together in councils, for they do not in any way desire to judge things clearly.
Every proletarian, every member of the great mass of the working population, should be taught to see the following, and he will do so, if we approach him at the right moment (this is the essential point!): As a proletarian, he denies the possibility of any social improvement in human development through the means of thought. We may ask him how he arrived at the view that an improvement of social life can only be brought about only through A change in the conditions of social life. There is only one answer to this question; which the facts themselves reveal. You see, the whole tremendous impetus of the modern proletarian movement in social life is based upon the idea of Karl Marx and his followers, and it is a very vigorous idea, to be sure. The idea that thought is worthless is a marxistic theory. Consequently this idea has produced the present socialistic way of feeling. But this socialistic feeling, which refuses to have anything to do with the impulse of thought, is nevertheless: based upon the impulse of thought.
In a lecture which I once delivered to proletarians I explained: Those who investigate world-history and the true forces which are active in the development of humanity, will find that with only one exception, a truly scientific impulse has never become a world-historical impulse. Investigate things everywhere and try to discover the real impulses, and you find that these impulses were never of a scientific kind; with one exception, the renewal of the proletarian movement through Marxism. Lassalle felt this truth, when he delivered his great incisive speech on science and the working class. For the only political, social movement having a scientific foundation, is the modern working class movement. It is encumbered with all the errors and the hopelessness of modern science, just because it sprang out of modern science. But it proceeds entirely from thought.
Imagine this colossal contradiction which has found its place in modern life! During the past sixty or seventy years, the idea that thought is worthless has exercised the greatest influence of all: The course of development during the past sixty or seventy years shows this. It is a significant lesson, because it shows that the influence of thought is something quite different from the content of thought. An idea, the idea of Karl Marx, exercised a particularly strong influence. But if we examine this idea in regard to its content, we find that the content as such is quite unimportant; of importance are only the economic conditions. If we have the capacity to immerse ourselves in this contradiction, in this living contradiction of thought, we find something tremendous in it: If we can penetrate into this contradiction, we discover in it a truth of tremendous import for an understanding of the present time.
What must now be grasped at all costs is the fact that the content of theories, the content of programmes„ is really of no importance whatever, for the influence of thought is based upon something quite different: Upon the relationship of the corresponding thought to the state of mind of those who absorb this idea, etc. You see, if Karl Marx had not voiced his idea from 1848 onwards up to the seventies; had he not given expression to the ideas contained in the Communist Manifesto and developed in his system of political economy and in his great work Capital, just at that time, had he spoken of these things in 1800, or in 1796, his ideas would have exercised no influence whatever, nobody would have shown any interest in them.
Here you,have a key for a most important fact. Imagine that Karl Marx's works had appeared, for instance, fifty years sooner — they would have been waste paper! But from 1848 onwards, when general conditions of the proletarians had reached a definite stage, his works did not become waste paper, but an international impulse, and now they continue to live in Russian Bolshevism and in the whole central European chaos, which has already begun and which will increase more and more, they continue to live in the chaos which will spread over the whole world.
With this I wish to draw your attention to the fact that far more essential than the content of a truth is the circumstance whether it is uttered fifty years sooner or later. The content of an idea is only significant for a definite time and it is no mere fad on my part when I say, for instance, in regard to Anthroposophical spiritual science, now is the time to speak of it, now it must enter the hearts of men, for now is the right moment in which human beings should absorb it. But something else should be borne in mind: Marxism was kindled of its own accord; but spiritual science is something which must be taken up by people in freedom.
If we bear in mind that human understanding is really something which is subject to evolution, it will be easier to understand many things which are,we can really say, not only possible, but also necessary to understand, and which people really do not wish to understand. In a certain connection, we discover tremendous things if we encounter the thoughts which now exist in the so-called spiritual life, which is, however, no real spiritual life! Those who can understand such things, will come across plenty of evidence.
We may open, for instance, a certain number of a periodical published here in Switzerland, in which the, author, who frequently writes for this paper, discusses a topical problem. In the article in question he speaks of what he understands by “the people”. He speaks of various personalities and of their responsibility or guilt in regard to the outbreak of war; he discusses the fact — and in many ways he is right — that certain leading men of central Europe must be blamed for it. (I have often explained that here it is not possible to speak of guilt) Then he finds it necessary to explain what he really means by — “the people”. This is how he defines “the people”; They constitute nine tenths of civilised countries, such as Germany? Austria, England, France, etc. and he says that the people are the sum total of the uncultured unfree persons, who are in the widest sense dependent on leaders, and who therefore need leadership.
