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THE SOCIAL QUESTION: CULTURAL, POLITICAL, ECONOMIC

WHAT IS LABOUR FOR?

Steiner raises the fundamental question, then, how is "labour" conceived of in the present time? It is conceived of, he says, on the basis of self-interest, thereby promoting our egoism. We work for our own sake, for the sake of our pay. In the future, he maintains though, we will work for our fellow human beings, because they need what we can provide.

Threefold Commonwealth and Threefold Person

Figure 9.1 Threefold Commonwealth and Threefold Person

Labour in the past was tribute, for Steiner, in the future it will be sacrifice. It will have nothing to do with self-interest, nothing to do with compensation. If we base our labour on consumer demand with regard to what humanity needs, we stand in a free relation to labour and our work is a sacrifice for humanity. Then we will work with all our powers, because, operating out of a raised level of consciousness, we love humanity and want to place our capacities at its disposal.

That has to be possible, and is only possible when our selfhood is separated from our labour. And that, for Steiner, is going to happen in the future. If you were to found a small community today in which everyone throws all their income into a common bank account and everyone works at what they can do, then your livelihood is not dependent on what work you can do, but rather is effected out of common consumption. This brings about a greater freedom than the coordination of pay which mere materially based production serves to bring about. If we adopt such a communal approach, as indeed we saw in the case of Chinyika (see Chapter 6) we will gain a direction which corresponds with needs. We want to strengthen the soul then, culturally so to speak according to Steiner, through the law of its own inner being, so that it learns to place its powers at the disposal of the whole from points of view other than – including laws of justice – the law of wages and self-interest. Thus labour becomes anything but a burden. It becomes something into which we place that which is most sacred for us, our compassion for humanity, and then we can say: labour is sacred because it is a sacrifice for mankind.

CULTURAL DIFFERENTIATION WITHIN EUROPE

In that overall context, moreover, and for example, English, German and Russian social structures, bearing upon the threefold commonwealth, cannot be the same. They must be differentiated. Within the English-speaking culture, for Steiner, intelligence is instinctive. It is a new instinct that has arisen in the evolution of mankind – the instinct to think intelligently. The Russian people differ from the English as the North Pole does from the South. In Central Europe, he says, human beings do not have intelligence instinctively, they must be educated.

Among the Russians, then, a man of intelligence must be a man who is awake, who has attained a certain level of self-consciousness. The civil servant who has studied much may not be enlightened. But the worker who thinks about the connection with the social order, who is awake as to his relation with society, is a man of intelligence.

Whereas therefore in the West intelligence is instinctive, born in one, and in the middle one is trained to it, in the East it is something that awakens out of a certain depth within the human soul.

In other words, human beings awaken to intelligence. Whereas the English-speaking people let the intelligence sink down into the instincts, the Russians want to cherish it. In practice, therefore, we must expect differentiations. We must not imagine that people are the same all over the world, or that the social question can be solved the same way all over.

 
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