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Walther Rathenau, author of Die neue Gesell- 
schaft and other studies of economic and social con¬ 
ditions in modern Germany, was born in 1867. 
His father, Emil Rathenau, was one of the most 
distinguished figures in the great era of German 
industrial development, and his son was brought up 
in the atmosphere of hard work, of enterprise, and of 
public affairs. After his school days at a Gymnasium , 
or classical school, he studied mathematics, physics 
and chemistry at the Universities of Berlin and of 
Strassburg, taking his degree at the age of twenty- 
two. Certain discoveries made by him in chemistry 
and electrolysis led to the establishment of inde¬ 
pendent manufacturing works, which he controlled 
with success, and eventually to his connexion with 
the world-famous A.E.G.— Allgemeine Electrizitats- 
geselUchaft —at the head of which he now stands. 
During the war he scored a very remarkable and 
exceptional success as controller of the organization 
for the supply of raw materials. He is thus not 
merely a scholar and thinker, but one who has lived 
and more than held his own in the thick of commercial 
and industrial life, and who knows by actual experi¬ 
ence the subject-matter with which he deals. 



The present study, with its wide outlook and its 
resolute determination to see facts as they are, should 
have much value for all students of latter-day politics 
and economics in Europe; for though Rathenau is 
mainly concerned with conditions in his own land 
the same conditions affect all countries to a greater 
or less degree, and he deals with general principles 
of human psychology and of economic law which 
prevail everywhere in the world. It is not too 
much to say that “ The New Society ” constitutes a 
landmark in the history of economic and social 
thought, and contains matter for discussion, for 
sifting, for experiment and for propaganda which 
should occupy serious thinkers and reformers for 
many a day to come. His suggestions and conclusions 
may not be all accepted, or all acceptable, but few 
will deny that they constitute a distinct advance in 
the effort to bring serious and disinterested thought 
to the solution of our social problems, and in this 
conviction we offer the present complete and 
authorized translation to English readers. 



Is there any sign or criterion by which we can tell 
that a human society has been completely socialized ? 

There is one and one only : it is when no one can 
have an income without working for it. 

That is the sign of Socialism; but it is not the goal. 
In itself it is not decisive. If every one had enough 
to live on, it would not matter for what he received 
money or goods, or even whether he got them for 
nothing. And relics of the system of income which 
is not worked for will always remain—for instance, 
provision for old age. 

The goal is not any kind of division of income or 
allotment of property. Nor is it equality, reduction 
of toil, or increase of the enjoyment of life. It is the 
abolition of the proletarian condition; abolition of 
the lifelong hereditary serfage, the nameless hereditary 
servitude, of one of the two peoples who are called 
by the same name; the annulment of the hereditary 
twofold stratification of society, the abolition of the 
scandalous enslavement of brother by brother, of that 

Western abuse which is the basis of our civilization as 




slavery was of the antique, and which vitiates all our 
deeds, all our creations, all our joys. 

Nor is even this the final goal—no economy, no 
society can talk of a final goal—the only full and final 
object of all endeavour upon earth is the development 
of the human soul. A final goal, however, points out 
the direction, though not the path, of politics. 

The political object which I have described as the 
abolition of the proletarian condition may, as I have 
shown in Things that are to Come , 1 be closely 
approached by a suitable policy in regard to property 
and education; above all, by a limitation of the right 
of inheritance. Of socialization in the strict sense 
there is, for this purpose, no need. Yet a far-reaching 
policy of socialization—and I do not here refer to a 
mere mechanical nationalization of the means of 
production but to a radical economic and social 
resettlement—is necessary and urgent, because it 
awakens and trains responsibilities, and because it 
withdraws from the sluggish hands of the governing 
classes the determination of time and of method, 
and places it in the hands that have a better title, 
those of the whole commonalty, which, at present, 
stands helpless through sheer democracy. For only 
in the hands of a political people does democracy 
mean the rule of the people; in those of an untrained 
and unpolitical people it becomes merely an affair 
of debating societies and philistine chatter at the 

1 Von Kommenden Dingen, by Walther Rathenau. Berlin. 
8. Fischer, 



inn ordinary. The symbol of German bourgeois 
democracy is the tavern; thence enlightenment is 
spread and there judgments are formed; it is the 
meeting place of political associations, the forum of 
their orators, the polling-booth for elections. 

But the sign that this far-reaching socialization has 
been actually carried out is the cessation of all 
income without work. I say the sign, but not the 
sole postulate; for we must postulate a complete 
and genuine democratization of the State and public 
economy, and a system of education equally accessible 
to all: only then can we say that the monopoly of 
class and culture has been smashed. But the cessa¬ 
tion of the workless income will show the downfall of 
the last of class-monopolies, that of the Plutocracy. 

It is not very easy to imagine what society will be 
like when these objects have been realised, at least 
if we are thinking not of a brief period like the present 
Russian regime, or a passing phase as in Hungary, 
but an enduring and stationary condition. A 
dictatorial oligarchy, like that of the Bolshevists, 
does not come into consideration here, and the well- 
meaning Utopias of social romances crumble to 
nothing. They rest, one and all, on the blissfully 
ignorant assumption of a state of popular well-being 
exaggerated tenfold beyond all possibility. 

The knowledge of the sort of social condition 
towards which at present we Germans, and then 
Europe, and finally the other nations are tending in 
this vertical Migration of the Peoples, will not only 



decide for each of us his attitude towards the great 
social question, but our whole political position as 
well. It is quite in keeping with German traditions 
that in fixing our aims and forming our resolves we 
should be guided not by positive but by negative 
impulses—not by the effort to get something but to 
get away from it. To this effort, which is really a 
flight, we give the positive name of Socialism, without 
troubling ourselves in the least how things will look— 
not in the sense of popular watchwords but in actual 
fact—when we have got what we are seeking. 

This is not merely a case of lack of imagination; 
it is that we Germans have, properly speaking, no 
understanding of political tendencies. We are more 
or less educated in business, in science, in thought, 
but in politics we are about on the same level as the 
East Slavonic peasantry. At best we know—and 
even that not always—what oppresses, vexes and 
tortures us; we know our grievances, and think we 
have conceived an aim when we simply turn them 
upside down. Such processes of thought as “ the 
police are to blame, the war-conditions are to blame, 
the Prussians are to blame, the Jews are to blame, 
the English are to blame, the priests are to blame, 
the capitalists are to blame ”—all these we quite 
understand. Just as with the Slavs, if our good¬ 
nature and two centuries of the love of order did not 
forbid it, our primitive political instincts would find 
expression in a pogrom in the shape of a peasant-war, 
of a religious war, of witch-trials, or Jew-baiting. 



Our blatant patriotism bore the plainest signs of such 
a temper; half nationalism, half aggression against 
some bugbear or other; never a proud calm, an 
earnest self-dedication, a struggle for a political 

We have now a Republic in Germany; no one 
seriously desired it. We have at last established 
Parliamentarianism: no one wanted it. We have 
set up a kind of Socialism : no one believed in it. 
We used to say : “ The people will live and die for 
their princes; our last drop of blood for the Hohen- 
zollerns ”—no one denied it. “ The people mean to 
be ruled by their hereditary lords; they will go 
through fire for their officers; rather death than 
yield a foot of German soil to the foe.” Was all this 
a delusion? By no means; it was sincere enough, 
only it did not go deep. It was the kind of sincerity 
which depends on not knowing enough of the alter¬ 
native possibilities. 

When the alternatives revealed themselves as 
possible and actual, then we all turned republican, 
even to the cottagers in Pomerania. When the 
military strike had broken down discipline, the 
officers were mishandled; when the war was lost, 
the fleet disgraced, and the homeland defiled, then 
we began to play and dance. 

But was this frivolity ? Not at all; it was a childish 
want of political imagination. The Poles, a people 
not remotely comparable to the German in depth of 
soul and the capacity for training talent, have for a 



century cherished no other thought than that of 
national unity, while we passively resign our territories. 
No Englishman or Japanese or American will ever 
understand us when we tell him that this military 
discipline of ours, this war-lust, did not represent a 
passion for dominion and aggression, but was merely 
the docility of a childish people which wants nothing, 
and can imagine nothing, but that things should go 
on as they happen, at the moment, to be. 

We Germans know but little of the laws which govern 
the formation of national character. The capacity of 
a people for profundity is not profundity, either of 
the individual or of the community. It may express 
itself in the masses as mere plasticity and softness of 
spirit. The capacity for collective sagacity and 
strength of will demands from the individual merely 
a dry intelligence in human affairs, and egoism. It 
would be too much to say that our political weakness 
may be merely the expression of spiritual power, for 
the latter has not proved an obstacle to success in 
business. Indolence and belief in authority have 
their share in it. 

But have we not been the classic land of social 
democracy, and have we not become that of Radical¬ 
ism ? Well, we have been, indeed, and are, with our 
submissiveness to authority and our capacity for 
discipline, the classic land of organized grumbling; 
and the classic land, too, of anti-semitism which 
deprived us of the very forces we stood most in need 
of—productive scepticism and the imagination for 



concrete things. Organized grumbling is not the 
same thing as political creation. A Socialism and 
Radicalism poorer in ideas than the post-Marxian 
German Socialism has never existed. Half of it was 
merely clerical work, and the other half was agitators’ 
Utopianism of the cheapest variety. 

Nothing was more significant than the fact that the 
mighty event of the German Revolution was not the 
result of affection but of disaffection. It is not we 
who liberated ourselves, it was the enemy; it was our 
destruction that set us free. On the day before we 
asked for the armistice, perhaps even on the day 
before the flight of the Kaiser, a plebiscite would 
have yielded an overwhelming majority for the 
monarchy and against Socialism. What I so often 
said before the war came true: “He who trains his 
children with the rod learns only through the rod.” 

And to-day, when everything is seething and 
fermenting—no thanks to Socialism for that—all 
intellectual work has to be done outside of the ranks 
of social-democracy, which stumbles along on its 
two crutches of “ Socialization ” and “ Soviets.” 1 
Orthodox Socialism is still a case of the “ lesser evil,” 
what the French call a pis aller. “ Things are so bad 
that any change must be for the better.” What is 
to make them better we are told in the socialist 
catechism; but how it is to do so, how and what 
anything is to become, this, the only question that 
matters, is regarded as irrelevant. It is answered by 
1 Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils. 



some halting and insincere stammer about “ surplus 
value ” which is to make everybody well off—and which 
would yield all round, as I have elsewhere shown, just 
twenty-five marks a head. Fifteen millions of grown 
men are pressing forward into a Promised Land 
revealed through the fog of political assemblies and 
in the thunder of parrot-phrases—a land from which 
no one will ever bring back a bunch of grapes. 

If one would interrogate not the agitators, but their 
hearers, and find out what they instinctively con¬ 
ceive this land to look like, we should get the answer, 
timid and naive but at the same time the deepest 
and shrewdest that it is possible to give—that it is 
a land where there are no longer any rich. 

A most true and truthful reply! And yet a 
profound error silently lurks in it. You imagine, 
do you not, that in a land where there are no more 
rich people there will also be no more poor ? “ Why, 

of course not! How can there be poor people when 
there are no more rich ? ” And yet there will be. In 
the land where there are no more rich there will be 
only poor, only very poor, people. 

Whoever does not know this and is a Socialist, 
that man is merely one of the herd or he is a dupe. 
He who knows it and conceals it is a deceiver. He 
who knows it, and in spite of that, nay, on account of 
that, is a Socialist, is a man of the future. 

Though the crowd be satisfied with some dim feeling 
that this, anyhow, is the tendency of the times and 
that with this stream one must swim; though the more 



thoughtful contemplate the evils of the time and 
decide to put up with the pis aller ; the responsible 
thinker is under the obligation of investigating the 
land into which the people are being led. We must 
know what it looks like, where there are no rich 
people and where no one can have an income without 
working for it, we must understand what we call the 
“ new society ” so as to be able to shape it aright. 


The question is not very urgent. 

As surely as the hundred years’ course of the social 
World-Revolution cannot be arrested, so surely can 
we prophesy that the process cannot maintain all 
along the line the rapid movement of its beginning. 
The victorious and the defeated countries will have 
to work out to the end the changes and interchanges 
of their various phases, for in the historical develop¬ 
ments which we witness to-day, we find mingled 
together the phenomena of organic growth and of 
disease; already we see that the Socialism of the 
healthy nations is different from that of the sick ones. 
It is in vain that those who are sick with the Bolshe¬ 
vist disease dream that they can infect the world. 

The small daily and yearly movements in our 
realm of Central Europe cannot be determined 
beforehand, because they depend upon small, 
accidental, local, and external forces. The great 
and necessary issues of events can be predicted, but 
it would be folly to discuss their accidental flux and 
reflux. When an unguarded house is filled with 
explosives from the cellar to the roof, then we know 

that it will one day be blown up; but whether this 




wilFhappen on a Sunday or a Monday, in the morning 
or in the evening, or whether the left door post will 
be left standing or no, it would be idle to inquire. 

From the historical point of view it is of no con¬ 
sequence whether Radicalism may make an inroad 
here and there, or whether here and there the forces 
of reaction and restoration may collect themselves for 
a transitory triumph. The great movement of 
history, as we always find when a catastrophe has 
worked itself out, grows slower, and this retardation 
in itself looks like reaction. We, who are not 
accustomed to catastrophes, and who did not produce 
this first one, but rather suffered it, we, who easily 
get sea-sick after every rapid movement—think, for 
instance, of the former Reichstag—we shall certainly 
experience, as the first deep wave of the Revolution 
sinks into us, an aristocratic, dynastic, and pluto¬ 
cratic Romanticism, a yearning for the colour and 
glitter of the time of glory, a revolt against the 
spiritless, mechanical philanthrophy of unemployed 
orators of about fourth-form standard intellectually; 
against the monotonous and insincere tirades of paid 
agitators and their restless disciples; against laziness; 
ignorance, greed, and exaggeration masquerading as 
popular scientific economy; and against the brutal 
and extortionate upthrust from below. And so we 
shall arrive at the reverse kind of folly, an admiration 
and bad imitation of foreign pride and pomp, an 
arrogant individualism and a hardening of our human 

feeling. The intellectual war profiteers, who are 



all for radicalism to-day, will soon be wearing 
cornflowers 1 in their button-holes. 

For the third time we shall see an illustration of 
the naive shamelessness of the turn-coat. The 
spiritual process of conversion is worth noticing; 
Paul was converted to be a converter. But the 
scurrying of the intellectual speculator from the 
position which has failed into the position which has 
won, with the full intention of scurrying back again 
if necessary, and always with the claim to instruct 
other people, is an expression of the alarming fact 
that life has become not an affair of inward conviction, 
but of getting the right tip. 

The turn-coat movement began when a short¬ 
sighted crowd, incapable of judgment, and with their 
minds clouded with a few cheap phrases, expected 
from a quick and victorious war the strengthening 
of all the elements of Force, and feared to be left 
stranded. Even the most threadbare kind of liberal¬ 
ism appeared to be compromising, they clamoured 
for “ shining armour.” The most wretched victims 
in soul and body, who were obliged to flee forwards 
because they could not flee in any other direction, 
were called heroes, and the manliest word in our 
language, a word of which only the freest and the 
greatest are worthy, was degraded. One who has 
experienced the hate and fury of the turn-coats who 
poured contempt upon every word against the war 
and the “ great days,” is unable to understand how 
1 The emblem of the Hohenzollerns. 



a whole people can throw its errors overboard without 
shame and sorrow—or he understands it only too 
well. At this day we are being mocked and preached 
at by the turn-coats of the second transformation, 
and to-morrow we shall be smiled at by those of the 

But it does not matter. The moving forces of 
our epoch do not come from business offices nor from 
the street, the rostrum, the pulpit, or the professorial 
chair. The noisy rush of yesterday, to-day and 
to-morrow is only the furious motion of the outermost 
circle, the centre moves upon its way, quietly as the 

We have in our survey to leap over several periods 
of forward and backward movement and we shall 
earn the thanks of none of them. What is too con¬ 
servative for one will be too revolutionary for another, 
and the aesthete will scornfully tell us that we have no 
fibre. When we show that what awaits us is no fools’ 
paradise, but the danger of a temporary reverse of 
humanity and culture, then the facile Utopianist will 
shout us down with his two parrot-phrases , 1 and 
when we, out of a sense of duty, of harmony with the 
course of the world and confidence in justice at the 
soul of things, tread the path of danger, precipitous 
though it be, then we shall be scorned by all the 
worshippers of Force and despisers of mankind. 

1 The reference, apparently, is to the argument that any 
change must be for the better, and to the reliance on surplus 
value. See pp. 13, 14. 



But we for our part shall not pander either to the 
force-worshippers or to the masses. We serve no 
powers that be. Our love goes out to the People; 
but the People are not a crowd at a meeting, nor a 
sum-total of interests, nor are they the newspapers 
or debating-clubs. The People are the waking or 
sleeping, the leaking, frozen, choked, or gushing well 
of the German spirit. It is with that spirit, in the 
present and in the future, as it runs its course into 
the sea of humanity, that we have here to do. 


The criterion which we have indicated for the 
socialized society of the future is a material one. 
But is the spiritual condition of an epoch to be 
determined by material arrangements ? Is this not a 
confession of faith in materialism ? 

We are speaking of a criterion, not of a prime 
moving force. I have no desire, however, to avoid 
going into the material, or rather we should say 
mechanical, interpretation of history. I have done 
it more than once in my larger works, and for the sake 
of coherence I may repeat it in outline here. 

The laws which determine individual destinies are 
reproduced in the history of collective movements. 
A man’s career is not prescribed by his bodily form, 
his expression, or his environment; but there is in 
these things a certain connexion and parallelism, 
for the same laws which determine the course of his 
intellectual and spiritual life reflect themselves in 
bodily and practical shape. Every instant of our 
experience, all circumstances in which we find our¬ 
selves, every limb that we grow, every accident that 
happens to us, is an expression or product of our 

character. We are indeed subject to human limita- 




tions; we arc not at liberty to live under water or in 
another planet; but within these wide boundaries 
each of us can shape his own life. To observe a man, 
his work, his fate, his body and expression, his 
connexions and his marriage, his belongings and his 
associations, is to know the man. 

From this point of view all social, economic and 
political schemes become futile, for if man is so 
sovereign a being there is no need to look after him. 
But these schemes re-acquire a relative importance 
when we consider the average level of man’s will¬ 
power, as we meet it in human experience—a power 
which, as a rule, shows itself unable to make head 
against a certain maximum of pressure from external 
circumstances. And again, these schemes are really 
a part of the expression of human will, for through 
them collective humanity battles with its surround¬ 
ings, its contemporary world, and freely shapes its 
own destinies. 

The inner laws of the community harmonize with 
those of the individuals who compose it. The fact , 
that certain national traits of will and character are 
conditioned or even enforced by poverty or wealth, 
soil and climate, an inland or maritime position, tends 
to obscure the fact that these external conditions are 
not really laid on the people but have been willed by 
themselves. A people wills to have a nomadic life, 
or wills to have a sea-coast, or wills agriculture, or 
war; and has the power, if its will be strong enough, 
to obtain its desire, or failing that to break up and 



perish. It is the same will and character which 
decides for well-being and culture, or indolence and 
dependence, or labour and spiritual development. 
The Venetians did not have architecture and painting 
bestowed upon them because they happened to have 
become rich, nor the English sea-power because they 
happened to live on an island: no, the Venetians 
willed freedom, power and art, and the Anglo-Saxons 
willed the sea. 

There is a grain of truth in the popular political 
belief that war embodies a judgment of God. At 
any rate character is judged by it; not indeed in the 
sense of popular politics, that one can “ hold out ” in 
a hopeless position, but because all the history that 
went before the war, the capacity or incapacity of 
politics and leadership is a question of character— 
and with us it was a question of indolence, of political 
apathy, of class-rule, philistinish conceit and greed 
of gain. Nowhere was this conception of the judg¬ 
ment of God so blasphemously exaggerated as with us 
Germans, when the lord of our armed hosts, at the 
demand of the barracks greedy for power, of the 
tavern-benches, the state-bureaus and the debating 
societies was summoned, and charged with the duty, 
forsooth, of chastising England—England, which they 
only knew out of newspaper reports ! To-day this ex¬ 
aggeration is being paid for in humiliation, for God 
did not prove controllable, and His naive blasphemers 
must silently and with grinding teeth admit that their 
foes are in the right when they, in their turn, appeal 



to the same judgment to justify, without limit, 
everything they desire to do. 

After these brief observations on the psycho¬ 
physical complex, Spirit and Destiny, we hope we 
shall not be misunderstood when for the sake of 
brevity we speak as if the spirit of the new order 
were determined by its material construction, while 
in reality it incorporates itself therein. The structure 
is the easier to survey, and we therefore make it the 
starting-point of our discussion. 


All civilisations known to us have sprung from 
peoples which were numerous, wealthy and divided 
into two social strata. They reached their climax 
at the moment when the two strata began to melt 
into one. 