Consequently we may say that this writer defines “the people” as being the uncultured, unfree, dependent persons, who, in the widest sense, need a leader. But if we were to examine conscientiously the majority of those who belong to the middle classes, or even to the higher classes, they would also answer more or less the same, if they were asked for their opinion as to the meaning of the expression “the people”: The uncultured, unfree, dependent mass, needing guidance, and constituting nine tenths of the whole of humanity.
If we now take the opposite view, we would have to say that only one tenth of humanity is cultured, free and independent, and that it doe's not require a leader! Those who think that they can express an opinion as to the true significance of “the people”, generally think that they belong to this one tenth.
In the face of such a view, which is preeminently important for the development of a social judgment, it is above all necessary to face the question, as to whether it is justified, in the widest sense of the word, to accept the idea that nine tenths of the population consist of uncultured, unfree, dependent men who need a leader! This is the question which each one of us must face, if we wish to form an independent social judgment. Of course, if views are to be exchanged on such questions, it is necessary to build up that intensity of thinking which spiritual science can offer. F For everything else which intensifies thought to-day, does not suffice; this can be seen in the thoughtlessness which now rules the masses.
There is a saying which I have come across again and again during the last months — I do not know if one can call it a coincidence, for in reality no such thing exists. I have found this saying quoted by one or other, whenever social conditions were discussed in public. It is the following: The stupidest calves choose their own butchers. People find it natural to quote this saying and everyone finds an obvious meaning in it. I do not find any meaning whatever in it, for I think that not the stupidest, but the cleverest calves would choose their own butcher, for in that case they would choose one who would kill them as, painlessly as possible, whereas those who do not choose their butcher would fare worst of all. The very opposite is true: Only the cleverest calves choose their own butcher.
Important judgments which require changing, are accepted just as thoughtlessly as this saying. Or when a human being surveys life, he would gladly forego the activity of thought, he has no wish to apply power of thought!
What we need to-day is a keener thought-activity, so that we may reach concepts which correspond to reality. An “advanced” modern thinker — “advanced”, in the meaning of modern academic wisdom, modern illumined thought, modern democratic consciousness may find the idea tempting that nine tenths of the whole of humanity constitute the uncultured, unfree dependent people who need a leader. Nevertheless this idea is quite worthless for the following reason: —
Let us proceed from a historical fact which can teach us a great deal in this connection. Christianity arose, as you know, in an unknown province of the Roman Empire, through the Mystery of Golgotha. Within the Roman Empire of that time, which had already absorbed the Greek civilisation, there lived a population which really possessed a wisdom of deep significance. The Church had to make a tremendous effort in order to eliminate every trace of the ancient Gnosis. (I have already spoken of this) Gnostic wisdom existed at that time. A highest wisdom existed in those days. When Christianity first arose this highest wisdom existed within the Roman Empire. This can in no way be denied. Yet it was impossible for this highest wisdom to absorb the historically powerful impulse of Christianity. The strong impulse of Christianity (I have spoken of this recently) was absorbed by the barbarians of the North, who did not possess the wisdom of the southern populations. When the barbarians of the North encountered the strong wave of Christianity, then Christianity began to exercise the influence which it had to unfold for the remainder of the fourth post-Atlantean epoch and for the beginning of the fifth post-Atlantean epoch. New conditions have only arisen at the present time.
We should bear in mind the fact that the strongest impulse in history could not be absorbed by the most highly developed and abstract spirituality of a certain epoch; this impulse could instead be absorbed by men who were apparently retarded in their development and whose being was connected with the more instinctive part of human nature.
