Re: Threefold Social Order (fwd)

From: "Geraldo Defune" <pah_gd@wye.ac.uk>
Organization: Wye College, University of London
Date: Thu, 12 Jun 1997 16:43:18 GMT
Subject: Re: Threefold Social Order

Dear Friends,

I thank Malcolm for the very important points he made.

When I mentioned that Socrates was attributed this analogy in Plato's 
Republic, I was referring to the analogy between the individual and 
society (as the amplified picture of its members) and in the 
application of a threefold conception.

In the "Republic" there's a shocking contrast  between deeply mystical, 
poetic and FREE concepts like the "Analogy of the Cave" and such a 
cold mechanical vision of society in the "ideal republic".  One can 
interpret this dichotomy by either:
1. Differences between true narratives of Socrates' teachings and 
Plato's own opinions.
2. Intentional use of the "antithesis effect" by exaggerating the 
clockwork or beehive characteristics of a "perfect" society, to make 
readers "feel" the discomfort and lead to the understanding of the 
meaning of "utopia" and that there's no happiness and justice for 
both individual and society without freedom. This can be the case, 
for the "Republic" is very similar to what Spartan society was - a 
rival in all senses to the Athenian standards. So, Plato could be 
making the ultimate criticism to Spartan ideals.

Otherwise, Karl Popper has a good and lengthy criticism of Plato's 
dogmatic tendencies in "The Open Society and its Enemies".

It is interesting to note that a "polarity" similar to the 
Athenian/Spartan rivalry re-emerged in modern times between 
Capitalism/Comunism. The solution may well lie in escaping these
"maniqueistic dualism" with a threefold conception.

Also note that Steiner's concept matches the French revolution's 
"Liberte', Egalite', Fraternite'" moto - applying them to the right 
social spheres of action (see Malcolm's comments below).

One of the most (if not THE most) important contributions of 
Steiner's to contemporary thinking is the contrast between
ORGANIC and MECHANICAL systems: the former are living,  
have RHYTHMS, Freedom, build up complexity; while the latter 
are "dead", subject to CYCLES and Entropy.

Regarding Agriculture, I also prefer the expression Agricultural
Organism to Agricultural Individuality.


Geraldo DEFFUNE - G.Deffune@wye.ac.uk
Wye College - University of London 
Sustainable Agriculture Research Group 
Wye, Ashford, Kent TN25 5AH, England, U.K.
Tel.:(44-1233)813658 or 812401 ext.271/504; Fax: (44-1233)812855
WEB http://www.wye.ac.uk/agriculture/sargintro.html
PhD Student Xponsored by CNPq - The Brazilian Research Council

On Fri, 6 Jun 1997,  Malcolm Ian Gardner wrote:

> 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 that 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
> healthy society.
>         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
>         Woolwine, VA
>         *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).
> ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*