It is not enough, therefore, that a people should 
be numerous and wealthy; it must, with all its wealth 
and its power, contain a large proportion of poor and 
even oppressed and enslaved subjects. If it has not 
got these, it must master and make use of other 
foreign cultures as a substitute. That is what Rome 
did; it is what America is doing. 

It is terrible, but comprehensible. For up to this 
point the unconscious processes of Nature, the law 
of mutual strife, has prevailed. So far, collective 
organizations have been beasts of prey; only now 
are they about to cross the boundaries of the human 

Comprehensible and explicable. For all creations 
of culture hold together; one cannot pursue the 
cheaper varieties while renouncing the more costly. 
There is no cheap culture. In their totality they 
demand outlay, the most tremendous outlay known 




to history, the only outlay by which human toil is 
recompensed, over and above the supply of absolute 

The creations of civilisation, like all things living and 
dead, follow on each other—plants, men, beasts and 
utensils have their sequence generation after genera¬ 
tion. Men must paint and look at pictures for ten 
thousand years before a new picture comes into 
existence. Our poetry and our research are the fruit 
of thousands of years. This is no disparagement to 
genius in work and thought, genius is at once new, 
ancient and eternal, even as the blossom is a new 
thing on the old stem, and belongs to an eternal 
type. When we hear that a native in Central Africa 
or New Zealand has produced an oil-painting we know 
that somehow or other he must have got to Paris. 
When a European artist writes or paints in Tahiti, 
what he produces is not a work of Tahitian culture. 
When civilisation has withered away on some sterilized 
soil, it can only be revived by new soil and foreign seed. 

The continuity of culture, even in civilized times, 
can only, however, be maintained by constant outlay, 
just as in arid districts a luxuriant vegetation needs 
continuous irrigation. The flood of Oriental wealth 
had to pour itself into Italy in order to bring forth the 
bloom of Renaissance art. Thousands of patricians, 
hundreds of temporal and spiritual princes, had to 
found and to adorn temples and palaces, gardens, 
monuments, pageants, games and household goods in 
order that art and science, schooling, mastership, 



discipleship and tradition might grow up. The 
worship of foreign culture which characterized Ger¬ 
many in the seventeenth and half of the eighteenth 
centuries only meant that our soil was grown too poor 
to yield a crop of its own. The culture of the Middle 
Ages remained international only so long as the 
population of Europe was too sparse and the oppor¬ 
tunities of work too scanty to occupy local energies; 
even in the thinly populated, Homeric middle-ages of 
Greece, the builder and the poet were not settled in 
one place, they were wandering artists. If to-day 
the Republic of Guatemala or Honduras should want 
a senate-house or a railway-station they will probably 
send to London or Paris for an architect. 

Even technique in handicraft and industry, that 
typical art of civilization, cannot dispense with a 
great and continuous outlay on training, commission¬ 
ing and marketing in order to maintain itself. 
Although it has not happened yet, there is no reason 
why a Serb or a Slovak should not make some im¬ 
portant discovery if he has been trained at a European 
University and learnt the technical tradition. That 
will not, however, give rise to an independent and 
enduring Serbian or Slovakian technique, even though 
the costliest Universities and laboratories should be 
established in the country and foreign teachers called 
to teach in them. After all that, one must have a 
market in the country itself; expert purchasers, 
manufacturers, middle-men, a trained army of 
engineers, craftsmen, masters, workmen and a foreign 



market as well—in short, the technical atmosphere— 
in order to keep up the standard of manufacture and 

A poor country cannot turn out products of high 
value for a rich one; it has not had the education 
arising from demand. In products relating to sport 
and to comfort, for instance, England was a model, 
but in France these products were ridiculously mis¬ 
understood and imitated with silly adornments, 
while on the other hand French products of luxury 
and art-industry were sought for by all countries. 
German wares were considered to be cheap and nasty, 
until the land grew rich, and brought about the 
co-operation of its forces of science and technique, 
production and marketing, auxiliary industries and 
remote profits, finance and commerce, education and 
training, judgment and criticism, habits of life and 
a sense of comparative values. 

But human forces need the same nurture, the same 
outlay and the same high training, as institutions and 
material products. Delicate work demands sensitive 
hands and a sheltered way of life; discovery and 
invention demand leisure and freedom; taste demands 
training and tradition, scientific thinking and artistic 
conception demand an environment with an unbroken 
continuity of cultivation, thought and intelligence. 
A dying civilisation can live for a while on the 
existing humus of culture, on the existing atmosphere 
of thought, but to create anew these elements of life 
is beyond its powers. 



Do not let us deceive ourselves, but look the facts 
in the face ! All these excellent Canadians, with or 
without an academic degree, who innocently pride 
themselves on a proletarian absence of prejudice, 
are adoptive children of a plutocratic and aristocratic 
cultivation. It is all the same even if they lay aside 
their stiff collars and eye-glasses; their every word 
and argument, their forms of thought, their range of 
knowledge, their strongly emphasized intellectuality 
and taste for art and science, their whole handiwork 
and industry, are an inheritance from what they 
supposed they had cast off and a tribute to what 
they pretend to despise. Genuine radicalism is only 
to be respected when it understands the connexion 
of things and is not afraid of consequences. It must 
understand—and I shall make it clear—that its rapid 
advance will kill culture; and the proper conclusion 
is that it ought to despise culture, not to sponge on 
it. The early Christians abolished all the heathen 
rubbish and abominations, the early Radicals would 
have hurried, in the first instance, to pick out the 

Culture and civilization, as we see, demand a con¬ 
tinuous and enormous outlay; an outlay in leisure, 
an outlay in working power, an outlay in wealth. 
They need patronage and a market, they need the 
school, they need models, tradition, comparison, 
judgment, intelligence, cultivation, disposition, the 
right kind of nursery—an atmosphere. One who 
stands outside it can serve it, often more powerfully 



with his virgin strength than one who is accustomed 
to it—but he must be carried along and animated 
by the breath of the same atmosphere. Culture and 
civilization require a rich soil. 

But the richness of the soil is not sufficient; culture 
must be based upon, and increased by, contrast. 
Wealth must have at its disposal great numbers of 
men who are poor and dependent. How otherwise 
shall the outlay of culture be met? One man must 
have many at his disposal; but how can he, if they 
are all his equals? The outlay will be large, but 
it must be feasible; how can it, if the labour of 
thousands is not cheap? The few, the exalted, must 
develop power and splendour, they must offer types 
for imitation: how can they do that without a 
retinue, without spectators, without the herd? A 
land of well-being, that is to say, of equally dis¬ 
tributed well-being, remains petty and provincial. 
When a State and its authorities, councils of solid 
and thrifty members of societies for this or that, 
take over the office of a Maecenas or a Medici, with 
their proposals, their calculations, their objections, 
their control, then we get things that look like war- 
memorials, waiting-rooms, newspaper-kiosks and 
drinking-saloons. It was not always so? No; but 
even in the most penurious times it was kings who 
were the patrons. 

But if culture is such a poison-flower, if it flourishes 
only in the swamp of poverty and under the sun of 
riches, it must and ought to be destroyed. Our 



sentiment will no longer endure the happiness and 
brilliance of the few growing out of the misery of the 
many; the days of the senses are over, and the day 
of conscience is beginning to dawn. 

And now a timid and troubled puritanism makes 
itself heard : Is there no middle way ? Will not 
half-measures suffice? No, it will not do; let this 
be said once for all as plainly as possible, you cham¬ 
pions of the supply of “ bare necessities ” who talk 
about “ daily bread ” and want to butter it with the 
“ noblest pleasures of art.” It will not do ! 

No, half-measures will not do, nor quarter-measures. 
They might, if the whole world, the sick, the healthy 
and the bloated all together were of the same mind 
as ourselves. In Moscow it is said that people are 
expecting the world-revolution every hour, but the 
world declines to oblige. Therefore, if culture and 
civilization are to remain what they were, is there 
nothing for it but with one wrench to tear the poisoned 
garment from our body ? Or—is there then an “ or ” ? 
Let us see. We have a long way before us. First 
of all we must know how rich or how poor we and ! 
the world are going to be, on the day when there 
will be no income without working for it and no 
rich people any more. 

If our economic system made us self-supporting 
we might arrange matters on the model of the Boer 
Republic which had all it needed, and now and then 
traded a load of ostrich feathers for coffee and hymn 
books. But we, alas 1 in order to find nourishment 



for twenty millions 1 have to export blood and 
brains. And if, in order to buy phosphates, we offer 
cotton stockings and night-caps as the highest 
products of our artistic energies, and declare that 
they are all the soundest handwork—for in our 
“ daily bread ” economy we shall have long forgotten 
how to work such devil’s tools as the modern knitting- 
machine—then people will reply to us : in the first 
place we don’t want night-caps, and if we did we 
can supply them for one-tenth of the cost; and our 
cotton goods will be sent back to us as unsaleable. 

A world-trade, even of modest dimensions, can 
only be carried on upon the basis of high technical 
accomplishment, but this height of accomplishment 
cannot be attained on the basis of any penny-wise 
economy. Whoever wills the part must also will 
the whole, but to this whole belongs not merely the 
conception of a technique, but of a civilization, and 
indeed of a culture. One might as well demand of 
a music-hall orchestra which plays ragtime all the 
year round that once in the year, and once only, 
on Good Friday, it should pull itself together to 
give an adequate performance of the Passion Music 
of Bach. 

1 By this figure the author seems to be referring to the 
population of the impoverished Germany of the future if the 
course of Socialism proceeds on wrong lines. 


For some decades Germany will be one of the 
poorest of countries. How poor she will be does not 
depend on herself alone, but on the power and the 
will for mischief of others—who hate us. 

However, poverty and wealth are relative terms; 
Germans are still richer on the average than their 
forefathers; richer than the Romans or Greeks. The 
standard of well-being is set by the best-off of the 
competitors, for he it is who determines the current 
standard of technique and industry, the methods of 
production, the minimum of labour and skill. We 
cannot, as we have already seen, keep aloof from 
world-competition, for Germany needs cheap goods. 
We must therefore try to keep step so far as we can. 

Even if we shut our eyes and take no more account 
of our debt to foreign lands than we do of the war- 
tribute, we must admit that the average standard of 
well-being in America far surpasses the German. 
Goods are not so dear as with us, and the wages of 
the skilled worker amounts to between seven and 
ten dollars a day—more than 100 marks in our money; 
and many artisans drive to their workshops in their 
own automobiles. 

If, now, we ask our Radicals how they envisage 
c 33 



the problem of competition with such a country, 
which in one generation will be twenty- or thirty-fold, 
as rich as we are, they will blurt out a few sentences 
in which we shall catch the word “ Soviet system,” 
“ surplus value,” 1 “ world revolution.” But in 
truth the question will never occur to them—it is 
not ventilated at public meetings. 

Among themselves they talk, albeit without much 
conviction, about “ surplus value ”—which has 
nothing whatever to do with the present question, 
and in regard to which it has been proved to them 
often enough that so far as it can be made use of 
at all, it only means about a pound of butter extra 
per head of the population. 

The economic superiority of the Western powers, 
however, goes on growing, inasmuch as to all appear¬ 
ance they are getting to work seriously to establish 
the new economy (which we have buried) in the 
form of State Socialism. A healthy, or what is to-day 
the same thing, a victorious economy, does not leap 
over any of its stages; it will work gradually through 
the apparently longer, but constant, movement from 
Capitalism to Sttate Socialism and thence to full 
Socialism; while we, it seems, want to take a short¬ 
cut, and to miss out the intervening stage. And we 
lose so much time and energy in restless fluctuations 
forward and backward, hither and thither, that this 
leap in advance may fall short. 

1 By surplus-value ( Mehrwert) the author means all that is 
produced above and beyond the bare necessities of life. 



If anything could be more stupid and calamitous 
than the war itself it was the time when it broke 
out. There was one thing which the big capitalism 
of the world was formed to supply, which it was 
able to supply, and, in fact, was supplying: the 
thing which not only justified capitalism, but showed 
it to be an absolutely necessary stage in the develop¬ 
ment of a denser population. This was the enrich¬ 
ment of the peoples, the rapid, and even anticipatory 
restoration of equilibrium between the growing 
population and the indispensable increase in the 
means of production; in other words, general well¬ 
being. The unbroken progress of America, and the 
almost unbroken progress of England will demon¬ 
strate that in one, or at most two, generations the 
power of work and the output of mechanism would 
have risen to such a pitch that we could have done 
anything we liked in the direction of lightening human 
labour and reconciling social antagonisms. 

Alas, it was in vain! The rapid advance to 
prosperity of the people of Central Europe, who had 
been accustomed to thrift and economy, went to their 
heads ; they fell victims to the poison of capitalism 
and of mechanism; they were unable, like America 
in its youthful strength, to make their new circum¬ 
stances deepen their sense of responsibility; in their 
greedy desire to store as much as possible of the 
heavenly manna in their private barns they aban¬ 
doned their destinies to a superannuated, outworn 
feudal class and to aspiring magnates of the bour- 



geoisie; they would not be taught by political cata¬ 
strophes, and at last, in the catastrophe of the war, 
they lost at once their imaginary hopes, their tradi¬ 
tional power and the economic basis of their existence. 

Those who are now pursuing a policy of desperation 
arc unconsciously building their hopes on the break¬ 
down which brought them to the top : they are 
avowedly making the hoped-for revolution in the 
West the central point of their system. If the West 
holds out, they will be false prophets; but it will 
not only hold out, it will in the beginning at all 
events, witness a great and passionate uprising of 
imperialistic and capitalistic tendencies. If there is 
any one who did not understand that a policy based 
on hopes of other peoples’ bankruptcy is the most 
flimsy and frivolous of all policies, he might well 
have learned it from the war. 

Germany must forge her own destinies for herself, 
without side-glances at the good or ill fortune of 
others. Had time only been given us to pass naturally 
from the stage of a prolonged and corrupted childhood 
into that of a manly responsibility, our ultimate 
recovery would be assured. But we have to accom¬ 
plish in months what ought to be the evolution of 
decades ; our national training has left us without 
convictions, we have no eye for the true boundaries 
of rights, claims and responsibilities, and we hesitate 
as to how far we must or ought to go. Unprepared, 
weakened, impoverished and sick, we are required, 
at the most unlucky moment, to work out a new 



and unprecedented order of life. Before even the 
educated classes are capable of forming a judgment 
on the question, the most incapable masses of the 
rawest youth, of the lowest classes of society, are let 
loose, and sit upon the judgment-seat. 

It is not only that we have been rich and have 
become very poor, but we were always politically 
immature, and are so still. If the order of Society is 
to be that of root-and-branch Socialism, it will mean 
the proletarian condition for all of us, and for a long 
time to come. There is no use in flattering ourselves 
and painting the future better than it is; the truth 
must be spoken with all plainness. If we work hard, 
and under capable guidance, each of us will at most 
have an effective income of 500 marks in pre-war 
values, or, say, 2000 marks for the family. This 
average will be higher if we proceed on the principles 
of the New Economy, 1 but again will be reduced by 
the necessity for allowing extra pay for work of 
higher value. If to-day the average income avail¬ 
able is markedly higher than the above, the reason 
is that we are living on our capital; we are living 
on the products of work which ought to be reserved 
for the maintenance and renewal of the means of 
production; in other words we are exhausting the 

1 Die Neue Wirtschaft, by Walther Rathenau (S Fischer). 
In this brief study, Rathenau urges (1) the unification and 
standardization of the whole of German industry and commerce 
in one great Trust, working under a State charter, and armed 
with very extensive powers; and (2) a great intensification of 
the application of science and mechanism to production. 



soil and slaughtering our stock. We are also consum¬ 
ing what foreign countries give us on credit; in other 
words, we are living on borrowed money. 

It is childish lying and deception to act on the 
tacit assumption that thoroughgoing Socialism means 
something like a garden-city idyll, with play-houses, 
open-air theatres, excursions, picturesque raiment 
and fire-side art. This in itself quite decent ideal 
of the average architect, art-craftsman and art- 
reformer if expressed in dry figures would, “ at the 
lowest estimate ” as they say, demand about fivefold 
the capacity for production attainable by the utmost 
exertions and with a ten hours’ day before the war — 
before the downfall of our economy and our exploita¬ 
tion by the enemy. 

To place one-third of our working-class in decent, 
freehold dwellings would alone, if the material and 
means of production sufficed, require the whole 
working-capacity of the country for two years. Even 
after the last manufacturer’s villa-residence, the last 
palace-hotel, have long been turned into tenements, 
the solution of the most urgent part of the housing- 
question will still be an affair of decades. For the 
sake of the last remnant of our self-respect we must 
finally tear asunder that web of economic falsehood, 
woven out of ignorance, mental lethargy, conceal¬ 
ment and illusion, which has taken the place of the 
political. Let us see any one attempt to prove that 
Germany can carry on, I do not say a well-off, but 
even a petty tradesman’s kind of existence, unless our 



means of production can by some stroke of magic be 
multiplied tenfold—on paper it can be done with ease 
—or unless the production value (not turn-over), which 
an adult working-man can with the utmost exertion 
bring into being in the course of a year does not many 
times exceed the average value of 2000 marks. 

No doubt the young folk of our big cities promise 
themselves a merry time for six weeks when they 
have got power, the shops, the wardrobes and the 
wine-cellars into their hands. For the leaders, it 
may last a little longer than for the rank-and-file. 
And then, for those of the former who have any 
sense of honesty, will come a question of conscience, 
which may be delayed by printing paper-money, 
but cannot be solved by any appeal to the people. 

If Bolshevism were the contrary to what it is— 
if it were a success, a thing not absolutely impossible 
in a peasant-State, we might understand the self- 
assurance of those who, in opposition to our forecast, 
expect everything from the will of the people, the 
Soviet system and the inspirations of the future. We 
do understand it in the case of the drawing-room 
communists, and the profiteer-extremists who are 
out not for the cause, but for power, and perhaps only 
for material objects. 

I know that by these observations I am favouring 
the cause of those sorry dignitaries of a day, the 
Majority Socialists, but I cannot help that. The 
truth is not false because it favours one party, nor is 
falsehood truth because it harms the other. The 



Socialism now in power is doing the right thing, 
although it is doing it out of ignorance and helpless¬ 
ness—it is waiting, and getting steam up. It is 
better to do the right thing out of error than to 
do the wrong thing out of wisdom. Out of error: 
for besides omitting to do what ought not to be 
done it also omits the things it ought to do—among 
others, the introduction of the New Economy. 1 It 
is like mankind before the Fall; it does not know 
good from evil, what is useful and what is noxious, 
what can be done and what cannot. Well—let it 
take its time; it shall have time enough. 

This time must be turned to good account. When 
we have come to the end of these observations we 
shall understand what a huge task lies between us 
and the realization of the new social order. In this 
case the longest way round is the shortest way home. 
And even if Germany should choose the mountain 
road with its broad loops and windings, we shall 
stray often enough, and go backward now and 
then; while if, in impatient revolt, we try to climb 
straight up, we shall slip down lower than where 
we started. Let us never forget how mysteriously 
our social and political immaturity seems to be 
bound up with our once lofty and even now remark¬ 
able intellectuality and morality. 2 We have not 

1 See p. 37, note. 

a Morality, SittlichTceit, a word of broader meaning than 
“ morality,” for it comprehends not only matters of ethical 
right and wrong, but the general temper and habit of mind 
of a people as expressed in social life. 



won our liberties, they have fallen into our laps; 
it was by the general break-down, by a strike, by a 
flight, that Germany and her former rulers have 
parted company. These liberties, social and political, 
are not rooted in the soil, they can hardly be said to 
be prized among the treasures of life, it is not their 
ideal, but their material side which attracts us. Those 
who used to shout Hurrah ! now cry “ All power 
to the Soviets ! ” and the day will come when they 
will again shout Hurrah I Then we shall witness a 
real sundering of our different visions of the world, 
visions now buried under a mass of interests and 

In any case, whether the change is to be cata¬ 
strophic or evolutionary, the journey will be a long 
one, and every attempt to hurry it will only prolong 
it further; it will throw us back for years, or it may 
be decades. Above all things, we must know whither 
we are going. In order to adapt ourselves to a new 
form of society we must know what it may look like, 
what it ought to look like, and what it will look like. 
We shall find that Germany is not going to be landed 
in an earthly Paradise, but in a world of toil, and 
one which for a long period will be a world of poverty, 
of a penurious civilization and of a deeply-endangered 
culture. The unproved, parrot-phrases of a cheap 
Utopianism will grow dumb—those phrases which 
offer us entrance into the usual Garden of Eden with 
its square-cut, machine-made culture and gaudy, 
standardized enjoyments—phrases which assure us 



that when we have introduced the six-hours’ working 
day and abolished private property, the cinema horrors 
will be replaced by classical concerts, the gin-shops by 
popular reading-rooms, the gaming-hells by edifying 
lectures, highway robberies by gymnastic exercises, 
detective novels by Gottfried Keller, bazaar-trifles and 
comic vulgarities by works of refined handicraft; and 
that out of boxing contests, racecourse betting, bomb 
exercises, and profiteering in butter, we shall see the 
rise of an era of humility and philanthropy. 