The view which has just been mentioned in regard to nine tenths of humanity, constituting the uncultured, unfree mass in need of guidance, is not worth much more than the fact that as far as spirituality is concerned, these nine tenths of humanity differ from the people who believe to be the leaders. For these so-called leading men have a degenerated intellect, a degenerated understanding. The nine tenths of humanity constituting the so-called uncultured, dependent people in need of guidance, still possess, as it were, a latent kind of intelligence, which is far more able to absorb the strong historical impulse which must now be received. This impulse is far more powerful than the one to be found among the so-called “intelligentsia”, among the people with a decadent intelligence. What now separates the bearer of spiritual impulses from the masses which are able to receive these impulses, are not the masses themselves, not the souls of these great masses of humanity, but the leaders, the men who have the guidance. These leading men, even the leaders of socialistic proletarians, are completely permeated with the decadent intellect of the “bourgeoisie”.
What is needed above everything else is a clear admission of the fact that the true impulses of spiritual development are accessible to the so-called uncultured, unfree, dependent people in need of guidance; these impulses can reach them, if we gain an insight into the characteristic form of intelligence of these people, and of the way in which it works.
No class of humanity has ever been so fantastic as the bourgeoisie which mocks at fantasy. Practical life to-day is truly fantastic! The practical things in life are “practical” only because they have been given the legal possibility to assert themselves, to enforce themselves, whereas people who do not have the chance to push themselves forward, cannot assert themselves, no matter how skilful and practical they may be.
To-day we should really learn to feel that in the great masses which are not led, but misled by their leaders, there is something which asserts itself as a remnant from that time which is designated — but erroneously — as the migration of the people. At that time, certain barbarian tribes came to the fore, as it were, and they absorbed the very impulses which the more highly developed nations were no longer able to receive.
During the present time we also have a migration of people; this migration, which is forcing its way to the surface, does not start from any definite place, but it comes from the whole sub-stratum, the proletarian sub-stratum of humanity. This is the essential point.
It is necessary to, face this migration of people, to meet it. Let us take the following hypothesis. Suppose that everything which is described in history books as the migration of people had really taken place — all these migrations of the Goths, the Huns, and later on, of the Mongolians, the migrations of the Vandals, the Suevi, etc. Imagine that these tribes had not encountered the stream of Christianity, when they migrated from the East to the South-West. Imagine that this stream of Christianity had not come; think what a difference this would have made in the world! The whole subsequent epoch can only be thought of, if we bear in mind the fact that these barbarian tribes came over from the East to the South West, and that they encountered the stream of Christianity.
Today the proletarian element rises out of the depths. And this proletarian element must be met with a spiritual element which comes from above! You might say that a Spiritual-scientific influence should be exercised upon social conditions, upon the conception of the world. Those who do not wish to believe that a new spiritual revelation comes towards this migration of people, which now follows a vertical, and not a horizontal direction, those who remain by the old spiritual revelation suited to the horizontal direction, in short, those who prefer to remain by the Roman way of propagating Christianity and do not wish to become acquainted with the new revelation of Christ Who passed through the Mystery of Golgotha, those people lose a great deal; they lose as much as might have been lost in the Middle Ages if the barbarian stream, which rolled from the East to the South West had not encountered the spreading current of Christianity.
Also at that time, the cultured men of Greece and of Rome stood between the current of Christianity and the barbarian stream.
To-day all the people who cling to old ideas, under the guidance of the so-called intelligentsia, particularly under the guidance of modern science, which has proved so unfruitful in the social field, to-day all these people stand between,the spiritual stream which should flow down to the proletarian stream and this current which flows upwards.
In such matters, we should chiefly strive to become unprejudiced in regard to ideas enabling us to develop a social judgment. But if we do not understand the social organism, we cannot develop a social judgment.
Do you know what results when a modern professor of national economy, who is a guide to others, or when a real political leader speaks of social or of economic questions, etc. — do you know what results in such cases in regard to the social organism? — The social homunculus! This is a fact which we should really try to grasp; we must bear in mind that all those who wish to understand the social organism, without grasping the truth of the threefold structure, give rise, within the social organism; to the homunculus, to nothing but the homunculus! Goethe also believed that the ordinary understanding, based upon the senses and the intellect, could not reach the “homo”, but only the “homunculus”!
You see, in regard to the social organism, the great majority of men is to-day absolutely unable to think; the leading motifs for real thought are lacking.
