The Renewal of the Social Organism
An Appeal to the German Nation and to the Civilized World (March 1919)
Germany believed herself secure for time without end in her empire, which was founded half a century ago. In August 1914 she thought the war she was faced with would prove her invincible. Today all she can do is look upon its ruins. Such an experience calls for self-reflection. For such an experience proved that an opinion held for fifty years, and especially the ideas that had prevailed during the war, had been a tragic error. Where can the reasons for this fateful error be found? This question must now call forth a process of self-evaluation within the soul of every German. Will there be enough strength left for such introspection? Germany's very existence depends upon it. Germany's future also hinges upon the sincerity of the questioning mind — how did we fall prey to such fatal misconceptions? If reflection upon this inquiry starts immediately, then it will come in a flash of understanding: yes, we did found an empire half a century ago, but we neglected to give it a task springing from within the very essence of its national spirit.
The empire was founded. During the first years of its existence care was taken to shape its inner possibilities according to demands posed, year after year, by old traditions and new endeavors. Later, progress was made to safeguard and enlarge the outer positions of power that were based on material resources. Linked to it were policies regulating the social demands of the new era, policies that did take into ac-count the requirements of the day, to some extent, but lacked a greater vision.
A goal could have been defined had there been enough sensitivity to the growing needs of the new generation. Thus the empire found itself in the larger world arena without an essential direction or goal to justify its existence. The debacle of the war revealed this truth in an unfortunate way. Until the war, other nations saw nothing to suggest that Germany had a historic world mission that ought not to be swept away. Her failure to manifest such a mission, according to those with real insight, was the underlying cause of Germany's ultimate breakdown.
Immeasurably much depends now on the ability of the German people to assess this state of affairs objectively. Dis-aster should call forth an insight that never appeared during the previous fifty years. Instead of petty thoughts about the immediate concerns of the day, the grand sweep of an en-lightened philosophy of life should surge through the present, endeavoring to recognize the evolutionary forces within the new generation, and dedicating itself to them with a courageous will. There really must be an end to all the petty attempts to dismiss as impractical idealists everyone who has his eye on these evolutionary forces. A stop must be put to the arrogance and presumption of those who consider themselves to be practical, yet who are the very ones whose narrow-mindedness, masked as practicality, has led to disaster. Consideration must be given to the evolutionary demands of the new age as enunciated by those who, although labeled impractical idealists, are actually the real practical thinkers.
For a long time, “pragmatists” of all kinds have fore-seen the emergence of new human needs. However, they wanted to meet them with traditional modes of thought and institutions. The economic life of modern times gave rise to these needs. It seemed impossible to satisfy them following avenues of private initiative. It seemed imperative to one class that, in a few areas, private labor should be changed over into social labor; and where this class's own philosophy deemed it profitable, the change became effective. Another class wanted radically to turn all individual labor into social labor. This group, influenced by recent economic developments, had no interest in the preservation of private goals.
All efforts regarding humanity's new demands hereto-fore have one thing in common: they all aim at the socialization of the private sector in the expectation that it will be taken over by communal bodies (the state or commune); however, these have their origins in preconceptions that have nothing to do with these new demands. Nor is any consideration given to the fact that the newer cooperatives, which are also expected to play a role in the takeover, have not been formed fully in accordance with the new requirements, but are still imbued with old thought patterns and habits.
The truth is that none of the communal institutions influenced in any way by these old patterns can be a proper vehicle for the new ideas. The forces at work in modern times urge recognition of a social structure for all humanity that comprehends something entirely different from prevailing views. Heretofore, social communities have been largely shaped by human social instincts. The task of the times must be to permeate these forces with full consciousness.
The social organism is articulated like a natural organism. Just as the natural organism must take care of the process of thinking through its head and not through its lungs, so the social organism must be organized into systems. No one system can assume the work of the other; each must work harmoniously with the others while preserving its own integrity.
Economic life can prosper only if it develops according to its own laws and energies as an independent system within the social organism, and if it does not let confusion upset its structure by permitting another part of the social order—that which is at work in politics — to invade it. On the contrary, the political system must function independently alongside the economic system, just as in the natural organism breathing and thinking function side by side. Their wholesome collaboration can be attained only if each member has its own vitally interacting regulations and ad-ministration. However, beneficial interaction falters if both members have one and the same administrative and regulatory organ. If it is allowed to take over, the political system is bound to destroy the economy, and the economic system loses its vitality if it becomes political.
These two spheres of the social organism must now be joined by a third that is shaped quite independently, from within its own life-possibilities — the cultural sphere, with its own legitimate order and administration. The cultural portions of the other two spheres belong in this sphere and must be submitted to it; yet the cultural sphere has no administrative power over the other two spheres and can influence them only as the organ systems coexisting within a complete natural organism influence each other.
Today it is already possible to elaborate at length upon the necessity of the social organism and to establish a scientific basis for it in every detail. Here, however, only guidelines can be offered for those who want to pursue the important task.
The foundation of the German Empire came at a time when the younger generation was already confronted with these necessities. However, its administration did not understand how to give the Empire a mission with a view to these needs. Understanding it would not only have helped provide the right inner structure; it would have guided Ger-many in a justified direction in world politics. Given such an impetus, the German people could have lived together with other nations.
Disaster ought to give rise now to introspection. The will to make the social organism possible must be strengthened. A new spirit—not the Germany of the past—should now confront the external world. A new Germany with cultural, economic and political systems, each with its own administrations, should now begin the work of rebuilding relation-ships with the victor. Germany failed to recognize in time that, unlike other nations, she needed to become strong through the threefold articulation of the social order; there-fore, she must do so now.
One can imagine the so-called pragmatists saying how these new concepts are too complicated, and how uncomfortable they are merely thinking about a collaboration of three spheres. Shying away from the real demands of life, they want to pursue complacently their own habits of thought. They must awaken to the fact: either one must deign to sub-mit one's thinking to the demands of reality, or nothing will have been learned from the debacle, and this self-inflicted misery will be endlessly perpetuated and compounded.