In the Promised Land as we conceive it, the classes 
which are now the bearers of German culture will lose 
almost everything, while the gain of the proletariat 
will be scarcely visible. And yet for the sake of this 
scarcely visible gain we must tread the stony path 
that lies before us. Willingly and joyfully shall we 
tread it; for out of this, at first, dubious conquest of 
equal rights for all men will grow the might of justice, 
of human dignity, of human solidarity and unity. 

That is truly work for a century, and yet for that 
very reason the hard path will lead to its reward. 
We must learn to know it, and to understand that it 
is a path of sacrifice. We must not accept the invita¬ 
tion of fools to a Christmas party—fools who will make 
the welkin ring with their outcries when they find out 
their self-deception. Let us tread our path of suffer¬ 
ing with a pride which disdains to be consoled by 


In order to throw some light into the obscurity of 
that social dreamland which no one seriously dis¬ 
cusses because no one honestly believes in it, let us, 
as it w'ere, cut out and examine a section from the 
fully socialized Germany of the future. Let us sup¬ 
pose that certain economic and social conditions have 
lasted for a generation or so, and have therefore 
become more or less stabilized. At a normal rate of 
progress this state of things should be reached about 
the end of this century. 

To begin with, let us make two very optimistic 
assumptions—first, that technical progress in Germany 
shall have developed to a point at which we are no 
longer impossibly outclassed and distanced by foreign 
nations, and, secondly, that by a timely and far- 
reaching reform of education and culture (the lowest 
cost of which must be set down at about three 
milliards of marks) the complete breakdown of civilisa¬ 
tion may be averted. This reform is one which 
must be taken in hand very early, for after the event 
its adoption is improbable. A third, less optimistic 
but on that account more probable assumption may 
be added to this—namely, that the Western countries 

shall have progressed towards Socialism more steadily 




and therefore more slowly, and that at the period of 
our comparison America shall find itself at the stage 
of State-Socialism, not of full socialization. We know 
that in making this assumption we are smoothing the 
way for attack to our professional opponents, un¬ 
critical and self-interested, who with one blast of the 
fanfare of world-revolution can scatter our further 
observations to the winds. 

Full Socialism is characterized, as we have seen, by 
the abolition of all incomes that are not worked for, 
and the fact that there are no more rich. But this 
criterion must be limited in its application, for it can 
never be fully realized. 

According to the theory and the laws every one 
must hold some appointment and be paid for his work, 
or for not working. What he is paid, however, he can 
at will utilize, or waste, or hoard up, or give, or gamble 
away, or destroy. He cannot invest it, or get interest 
on it or turn into capital, because these private under¬ 
takings or means of production will no longer exist. 

Now each of these assumptions is so shaky that 
not only must trifling divergences and shortcomings 
be winked at, but the meshes of the system are so 
wide that only a rough approximation to the ideal is 

It is true that every one can be made to hold some 
appointment and be paid for some minimum of work, 
but no one can be prevented from devoting his leisure 
hours to some work of rare quality and turning it into 
value for his own purposes. He can make himself 



useful by subsidiary employment of an artistic, 
scientific or technical character, by rendering services 
or assistance of various kinds, by advising, or enter¬ 
taining, or acting as a guide to strangers, or going on 
employment abroad, and no law can prevent him from 
turning his services into income even if he was merely 
paid in kind. Gaming and betting will flourish and 
many will grow rich by them. A man who has lost 
his money and who has exhausted his rights to an 
advance from the public institutions for that object 
will have recourse to lenders who will supply him with 
bread and meat and clothes, and who will make money 
by it. Similarly with people who are tempted to 
make acquisitions beyond their standard remunera¬ 
tion. On every side we shall see private stores of 
goods of all kinds, which will take the place of pro¬ 
perty as formerly understood. 

There will be an enormous temptation to smuggling 
and profiteering which will reach a height far surpass¬ 
ing all scandals of the war and revolution periods. 
Foreigners and their agents, who look after the export 
trade “ from Government to Government,” will help 
hoarders and savers to turn their goods to account. 
Suppose citizens are attacked because their senseless 
expenditure is a mockery of their legal remuneration, 
they will say : I got this from friends—that I got by 
exchange—this came from abroad—my relatives in 
America sent me that. Law, control, terrorism, are 
effective just so long as there is not a blade of grass 
in the land—once remove the fear of hunger and they 



are useless. Great properties will arise, drawing 
interest both abroad and at home, and they will grow 
by evasions and bribery. The profiteer, the true child 
of the “ great days,” will not perish from the land, 
on the contrary, he will grow tougher the more he is 
persecuted, he will be the rich man of the future, and 
he will form a constant political danger if he and his 
fellows combine. 

So long as we have not acquired an entirely new 
mentality, one which detaches men from possessions, 
which points them towards the Law, which binds the 
passions, and sharpens the conscience, so long will the 
principle of “ No rich people and no workless income ” 
have to be contracted into the formula, “ There ought 
to be none.” 

Without this profound alteration of mentality, even 
the legally prescribed incomes will exhibit quite 
grotesque variations, and will adapt themselves to the 
rarity-value of special gifts, to indispensable qualities, 
to favouritism, with a crudity quite unknown to-day. 
A scarcity of Ministers, a Professor’s nourishment, 
and soldiers’ supplies, will then as now be met accord¬ 
ing to the law of supply and demand. Consider what 
ten years’ practice in the war for wages and strike- 
management, with the public in it as partisans, will 
bring with it in the way of favouritisms, celebrities, 
and indispensabilities. Popular jockeys, successful 
surgeons, managers of sports’ clubs, tenors, demi- 
mondaines, farce-writers and champion athletes could, 
even to-day, if they were class-conscious and joined 



together to exploit their opportunities, demand any in¬ 
come they liked. Even as a matter of practical political 
economy, the cinema-star (or whatever may succeed 
her) will be able to prescribe to the Government what 
amount of adornments, drawn from Nature or Art, 
are necessary for her calling, and what standard of life 
she must maintain in order to keep herself in the proper 

Organizers, popular leaders, authors and artists will 
announce and enforce their demands to the full limit 
of their rarity-value. At a considerable distance below 
these come the acquired and more or less transferable 
powers and talents. The Russians for the first few 
months believed in a three-fold order of allowances, 
rising within a limit of about one to two. If the ideas 
now prevailing have not undergone a radical change, 
then we may, in the society of the future, look for 
divergences of income in the limit of one to a 

Therefore the principle that there shall be no more 
rich people must again be substantially limited. We 
must say, “ There will be people receiving extra¬ 
ordinary incomes in kind to which must be added 
the claims to personal service which these favoured 
persons will lay down as conditions of their work.” 

In its external, arithmetical structure, the fabric 
’ of life and its requirements in the new order will 
resemble that of to-day far more closely than most 
of us imagine—on the other hand, the inward 
and personal constitution of man will be far more 



different. Already we can observe the direction of 
the movement. 

Extravagance and luxury will continue to exist, and 
those who practise it will be, as they are to-day, and 
more than to-day, the profiteers, the lucky ones, and 
the adventurers. Excessive wealth will be more 
repulsive than it is now; whether it will be less 
valued depends upon the state of public ethics, a topic 
which we shall have to consider later. It is probable 
that in defiance of all legislation wealth will turn itself 
into expenditure and enjoyment more rapidly and 
more recklessly than to-day. 

But the relics of middle-class well-being will by 
that time have been consumed; the families which for 
generations have visibly incorporated the German 
spirit will less than others contrive to secure special 
advantages by profiteering and evading the laws; as 
soon as their modest possessions are taxed away or 
consumed they will melt into the general mass of 
needy people who will form the economic average of 
the future. 

The luxury which will exhibit itself in streets and 
houses will have a dubious air; every one will know 
that there is something wrong with it, people will spy 
and denounce, and find to their disgust that nothing 
can be proved; the well-off will be partly despised, 
partly envied; the question how to suppress evasions 
of the law will take up a good half of all public dis¬ 
cussions, just as that of capitalism does now. The 
hateful sight of others’ prosperity cannot, even at 



home, not to mention foreign countries, be withdrawn 
from the eyes of the needy masses; capitalism will 
have merely acquired another name and other repre¬ 

The fact that the average of more or less cultivated 
and responsible folk are plunged in poverty will not 
be accepted as the consequence of an unalterable 
natural law, nor as a case of personal misfortune; it 
will be set down to bad government, and the rising 
revolutionary forces of the fifth, sixth and seventh 
classes will nourish the prevailing discontent in favour 
of a new revolt. For the greater uniformity of the 
average way of life and its general neediness will not 
in itself abolish the division of classes. I have already 
often enough pointed out that no mechanical arrange¬ 
ments can avail us here. 

At first there will be three, or more probably four 
classes who, in spite of poverty, will not dissolve in the 
masses, and who, through their coherence and their 
intellectual heritage are by no means without power. 
The Bolshevist plan of simply killing them out will 
not be possible in Germany, they are relatively too 
numerous; persecution will weld them closer together, 
and their traditional experiences, habits of mind, and 
capacity, will make it necessary to have recourse to 
them and employ them again and again. 

The first of these classes is that of the feudal 
nobility. Their ancient names cannot be rooted out 
of the history of Germany, and even in their poverty 
the bearers of these names will be respected—all the,. 




more if, as we may certainly assume, they maintain 
the effects of their bodily discipline, and the visible 
tradition of certain forms of life and thought. They 
will be strengthened by their mutual association, their 
relationship with foreign nobility will give them 
important functions in diplomacy; these are two 
elements which they have in common with Catholicism 
and Judaism. They will retain their inclination and 
aptitude for the calling of arms and for administra¬ 
tion; their reactionary sentiments will lead now to 
success, now to failure, and by both the inner co¬ 
herence of the class will be fortified. Finally, the 
inevitable reversion to an appreciation of the romantic 
values of life will make a connexion with names of 
ancient lineage desirable to the leading classes, and 
especially to the aristocracy of officialism. 

This aristocracy of officialism forms the second of 
the new strata which will come to light. The first 
office-bearers of the new era, be their achievements 
great or small, are not to be forgotten. Their descen¬ 
dants are respected as the bearers of well-known 
names; in their families the practice of politics, the 
knowledge of persons and connexions are perpetuated; 
fathers, in their lifetime, look after the interests of 
sons and daughters and launch them on the same 
path. From these, and from the first stratum, the 
representatives of Germany in foreign lands are 
chosen, and in this way a certain familiarity with 
international life and society will be maintained. 
They will have the provision necessary for their 



position abroad, and will also find ways and means to 
keep up a higher standard of life at home. Persons 
in possession of irregular means of well-being will offer 
a great deal to establish connexions with these circles, 
which control so many levers in the machine of 

The third group consists of the descendants of what 
was once the leading class in culture and in economics. 
Here we find a spirit similar to that of the refugees, 
tmigrts and Huguenots of the past. The lower they 
sink in external power, the more tenaciously they hold 
to their memories. Every family knows every other 
and cherishes the lustre of its name, a lustre augmented 
by legendary recollections, all the more when the 
achievements of their class are ostentatiously ignored 
in the new social order. People spare and save to 
the last extremity in order to preserve and hand down 
some heirloom—a musical instrument, a library, a 
manuscript, a picture or two. A puritanical thrift is 
exercised in order, as far as possible, to maintain 
education, culture and intellectuality on the old level; 
to this class culture, refinement of life as an end in 
itself, the practice of religion, classical music, and 
artistic feeling will fly for refuge. No other class 
understands this one; it holds itself aloof, it looks 
different from the rest in its occupations, its habits, 
its garb and its forms of life. It supplies the new 
order with its scholars, its clergy, its higher teaching 
powder, its representatives of the most disinterested 
and intellectual callings. Like the monasteries of the 


Middle Ages, it forms an island of the past. Its 
influence rises and falls periodically, according to the 
current ideas of the time, but its position is assured 
by its voluntary sacrifices, by its knowledge and by 
the purity of its motives. 

A fourth inexpugnable and influential stratum will 
in all probability be formed by the middle-class land- 
owners and the substantial peasants. Even though 
the socialization of the land should be radically carried 
through—which is not likely to be the case—it will 
remain on paper. A class of what may be called State- 
tenants, estate-managers, or leaders of co-operative 
organizations will very much resemble a landowning 
class. Its traditional experience and the ties that 
bind it to the soil make it a closed and well- 
defined body, self-conscious and masterful through the 
importance of its calling, its indispensability and its 
individualism. It suffers no dictation as regards its 
manner of life. Here we shall see the conservative 
traditions of the country strongly mustered for defence, 
incapable of being eliminated as a political force, and 
forming a counterpoise to the radical democracy of 
the towns. 

Everywhere we find a state of strain and of cleavage. 
The single-stratum condition of society cannot be 
reached without a profound inward change; politics 
are still stirred and shaken by conflicts, and society 
by the strife of classes. A very different picture from 
the promised Utopian Paradise of a common feeding- 
ground for lions and sheep ! 



We are all aggrieved by the illegal opulence of the 
profiteers, but we are all liable to the infection. The 
feudalistic Fronde awaits its opportunity. The aris¬ 
tocracy of office endeavours to monopolize the State- 
machine. The tmigrSs of culture find themselves 
looked askance at, on suspicion of intellectual arro¬ 
gance, and they insist that the country cannot get on 
without them. The agriculturalists are feared, when 
they show a tendency to revolt against the towns. 
The ruling class, that is to say the more or less educated 
masses of the city-democracy, looks in impatient dis¬ 
content for the state of general well-being which 
refuses to be realized, lays the blame alternately on 
the four powerful strata and on the profiteers, and 
fights now this group now that, for better conditions 
of living. 

But the conditions of living do not improve—they 
get worse. The level of the nation’s output has been 
sinking from the first day of the Revolution onwards. 
The absolute productivity of work, the relative efficacy 
and the quality of the product, have all deteriorated. 
With a smaller turnover we have witnessed a falling- 
off in the excellence of the goods, in research-work, 
and in finish. Industrial plant has been worked to 
death and has not yet recovered. Auxiliary indus¬ 
tries, accessories and raw materials have fallen back. 
High-quality workmanship has suffered from defective 
schooling, youthful indiscipline and the loss of manual 
dexterity. The new social order has lost a generation 
of leaders in technique, scholarship and economics. 



Universities, with all institutions of research and 
education, have suffered from this blank. Technical 
leadership is gone, and the deterioration in quality 
has reacted detrimentally on output. We can now 
turn out nothing except what is cheap and easy, and 
what can be produced without traditional skill of 
hand, without serious calculation and research. For 
all innovations, all work of superior quality, Germany 
is dependent on the foreigner. The atmosphere of 
technique lias vanished, and the stamp of cheap 
hireling labour is on the whole output of the 

In the weeks of the Revolution street orators used 
to tell us that five hundred Russian professors had 
signed a statement that the level of culture had never 
been so high as under Bolshevism. And Berlin 
believed them ! To educate Russia it would take, 
to begin with, a million elementary schools with a 
yearly budget of several dozen milliards of roubles, 
and a corresponding number of higher schools and 
universities : if every educated Russian for the next 
twenty years were to become a teacher, there would 
not be enough of them—not to speak of the require¬ 
ments of transport, of raw materials and of agricul¬ 
ture. The fabric of a civilization and a culture cannot 
be annihilated at one blow, nor can it grow up save 
in decades and centuries. The maintenance of the 
structure demands unceasing toil and unbroken tradi¬ 
tion ; the breach that has been made in it in Germany 
can only be healed by the application in manifold 



forms of work, intellect and will; and this hope we 
cannot entertain . 1 

But we have not yet done with the question of 
social strata and inward cleavage. Revolutionary 
threats are causing strife every day. Revolution 
against revolution—how is this possible ? We are not 
speaking of a reactionary revolution but of the 
“ activist.” 

In an earlier work I discussed the theory of con¬ 
tinuous revolution . 2 Behind every successful revolu¬ 
tionary movement there stands another, representing 
one negation more than its predecessor. Behind the 
revolt of the aristocracy stood that of the bourgeoisie, 
behind that of the bourgeoisie stood Socialism. 
Behind the now ruling fourth class 3 rises the fifth, 
and a sixth is coming into sight. If a ninth should 
represent pure Anarchism, we may see an eleventh 
proclaiming a dictatorship, and a twelfth standing 
for absolute monarchy. 

To-day the Majority Socialists are in power, that 
is to say the Right section of the fourth class. This 
is composed of the older, trained and work-willing 
Trade Unionists, who are amazed at the Revolution, 
who do not regard it as quite legitimate, but who 

1 Rathenau means that it cannot be entertained except on 
the hypothesis of the profound inward change, which is to be 
discussed later on. 

2 Kritik der dreifachen Revolution. S. Fischer. 

3 The classes referred to are (1) the old aristocracy, (2) tho 
aristocracy of officialism, (3) that of traditional middle-class 
culture; (4) the mass of what is called Socialism. 



arc determined to defend the status quo in so far as a 
certain degree of self-determination and elbow-room 
in the material conditions of life still remain to them. 

The Left section consists of youths and of persons 
disgusted with militarism, ignorant of affairs but 
cherishing a certain independence of judgment; 
still ready for work but equally so for politics. To 
these, as a “ forward ” party, the doctrinaire theorists 
have allied themselves. The designation of the party 
44 The Independents” is characteristic; its goal, 
44 All power to the Soviets,” is a catchword from 

A fifth class is now emerging—the work-shy. 
The others call them the tramp-proletariat, the 
disgruntled, the declassed, who set their hopes on 
disorder. Their goal is still undetermined—their 
favourite expression is 44 bloodhound,” when those 
in power, or Government troops, are referred to. 

Then comes the sixth class, still partly identified 
with the Left of the fourth and embryonically attached 
to the fifth. These are the indomitable loafers and 
shirkers, physically and mentally unsound, aliens in 
the social order, excluded by their sufferings, their 
punishments, their vices and passions; self-excluded, 
repudiators of law and morality, born of the cruelty 
of the city, pitiable beings, not so much cast out of 
society as cast up against it, as a living reproach to 
its mechanical organization. If these ever come 
into the light in politics, they will demand a kind of 
syndicalistic communism. 



That is as far as we can see at present into the 
as yet unopened germs of continuous revolutionary 
movement. In these are contained the infinite series 
of all principles that can conceivably be supported; 
and it would be wholly false to see in this series 
merely so many successive steps in moral degenera¬ 
tion, even though the earlier stages should proceed 
on a flat denial of ethical principles. Later on will 
come revivals and restorations, political, ethical and 
religious, and each time we shall see the rising stratum 
attaching to itself strays and converts, above all, the 
disappointed and ambitious, from those that went 

• But the number of revolutions will grow till we 
lose count of them, and each, however strenuously it 
may profess its horror of bloodshed, will have only 
one hope and possibility : that of defending itself by 
armed force against its successor. The game is a 
grotesquely dishonest one, because every aspirant 
movement will cast against its forerunner the charge 
of ruling by bloodshed, while it itself is already 
preparing its armed forces for the conflict. 

It is therefore wholly vain to hope that an advanced 
social organization implies stability, that a brother¬ 
hood mechanically decreed will exclude further 
revolutions, and will establish eternally an empire 
of righteousness and justice according to any pre¬ 
conceived pattern. 

The fiercest hatred will prevail amongst those who 
are most closely associated—for instance, between 



handworkers and brainworkers, between leaders and 
followers; and this hate will be all the more inappeas- 
able when it is open to every one to rise in the world, 
and none can cherish the excuse that he is the victim 
of a social system of overwhelming power. To-day 
this hatred is masked by the general class-hatred— 
hatred of the monopolists of culture, of position and 
of capital. 

At the bottom of it, however, lies even to-day the 
more universal hatred of the defeated for the victor, 
and when those three monopolies have fallen, it will 
emerge in its original Cain-like form. It cannot be 
appeased by any mechanical device. Human in¬ 
equality can never be abolished, human accomplish¬ 
ment and work will always vary, and the human 
passion for success will always assert itself. 

We have discussed the material foundation and the 
stratification of the German people when full social¬ 
ization has been realized. Let us now forecast the 
manner of their existence. 

The future community is poor; the individual is 
poor. The average standard of well-being corresponds, 
at best, to what in peace-time one would expect from 
an income of 3000 marks. 1 But the requirements of 
the population are not medievally simplified—they 
could not be, in view of the density of the population 
and the complexity of industrial and professional 

1 £150 in pre-war values. By thrift, by co-operation, and 
by the cheapness of the public services generally, a surprisingly 
high standard of life could be maintained on this kind of 
income in pre-war Germany. 



vocations. They are manifold and diverse, and they 
are moreover intensified by the spectacle of extrava¬ 
gance offered by the profiteering class and the licence 
of social life. The traditional garden-city idyll of 
architects and art-craftsmen is a Utopia about as 
much like reality as the pastoral Arcadianism of 
Marie Antoinette. 