I have already explained to you that in the social sphere people set out from the strange and grotesque idea that a single state or national territory is a complete organism. Indeed, they even aim at setting up national organisms, complete in themselves! But this is nonsense! I have already told you that if anything on earth which is connected with social life is to be compared with an organism, then it is only possible to look upon the whole earth as an organism; and a single state, or national territory, can only be a part of this organism of the earth. If we wish to apply this idea of an organism, it can only be applied to a complete whole.
Those who wish to establish political economy upon the foundation of one single nation, resemble someone who seeks to establish the anatomy of the whole human being by studying only the hand, or a leg, or the stomach. This should be borne in mind, for it is far more important than people generally believe.
The threefold structure which I have explained to you, does not give any abstract resume and none of the recapitulations to which people are accustomed to—day, but it places itself livingly within the economic structure, within the social structure.
Those who only study the anatomy of the stomach, cannot understand the anatomy of the head or of the throat. But those who study the anatomy of the whole human being, are also able to form a right idea of the stomach, of the head, or of the throat.
Those who know the inner life — conditions of the social organism (and this knowledge can only proceed from the above-mentioned threefold structure) are indeed able to identify themselves with the real conditions, and they are able to have an insight into them, whether they have to judge the social conditions in Russia, England, Germany, or in any other country.
To-day we come across the strange and distressing circumstance that people speak of the different nations as if they were separate countries, and they believe that social reforms, etc. can be brought about in single, separate regions. This constitutes one of the fundamental errors of our time and it may lead to the greatest mischief in practical life.
It can only cause harm to believe that it is possible to do something within a certain limited territory, without taking into consideration that from a social standpoint the earth is an organism which is complete in itself, ever since the middle of the nineteenth century. It is absolutely necessary to reckon with reality, otherwise we cannot progress in any way.
You will see from this that the essential thing is to acquire an unprejudiced attitude, for such an unprejudiced attitude alone enables us to develop judgments out of the things themselves. For we can only judge things rightly, if we have no prejudices.
When social conditions are discussed in the way in which we discuss them here; you will hear over and over again that it is hardly conceivable not to separate economic values from human labour. That this is possible, can't be grasped least of all by the learned political economists of to-day.
If these men were willing to learn something from history, they would say to themselves: Plato and Aristotle were as yet unable to think that slaves are not connected with economic values. Plato and Aristotle still considered the existence of a fairly large slave population as an economic necessity. But to-day no sensible person looks upon the existence of a slave population as an economic necessity, in the meaning of ancient Greece and Rome. Yet people still consider that human labour should be a merchandise, that it should be treated as goods.
You see, when we strive after the gradual realisation of the above-mentioned threefold structure (it can only be realised little by little; we do not aim at sudden reforms or revolutions, but merely indicate a new direction; single measures in keeping with this new direction can be introduced, indeed, everything which calls for reform to-day can be in all details in such a way as to follow these guiding lines, this new direction; this can be done if one does not stupidly adhere to programmes, but to real life and if one moves, in the direction of real facts. This is the essential point) — we divide into three the parts which have merged together during the last phase of human development, thus producing a diseased social organism — indeed, the last catastrophe (the first world war) has clearly revealed this diseased condition. A sound course of development, in keeping with reality, can be reached if we strive to separate into three parts that which has melted together into a whole.
This will lead of its own accord to the separation of human labour from economic values. Even as the slave has ceased to be merchandise, so human labour will cease to be merchandise. But this will not be brought about by laws forbidding that “human labour should be merchandise”, but by keeping asunder the spiritual; the economic and the state concerns. This alone will separate goods representing an economic value, or merchandise as such, from that which has now become crystallised within the merchandise, the human labour employed in it.
In this connection it is really terrible to come across the mistaken and confused thoughts of people who have something to say, or wish to have a say, in the reorganisation, in the necessary reorganisation of social conditions. Let me give you an example:
You have the great mass of the so-called Marxists; these men have a clear idea of the fact that human labour is stored in goods which we purchase, in any merchandise which we purchase; human labour has produced this merchandise. In paying for the goods, I must also pay for the human labour contained in it. This is of course the case under modern conditions, but it is essential to separate human labour from the true goods, to separate it not only in thoughts, but in the real process. But this entails that we should really develop clear thoughts in regard to these matters.
