Threefold Social Order (fwd)
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 6 Jun 1997 21:30:57 -0400
From: malcolm ian gardner <email@example.com>
To: BD Email List <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Threefold Social Order
This is a note to clarify Steiner's concept of the "Threefold Social Order",
which is quite DIFFERENT from Plato's idea of a threefold republic.
At 07:58 AM 6/6/97 -0400, Geraldo Deffune wrote:
>1. What I can remember (they say you "forget the form" of whatever you
>incorporate...) of Steiner's Threefold Social Order concept is tha a
>healthy social organism must resemble a healthy human organism in its
>threefold nature of Neuro-Sensorial, Rhythmic & Methabolism/Members
>spheres of action.
>In society this three parts relate respectively to the
>Education/Research, Politics/Administration & Industry/Agriculture
>(production) - the social "head, heart and guts/members".
>Socrates has used this analogy in Plato's Republic - it is a beautiful
>and practical way of looking at the social order.
Rudolf Steiner stated that human society was INHERENTLY threefold
(just like the human body). He suggested that modern society would be a lot
more healthy if we recognized and worked with, rather than against, its
inherent laws. Specifically, he said that the cultural/educational sector
thrives best when human beings are FREE to exercise or express their
individual creativity; that the political/legal sector thrives best when
individual human beings are EQUAL before the law; and that the
economic/agricultural sector thrives best when human beings are COOPERATIVE
(fraternal). For example, instead of the "free market", he suggested that
producers, distributors, and consumers form associations and work together
cooperatively to determine what and how much should be produced and how it
should be priced so that everyone's needs would be met. (CSAs are a good
start in this direction.) Competition and freedom, on the other hand,
belong in the cultural/educational sector; our IDEAS should be freely
competing against each other, not our material products, if we want a
In Steiner's conception, EVERY human being partakes of all three
sectors inasmuch as he or she has bodily needs and capacities (economic
sector), personal rights and responsibilities (political sector), and
spiritual abilities and limitations (cultural sector). In his "Republic",
Plato describes three different CLASSES of people: the scholars (and
rulers), the guardians or soldiers, and the agriculturalists and craftsmen.
This may have been an appropriate social ideal in ancient, pre-Christian
Greece when human individuality was not so strongly developed, but today it
is a complete anachronism. Society has indeed remained threefold, but the
relation of the individual to the whole has changed radically. In Plato's
conception the individual is merely a cog in the machinery of the State;
this MECHANICAL conception of society is, unfortunately, still very
widespread today. Steiner's conception, on the other hand, is very poorly
known and understood; it is truly ORGANIC, however, because the individual
is part of all three sectors of society, and the whole society is united in
each individual. This is well expressed in his "Motto of the Social Ethic":
The healthy social life is found
when in the mirror of each human soul
the whole community finds its reflection,
and when in the community
the virtue of each individual can live.
Steiner's basic introduction to the concept and laws of the
Threefold Social Organism* is found in his book "Towards Social Renewal"
(his explicit rejection of the Platonic conception of society is found at
the end of chapter 3); see also his collection of essays entitled "The
Renewal of the Social Organism". For a contemporary discussion of Steiner's
social ideas, often directly in connection with agriculture, I would
recommend the journal "The Threefold Review" (P.O. Box 6, Philmont, NY
12565, USA; $11.85 for a one year subscription [3 issues], $25 for 14 back
issues plus a one year subscription).
Malcolm Ian Gardner
*The "Threefold Social Organism" is a much better term than the
"Threefold Social Order" for referring to Steiner's social ideas because
what he had in mind is not something that can be imposed (as "social order"
implies), but rather something that everyone has to discover through free
insight. "Threefold Social Order" is a translation artefact and corresponds
to no equivalent phrase in German, whereas Steiner often spoke of the
"dreigliedrige soziale Organismus" (the threefold social organism).