All things of common use are standardized into 
typical forms. It must not be supposed, however, 
that they are based on pure designs and models. 
The taste of the artist will clash with that of the 
crowd, and since the former has no authority to back 
him he will have to compromise. The compromise, 
however, consists in cheap imitation of foreign models, 
for in foreign countries art-industry will exist, and 
no legislation can prevent its products from finding 
their way (in reproductions or actual examples) into 
Germany and being admired there. Our half or 
wholly imitative products are turned out as cheaply 
as possible, in substitute-materials, and are made as 
well or as ill as the relics of our craftsmanship permit, 
or as our existing machinery for the purpose is capable 
of. Cheapness and ease of manufacture are the prin¬ 
ciples aimed at, for even with narrow means no one 
will want to do without certain things; fashions still 
prevail, and will have to be satisfied with things that 
do not last, but can be constantly changed. 

How far will a new system of education tend to 
simplify the needs of men and women and to purify 
their taste? Probably very little, for good models 



will be lacking, poverty is not fastidious, and the 
taste of the populace is the sovereign arbiter. But 
on this taste it depends whether vulgar ornaments 
and gewgaws, frivolities and bazaar-horrors, are to 
satisfy the desires of the soul. 

Objects of earlier art and industry have been 
alienated through need of money or destroyed by 
negligence. Here and there one may find an old cup 
or an engraving, as we do to-day in plundered terri¬ 
tories, but these things are disconnected specimens; 
all they can do is occasionally to interest an artist. 
Whoever wants to procure some object or to get 
something done which has not been standardized in 
the common range of approved requirements must 
gain it by a tedious course of pinching and saving. 
Personal possessions in the way of books, musical 
instruments, works of art, as well as travel outside 
the prescribed routes are rarities; a tree of one’s own, 
a horse of one’s own are legendary things. 

Thus luxury in its better aspect has gone to ruin 
quicker than in the bad. All outlay devoted to 
culture, to beauty, to invigoration has dried up; all 
that survives is what stimulates, what depraves and 
befouls; frivolities, substitutes and swindles. What 
we have arrived at is not the four-square simplicity 
of the peasant-homestead, but a ramshackle city 
suburb. To some of us it is not easy, and to many it 
is not agreeable to picture to themselves the aspect 
of a thoroughly proletarianized country, and the 
difficulty lies in the fact that the popular mind has. 



as it were by universal agreement, resolved to con¬ 
ceive the future on a basis of domestic prosperity 
about tenfold as great as it can possibly be. The 
leaders and office-holders of the proletariat have an 
easy task in convincing themselves and others that 
what they approve and are struggling for is the so- 
called middle-class existence with all the refinement 
and claims of historic culture. Tacitly, as a matter 
of course, they accept what plutocracy has to give 
them, and imagine that the loans they take up from 
the civilization and culture of the past can be redeemed 
from the social gains of the future. 

The stages at which a nation arrives year by year, 
can be estimated by its building. In the new order, 
little is being built. Apart from certain perfunctory 
garden-cities, which are being erected for the prin¬ 
ciple of the thing, to meet the needs of a few thousand 
favoured households, and which perhaps will never 
be finished, we will for decades have to content our¬ 
selves with new subdivisions and exploitation of the 
old buildings; old palaces packed to the roof with 
families, will stand in the midst of vegetable gardens 
and will alternate with empty warehouses in the 
midst of decayed cities. In the streets of the suburbs 
the avenues of trees will be felled, and in the cities 
grass will grow through the cracks of the pavement. 

For a long time it used to be believed that the 
passion of the landscape painters of the seventeenth 
century for introducing ruins with hovels nestling 
among them arose from a feeling for romance. This 



is not so—they only painted what they saw around 
them after the ravages of the Thirty Years’ War. 
It must not be supposed, however, that the forecast 
in these pages is based on the consequences of the 
w ar; these no doubt must darken our picture of the 
future; but the shadows, which I have put in as 
sparingly as I could, are essentially the expression of 
a greatly reduced economic efficiency, combined with 
the uniformity produced by the general proletarian¬ 
ization of life with the absence of any correcting factor 
in individual effort of a rational character and of the 
influence of higher types. 

A brighter trait in the material conditions of life 
will be formed by effort of a collective character, 
such as even the most penurious community may be 
able to undertake. The more severely the domestic 
household has to pinch, and the more unattractive it 
thereby becomes, the more completely will life be 
forced into publicity. Private claims and aspirations, 
which cannot be satisfied, will be turned over to the 
public. Men w r ill gather in the streets and places of 
public resort, and have more mutual intercourse than 
before, since every transaction of life, even the most 
insignificant, will have to be a subject of discussion, 
agreement and understanding. In all the arrange¬ 
ments of social life, e. g. for news, communica¬ 
tions, supplies, discussion and entertainment, and 
demands will be made and complied with for greater 
convenience and comprehensiveness, for popular 
aesthetics and popular representation. In these 



arrangements and in these alone Art will have to 
find its functions and its home. Public buildings, 
gardens, sanatoriums, means of transit and exhibi¬ 
tions will be established at great cost. All the 
demands of the spirit and of the senses will seek 
their satisfaction in public. There will be no lack of 
popular performances, excursions, tours and con¬ 
ducted visits to collections; of clubs, libraries, athletic 
meetings and displays. The aspect of this tendency 
from the point of view of culture and ethics we have 
still to consider; in its social aspect (apart from the 
fact that it causes a vacuum in the home and forces 
young people to the surface of life, and in spite of 
its mechanical effect) it will act as a comforting 
reminiscence of the civic commonalty and solidarity 
of mediaeval times. 

In considering the spiritual and cultural life of a 
fully socialized society, we have to start with the 
assumption that any one man’s opinion and decision 
are as good as another’s. Authority, even in matters 
of the highest intellectual or spiritual character, only 
exists in so far as it is established, acknowledged and 
confirmed either by direct action of the people’s will, 
or indirectly through their representatives. Every 
one’s education and way of life are much the same; 
there are no secrecies, no vague authority attaching 
to special vocations; no one permits himself to feel 
impressed by any person or thing. Every one votes, 
whether it be for an office, a memorial, a law, or a 
drama, or does it through delegates or the delegates 



of delegates. Every one is determined to know the 
how and where and why of everything—just as to-day 
in America—and demands a plausible reason for it. 
The reply, “ This is a matter you don’t understand,” 
is impossible. 

Everything is referred to one’s own conscience, 
one’s own intelligence, one’s own taste, and no one 
admits any innate or acquired superiority in others. 
In debate, the boundaries between the ideal and the 
practicable are obliterated; for on the one hand 
every one is too much preoccupied with material needs, 
and on the other, too confident, too unaccustomed to 
submit himself to what in former days was called a 
deeper insight, too loosely brought up to let himself 
be taught. We never, therefore, hear such judgments 
as : This, although it is difficult, is a book to be read; 
this drama ought to have been produced although it 
is not sensational; I don’t myself care for this 
memorial, but it must remain because a great artist 
made it; this is a necessary branch of study, although 
it has no practical application; I will vote for this 
man on account of his character and ability, although 
he has made no election-promises. On the other 
hand, the following kind of argument will have 
weight: This historic building must be demolished, 
for it interferes with traffic; this collection must be 
sold, for we need money; we need no chair of philo¬ 
sophy, but we do need one for cinema-technique; 
these ornamental grounds are the very place for a 
merry-go-round ; tragedies are depressing, they must 



not be performed in the State theatres. Let us 
recall certain oversea legislation—carried out, be it 
noted in countries still swayed by the traditional in¬ 
fluence of culture—and these examples will not seem 

Where there is no appeal to authority, where none 
need fear disapproval or ridicule, where convenience 
is prized and thrift rules supreme, there thought and 
decision will be short-breathed, and will never look 
beyond the needs of the day. Who will then care 
for far-off deductions, for wide arcs of thought? 
Calculation comes to the front, everything unprac¬ 
tical is despised; opinions are formed by discussion, 
every-day reading and propaganda. Men demand 
proofs, success, visible returns. The fewer the aims, 
the stronger will be their attraction. People are 
tolerant, for they are used to hearing the most varied 
opinions, and all opinions have followers, from the 
water-cure to Taoism; but the only opinion of any 
influence is that whose followers are many. 

Public opinion settles everything. The champions 
of absolute values have to accommodate themselves 
to the law of competition. Religious teaching has to 
seek the favour of the times by the same methods as 
a new system of physical culture. A work of art 
must compete for votes. Only by popularity-hunting 
can anything come to life; there will be no doing 
without much talking. As in the later days of 
Greece, rhetoric and dialectic are the most powerful 

of the arts. 




And since manual labour cherishes silently or openly 
a bitter grudge against intellectual labour, the latter 
has to protect itself by a pretence of sturdy simplicity; 
when two teachers are competing for the head- 
mastership of a classical school each tries to prove 
that he has the hornier hand. 

Most things in this new order are decided by weight 
of numbers. Advertisement and propaganda are 
banished from socialized industry and commerce; 
instead, they compete in the service of personal and 
ideal aims—in elections, theatres, systems of medi¬ 
cine, superstitions, arts, appointments, professorships, 

Art has for the third time changed its master— 
after the princes, Maecenas, the middle-class market; 
after Maecenas, the plebs, and export trade. Whether 
by means of representation through gilds, by com¬ 
pulsion, by patronage, or by favour, Art has become 
dependent; it must explain, exhort, contend; it 
can no longer rest proudly on itself. It must aim at 
getting a majority on its side, and this it can only do 
by sensationalism. Like all other features of intel¬ 
lectual life, it must march with the times. Like all 
technique, research, learning and handicraft it suffers 
through the loss, for several generations, of tradition 
and hereditary skill, but together with this drop there 
is also a drop in the character of the demand; quality 
has given way to actuality. 1 

Certain reactions based on practical experience arc 

1 Aktualitat; as, for instance, reference to current topics. 



not excluded; the constant comparison with the past 
and with foreign countries will show the value of 
the cultivation of a science, of an art which has no 
fixed prepossessions and serves no immediate aims. 
Measures are taken, though without much conviction, 
by free Academies or the like, to win back something 
of this; but the atmosphere is not favourable to such 
attempts, and an artificial and sterile discipline is 
all that can result. 

The general tone is that of an excitable, loquacious 
generation, bent on actualities and matters of prac¬ 
tical calculation, fonder of debate than of work, not 
impressed by any authority, prizing success, watching 
all that goes on abroad, taking refuge in public from 
the sordidness of private life, and passionately hostile 
to all superiority. Through the constant secession 
of elements to which this tone is antipathetic a kind 
of natural selection is constantly taking place, and 
the political defencelessness of the transition period 
favours disintegrating tendencies of foreign origin. 
The carving away of ancient German territories works 
in the same direction. Apart from the varying in¬ 
fluence of the four strata already referred to, the 
general tone will be set by the half-Slavonic lower 
classes of Middle and North Germany, who have 
brought about and who control the existing conditions, 
and by the other elements which have been assimi¬ 
lated to these. 

In place of German culture and German intel¬ 
lectuality wc have a state of things of which a fore- 



taste already exists in parts of America and of Eastern 
Europe. The fully socialized order, repelling all 
tutelage through those strata which possess a special 
tradition, outlook and mentality, has created its own 
form of civilization. 


Thoughtful and competent judges to whom I 
have submitted the foregoing section of my work 
have said to me : This is Hell. That is perhaps 
going too far, since those who will live in that genera¬ 
tion and who have themselves helped it into being 
will have become more or less adapted to their 

A large part of the proletariat of to-day will 
certainly not be daunted by the prospect, but will 
regard it as a distinct improvement on their present 
situation. That is the terrible fact, a fact for which 
we are responsible and for which we must atone, 
with what ruin to German culture remains to be seen. 

Who, in this Age of Mechanism, who on the side 
of the bourgeoisie, who of our statesmen, our pro¬ 
fessors, our captains of industry, above all who of 
our clergy, has pitied the lot of the working-man? 
The statesmen, for peace* sake, worked out the 
Insurance Laws; the professors, with their emphatic 
dislike to the world of finance and their unemphasized 
devotion to the monopoly of their own stipends, 
preached a doctrinaire socialism; the clergy lauded 

the divinely-appointed principle of subordination; 




the great industrialists, wallowing in their own greed 
for power, money, favour, titles and connexions, 
scolded the workers for wanting anything. The 
silent subjugation of our brothers was assured through 
the laws of inheritance, our leaders put the socialistic 
legislation in fetters, freedom of combination was 
thwarted, electoral reform in Prussia was scornfully 
denied, demands for better conditions of living, 
conditions which to-day we think ridiculously low, 
were suppressed by force. And all the time, the cost 
of a single year of war, a tiny fraction of the war- 
reparations, would have sufficed to banish want for 
ever from the land. At last the millions of the 
defenceless and disappointed were driven into that 
war of the dynasties and the bourgeois, which was 
unloosed by the folly of years, the dazzlement of 
weeks, the helplessness of hours. 

If the state of things I have foreseen is hell, then 
we have earned hell. And it ill becomes us to wrap 
ourselves in the superiority of our culture, to rebuke 
the masses for their want of intellect, their want of 
character, their greed, and to keep insisting on the 
unchangeability of human character, on the virtues 
of rulership and leadership, on the spiritual unsel¬ 
fishness and intellectual priesthood of the classes born 
to freedom. Where was this heaven-nurtured priestly 
virtue sleeping when Wrong straddled the land and 
the great crime was wrought? It was composing 
feeble anthologies and pompous theories, cooking its 
culture-soup, confusing, with true professorial want 



of instinct, 1913 with 1813 1 —and putting itself at 
the disposition of the Press Bureau. That was the 
hour in which to fight for the supremacy of the spirit. 
Now romance comes, as it always does, too late. 

What is romance in history? It is sterility. It 
is incapacity to imagine, still less to shape, the yet 
unknown. It is an inordinate capacity for flinging 
oneself with feminine adaptability into anything that 
is historically presented and accomplished—from 
Michael Angelo to working samplers. Fearing the 
ugly present and the anxious future, the romantic 
takes refuge with the dear good dead people, and 
spins out further what it has learned from them. 
But every big man was a shaper of his own time, a 
respecter of antiquity and conscious of his inheritance 
as a grown and capable man may be; not a youth in 
sheltered tutelage, but a master of the living world, 
and a herald of the future. “ Modernity ” is foolish, 
but antiquarianism is rubbish; life in its vigour is 
neither new nor antique, but young. 

True it is indeed that we love the old, many- 
coloured, concrete, pre-mechanistic world; we cannot 
take an antique thing in our hands or read an antique 
word without feeling its enchantment. It is a joy 
to the heart, and one prohibited to no man, to dream 
at times romantic dreams, to live in the past, and to 
forget, as we do it, that this very dreaming, this 

1 In 1913 all Germany was celebrating with great pomp 
and warlike display the centenary of the liberation of the 
country from Napoleon, and also paying a huge property tax 
for the coming war. 



very life, owes its charm to the fact that we are of 
another age. It is a magic like that of childhood— 
but to want to go back to it is not only childish, but 
a deliberate fraud and self-deception. We should 
realize, as I have shown years ago, that the difference 
of our age from that age is the ever-present fact of 
the density of our population. Any one who wants to 
go back, really wants that forty million Germans 
should die, while he survives. It is ignorant, it is 
insincere, to put on a frown of offended virtue and 
to say : For shame, what are you thronging into the 
towns for? Go back to the land; plough, spin, 
weave, ply the blacksmith’s hammer, as did our fore¬ 
fathers, who were the proper sort of people. And 
leave the people like us, who think and write poetry 
and brood and dream for you, a house embowered 
in vines—there will be room enough for that!—Ah,, 
you thinkers and brooders, what would you say if 
men answered you : No! Go yourself and spin 
in a factory, for you have shown clearly enough 
that your thinking and brooding are futile. All your 
fine phrases amount to nothing but the one dread 
monosyllable—Die ! Are you so wicked as that, 
and know it ? or so stupid, and know it not ? 

Thought is the most responsible of all functions. 
He who thinks for others must look after them, and 
if they live he may not slay them. It is therefore a 
mischievous piece of romantic folly to point us to 
the past. We must all pass through the dark gateway, 
and the sage has no right to growl: Leave me out— 


I am the salt of the earth ! The first thing we have 
to do is to save humanity; not a selected pair in the 
Ark but the whole race, criminals and harlots, fools, 
beggars and cripples. We ourselves have cast down 
Authority, and there will be a crush, and many things 
will look very different from what the sages would 
wish and what the romantics dream. And if it is 
going to be hell for people like you and me, we must 
only accept it in the name of justice, and think of 
Dante’s terrible inscription : “I was made by the 
Might of God, by the supreme Wisdom and by the 
primal Love.” 1 

But is it hell ? That depends on ourselves. 

1 Fecemi la divina Potestate 
La 8omma Sapienza e il primo Amore. 

This is part of the inscription over the gates of Hell in the 
Inferno, Canto III. 


Our description of the future order of society was 
tacitly based on the assumption that our mentality, 
our ethics, our spiritual outlook, would remain as 
they arc at present. 

This assumption is a probable one, but it is not 
irrevocably certain. What we have endeavoured to 
demonstrate is simply the obvious fact—the fact 
which our once so rigid but, since November, 1918, 
uprooted and flaccid intellectualism has forgotten— 
that our salvation is not to be found in any kind of 
mechanical apparatus or institutions. Institutions 
do not mean evolution. If institutions run too far 
ahead of evolution there will be reaction. When 
evolution runs too far, there is revolution. 

At this point both groups of our opponents will start 
up against us. 

The Radicals cry : Ha ! only give us food, give 
“ all power to the Soviets,” let us have free-thought 
lectures, and mentality, insight, experience and culture 
will come of themselves. 

The Reactionaries smile : Ho ! this man has never 
learned that there is no such thing as evolution; 

that human character never changes. 




I shall not answer either of these. They know, 
both of them, that they are saying what is not true. 

Something of unprecedented greatness can and must 
take place; something that in the life of a people 
corresponds to the awakening of manhood in the 

In every conscious existence there comes a moment 
when the living being is no longer determined but 
begins to determine himself; when he takes over 
responsibility from the surrounding Powers, in order 
to shoulder it for himself; when he no longer accepts 
the forces that guide him, but creates them; when he 
no longer receives but freely chooses the values, 
ideals, aims and authorities whose validity he will 
admit; when he begets out of his own being the rela¬ 
tions with the divine which he means to serve. For 
the German people this moment, this opportunity, has 
now arrived—or is for ever lost. 

We have made a clear sweep of all authorities. 
The inherited influences which we accepted uncon¬ 
sciously have dropped away from us—persons, classes, 
dogmas. The persons are done with for the present. 
The classes, even though they may^still keep up the 
struggle, are broken to pieces together with all the 
best that they contained : mentality, sense of honour, 
devotion, training, tradition. We can never reanimate 
them and never supply their place. Ideas and dogmas 
have long ago lost their cogency; the power they 
wielded through police and school, the power which 
we tried to prop up by a blasphemous degradation 



of religion and by developing the church as a kind of 
factory, is gone, and it would be a piece of mechanical 
presumption to suppose that we can breed them again 
for the sake of the objects they fulfilled. If we live 
and thrive, ideas and faiths will grow up of themselves. 

We must of our own free choice lay upon ourselves 
a certain life-potency or faculty which we shall freely 
obey, and which shall be so broad and so buoyant 
that thought and creation can grow out of it. A deed 
without precedent only in its voluntary, conscious 
self-determination : for other peoples in earlier days 
also iaccepted these faculties, not indeed out of con¬ 
scious choice, but from the hands of prophets, rulers 
and classes. Thus theocracy was laid upon Israel; 
the caste-system on the Indians; the idea of the city 
on the Greeks; empire on the Romans; the Church 
on the Middle Ages; commerce, plutocracy, colonial 
dominion, on the modern world; militarism on Ger¬ 
many. For these imposed forces men lived and died; 
they had only a mythical conception of where they 
came from, and they believed and some still believe 
them to be everlasting. 

A thunder-stroke of destiny has at once stripped 
us bare and has opened our eyes. The tremendous 
choice is before us. Are we to reject it, and, blinded 
anew, to resign ourselves to the casual and mechanical 
laws of action and reaction, of needs and interests, 
and the competition of forces? Are we to recover 
ourselves, and enter into the intellectual arena of the 
nations, to begin a new and enduring life with no 



other guiding thought than that of self-preservation 
and the division of property ? In the harbour of the 
nations is our ship to drift aimlessly while every other 
knows its course, whether to a near or distant port ? 
Is that penurious Paradise which we have described, 
the goal of Germany’s hopes and struggles? 