Now it is easy to argue that manufactured goods do not contain human labour as an economic value. A non-Marxist, for instance, would say: It is not right to state that in political economy human labour and manufactured goods have been fused. Non-Marxists, who consider things from another angle, say that in the capitalistic economic structure manufactured goods exist in order to save labour. In fact, there are some goods with a certain purchasing power, which can save labour. Let us suppose, for instance, that you are a painter and that you have painted a picture which is worth £500.00 and that under present conditions you can actually sell this picture for £500.00. This sum enables you to employ so and so many people to work for you. Because you possess an object of value in this picture, you can make so and so many people work for you. Suppose that you do not sell the picture, and that you would have to do the work which others would have done for you, if you had sold your picture for £500! In that case, you would hare to make your own shoes, your own clothes, and even weave the material for your clothes, etc. But first of all, you would have to get the raw material ,for your work, and so forth, for the economic process is an extremely complicated one.
Nevertheless, some economists think that it is not at all a question of labour being stored in goods, but a question of being able to save labour through goods which can be sold. According to these economists, the economic value of a merchandise is therefore based upon the fact of how much labour can be saved through it, and not upon the quantity of labour which was needed to produce it.
We therefore have two sides to-day; one declares that the economic value consists in the amount of labour which has been put into the goods. Take the case of the picture; there, the work put into it can really not be compared with the work which has been saved through the fact that the picture was sold in accordance with the value which it possesses in the economic structure, in the circulation of goods. Under given circumstances, a gifted painter may produce a picture ready for sale in about a month's time — is it not so? His “labour” is, in that case, what he “crystallizes” into the picture in one month's time. This is, however, far less important than the work which he thus saves for himself. He becomes a capitalist through the fact that he saves labour; a capitalistic economic structure arises through the very fact that he can now employ so and so many people to work for him, by saving work through the sale of his picture.
Here you have two opposed definitions. One definition is that the economic value of a merchandise or of goods consists in the labour employed for the production of these goods. The other definition is that the economic value of goods consists in the labour saved through having these goods. These two definitions are diametrically opposed; they are opposed in regard to their real significance. For it would be an entirely different matter if the goods were really valued according to the labour employed for their production, or according to the labour saved through having them.
But in the process of economic circulation goods are valued neither in the one nor in the other way. Let me elaborate my example: Bear in mind the following: Suppose that the picture of which I have spoken, valued at £500 in accordance with prevailing ideas, still hangs in the painter's studio. He sells it, and it now hangs in the drawing room of Herr Mendelssohn, who is not a painter. There it hangs, and only a few people see it. Now, if you wish to define the economic value of the picture, you will say that it consists in the amount of labour, employed to paint it. Yet this definition does not hold good, either in regard to the painter — let us say, Lenbach — or in regard to the buyer, Herr Mendelssohn. As far as they are concerned, the economic value of the picture is not based upon this fact. For Lenbach, or any other modern painter, the immediate value of the picture of course consists in the work which he saves through it; yet this is not true, as far as Herr Mendelssohn is concerned, for he does not save any work through it. The definition of labour saved may therefore be applied, from an economic aspect, to the painter who has produced the picture; you may apply this definition to him, if you think in a one-sided manner. But from the aspect of the person who buys the picture and hangs it up in his drawing room, the above definition no longer holds good; the political-economic definition of the picture's value cannot be applied, if we bear in mind real facts.
You see, what is so important to bear in mind is the fact that to-day people are so easily inclined to define things; when they think to have discovered something in the existing conditions, they immediately look out for a definition. Under such circumstances it is not at surprising that one side should have one view and one side another. It is natural that someone who draws the economic definition of a picture from Lenbach's studio, has quite a different opinion from someone who draws the economic definition of the picture from the drawing room of Herr Mendelssohn. This of course gives rise to disputes.
This is the character of every dispute which now exists in social spheres; differences arise because people do not go back to the original impulses. This calls for sense of reality, which can only be acquired through a spiritual-scientific training.
To-day you may come across hundreds of definitions in the political-economic sphere, but they will only make your heart ache, because they are so very unreal. These definitions fall far short of the reality, though it is possible to “prove” them over and over again, for they always fit into a certain sphere. If you only consider the aspect of the spiritual worker, you may say that the economic value of something consists in the amount of labour saved. But if you only bear in mind the aspect of the proletarian workman, you may say that the economic value of something consists in the labour employed for its production.