Compared with us, the French movement of the 
eighteenth century had an easy task. All it had to 
do was to deny and demolish. When it had cleared 
away the wreckage of feudalism, at once a strong new 
class, the bourgeoisie, sprang up from the soil, more 
vigorous than its aristocratic forerunner, and it 
was able to take care of itself. And the bourgeoisie 
was also a class of defined boundaries, and already 
trained for its task; it had long ago taken over 
French culture, it alone had for a century been the 
champion of French ideas, it had acquired enthusiasm 
for the nation, for freedom, for militarism and for 
money; the aspirations for equality and fraternity 
were not indeed fulfilled, but the first mechanized 
and plutocratic state of the Continent came into being. 

Germany, as we have seen, is not in the same 
position. When we are stripped we find no new 
stratum of culture growing up below the surface; 
society is simply dissolved, and in its place we find 
the masses, of which the most hopeful thing we can 
sdy is that they are an ordered body. Tradition 
has been torn in two. No—we have to build from 
the foundations up. But whether we shall build 
according to the changing needs of the seasons, 



according to the casual balance of forces, or according 
to an idea and a symbol—that is the question ! 

Our current Socialism has no qualms about bringing 
new nations to birth with the aid of a few simple 
apparatus and radical eliminations; it believes that 
the right spirit will soon enter in if only institutions 
are provided for it. It would be too severe to describe 
this way of thinking solely as contempt for or want 
of understanding of a spiritual mission. Socialism 
in its prevailing form arises indeed simply from 
material or so-called “ scientific ” conceptions (as 
if there could be a science of ideal aims and values): 
but it has, though only as a secondary object, annexed 
to itself the values of a spiritual faith—the latter are, 
"^as^the language of the market has it, “ thrown in.” 
We have seen to what the material domination of 
institutions and apparatus is leading us. To national 
dignity, or to any mission for humanity, it does not 

What is unprecedented in our problem is not, as 
we have said, that a people should beget out of itself 
its own idea and mission. From the Jewish theocracy 
to the French rationalism, from the Chinese ancestor- 
worship to the pioneer-freedom of America, all the cul¬ 
tured peoples have brought this creative act to pass, 
although in formative epochs leading classes and lead¬ 
ing men have born the responsibility and made it 
easy for their countrymen to become aware of their 
own unconscious spirit, and through this awareness 
and consciousness to isolate and intensify it. 



What is unprecedented is just this : that the process 
should take place as a deliberate act of will, in demo¬ 
cratic freedom, without pressure and compulsion of 
authority, in the consciousness of its necessity, on 
our own responsibility. Germany is not at present 
growing leaders and prophets, we are not in a formative 
stage, all authority has been scattered to the winds. 
It is true that we have one stratum of society which 
is capable of understanding the meaning of the task, 
but it is deeply cloven, the hatreds and interests 
of its parties make them more each others’ enemies 
than the people’s. 

And yet it is this very class—not as possessor of 
means but as possessor of the tradition, which is 
capable, which is indispensable, and which is sum¬ 
moned to take in hand the transformation of the 
German spirit, to free it from the bonds of mechanism, 
of capitalism, of militarism, and to lead it to its true 
destinies. It cannot do this for itself alone, amid the 
blind bitterness of the war of classes; it cannot do it 
as a sovran leader relying on its deeper insight, for 
its and every other prestige has gone by the board; 
it can only do it by the way of service and sacrifice— 
it can only do it if the service and the sacrifice are 
approved and accepted. 

The masses will not understand this sacrifice of 
service; but the more responsible of their leaders 
will. Not to-day, indeed, nor to-morrow; but on 
the day when experience has shown them that I am 
telling the truth. At first they will do as in Russia; 



when want becomes acute, they will seek to buy 
experience and tradition at a high price from indivi¬ 
duals. But mentality and spirit cannot be bought— 
only labour and dexterity. Then gradually men will 
come to understand that the highest things are not 
marketable commodities, they are only given away. 
And at last the responsible leaders, those who rule 
in order to serve, will separate themselves from those 
of the Cataline type, who serve in order to rule. 

So long has the narrow, parsonical, cynical contempt 
for the understanding of the lower classes prevailed— 
through our fault—a reversal to blind worship of 
the masses, of the immature and the unsuccessful, 
is not inexcusable. We are here to love mankind— 
all mankind, the outcast as well as the weak—every 
man and all men. But the masses are not quite the 
same thing as mankind. The masses who congregate 
in the streets and at public meetings are not com¬ 
munities consisting of whole men, but assemblages 
in which each man takes a part and is present, indeed, 
with his whole body, but by no means with his whole 
being. The masses are absent-minded; and presence 
of mind only comes to them when through the lips 
of some true prophet the Spirit descends upon them. 
But when that happens, they take no decisions; they 
do not get beside themselves; rather, they sink into 
themselves. Before the distortions of a mob orator, 
with his extravagant promises, the masses become 
merely a driven crowd eager for gain, not human 
souls. They are the concave reflector of passions 



and greeds that rage in the focal point of the speaker’s 
rostrum; they return in concentrated form the rays 
that dazzle them. He who puts the masses in the 
judgment-seat, who looks for counsel and decision 
at their hands, lias neither reverence nor love for 
man. Sooner or later the truth of this will be realized 
by all honourable men among their leaders. 

The day is also far when the upper classes will come 
to their senses. They have never understood what 
the world is, nor what Germany is, nor what has 
happened to themselves. They see houses and fields, 
streets and trees very much as they were; they think, 
if they only play the game a little craftily at the 
beginning, everything will remain as it used to be, 
and they will come out all right in the end. It is 
just as when some merchant goes bankrupt for a 
million; for the first fortnight the servants wait at 
table as usual and the family eat off silver plate; 
the ruin is still on paper. But in a year’s time every¬ 
thing is dispersed to the winds, and men have changed 
along with their utensils. When one sees for what 
trivialities people are fighting to-day one begins to 
understand how callously and shamelessly they gave 
up a thousand times over that which they had sworn 
to defend with the last drop of their blood; they none 
of them know what has really happened. In a 
few years’ time they will know; and then they will 
fight no more for things that no longer exist; they 
will be meditating a general sacrifice to save what can 
still be saved, and what is worth saving. 



Germany is a land without power, without poise, 
with its prosperity shattered, its authorities and its 
external aims annihilated, its intellect and its ethics 
at a low ebb. In such a condition, if we wish to under¬ 
stand the only kind of life-faculty which can save us 
from intellectual and spiritual death, give us force and 
inspiration to shape for ourselves and for the world the 
new social order of freedom, spirituality 1 and justice, 
and in the true sense to “ save ” us, we must look 
ourselves and the German character in the face— 
this unknown, problematic character, which for a 
century in contradiction to its own inmost being, 
has been flattering and lulling itself with hackneyed 
and complacent phrases and unproved judgments. 
For we can undertake nothing and claim nothing 
which has not its prototype in our own soul and is 
not founded in our own past, our own traditions. 

There is no people, not even the French, which 
in recent decades has administered to itself and 
digested so much praise as w'e have. We never 

1 Geistigkeit. This is a difficult word to translate. It 
sometimes means merely intellectuality, sometimes in addition 
(as here) all that is implied in the phrase, “ Ye know not 
what manner of spirit (ofou iryev^aros) ye are of.” 




discussed ourselves but at once the stereotyped toasts 
began. The more German culture declined, the more 
disgusting became our babble about it. 

The persons through whose mouths we let ourselves 
be lauded were school-teachers without comparative 
knowledge, professional banquet-orators, nationalists 
who praised in the service of some interested hatred, 
and scholars with appointments who were simply 
commissioned to demonstrate that the Hohenzollern 
system was the last word of creation. No one dreamed 
of distinguishing this glorification of the German 
people from the apotheosis of the dynasties—to 
which we had vowed our heart’s blood—and the 
profound insincerity of these declamations was shown 
by the indifference with which the dynasties, the main 
feature in the programme, were afterwards got rid of, 
and the affair of the heart’s blood shelved. 

We know the stereotyped phrases. German faith, 
French knavery. The world is to find healing in 
the German soul. We are the heroes—the others 
arc hucksters . 1 To be German means to do a thing 
for its own sake. We are a “ race of thinkers and 
poets.” We have Culture, the others merely Civiliza¬ 
tion . 2 We alone are free—the others are merely 
undisciplined (or, as the case may be, enslaved). 
All this we owe to the favour of God and our education 

1 Referring to Werner Sombart’s war-book, Handler und 

2 Cf. Thomas Mann’s remarkable book on the real sig¬ 
nificance of the war : Betrachtungen eines Unpolitischen (1918). 



under the (here fill in Prussian, Bavarian or Saxon) 
reigning House, which all the world envies us. Clearly 
therefore we are destined for world-dominion; we 
have only to fall-to. 

In one of these phrases, about doing things for 
their own sake , 1 there is truth. All the more was it 
for us in particular a vice and a sign of degradation 
to let ourselves be dazzled by the shadowless trans¬ 
parency-picture of glorification that was offered to us. 
There were interests concealed in the game, and much 
lack of moral fibre, all of which we passed over in 
silence; it was out of place in our festal oratory. 

It would be an equal or even a greater vice, only 
reversed, if we were now to despair of ourselves. 
Moderation was what we needed then; what we need 
now is vigorous and conscious self-possession. To-day 
it is no easy and attractive business to bring our strong 
qualities to the surface; it implies an amount of 
conviction which it is hard to attain, and self-depre- 
ciation means a pitiful faint-heartedness. But all 
sham goods offered by babblers, by selfish interests, 
prophets of hate and commercial travellers must go 

We have never been a “ race of thinkers and poets,” 
any more than the Jews were a race of prophets, the 


1 Sachlichkeit. Rathenau seems to have in mind the 
German feeling for disinterested study and research as 
illustrated, for instance, by the fact that when the German 
Government heard of the genius of Einstein they brought 
him to Berlin with a salary of nearly £1000 a year and no 
duties except to think. Modern bigotry has expelled him. 


French and Dutch a race of painters, or Konigsberg 
a city of Pure Reason. 1 The old German upper 
classes have, in three well-defined epochs, had force 
enough to throw up individuals of mighty endowments 
for music, poetry and philosophy; the former lower- 
classes, whose blood runs in nine-tenths of our present 
population, have scarcely contributed anything to 
these glories. They have in recent years shown them¬ 
selves thoroughly industrious, plastic, apt for dis¬ 
cipline, order-loving, intelligent, practical, honourable, 
trustworthy, warm-hearted, prudent and helpful, 
and adapted beyond all expectation to the mechaniza¬ 
tion of life and industry; of their power to produce 
talent we know little, except perhaps in the domain 
of research and technique, which are less a test of 
creative energy than of applied knowledge and 
methodical assiduity. 

The important question as to what relations exist 
between the number, quality and greatness of 
individual endowments and genius on the one side, 
and the character of a people on the other, is still 
unexplored and very obscure, although we possess 
a science which calls itself by the quite unjustified 
name of national psychology. 

While on one side we have rarely made any serious 
study of national characteristics, but have confused 
them with achievements of culture and habits of 
life that mostly proceeded from a thin upper stratum 

1 Where Kant lived and taught, and published his Kritilc 
der reinen Vemunft. 



alone, on the other we have as a rule tacitly set down 
individual endowment (with a strong emphasis on 
our own) as illustrations of national character. In 
this respect, too, we showed that laxity in proving 
what we wanted to prove which abounds everywhere 
from the point where calculation with things weighable 
and measurable leaves off, and judgment begins. 
We think it an established fact—in accordance with 
just this arbitrary test of genius—that genius belongs 
par excellence to the so-called blonde blue-eyed races 
of the earth. The fact that among the score or two of 
geniuses of all ages who have been determining forces 
in the world it is hardly possible to find a single 
example of this blue-blonde race, but they can be 
proved to have been almost all dark, did not affect 
the question. On the other hand the English, whose 
influence on culture has been surpassed by none, 
had their genius-forming power, in which they are 
actually deficient, seriously over-estimated. It was 
the reverse with the Jews. The fact that in spite 
of their small numbers they have produced more of 
world-moving genius than all other nations put 
together, and that from them has proceeded the whole 
transcendental ethics of the Western world, has not 
prevented their being pronounced wholly incapable 
of creative endowment. 

We shall put aside all this rubbish and for the 
present decline to go into theoretic questions. Great 
individual endowments are related to national char¬ 
acter—to the character of the mind, not that of the 



will, which must be considered apart—as the blossom 
to the plant or the crystal to the mother-solution; 
to determine the one from the other needs something 
more than a mechanical generalization. There is 
no such thing as a “ race of thinkers and poets.” 
This, however, we can say : that a people which begets 
great musicians, poets and philosophers is one which 
devotes itself to moods and to visions, while another, 
as for instance the Latin group, which creates forms 
and standards, is one that at the cost of mood and 
vision, incarnates its sense of will. 

Devotion, receptivity, the feeling for Nature, 
comprehension, the passion for truth, meditative 
depth, spiritual love, are the fairest gifts that can be 
granted to any people, and to us they have been 
granted. But they exclude other gifts, which stand 
to-day in high repute, and which we affect in vain. 
They exclude the capacity for shaping forms and 
standards, the aptitude for rule, if not even for self- 
government; in any case the qualities which go to 
the creation of nationalities and civilizations. 

It is no mere accident that in not one of the hundred¬ 
fold provinces of life, from art to military organiza¬ 
tion, from State-craft to joint stock-companies, from 
saintliness to table-utensils, have we Germans dis¬ 
covered a single essential and enduring form. And 
again, there is scarcely one of these forms which we 
have not filled with a richer and more living content 
than those who first discovered it. 

For whoever bears the All within himself can be 



satisfied with no form; he finds in himself at once 
vision and reality, thesis and antithesis. He seeks 
for a synthesis, but all form is one-sided. He con¬ 
ceives, chooses, comprehends, fulfils, breaks in pieces 
and throws away. He remains a unity in constant 
change, like the year as it proceeds day by day, hour 
by hour, and no two of them alike. He does not force 
things—out of respect for creation. 

But he who makes forms must use force. He 
makes himself the standard and comprehends himself 
only. Everything else, everything that is extra¬ 
normal, unconformable, unintelligible and not under¬ 
stood remains for him something alien, trivial, inferior, 
or negligible. The maker of forms can rule, even by 
compulsion, without being a tyrant, for he is con¬ 
vinced of the value of what he brings and knows 
no doubts. He is ruthless, yet only up to a certain 
limit, which is determined by his sense of the infe¬ 
riority of the other. The man who rejects forms, 
however, cannot rule; the very penetration into the 
domain of another seems to him a wrong to his 
own, the basis of which is recognition and allow¬ 
ance. If he is forced to penetrate, he Joses all balance, 
for in wrong-doing he understands no gradations. 
Similarly he is incapable of civilizing, for he cannot 
take forms seriously; he violates them himself— 
how can he impose them upon others ? In his inmost 
soul he is naive, for creation is seething in him; but 
in execution he is conscious, critical, eclectic and 
methodical, in order that he may be completely 



master of the one-sided element into which he has 
forced himself. The man of forms, however, is, in 
his soul, rigid and conscious, but in action naive, 
because he does not know the meaning of doubt. 

Forms grow up like natural products in the course 
of centuries. They assume the existence of uni¬ 
formity in individuals, fathers reproduced in sons 
with scarcely a variation. Egypt, Rome, and that 
modern land of antiquity, France, are examples. 
For generations France has been content with three 
architectural styles, which are really one and the 
same style. The changes in the language are hardly 
perceptible. The principal domestic utensils are almost 
the same as they were a hundred years ago, fashion 
is merely a vibration. Foreign living languages are 
little studied, their spirit is not understood, the 
pronunciation remains French. Foreign countries 
are looked on as a kind of menagerie; everything is 
measured by the native standard. Every one is a 
judge of everything, for he holds fast to the norm. 
Within the norm the French are keenly sensitive, 
their feeling for relations is very sure; the slightest 
deviation is observed. To doubt the validity of 
the norm is out of question; one might as well 
criticize the sun and moon as the style of Louis 

The final judgment of the British in the affairs of 
life is “ this is English,” “ that is not English.” 
Foreign lands are a subject of geographical and 
ethnological study. The whole mighty will of a 



nation is here concentrated in the form of civilizing 
political energy. Every private inclination is a fad, 
and even fads have their fixed forms. An offence 
against table-manners is banned like an attack on 
the Church. Nature is mastered with consideration 
and intelligence, whether the problem is the breeding 
of sheep or the ruling of India. 

The assurance, self-command and art of ruling 
which spring from forms are lacking in Germany. 
Our strongest spirits are formless; they are eclectic 
or titanic, whether they despise forms or choose 
forms or burst forms. We have three homes between 
which we hover—Germany, the earth, and heaven. 
We comprehend and honour everything—every land, 
every man, every art and every language; and we 
are fertilized by what is foreign; on the lower level 
we enjoy it and imitate it, on the higher it spurs us 
to creation. We are docile, and do not hate what 
rules and determines us, only what contracts us and 
makes us one-sided; an autocratic government may 
be tolerated, even venerated, if it knows how to be 
national and popular and does not interfere with 
our elbow-room. 

We have already touched on the volitional char¬ 
acter 1 of the German people, a character which has 
been gravely altered by the subsidence of the ancient 
upper stratum of society, and by long privations and 
miseries. The Germans of Tacitus were a freedom- 

1 As opposed to the inward, intellectual and spiritual 



loving and turbulent people; of this not a trace is 
left. Any one who did not recognize under the 
autocracy that we care little for self-determination 
and self-responsibility may do so under the revolu¬ 
tion, which merely arises out of an alteration in ex¬ 
ternal conditions. We are not even yet a nation, 
but an association of interests and oppositions; a 
German Irredenta , as it has been and unfortunately 
will be shown, is an impossible conception. And 
since we are not a nation and represent no national 
idea, but only an association of households, it follows 
that our influence abroad can only be commercial, 
and not civilizing or propagandist. 

From this side we are able to understand the 
German history of the past two centuries. Prussia, 
an extra-German Power, grown up in colonized 
territory, organized itself into a bureaucratic, feudal 
and military State. It succeeded in mastering half 
Germany and in loosely linking up the remainder. 
By rigid organization, by its federated Princes and by 
the strongest army in the world, it supplied the 
place of the national character and will which were 
wanting. Mechanism was pressed into the service, 
and bore the colossus into a period of blooming 
prosperity. The system looked like a nation; in 
reality it was an autocratic association of economic 
interests bristling with arms. It was incapable of 
developing national forces and ideas, not even in 
relation to its settlers in other lands; it was confined 
to commercial competition; weak alliances were 



relied on to secure the position externally; self- 
government was not granted, because the military 
organization was the pivot of the whole system; 
the drill-sergeant tone at home had its counterpart 
in the brusqueness of our foreign policy; enmities grew 
and organized themselves, and the catastrophe came. 

For character of will we had substituted discipline. 
But discipline is not nationality; it is an external 
instrument, and when it breaks it leaves—nothing. 
Now since the Prussian system which called itself 
by the mediaeval title of the German Empire was, 
in spite of the professors, no popular, national fabric, 
but a dynastic, military and compulsory association, 
with a constitutional facade, the interested nationalist 
elements took on the repulsive and dishonourable 
forms that we all know. The most deeply interested 
parties, cool and conscious of their strength, the 
Prussian representatives of the military and official 
nobility, avoided all declamation and only interfered 
when their interests were endangered. The greater 
industrialists sold themselves. A higher stratum of 
the middle-classes composed of certain circles of 
higher teachers and subaltern officials took the 
business seriously, and in order to escape from their 
drab existence created that atmosphere of hatred of 
Socialists, telegrams of homage, and megalomania, 
which made us intellectually and morally impossible 
before the world. Instead of the Germany of thought 
and spirit one saw suddenly a brutal, stupid community 
of interested persons, greedy for power, who gave 



themselves out as that Germany whose very opposite 
they were; who, unable to point to any achievements, 
any thought of their own, prided themselves on an 
imaginary race-unity which their very appearance 
contradicted; who had no ideas beyond rancour; 
the slaverings of league-oratory and subordination, 
and who with these properties, which they were pleased 
to call Kultur , undertook to bring blessing to the 

It was no wonder; for our slavonicized associa¬ 
tion of interests, bent on subordination and on 
gain, does not produce ideas; its possessions were 
power, mechanism and money; whoever was im¬ 
pressed by these things believed they must impress 
others too, and so the conclusion was arrived at that 
all the great spirits of the past had lived only to 
make this triple combination supreme. Wagner had 
formed the bridge between the old Germany and the 
new—armoured cruisers and giant guns appeared 
as a free development from Kant and Hegel, and 
the word Kultur, a word which Germany ought to 
prohibit by law for thirty years to come, masked 
the confusion of thought. 

To discover now, after our downfall, that Germany 
ought never to have carried on a continental let alone 
a world policy, would be a pitiful example of esprit 
tVescalier . It is true that it was our right, and even 
our duty, by our intellect, our ethics and our great¬ 
ness, to carry it on; but the weakness of our char¬ 
acter on the side of Will was the cause of its failure. 



Bismarck, a bom realist in politics, grown up in the 
Prussian tradition, trained in the diplomatic tradition 
by Gortschakov, made the calamitous choice. He 
made us safe for certain decades; but it was only 
an intuitive policy in the manner of Stein 1 that 
could have saved us for centuries. 

In the midst of self-administered and self-determin¬ 
ing nations the German people, from lack of self- 
consciousness, indolence of will and innate servility 
remained under a patriarchal system of government, 
a minor under tutelage of divinely-appointed dynasties 
and ruling classes. In the childish movement of the 
educated bourgeoisie of 1848 Bismarck saw only the 
helpless and Utopian, but not the symbolic side, 
which Marx might have showm him. His practical 
spirit judged with a smile that a handful of peasantry 
and grenadiers would suffice to bring to reason this 
dynastically-minded people. It was only too true; 
although the bulk of this people had not for thirty 
years been formed by the peasant class, and although 
he himself had learned how to make use of the power 
of the modern industrial State in peasant disguise. 
And so he refused to allow his countrymen to come 
of age; broke, with the superiority of genius, and 
with the weapons of success and authority, the 
incompetent forces that resisted him; created, by 

1 Stein was the chief loader of Prussia from the Frederician 
into the modem era. His ministry of reform by which a 
peasant-proprietary was established, and municipal institu¬ 
tions created, lastod only from September 1807 to November 



the magical mechanism of his Constitution, the 
German Empire as a mere continuation of the Prussian 
bureaucratic State reinforced, by the self-glorifying 
dynasties, with the whole volume of the still existing 
and justly appreciated habit of obedience; and 
annihilated for a generation every aspiration for 
freedom by branding it with the stain of moral and 
social depravity. Our political worthlessness and 
immaturity came to its climax in the race of office- 
climbers in 1880, which in 1900 gave place to the 
battle-fleet patriotism of the great capitalists. 

A self-administered and a self-determining nation 
—such as the nations of the world, except ourselves, 
Austria and Russia, were, on the whole, at the turn 
of the century—would have been able to carry on a 
sound and steadfast policy in economics and public 
affairs, and to enjoy the confidence of the world, as 
little begrudged as America. On the other hand, a 
dangerous warship, armed upon an unexampled 
scale, given to backward movements and commanded 
by an uncontrollable sovran dilettante, could only 
expect sooner or later to be expelled from the harbour 
of the nations. History is apt to overdo it, especially 
when corruption has gone on too long; with every 
year that passed the doom became more certain; 
instead of being expelled, we were annihilated. 

That four years of hunger, a lost war and a military 
revolt at last set us free, does not betoken any change 
of character; and when to-day a servile and facile 
Press lauds our wretched and idealess Constitution 



as the finest in the world, that gives us no assurance 
of its power to endure. Understanding is no sub¬ 
stitute for character, but it is at any rate a step 
towards the goal; and if it is once understood that 
other measures arc possible, and if, out of this period, 
certain writings and thoughts shall survive—and 
survive they will—then at any rate we may still be 
weak, but we shall be no longer blind. 

It might be possible at the outset of our journey 
towards strength of will that we should grope our 
way slowly—very slowly—back to the old problems 
of power. It does not matter if we do. Before we 
get there, the world will be changed, and will be 
pregnant with new thoughts. Let us fulfil the duties 
for which Germany was made what it is. Let us go 
in quest of the idea and the faculty that are laid 
upon us; let us do this in order to live, to recover 
our health, to shape ourselves anew, to remain a 
People, to become a Nation, to create a future and 
to serve the world. 


On balance it seems that the endowments of the 
German people work out as follows :— 

High qualities of intellect and heart. Ethics and 
mentality normal. Originative will-power and inde¬ 
pendent activity, weak. 

We give our devotion freely, and the heart rules 
in action. Our feelings are genuine and powerful. 
We have courage and endurance. Led by sentiment 
rather than by inspiration. We create no forms, 
are self-forgetful, seek no responsibility, obey rather 
than rule. In obedience we know no limit, and 
never question what is imposed upon us. 

Of its own accord the German people would never 
have adopted an ideal of force. It was imposed on 
us by the idolaters of the great war-machine and 
those who gained by it; even Bismarck did not 
share it. 

We are not competent to form an ideal of civiliza¬ 
tion, for the sense of unity, will to leadership, and 
formative energy are lacking to us. We have no 
political mission for the arrangement of other people’s 
affairs, for we cannot arrange our own; we do not 

lead a full life, and are politically unripe, 
a 97 




We are endowed as no other people is for a mission 
of the spirit. Such a mission was ours till a century 
ago; we renounced it, because through political 
slackness of will-power we fell out of step; we did 
not keep pace with the other nations in internal 
political development, and, instead, devoted ourselves 
to the most far-reaching developments of mechanism 
and to their counterpart in bids for power. It was 
Faust, lured away from his true path, cast off by the 
Earth-Spirit, astray among witches, brawlers and 

But the Faust-soul of Germany is not dead. Of 
all peoples on the earth we alone have never ceased 
to struggle with ourselves. And not with ourselves 
alone, but with our daemon, our God. We still hear 
within ourselves the All, we still expand in every 
breath of creation. We understand the language of 
things, of men and of peoples. We measure every¬ 
thing by itself, not by us; we do not seek our own 
will, but the truth. We are all alike and yet all 
different; each of us is a wanderer, a brooder, a 
seeker. Things of the spirit are taken seriously with 
us; we do not make them serve our lives, we serve 
them with ours. 

“ And you dare to say this, in the face of all the 
brutalizing and bemiring that we experience—the 
profiteering and gormandizing, the abject submis¬ 
siveness, the shameless desertions, the apathy, the 
insincerity, the heartlessness and mindlessness of our 
day ? ” 



Yes, I dare to say it, for I believe it and I know 
it. The soul of the German people lies still in the 
convulsions and hallucinations of its slow recovery. 
It is recovery not alone from the war, but from 
something worse, its hundred-years’ alienation from 
itself. The much-ridiculed choice of our old romantic 
unheraldic colours, black, red and gold, instead of 
the bodiless and soulless colours under which we 
waged the war , 1 was, among the whirling follies of 
the time, a faint symbolic movement of our better 
mind. We must reunite ourselves with the days 
before we ceased to be Germans and became Berliners. 

What we need is Spirit. The whole world needs 
it, no more and no less than we do, but will never 
create it. History knows why it decided for Ver¬ 
sailles and the Hall of Mirrors. Not mechanism 
alone, with its retinue of nationalism and imperialism, 
is now again and for the last time to be glorified; 
no, the whole Franco-British policy of acquisition 
mounts up even to the throne of the Sun-king, and 
it is seriously believed that it will govern the destinies 
of the world for centuries to come. An inconceivable, 
and, in its monstrous irony, unsurpassable drama, 
which is put forward as the introduction to the 
great era. The bourgeois conscience of the West 

1 Black, red and gold were originally the colours of a 
students’ Corps in Frankfort. They were adopted as the 
colours of the abortive German Federation of 1848, apparently 
under a mistaken idea that they represented the colours of 
the ancient Germanic Empire. The colours of the Empire 
of 1870 were the Prussian black and white, with the addition 
of red. 



has no inkling of what it means. To this conscience, 
the war was a huge violation of decency, contrived by 
bandits; its victory is the final triumph of a capi¬ 
talist, rationalistic civilization; the torch lit in the 
East means murder and incendiarism, and the upward 
migration of the people from the depths is to it 

No; it is not here that the spirit of the future is 
being formed. One may discover further ingenious 
devices, lightning-conductors to mitigate the stroke; 
but gently or violently a natural force will have its 
way, and the new earth which it is preparing needs 
new seed. 

That we have been given the faculty to shape a new 
spirit does not imply that we are at liberty to choose 
whether we shall do it or not. Even if it were not for 
our life’s sake—even if it were against our life—still we 
must obey. But it is for our life’s sake, as we have 
seen, and as it is indeed obvious, for every organism 
can live only by fulfilling the purpose of its being. 

And now we have got to a very dangerous place— 
a place where the usual moral peroration lies in wait 
for us—that German peroration which announces 
universal redemption, and immediately, on that lofty 
note, closes the discussion. Fatherland, Morality, 
Humanity, Labour, Courage, Confidence—we all 
know how it goes, the writer has written something 
fine, the reader has read something fine; emotion 
on both sides, little conviction on either. 

It appears, then, that I have just been writing 



something extremely suspect. Has the reader fol¬ 
lowed me through five-and-thirty of these difficult 
folios in order to arrive in the end at that very 
everyday term, Spirit ? 1 Is there any term in 
commoner use, and what are we to think about it ? 
Softly—there is worse to come ! The next word is 
still more dubious, philistinishly so, in fact—the 
word Culture . 2 I cannot help it—we must pass 
on by way of these everyday conceptions. We must 
get through the crowd, where hack-phrases elbow us. 
Any journey you may take, though it were to Tibet, 
must begin at the Berlin Central Railway Station. 
What is wrong with these popular phrases is not 
that they start from an everyday conception, but 
that they remain content with it, and do not think 
it out to the end. 

Our task, therefore, stated in the most general 
terms, is to make actually spiritual a people which 
is capable of spirituality. And since spirituality 
cannot be propped up by any external thrust, by ser¬ 
mons, newspaper articles, leagues, or propaganda, 
but must be associated with life and developed out 
of life, so the organic process and the condition of 
life to which it leads is called Culture. 

It is only with deep reluctance and after long 
search that I have written down this beautiful word, 
a word now worn almost beyond recognition. Can 

1 Geist. 

* Bildung. It is as difficult in English as it is in German to 
render in one word exactly what the author is thinking of. In 
its literal sense Bildung implies a shaping and formative action. 

* N. \\* 



we find our way back to its application and signifi¬ 
cance ? Even when it is not drawn out with a 
futile prefix 1 one can hardly detect its pure meaning 
by reason of the many overtones. The school, if 
possible the university, some French and English, 
the rules about I and Me, visiting-cards, shirt-cuffs, 
foreign phrases, top-hats, table-manners: these are 
some of the overtones that make themselves heard 
when we talk of a cultured man, or rather as they 
have it a cultured gentleman. A hundred years 
ago, as the word implies, we understood by culture 
the unfolding and the full possession of innate 
bodily, spiritual and moral forces. In this sense 
Goethe showed us the two fraternal figures formed 
after his own image: Faust the richer, and the poorer 
Wilhelm Meister, striving for culture. 

The ideal which hovers before us is not one of 
education, not even one of knowledge, although both 
education and knowledge enter into it; it is an 
ideal of the Will. It will not be easy to convey the 
breadth and the boundless range which we are to 
attach to this conception. That it is not an airy 
figment is clear from the fact that for centuries the 
Greeks, with full consciousness, adopted as their 
highest law (though directed to a somewhat different 
end) that impulse of the will which they called 
Kalokagathia , a 

fca . 1 Auabildung. 

a A harmony of character, compounded of beauty and 



From one who has introduced the conception of 
mechanism into German thought, who has rescued 
the conception of the soul from the hands of the 
psychologists and brought it back to its primal 
meaning, who has written so much about soulless 
intellectualism, and has put forward the empire of 
the soul as the goal of humanity, it is not to be 
expected that he should preach any mechanical kind 
of culture, or indeed any that it is possible to 
acquire by learning. 

How culture is to be produced we shall see; 
the first thing necessary is that it should be willed. 

Willed it must be, in a sense and with a strength 
of purpose and a force of appreciation of which we 
to-day, when the ages of faith, of the Reformation, 
of the German classics, and the wars of liberation, 
lie so far behind us, have no idea at all. 

When the current conception of intellectual culture 
so much prized in family, society and business life, 
and tricked out with criticisms of style, with historical 
data and incidents of travel is justly ridiculed, then 
the will to complete cultivation of the body, the 
intellect and the soul of the people must be so strong 
that all questions of convenience, of enjoyment, of 
prestige and of material interests must sink far into 
the background. This word must sound so that all 
who hear it can look in each other’s eyes with a full 
mutual understanding and without the slightest sense 
of ambiguity; just as they do in Japan when the 
name of the common head of all families, the Mikado, 



is named. There must be one thing in Germany 
and it must be this thing, which is altogether out of 
reach of the yawning, blinking and grinning scepticism 
of the coffee-house, and of the belching and growling 
of the tavern. Any man who puts this thing aside 
in favour of his class-ideas, or his speculations in 
lard, or his dividends, or the demands of his Union, 
must understand that he is doing something as 
offensive as if he went out in public without washing 

The conception of Culture as our true and unique 
faculty must be so profoundly grasped that in public 
life and legislation it must have the first word and 
the last. Though we become as poor as church-mice 
we must stake our last penny on this, and tune up " 
our education and instruction, our models and out¬ 
look, our motives and claims, our achievement and 
our atmosphere, to so high a point that any one 
coming into Germany shall feel that he is entering 
into a new age. 

Society must be penetrated by this conception. 
Those classes which already possess something re¬ 
sembling it—such as training, education, experience, 
tradition, outlook, good breeding—must pour out 
with both hands what they have to dispense; not 
in the way of endowments, conventicles, lectures 
and patronizing visits, but in quiet, self-sacrificing, 
personal service. 

All this, of course, cannot be done without the free 
response of the other side. The devoted attempts 



which have been made, especially in England, and 
for some years with us too, to win this response 
by long and unselfish solicitation were destined to 
remain merely the mission of individual lives, for 
they were not supported by the will of the com¬ 
munity as a whole; it rather ran counter to them. 
A Peace of God must be proclaimed, not as between 
the Haves and the Have-nots, not between the prole¬ 
tariat and the capitalists, not between the so-called 
cultured classes and the uncultured, but between 
those who are ready for a mutual exchange of experi¬ 
ence, a give-and-take of their tradition on both sides. 
Not an exchange on business principles, such as 
propaganda in satisfaction of demands, or curiosity 
on one side for a new pastime on the other, but a 
covenant. This, however, is only practicable if the 
class-war, as an end in itself, is put a stop to. 

The great change itself cannot be come by so 
cheaply; it demands other assumptions, of which 
we shall have something to say later. But the 
attitude and temper, the recognition of the task, 
could not be better introduced than through the 
mutual service of the two social strata. 

We have still at our disposal, handed on from the 
past, certain organized methods of investigation and 
administration. We now need chairs and institutes 
of research, not for the trivial business of popular 
enlightenment and lectures, but for the study and 
investigation of the needs of national culture, 
the idea which must now take the place of national 



defence. We shall have need of central authorities, 
not, like the late Ministries of Culture skimping the 
scanty endowment of the Board Schools, but doing 
the work of German education, progress, and inter¬ 
change of labour . 1 

1 Arbeitsausgleich. The meaning of this will be apparent 


Some decades ago the conscience of middle-class 
society in England was stirred. The result -was 
Toynbee Hall and the Settlements-movement, which 
afterwards found praiseworthy counterparts in Ger¬ 
many. Society had begun to understand the wrong 
which it had done to its brothers, the proletariat, 
whom it had robbed of mind, and offered them 
instead soul-destroying, mechanical labour. Then 
choice spirits arose who dedicated their whole lives 
to the service of their brothers. This great and 
noble work did much to soften pain and hatred, and 
here and there many a soul was saved by it; but it 
could not act as it was intended to act, because it 
could not become what it imagined itself to be. 

It ought to have been, and believed itself to be, a 
simple and obvious piece of love-service, a pure 
interchange of spiritual possessions between class 
and class, no condescending pity or educative mis¬ 
sion. It was a noble and a splendid error; the 
movement retained the form of sacrifice and bene¬ 
faction. On both sides social feeling was indifferent 
to it, or even hostile. What one hand gave, a 

thousand others took back; what one hand received, 




a thousand others rejected. The collective con¬ 
science of a class had never been stirred, it was 
merely that the conscience of certain members of 
upper-class society had sent out envoys; it had not 
moved as a body. Individuals were ready to sacrifice 
themselves, but the conditions of labour remained 

So long as a general wrong is allowed to stand, it 
gives the lie to every individual effort. The wrong 
becomes even more bitter because it loses its uncon¬ 
sciousness—men know it for wrong, and do not 
amend it. For this reason a second movement of 
importance, that of the People’s High Schools, which 
has created in Denmark the most advanced peasant- 
class in existence, can achieve no social reform in 
lands cloven by proletarianism. If in addition to 
this the High School movement should depart from 
its original conception, that of a temporary com¬ 
munity of life between the teachers and the taught, 
and should, instead of this, resolve itself into a 
lecture-institution, then the danger arises that what 
is offered will be disconnected matter, intended for 
entertainment, and without any basis of real know¬ 
ledge, something commonly called half-culture which 
is worse than unculture, and is more properly described 
as misculture. 

No work of the charitable type can bring about 
the reconciliation of classes or be a substitute for 
popular education. The reconciliation of classes, 
however, even if it were attainable, is by no means 



our goal, but rather the abolition of classes, and our 
ultimate object is not popular education but popular 
culture. We do not intend to give with one hand 
and take back with the other, we shall not condemn 
a brother-people to dullness and quicken a few 
chosen individuals; no, we mean to go to the root 
of the evil, to break down the monopoly of culture, 
and to create a new people, united and cultured 

But the root of the trouble lies in the conditions 
of labour. It is an idle dream to imagine that out 
of that soulless subdivision of labour which governs 
our mechanical methods of production, the old handi¬ 
crafts can ever be developed again. Short of some 
catastrophic depopulation which shall restore the 
mediaeval relation between the area of the soil and 
the numbers that occupy it, the subdivision of labour 
will have to stand, and so long as it stands no man 
will complete his job from start to finish—he will 
only do a section of it; at best, and assuming the 
highest mechanical development, it will be a work 
of supervision. But mindless and soulless work no 
man can do with any joy. The terrible fact about 
the mechanization of industry is that productive work, 
the elementary condition of life, the very form of 
existence, which fills more than half of each man’s 
waking day, is by it made hated and hateful. It 
degrades the industrious man, thrilling with energy, 
into a work-shy slacker—for what else does it mean 
that all social conflicts culminate in the demand for 



a shortening of the hours of work ? For the peasant, 
the research-worker, the artist, the working day is 
never long enough; for the artisan, who calls him¬ 
self par excellence a “ worker,” it can never be too 

The advance of technical invention will make it 
possible in the end to transform all mechanical work 
into supervision. But the process will be long and 
partial, we cannot wait till it is completed, especially 
as times will come when technical knowledge will 
stand still, or even, it may be, go back. Any one 
who knows in his own flesh what mechanical work 
is like, who knows the feeling of hanging with one’s 
whole soul on the creeping movement of the minute- 
hand, the horror that seizes him when a glance at the 
watch shows that the eternity which has passed has 
lasted only ten minutes, who has had to measure 
the day’s task by the sound of a bell, who kills his 
lifetime, hour after hour, with the one longing that 
it might die more quickly—he knows how the shorten¬ 
ing of the working day, whatever may be put in its 
place, has become for the factory artisan a goal of 

But he knows something else as well. He knows 
the deadliest of all wearinesses—the weariness of the 
soul. Not the rest when one breathes again after 
wholesome bodily exertion, not the need for relaxa¬ 
tion and distraction after a great effort of intellect, 
but an empty stupor of exhaustion, like the revulsion 
after unnatural excess. It is the shallowest kind of 



tea-table chatter to talk about good music, edifying 
and instructive lectures, a cheerful walk in God’s 
free Nature, a quiet hour of reading by the lamp, 
and so on, as a remedy for this. Drink, cards, 
agitation, the cinemas, and dissipation can alone 
flog up the mishandled nerves and muscles, until 
they wilt again under the next day’s toil. 

The worker has no means of comparison. He does 
not know what wholesome labour feels like. He i 
will never find his way back to work on the land, 
for there he cannot get the counter-poisons which he 
thinks indispensable, and he lacks the organic, 
ordering mind which mechanical employment has 
destroyed. Even if some did get back, it would be in 
vain, for though agriculture is hungering for thousands 
of hands it cannot absorb millions. The worker has 
no means of comparison; hence his bottomless con¬ 
tempt for intellectual work, the results of which he 
recognizes, but which, in regard to the labour it 
costs, he puts on a level with the idling of the folk 
whom he sees strolling or driving about with their 
lapdogs in the fashionable streets. 

The middle-class conscience, and even that of the 
men of science, turns away its face in shameful 
cowardice from the horror of mechanized labour. 
Apart from the well-meaning aesthetes who live in 
rural elegance surrounded by all the appliances which 
mechanism can supply, who wrinkle their brows when 
the electric light goes out, and who write pamphlets 
asking with pained surprise why people cannot return 



to the old land-work and handicraft, most of us take 
mechanical labour as an unalterable condition of 
life, and merely congratulate ourselves that it is not 
we who have to do it. 