I have now given you another example from the field of political economy? In this field, we have — in regard to the theory of money — the so-called nominalists and the metallists. On the subject of money, they have the most terrible disputes, for the latter look upon money as goods, and attribute to it the value which it has as gold or silver; the former only consider money as a symbol for an existing value. The nominalists, on the one hand, and the metallists, on the other, wage a war to the knife on this subject of money; they try to define it and they quarrel over it.
But these people have no idea whatever of reality. As far as money is concerned, nominalism is right at a time when the production of goods is very weak; nominalism is justified when there is a crisis. But metellism is right, when there is superfluity. From the aspect of reality, both are right — at one time this, and at the other time that direction. You see, if we take ideas in the one-sided manner in which people generally take them, we can never apply them to a totality in a healthy way. When we regard a totality, a whole, it is essential to collect all the facts; we should not apply one-sided definitions, and we should develop a feeling which shows us where we can take hold of the facts, throwing light upon reality.
Now the following question might be raised: Where does the economic value arise? It does not arise where human labour accumulates, or becomes crystallised in the goods; it does not arise where labour can be saved through goods; the economic value does not arise in any of these fields. The economic value is a condition of tension.
If here, at this point, you have an electric conductor (a drawing is made), discharging electricity, and if the electric current is intercepted here at this point, we have a tension between the two, between the discharging apparatus and the apparatus which collects the discharge. There is no discharge if the tension is too weak, for a discharge can only take place if the tension is strong enough.
Similarly, the economic value must be sought within a kind of tension, and we can describe this economic value by saying: On the one hand, we have the goods, the wares; then we must consider their different qualities and also the place where they can be consumed. We therefore have, on the one hand, the goods. On the other hand, we have the human requirements, and this is the same as the artificial or natural interest which people have in the goods. We have therefore, on the other hand, the goods in a certain place at a certain time. This tension, and nothing else, gives rise to the true economic value.
The true economic value does not contain the idea of human labour. Within the social organism, labour should be associated with the circulation of goods in quite a different way. The peculiar tension, which resembles the tension existing between an electric accumulator and an electric receiver, is that which produces the true economic value. This tension arises through the existence of definitely qualified goods at a definite place and time and the demand for these goods. This alone determines the real economic value.
Lenbach's efforts in producing a picture within a certain time, through his gift as a painter, and the labour which he could save for himself, through this picture as an object of value, can only determine the picture's value as Lenbach's private property. This applies to every other kind of labour in regard to goods. All this does not determine the economic value.
The economic value at any given moment is determined, on the one hand, by the demand, or the requirement, and on the other hand, by the definite, qualified goods which exist at a given time. This constitutes the true economic value of a merchandise, and this value can always be applied.
But this leads us away from the mere political-economic organism, and leads us instead into the social three partition. For, on the one hand, we have the goods, the wares, leading us into the economic sphere, which can, however, never come into being through the mere circulation of goods, but which depends upon the soil and ground, upon other foundations of Nature This foundation of Nature must exist. It cannot be saddled on to the state. It must exist, on the one side.
On the other side, we have the demand, the requirement. This leads us into the spiritual sphere; it leads us into the spiritual world of man, for consider how different are the demands of uncivilised barbarians and of civilised men!
Here we have two entirely different elements which penetrate into the political-economic life. The essential point which must be borne in mind, the chief thing which we must consider, is that there are other elements which penetrate into the political-economic life.
The social organism thus resembles the human organism which consists, on the one hand, of the chest and of the head into the head penetrates the spiritual world. On the other hand, it consists of that part of the body which takes in nourishment, and the physical world penetrates into this part. But also the social organism is threefold, for on the one hand, we find that it is influenced by all that which gives rise to demands, to requirements, which must never be produced by the economic process itself; and on the other hand, it is influenced by that which Nature produces. This leads us to a threefold structure, for in the middle lies that which unites these two spheres.
In order to perceive the immense fruitfulness, the social fruitfulness of the above thought, it suffices to consider the following fact: — According to the explanations given above, an isolated process, an economic process, should never give rise to demands, but demands should instead come from outside, through some other cultural process, through an ethical process, or something similar.
During unsound times, demands arise through purely economic processes, and people who cannot think soundly rejoice over this. During the time which led to our present social catastrophe, during the time in which the social cancerous growth, the present social cancer, gradually began to develop, people tried in every way to produce demands for goods through processes which did not come from the social structure itself, but which entered it from outside, which came from some other cultural task of humanity, from social processes which were called into being artificially. You could, for instance, read over and over again the following advertisement: “Cook good soups with Maggi!” — Well, the demand for “Maggi” would certainly not have arisen, had it not been advertised!
Advertising has come out of the purely economic sphere. It does not give rise to real demands. To produce demands in such a way as to arouse an artificial interest in certain goods, is unsound and a source of illness to the social organism. It is just the same as if a physician were to induce a boy to learn more diligently by giving him a stimulating powder, so that his stomach makes him more diligent, instead of his being stimulated to study by moral forces.
This social bungling, these social tricks, which arise by saddling everything on to a so-called “monon”, on to a social homunculus, have led to the catastrophes of the present time. For the social organism itself, should never produce, on the one hand, demands, and on the other goods. The goods must be supplied to the social organism by the foundation of Nature. And the course of human development itself, must supply to the social organism the demands for goods.
A social problem should never become, for instance, a problem of population, for this would imply a misunderstanding of the connections which exist between the human being and political economy. This would mean that in our time we do not know the difference between a pig and a human being, as I explained to you yesterday, at the end of my lecture, and it would lead to our making a social problem out of the problem of population.
Political-economic reasons should never determine whether an increase in the population is desirable, or whether it is to kept upon a certain level; other reasons, of an ethical, spiritual kind, should be called in for this. When considering such a problem, we should particularly bear in mind that if a considerable increase in population is obtained through artificial means, we force the souls who would only have incarnated after four or five centuries, to come down prematurely, and consequently, in a deteriorated condition. Under certain conditions, an increase in the population implies a coercion for souls who are thus forced to incarnate in a physical body under unfavourable conditions. This would give rise to moral corruption.
The problem of increase, stability, or decrease in the population, should never be a political-economic problem, but a moral-ethical one in short, a problem connected with a spiritual conception of the world with a spiritual conception of life.
All these things can only follow a sound course of development if they are grasped in a spiritual-scientific manner. You will therefore recognise the necessity of giving a spiritual-scientific foundation to all the thoughts which are connected with social problems. If you really wish to study the horrible things which are now said and written in connection with the social problem you would see that the unfruitfulness contained in all these calls for the application of that sharp, clear way of thinking which these questions entail.
Even as the blind follower's of Plato and of Aristotle had to come to the point of saying: “Man, as a slave, cannot be considered as goods”, so the followers of modern humanity must learn to say: “In no case can human labour be considered as goods”, for other impulses, not the value of products, should induce men to serve and to work for their fellows.
The economic value of goods produced by labour should never be fixed in accordance with the labour accumulated within the goods, nor by the labour saved through the goods, but only in accordance with the justified tension which exists between the goods and human demands. Neither the labour accumulated in the goods, nor the labour saved through them, constitutes the decisive factor, for our labour does not place us within an economic process, we do not work in order to save labour, but we produce goods in order that there may be a certain tension between the goods produced and the corresponding demand .
The corresponding demand may determine that goods which entailed a great amount of work must, under certain conditions, be sold cheaply — and, within a sound economic process, the demand may determine that a product involving little work obtains a higher price. Consequently the work involved can never be the decisive factor.
This is evident from the explanations given above. Those who have an insight into such things, consequently recognise the radical necessity of not seeking the impulses which give rise to human labour in the economic value of goods, but on quite a different direction, which is determined by the above-mentioned state of tension.
Only those who have an insight into such things can arrive at a decision in connection with the two important social problems which face us at the present time: compulsory labour, which is the aim of the Bolshevists, and the right to work, or any other name which we may give to it. Those who do not penetrate to the depths indicated to-day, will always talk in a confused way, no matter whether they speak officially, of compulsory labour, or the right to work, or whether they simply follow certain aims. Only those who penetrate to the depths of reality have a right to speak of such questions. Indeed, it is a serious matter to-day to acquire the right to have a say in such things.
In my next lecture I shall continue to speak on this subject.