The Utopianist agitators who knowingly or un¬ 
knowingly suppress the essential truth that their 
world of equality will be a world of the bitterest 
poverty, treat the situation just as lightly. Before 
them, in the future State, hovers the vision of some 
exceptional literary or political appointment. The 
others may console themselves with the thought that 
in spite of a still deeper degree of poverty, towards 
which they are sinking by their own inactivity, the 
hell of mechanical work, by no means abolished, will 
probably be a little reduced, so far as regards the time 
they spend in it. The notion that mechanical work 
will be made acceptable and reconciled with intel¬ 
lectual, if only it is short enough and properly paid, 
has never been thought out; it is a still-born child of 
mental lethargy, like all those visions of the future 
that are being held up to our eyes. Try notions 
like this on any other ill—toothache, for instance ! 
All our rhetoric about mechanical work being no ill 
at all, is ignorant or fraudulent, and if nothing further 
be done than to reduce it to four hotirs, all our social 
struggles will immediately be concentrated on bring¬ 
ing it down to two. The goal of Socialism, so far as 
it relates to this pons asinorum of shortening hours, 
is simply the right to loaf. 

Let us look facts in the face. Mechanical work is 



an evil in itself, and it is one which we never can get 
rid of by any conceivable economic or social trans¬ 
formation. Neither Karl Marx nor Lenin has suc¬ 
ceeded here, and on this reef will be wrecked every 
future State that may be set up on the basis of current 
Socialistic ideas. In this point lies the central 
problem of Socialism; undisturbed, as was till lately 
that legendary conception of surplus-value, and bed¬ 
ded, like that conception, in a rats’-nest of rhetorical 
phrases, repeated from mouth to mouth and never 
tested by examination. 

The bringing of Mind into the masses, the cul¬ 
tured State , 1 which is the only possible foundation 
of a society worthy of humanity, must remain un¬ 
attainable until everything conceivable has been 
thought out and done to alleviate the mischievous 
operation of this evil, which dulls and stupefies the 
human spirit and which, in itself, is ineradicable. 
No Soviet-policy, no socialization, no property-policy, 
no popular education, nor any other of the catch¬ 
words which form ad nauseam the monotonous staple 
of our current discussion of affairs, can go to the 
heart of the problem. Instead we must establish 
and put into practice the principle which I have » 
called that of the Interchange of Labour, and which 
I must now, in broad outline, endeavour to explain. 

The object of this principle is to bring mind into 
labour. It demands—since mind cannot be brought 
into mechanical work beyond a certain degree fixed 

1 Bildungsstaat. 




by technical conditions—that the day’s work as a 
whole shall have a share of it, by means of the ex¬ 
change and association of mental and mechanical 
employment. Until this principle shall have been 
carried into effect, all true culture of the people 
remains impossible. So long as there is no culture 
of the people, so long must culture remain a 
monopoly of the classes, and of escapes from the 
masses; so long must society be wanting in equi¬ 
librium, a union open to breach from every side, 
and one which, however highly its social institutions 
may be developed, holds down the people to forced 
labour, and destroys culture. 


There is a way by which the day’s work can be 
ennobled, and even have mind brought into it , 1 on 
capitalistic lines. Before the War we were just about 
to enter on this path—America is treading it now. 
Its fundamental condition is a huge increase in 
general well-being. 

The daily wages of the American working-man 
have risen, as we have already remarked, to seven 
or even ten dollars, corresponding to a purchasing 
power of over a hundred marks. This amounts to 
so radical a removal of all restrictions in domestic 
economy that one can no longer speak of the prole¬ 
tarian condition as existing in the United States. 
A man who drives to his work in his own automobile 
can satisfy all his reasonable needs in the way of 
recreation and of extending his education, he looks 
at his sectional job (as has not seldom been the case 
in America even in earlier days) with a critical eye, 
he forms his own judgment of its place in the whole, 
he improves the processes, and amuses himself by 

1 Vergeistigt werden. It is difficult to render this word in 
the sense in which Rathenau uses it; * intelloctualized ’ does 
not say enough, and * spiritualized ’ says a little too much. 




being both workman and engineer. (Consider in the 
light of this fact the value of the prophecy that 
America is standing on the brink of Bolshevism !) 

In a country whose wealth at this moment—in 
consequence of war-profits and depreciation of money 
—is almost equal to that of the rest of the world 
put together, the process of abolishing proletarianism 
can go forward on capitalistic lines. But we Germans, 
since it is decreed that we shall be among the poorest 
of the peoples, and must begin afresh, and live for 
the future—we shall renounce without envy the 
broad path of the old way of thought, the way of 
riches, in order to clear with hard work the new 
path on which, one day, all will have to follow 
us. The way of Culture is the way to which we are 
pointed, and we have described Interchange of 
Labour as the fundamental condition which enables 
us to travel it. It is now clear that the conception 
of popular culture is not, after all, represented 
by any of the five-and-twenty idealizing catch¬ 
words with which we are wont to console ourselves 
in our elegiac orations, but that by it is meant a 
clearly defined political procedure. 

By the principle of Interchange of Labour it is re¬ 
quired that every employee engaged in mechanical 
work can claim to do a portion of his day’s work 
in intellectual employment; and that every brain¬ 
worker shall be obliged to devote a portion of his 
day to physical labour. 

There are, of course, fixed limits to the application 



of this principle, on the one side in intellectual, on 
the other in bodily incapacity, as well as in those rare 
cases where it is recognized that the interrupted 
hours of intellectual work cannot be made good. 

We would also establish a year of Labour-Service, 
to be devoted by the whole youth of Germany, of 
both sexes, to bodily training and work. 

The tests of capacity and of the claim to be reckoned 
as “ cultured ” is not to consist in examinations but 
in proof of work. Any one who can offer some show 
of claim can demand to be tested, and, if the result 
is favourable, to receive further culture. Thus we 
shall be taking seriously the question of the ascent 
to higher grades, which, so long as it depends on a 
particular age, or on school certificates, must remain 
on paper. 

Let no one say that this testing system is a mere 
mechanical method, that it degrades Culture from 
its intellectual dignity, and is equivalent to the 
Chinese literary tests for office. True culture 
is distinguished from mere sybaritic aestheticism in 
that in some sense or other it makes for production. 
Where there is no talent for art or for creative thought, 
then there remain to be developed the educational 
forces of judgment, or a faculty for the conduct of 
life, which must have their influence. 

Different categories of Culture will arise of them¬ 
selves; not ranks or castes or classes, but grades of 
society, each of which may be attained by any one. 
No one must be able to say that any monopoly of 



culture has barred his way, or that training and 
testing have been denied him. If the culture be 
genuine it will never look down in intellectual arro¬ 
gance on the stages below it; if it have duties associ¬ 
ated with it, then he who has rejected the path of 
ascent, or has failed in it, cannot claim to fulfil those 
duties. Any one who has no faculty but that of a 
glib tongue will find in the multiplicity of callings 
some field for his activity; but the rule of the talker, 
backed by force or not, will at any rate be spared us. 

At this point we may hear a voice from the average 
heart of Socialism exclaim: “ How is this ? Do 

you call that having no castes ? We have just begun 
to shake off the yoke of the capitalists and now are 
we expected to put the cultured in command ? This 
is pure reaction ! ” 

Softly ! If this is a case of misunderstanding, we 
shall clear it up. If any scruples still remain, we 
shall consider them further. 

Let us take the misunderstanding first. It is 
apparently forgotten that capitalism ruled by here¬ 
ditary power. Any one who belonged to that circle 
ruled along with it, whether he were competent to 
rule or not. But culture is not a heritable 
possession; no one can win it save by virtue of a 
higher spirit and will. He who has this spirit and 
this will, can and will win it. He who wins it is fit 
for higher responsibilities. Is the voice from the 
average heart answered? 

No. It replies : “ Heritable or not, what do we 



care ? We are out for equality. Distinctions in 
culture are a kind of aristocracy.” 

Now, good heart, you have revealed yourself. 
What was the meaning of your everlasting talk about 
the ladder for the rise of capacity? I shall tell you. 
The capable man is to toil, and to rise just so far as 
you permit him, namely, till you can possess your¬ 
selves of the fruits of his labour: then he is to be 
thrust down, and the loudest mouth is to rule. You 
are not pleased with this interpretation? Neither 
am I, so we are quits. 

For of the folly of imagining a society of equals 
I do not intend to speak. The average man, who 
cannot understand equality of human dignity, 
equality before God, thinks nothing of demanding 
equality in externals, equality in responsibility and 
vocation. But this sham equality is the enemy of 
the true, for it does not fit man’s burden to his 
strength, it creates overburdened, misused natures, 
driving the one to scamped work and hypocrisy, and 
the other to cynicism. Every accidental and in¬ 
herited advantage must indeed be done away with. 
But if there is any one who, among men equal in 
external conditions, in duties and in claims, demands 
that they should also be equal in mind, in will and 
in heart—let him begin by altering Nature ! 

In remuneration also, that is to say, in the appor¬ 
tionment of conditions of work, a mechanical equality 
would be tantamount to an unjust and intolerable 
inequality in the actual distribution or remission of 



work. Work of the highest class, creative and intel¬ 
lectual work—the most self-sacrificing that is known 
to man because it draws to itself and swallows up 
a man’s whole life, including his hours of leisure 
and recreation—this w’ork demands extreme con¬ 
sideration, in the form of solitude, freedom from 
disturbance, from trivial and distracting cares or 
occupations, and contact with Nature. This kind 
of consideration is, from the economic point of view, 
an outlay which mechanical work does not require. 
If mechanical and intellectual work are to be placed 
under the same specific conditions, under which the 
highest standard of output is to be maintained and 
the producers are as faj* as possible to bear an equal 
burden, then the scale of remuneration must be 
different. Starting from a subsistence minimum it 
must for intellectual work be graded two stages 
upward, one for the output , 1 and one for the grade 
of culture implied. 

Women will also be subject to this system of 
grading whether they exercise any vocation outside 
their homes or not, for society has a deep interest 
in the culture of its mothers, and in external 
incentives to culture women must share equally 
with men. 

1 Assuming that the highest output is reached in the 
particular instance, which of course will not be the case with 
every worker whether in the mechanical or intellectual sphere. 
The author appears to be referring to amount, not quality, of 
output, as the latter would be covered by the second clause, 
relating to grade of culture (Bildungsstufe). 



An intimate sense of association will grow up 
within each grade of culture. This, however, will 
not impair the general solidarity of the people, 
since no hereditary family egoism can arise. This 
sense of association, renewed with elements that 
vary from generation to generation, and correspond¬ 
ing very much to the relations between contemporary 
artists who spring from different classes or territories, 
will dissolve the relics of the old hereditary senti¬ 
ment and absorb into itself whatever traditional 
values the latter may possess. 

Between the separate grades there will not only 
be the connexion afforded by the living possibilities 
of free ascent from one to the other, but the system 
of ever-renewed co-operation in rank-and-file at the 
same work will in itself promote culture, tradition, 
and the consciousness of union. We need only recall 
the old gilds and military associations in order to 
realize what a high degree of manly civic conscious¬ 
ness can arise from the visible community of duty 
and achievement. The mechanical worker will be¬ 
come the instructor of his temporary comrade and 
guest, and the latter will in turn widen the other’s 
outlook, and emulate him in the development of the 
processes of production. The manual worker will 
bring to the desk and the board-room his freedom 
from prepossessions and the practical experience of 
his calling; he will learn how to deal with abstrac¬ 
tions and general ideas; he will gain a respect for 
intellectual work, and will feel the impulse to win 



new knowledge and faculty, or to make good what 
he has neglected. 

Two objections remain to be considered and 

First: there are far more places to be filled in 
mechanical than in intellectual employment. Is it 
possible so to organize the interchange of work that 
every one who desires intellectual employment can 
find it ? The answer is: that, whether we like it or 
not, all work tends more and more to take on an 
administrative character. Just as in industry there 
is ever more talk and less production, so our economic 
life is working itself out through thousands upon 
thousands of new organizations. Industrial Councils, 
Councils of Workers, Gild-Councils, are forming them¬ 
selves in among the existing agencies of administra¬ 
tion; and the immediate consequence of this is a 
tremendous drop in production, to be followed later 
by a more highly articulated and more remunerative 
system of work. It is as if a marble statue came to 
life, and then had to be internally equipped with 
bones, muscles, veins and nerves. Or it resembles 
the transformation of a shabby piece of suburban 
building-ground: it has to be dug up, drained, 
paved, fenced; and until traffic has poured into it, 
it remains a comfortless and dismal waste. 

But the administrative side of our future economic 
and national life demands the creation of so manv 


posts of intellectual work that at present there is 



not the trained ‘personnel to fill it. If the Year of 
Labour-Service is introduced, there will be still 
more defections and gaps to be filled. The rush 
for intellectual work is more likely to be too small 
than too great. 

Let us come to the second objection. Will not 
confusion be worse confounded if there are many 
who have to fill two jobs, if, in these jobs constant 
exchanges are taking place, if the periods of work 
are brief and subject to untimely interruptions, if 
time and work are lost through never-ending re¬ 
arrangement ? 

Assuredly. And any one who starts with the idea 
of the old high-strung work done, as it were, under 
military discipline, any one who cherishes the re¬ 
motest idea that this system can ever return, in 
spite of the fact that its clamps and springs have 
been dashed to pieces, may well lament these un¬ 
settlements. One who starts from the fluctuating 
conditions of our present-day, make-believe labour 
will take organic unsettlements as part of the price 
to be paid, if they only lead in the end to systematic 
production. But one who weighs the fact that the 
make-believe life of our present economy has not 
even yet reached its final form, will discern in every 
new transition-form, however tedious, the final 
redemption; in so far, at least, as any equilibrium 
is capable of being restored at all. 

The essence of the interchange of labour will, 
therefore, consist in this, that while the distinction 



between physical and intellectual work will still exist, 
there will be no distinction between a physical and 
intellectual calling. Until advanced age may for¬ 
bid, it will be open to every man not merely to acquire 
some ornamental branches of knowledge but seriously 
and with both feet to take his footing in the opposite 
calling to his own. 

The different callings will learn to know and re¬ 
spect each other, and to understand their respective 
difficulties. This applies particularly to those who 
call themselves the operative workers. 

As soon as hereditary idleness has come to an end 
and loafing has been trampled out, then many a one, 
who now thinks that mental work is mere chattering, 
will learn through his novitiate at the desk, that 
thinking hurts. If he does not feel himself equal to 
this kneading and rummaging of the brain, he will 
go back with relief to his workshop; he will neither 
envy nor despise those who are operative workers 
with the brain, and will understand, or at least un¬ 
consciously feel, the oppositions in human nature 
and the differences in conditions of life, and will 
know them to be just. He cannot and must not 
keep himself wholly aloof from the elements of 
mental training; his contact with brain-workers will 
not cease; and thus his complete and passive resigna¬ 
tion to the domination of ignorant rhetoric will lose 
its charm. 

Any man will be respected who contents himself 
with the lowest prescribed measure of culture. 



who modestly renounces further study, and goes 
back to manual work. But there will be no excuse 
for those who know nothing and can do nothing, 
but pretend to set everybody right; for there will 
be no monopoly of culture to keep them down, 
and all genuine faculty must come to the test of 

To-day there are three classes of social swindlers. 
First, those who live on the community without 
returning it any service. These are the people who 
live idly on inherited money, and the loafers. Against 
these social legislation must be framed. Secondly, 
those who deliberately practise “ ca’ canny,” and 
therefore live on the surplus work of their fellows. 
These are the champions of the principle ; Every one 
according to his need, no one according to his deed; 
the saboteurs of labour. Against these the remedy 
lies in the spread of intelligence and a just system 
of remuneration. Thirdly, there are those who 
simulate thought and brain-work while they have 
nothing to give but hack phrases uttered with a 
glib tongue. Against these worst of all swindlers, 
these sinners against the Spirit, the remedy is 

And this, in the new Order, is open to every one, 
young or old, who can maintain his foothold in the 
exercise of intellect, when the chance is offered him. 
He who in his test-exercise reaches a normal standard 
of accomplishment can demand that he shall not be 



sent back to manual work, but continue to be em¬ 
ployed in the same occupation, and be further 
cultivated in whatever direction he desires. At 
every further stage of development a corresponding 
sphere of activity is to be opened to him, up to the 
point at which the limits of his capacity come into 

Let no one object that the rush for intellectual 
work will become uncontrollable. Would that it 
might I For then the country would be so highly 
developed and its methods of work so perfected 
that there would be quite a new relation between 
the demand for head-work and for hand-work. For 
a long time to come this rush will be far smaller than 
we imagine; for the immediate future it will suffice 
if the rising forces are set free, and the laggard are 

But, the Radicals will cry, what an unsocial 
principle ! Have we at last, with difficulty, brought 
it to the point that the accursed one-year examina¬ 
tion 1 is abrogated, and now are we again to be 
condemned according to this so-called standard of 
culture ? 

Stay I there is a fallacy here. In our transition 
period which is still quite dominated by the mono¬ 
poly of culture, I have nothing to say against the 
abrogation of every educational test, even though 
in a few years we shall feel the deeply depressing 

1 Referring to the shortening of military service which used 
to be accorded to recruits of a certain educational standard. 


effects which will arise from the domination of the 

But the transition period will come to an end. 
Then every one who likes will be able to learn and to 
execute, and every one who is able will wish to do so. 

“ But supposing one does not wish ? May not he 
be the very one who is most capable of achievement ? 
We don’t want model pupils.” 

Nor do I want model pupils. The boy who has 
learnt nothing may make his trial as a man when 
culture is open to all. But if, as a man, he does 
not care to rack his brains he will be thought none 
the less of; he will merely be offered ordinary work 
according to his choice. 

But those who wish to see responsibility and the 
destiny of the country placed in the hands of men 
who do not care to rack their brains, must not en¬ 
trench themselves behind social principles, but plainly 
admit that they want for all time to establish the 
rule of demagogy and the vulgarization of intellect. 
It is not for such a one to pass judgment on the 
mission of Germany. 

The way to the German mission, to German culture, 
which is to be no more a culture of the classes 
but of the people, stands open to all by means of 
the Interchange of Labour. The whole land is as 
it were a single ship’s crew; the issues are the same 
for all. The manual worker is no longer kept down 
by over-fatigue, and the brain-worker is no longer 
cut off from the rest of the people. 



The manual worker no longer regards the territory 
of culture as a sort of inaccessible island, but 
rather as a district which he can visit every day and 
in which he is quite at home. Every one in future 
will start even in school training, and the degree 
to which his further culture may be carried will 
not be limited by want of money or of time, or, 
above all, of opportunity. He will continually have 
intercourse with men of culture, and in that 
intercourse he will at once give and receive; the 
habits of thought, the methods and the range of 
intellectual work which are now only the heritage of 
a few will be his own; and the two-fold language 
of the country, the language of conceptions and the 
language of things, will for him be one. 

There will be no permanent system of stratifica¬ 
tion; the energies of the people, rising and falling, 
will be in constant movement and their elements 
will never lose touch. There may be self-tormenting 
and unhappily constituted natures who will hate 
their own dispositions and the destiny they have 
shaped for themselves—these aberrations will never 
cease so long as men are men—but there will be 
no more hatred of class for class, any more than 
there is in any voluntary association of artists or of 

And since culture is to be at once the recognized 
social aim of the country and the personal goal and 
standard of each individual, the struggle for posses¬ 
sions and enjoyments, doubly restrained by public 


opinion and by deeper insight, will sink into the 

But the spirit of the land will not resemble any 
that we know at present. As in the Middle Ages, 
a spiritual power will rule, but it will not be imposed 
from without or above, it will be a creation from 
within. The competition of all will be like that of 
the best in the time of the Renaissance, but it will 
not be a competition for conventional values but for 
the furthering of life. The country will become, as 
it was in former days, a generous giver, not, how¬ 
ever, from the lofty eminence of a class set apart, 
but out of the whole strength of the people. 

Again, for the first time, the convinced and con¬ 
scious will of a people will be seen to direct itself to 
a common and recognized goal. This is a fact of 
immeasurable significance, it implies the exercise of 
forces which we only discern on the rare mountain- 
peaks of history, and of which the last example was 
the French Revolution. 

But those dangers of which we have spoken, that 
hell of a mechanical socialism, of institutions and 
arrangements without sentiment or spirit, are done 
away with, for production has ceased to be merely 
material and formal, it has acquired absolute value 
and substance. Spirit is the only end that sanctifies 
all means; and it sanctifies not by justifying them 
but by purifying them. 



As the kinsfolk of a dying man comfort themselves 
in the death-chamber with every little droop in the 
curve of temperature, although they know in their 
hearts that the hour has come, so our critics flatter 
themselves with the idea that in the end all will 
come right, if not by itself at least with trifling 
exertion. But it is not so: except by the greatest 
exertion nothing will come right. Our lake-city of 
economics and social order is ripe for collapse, for 
the piles on which it is built are decayed. It is true 
that it still stands, and will be standing for an hour 
or so, and life goes on in it very much as in the days 
when it was sound. We can choose either to leave 
it alone, and await the downfall of the city, among 
whose ruins life will never bloom again, or we can 
begin the underpinning of the tottering edifice, a pro¬ 
cess which will last for decades, which will allow no 
peace to any of us, which will be toilsome and danger¬ 
ous, and will end almost imperceptibly, when the 
ancient city has been transformed into the new. 

Let us have no doubt about it: something tremen¬ 
dous and unprecedented has to be accomplished here* 

Does any thinking man believe that when the social 




order of the world has collapsed, when a country of 
the importance of Germany has lost the very basis 
of its existence, when the development of centuries 
is broken off, its faculties and its traditions emptied 
of value and repudiated—does any man really be¬ 
lieve that by means of certain clauses in a Constitu¬ 
tion a few confiscations, socializations and rises in 
wages, a nation of sixty millions can be endowed 
with a new historical reason for existence? Why is 
not the negro republic of Liberia ahead of all of us ? 

Our character is weak on the side of will, and our 
former lords say that we are good for nothing except 
under strict discipline administered by dynasts and 
hereditary nobles. If that is true, it is all over 
with us; unless some dictator shall take pity on us 
and give us a modest place among the nations with 
a great past and a small future. If we are worthy 
of our name we must be born again of the Spirit. 
Merely to conceive this is in itself an achievement 
for a people; to carry it out, to embody the con¬ 
ception in a new order of society, is at once a test 
and an achievement. 

Our social ethics must take up a new position. 
Hitherto—stripping off the usual rhetorical phrases— 
it has taken its stand on two effective and really 
driving principles, those of Duty and of Success; 
two side-views of Individualism. All else, including 
love of one’s neighbour, sense of solidarity, faith, 
spiritual cultivation, feeling for Nature, was (apart 
from a few lofty spirits) merely subsidiary; means 



to an end, convention or falsehood. There were few 
whose careers were not influenced by these estimates; 
the majority of the upper classes was wholly under 
their dominion. 

The two goals of our wishes, to have something 
and to be something, were expressed by the whole 
outward aspect of society. The great object was not 
to be counted as a Tom, Dick or Harry, one who had 
less, or was less, than others. There were grades of 
being, grades of human being : it was possible to be 
something, to be much, to be little, or to be nothing 
at all. From the white collar to the pearl necklace, 
from the good nursery to the saloon car, from the 
watch-ribbon to the sword-belt, from the place at 
the ordinary to the title of Excellency, everything 
was a proof of what one had, or was, or believed 
oneself to be. If one did not know a man one must 
not speak to him; if one knew him, one might borrow 
a hundred marks from him, but one must not ask 
him for a penny. Whoever had wealth displayed it 
in order to be admired; whoever had a social position 
displayed his unapproachability and the weight of 
his dignity, as, for instance, when with an absent 
look and lost in the burden of his own existence he 
entered a dining-hall. From inferiors one demanded 
a degrading attitude and forms of speech, and pre¬ 
sented to them a face of stone; towards those in 
higher position one came to life and displayed an 
attentive civility. It was—or shall we say is?— 
permissible to lavish in an hour the monthly income 



of a poor family. “ One had it to spend ” and 
“ what business was it of theirs ? ” In the lower 
ranks there was much of genuine revolt against these 
abuses and also much envy and malice, much open 
imitation, and much of secret admiration. Every 
silly craze was cheapened in hideous imitations, the 
suburb and the village made a display which in 
quality, indeed, fell below the model, but in quantity 
not at all. 

It may be said that these were excrescences or city 
fashions; that one must not generalize. These are 
empty phrases. To understand the spirit of a society 
it is not hermits that one must study. And, more¬ 
over, let any one ask himself whether this society 
was really based on the idea of solidarity and human 
friendliness or upon unscrupulous personal interests 
and exploitation, on shows and shams, on the demand 
for service and the claim to command. If anything 
can explain the eagerness with which we Germans 
flung ourselves into a war whose origins we did 
not know and did not want to know, then besides 
the conscious objects, advantage, rehabilitation, and 
renown, we must also take into account the obscure 
impulse of the national conscience which in the midst 
of evil individualism and of personal and class egoism 
yearned for the sense of solidarity and fusion. 

Is it objected that all this lies deeply rooted in 
human nature, that it has been there from time 
immemorial, and it is impossible to alter it at one 
stroke ? Pedantic drivel 1 Many things lie deep in 



human nature, and it depends on which of these the 
will chooses to develop. And who talked of altering 
things at one stroke ? Our judgment of values is to 
be transformed, and if human nature never changed, 
much that now flaunts itself in the sunshine would 
be creeping in the shade. This transformation of 
judgment is a matter of recognizing things for what 
they are. When pomp, extravagance, exclusiveness, 
frivolity and fastness, greed, place-hunting and vulgar 
envy are looked on with the same eyes as aberrations 
in other provinces of life, then we shall not indeed 
have abolished all vice, but the atmosphere will be 
purified. Look at our sturdy Socialists of the 
November days 1 and proselytes of every description : 
you can see that the acquisition of a new judgment 
of values may be the affair of an hour 1 And for that 
reason one must not criticize them too closely—unless 
they try to make a profit out of their conversion. 

All social judgments presuppose a system of recog¬ 
nized values. The values of Christian ethics have 
never penetrated deeply into the collective judgment 
of mankind; even in the mediaeval bloom of Christian, 
or rather of ecclesiastical, culture the moral concep¬ 
tions of Christianity remained the possession of a few 
chosen spirits and communities; society in general 
accepted the mythical element, did homage to the 
hierarchy, and remained ethically pagan, the upper 
classes being guided by a code of honour resting on 
the worship of courage. The Churches never made 

1 1918, when the revolution in Germany broke out at Kiel. 



any serious effort to shape an ethical code; they 
were preoccupied with the teaching of dogmas of faith 
which carried them ever farther and farther from the 
groundwork of the Gospels, and they devoted whatever 
surplus energies they had to politics, and to accommo¬ 
dations with the ruling powers of the world. 

The cult of courage imposed on and exercised by 
the ruling classes, and symbolically imaged in their 
code of honour, took an effective shape in the ban¬ 
ning of cowardice and of cowardly crime. So far as 
positive values go, the ethics of nobility degenerated 
into smartness, the claim for “ satisfaction ” and the 
exclusiveness of rank; a Prussian and Kantian 
abstraction, the conception of duty, a conception at 
bottom unproved and incapable of generating con¬ 
viction, became a rule of life, made effective by 
training and control. The ruling powers and their 
controls have given way, and their dry brittleness is 

We have not succeeded in finding a substitute for 
social ethics in an idealized type of national character. 
The imagination of the Western nations, like those of 
antiquity, has shaped ideal types which they believe 
or would wish themselves to resemble; they know 
what they mean by “ esprit gaulois,” or “ English 
character,” or “ American Democracy,” while, in 
accordance with the problematic character of our 
being, we Germans, except for the statuesque heroes 
of legendary times, or certain historic but inimitable 
figures, have conceived or poetically created no 



character of which we can say that it embodies the 
collective spirit of Germany. 

The super-ethical doctrine of the being, the growth 
and the empire of the soul has been laid down by us, 
but there are as yet few into whose consciousness it 
has penetrated; the transformation of thought and 
feeling which must proceed from it will not lay hold 
of the masses directly, but will filter continually from 
one social stratum to another. 

The recognized values of social judgment 1 It sounds 
so abstract, so remote from practice, that one might 
well believe we were landed again in the cloudland of 
festal oratory and the emotions of the leading article. 
The voluntary recognition of an invisible authority ! 
And this after we have shattered the visible, and are 
living in the midst of intellectual anarchy and moral 
Nihilism 1 And yet moral valuations, simple, binding, 
and on the level of social judgment, are near enough 
to be within our grasp. 

Are not all the four quarters of the world to-day 
talking about Democracy? Have not we ourselves 
got tired of this word, forbidden till a year ago—tired, 
even in circles where the modest word “ Liberal ** was 
never pronounced without a frown ? And what does 
Democracy mean ? Do we take it in the merely nega¬ 
tive sense, that one is no longer obliged to put up with 
things ? Or in the meagre sense, that responsibility goes 
by favour, and that the majority must decide? Or 
the dubious sense, that we are yearning to make our 
way through a sham Socialism to the Dollar Republic ? 



It is not the form of government, it is the form of 
society, that determines the spirit of a land. There 
is no democratic form of society, for democracy can 
be in league with capitalism, with socialism, or even 
with the class of clubs and castes. The unspoken 
fundamental conception which gives significance and 
stability both to the forms of a democratic constitu¬ 
tion and to those of an organic society is called Soli¬ 
darity—that is to say, cohesion and the sense of com¬ 
munity. Solidarity means that each man does not 
come first in his own eyes, but before God and State 
and himself each man must stand and be answerable 
for all, and all for each. 

In this sense of solidarity the dominion of the 
majority over the minority is not an object to be 
striven for but an evil to be avoided; the true object 
of a solid democracy is the dominion of a people over 
itself, not by reckoning up the relative strength of its 
various interests, but by virtue of the spirit and of the 
will which it sets free. In this sense of solidarity no 
society can be based on hereditary monopolies either 
of capital or of cultivation; nor can it be delivered 
over to the terrorism of vocations and unions which, 
under the leaderships of shouters, claim the right 
whenever they please, to strangle indispensable indus¬ 
tries; nor can it be based on demagogic flattery of 
excitable mobs. Every born man must from his 
cradle onwards have the same right to existence; he 
must be sheltered and fostered as he grows up, and 
be free to choose his lot. Every occupation must be 



open to him, except that he must not encroach on the 
sphere of another man’s liberty. The standard of his 
activity is not to be fixed by birth or privilege or force 
or cunning or the glib tongue, but again, by spirit 
and by will. 

To-day, while cultivation of the spirit is still a class- 
monopoly, it cannot form any standard of creative 
capacity. And yet it has been demonstrated that so 
powerful is the passion for culture in a spirit which 
is in any degree qualified for it, that even to-day it is 
capable, by self-education, of surmounting some of 
the artificial barriers. There was not, to my know¬ 
ledge, any illiterate among the Prussian or German 
Ministers of the new era, and the one of them who 
excused his deficiencies of language with the class- 
monopoly of education was in the wrong, for any 
man of normal capacity might in ten years* practice 
of popular oratory have learned the elements of 

When access to the cultivation of the German 
spirit has become a common right of the whole people, 
Culture will become, if not the sign at least the pre¬ 
supposition of creative activity. The proof of 
capacity will then cease to be settled either between 
agitators and the masses, or in the dimness of privi¬ 
leged chanceries, but in the productive competition 
of men of high intellectual endowment. 

Society will not be divided by classes and castes, 
it will not be graded according to pedigree or posses¬ 
sions, it will not be ruled by separate interests; by 



ideas or by the masses; it will be an ordered body— 
ordered by spirit, by will, by service and responsibility. 

Any one who does not accept this self-created and 
self-renewing order, and who at the same time rejects 
the old, is simply working for the dominion of force 
and chance. A society can no more remain per¬ 
manently without order than the staff of a factory or 
the crew of a ship. Only instead of an organic order 
we may have an accidental and arbitrary, an order of 
the personal type, springing from the dexterity shown 
in some favourable moment, maintaining itself by 
force, and seeking to perpetuate itself in some form of 
hereditary oligarchy. 

An order of the priestly and hierarchical type is no 
longer thinkable to-day, nor can one of the peasant 
type come into question in a land of urban industry. 
Whoever wishes to see an organic self-determining and 
self-regenerating order of society, has therefore to 
choose between the military order, resting upon dis¬ 
ciplined bodily capacity, or the mercantile and capital¬ 
ist order which rests upon business-sense and egoistic 
alertness, or the demagogic order which rests upon 
the rhetorical domination of the masses, and does not 
last long as it soon turns to violence and oligarchy, 
or finally the order of culture, resting upon spirit, 
character, and education. 

This last is not merely the only suitable one for us 
and the only one which is worthy of our past; it will 
also in time become the general order of society pre¬ 
vailing over all the world. In the vision of this order 



we recognize the mission that Prussia neglected, 
though it lay within its grasp for a hundred 
years; what it neglected and the rock on which it 

The greatness of Prussian policy since 1713 lay in 
its premonition and appreciation of the principle of 
mechanism even before it became common to all 
the world. Organization and improvement, the war 
machine and money, science, practicality and con¬ 
scientiousness—all this is clearly mechanization seen 
from the political side. 

The early application of these principles was a 
stroke of genius far in advance of the then condition 
of the world. Seen from this standpoint, all the rest 
of the continental world, not yet mechanized, and 
burdened with the relics of medievalism, Cesarism 
and clericalism, seemed torpid and lost in illusions : 
arbitrary, inaccurate and slovenly. With short 
interruptions this Prusso-central point of view was 
maintained until the middle of the World-War; and 
not quite unjustly, for Prussia remained in every 
respect ahead of other powers in the department of 

For a hundred years the Prussian principles had a 
monopoly of success; elsewhere they were scarcely 
understood and much less imitated. Then came 

He took over the mechanistic principle and handled 
it as never a man had done before; he became the 
mechanizer of the world. At the same time he was 



something mightier than that: he was the heir of the 
French idea of spiritual and popular liberty. 

Prussia fell, and would have fallen, even if its 
mechanism had not grown rusty. Its leaders learnt 
their lessons from France and England, they set on 
foot a liberation of the people by departmental 
authority and a liberation of the spirit by the people; 
they put new life into the mechanism, and they con¬ 
quered with the help of England as we have lately 
seen France conquer with the help of America. 

But here came a parting of the ways. It was 
possible to pursue either the way of mechanization or 
that of the liberation of the spirit. Prussia did 
neither; it stood still. In the place of the liberation 
of the spirit came the reaction; in the place of 
mechanization came the bureaucracy. On the rest 
of the Continent, too, the movement for political 
mechanization was stifled, the force that stifled it 
being the uprising economic movement. 

Bismarck was aware of the untried forces that lay 
in the system of political mechanization. The world, 
as we looked at it from our Prussian window, seemed 
as loose and slovenly as ever, and it was so. Once 
again, with a mighty effort, the Prussian mechanism 
was revived and the movement of the bourgeoisie 
towards liberty and the life of the spirit was repressed. 
This was called “ realism ” in politics, and the esti¬ 
mate was a just one. There was no progress to be 
made with professional Liberalism; but with Krupp 
and Roon one organized victories. As in Frederick’s 


time the slovenly Continent had to give way, Prussia 
mounted to the climax of her fortunes, and won 

And again there was a parting of the ways; but 
this time there was no one to stand for civic and 
spiritual freedom. People believed they had all they 
wanted of it; democracy was discredited and broken, 
the professors were political realists, success followed 
the side of mechanization, which was rightly supposed 
to be linked with the dynasty, and mechanization in 
the economic sphere drew to its side the hope of gain. 

Bismarck died in the midst of anxieties, but to the 
end he had no scruples. The two systems of mechan¬ 
ization were at their zenith, and the other countries 
looked, in political affairs, as slovenly as ever. One 
was wearing itself out in parliamentary conflicts, 
another had no battle-cruisers, another was lacking 
in cannon, or in recruits, or in railways, or in finances; 
the trains never came in up to time, everywhere one 
found public opinion or the Press interfering in pro¬ 
cess of law or in the administration, everywhere there 
were scandals; in Prussian Germany alone was every¬ 
thing up to the mark. 

Only one thing was overlooked. The mechanization 
of economics had become a common possession for 
everybody. Starting from this and with the methods 
and experiences attached to it, it was possible also 
for other countries, if necessary, to mechanize their 
politics or, as we say now, to militarize them. And 
this could be done with even more life and vigour 



than in Prussia, whose organization was there believed 
to be inimitable and where the principle of mechanism 
was, as it were, stored up in tins and in some places 
was obviously getting mouldy. In the matter of 
Freedom, however, the other peoples were ahead of 
us, and to the political isolation of Prussia spiritual 
isolation was now added. 

In the encircling fog which prevailed on economic 
developments there was not a single statesman who 
recognized that Prussian principles had ceased to be a 
monopoly, or an advantage, not to mention a concep¬ 
tion of genius. This lack of perception was the 
political cause of the war. Instead of renewing our¬ 
selves inwardly through freedom and the spirit, and 
carrying on a defensive policy as quietly, discreetly, 
and inconspicuously as possible, we took to arming 
and hurrahing. Worse than any playing of false 
notes was the mistake we made in key and in tempo : 
D major, Allegro , Marcia , Fortissimo , with cymbals 
and trumpets ! 

To-day we have no longer a choice before us, only a 
decision. The period of mechanical Prussianization 
is over for us, the period of the mechanical policy of 
Force is over for all the world, although the heliographs 
of Versailles seem to reflect it high above the horizon. 
It is not a capitalistic Peace of God as imagined by the 
international police which has now begun; it is the 
social epoch. In this epoch the people will live and 
will range themselves according to the strength of the 
ideas which they stand for. 



It is not enough for us to become Germans instead 
of Prussians; not even if, as it were to be desired, we 
should succeed in rescuing from the collapse of Prussia 
her genuine virtues of practicality, order and duty. 
It is not enough to brew some soulless mixture out of 
the worn-out methods of the Western bourgeoisie and 
the unripe attempts of Eastern revolutionaries. It is 
not enough—no, it will lead us to destruction quicker 
than any one believes—to blunder along with the 
disgusting bickerings of interests and the complacent 
narrowness of officialism, talking one day of the rate 
of exchange, another of our debts, and the next of the 
food question, plugging one hole with the stopping of 
another and lying down at night with a sigh of relief: 
Well, something’s got done; all will come right. 

No, unthinking creatures that you are; nothing will 
come right until you drop your insincere chatter, 
your haggling, your agitating and compromising, and 
begin to think. Here is a people that has lost the 
basis of its existence, because, in its blind faith in 
authority, it staked that existence on prosperity and 
power; and both are gone. Do you want to stake our 
existence, on ships, soldiers, mines, trade-connexions, 
which we no longer possess, or upon the soil, of which 
we have not enough, or upon our broken will to work ? 
Are we to be the labour-serfs and the serfage stud- 
farm of the world ? Only on Thoughts and Ideals can 
our existence be staked. Where is your thought? 
Where is the thought of Germany ? 

We can and must live only by becoming what we 



were designed to be, what we were about to be, what 
we failed to become : a people of the Spirit, the Spirit 
among the peoples of mankind. That is the thought 
of Germany. 

This thought is shaping the New Society—the 
society of the spirit and the cultivation of the spirit, 
the only one which can hold its ground in the new 
epoch, and which fulfils it. 

This is why we have been endowed with a character 
whose will is weak in external things and strong in 
inward responsibility; why depth and understanding, 
practicality and uprightness, many-sidedness and 
individuality, power of work and invention, imagina¬ 
tion and aspiration have been bestowed upon us, in 
order that we may fulfil these things. For what do 
these qualities, as a whole, betoken? Not the con¬ 
queror, not the statesman, not the worldling, and not 
the man of business; it is a narrow and trivial misuse 
of all faculty for us to pretend to represent these types 
among the nations. They betoken the labourers of 
the spirit; and far as we are from being a nation of 
thinkers and poets, it is nevertheless our right and 
our high calling to be a thinking nation among the 

But on what, you may ask with scorn, is this think¬ 
ing nation to live? With all its wisdom, will it not 
be reduced to beggary and starvation ? 

No—it will live. That people which amid a century 
of world-revolution is able to form for itself a stable, 
well-balanced, ordered and highly developed form of 



society will be one that works and produces. All 
around there will be quarrelling and conflict, there 
will be little work and little production. For the 
next decade the question will be, not where is the 
demand but where is the supply? 

The countries are laid waste, as Germany was after 
the Thirty Years’ War; only we do not as yet recog¬ 
nize it, so long as the fever lasts we do not notice 
the decline. 

Production, thought-out and penetrated with spirit, 
on the part of a highly developed society, and com¬ 
bined with labour-fellowship, is more than valuable 
production or cheap production; it is something 
exemplary and essential. And this applies not only to 
production itself but to the methods of production, 
to the technique, the schooling, the organization, the 
manner of thinking. 

It is a petty thing to say that we were destroyed 
out of envy. Why did not envy destroy America 
and England? The world regarded us at once with 
admiration and with repulsion; with admiration for 
our systematic and laborious ways, with repulsion for 
our tradesman-like obtrusiveness, the brusque and 
dangerous character of our leadership and the osten¬ 
tatious servility with which we endured it. If it had 
been possible anywhere outside of our naked, mer¬ 
cantile and national egoism to discover a German idea, 
it would have been respected. 

The German idea of cultivation of the spirit will win 
something for us which we have not known for a 



century, and the scope of which we cannot yet measure; 
people will freely appreciate us, they will further us 
and follow us on our way. We have no idea what it 
means for a people to have these sympathetic forces 
at its side, as France had in its creation of forms, 
England and America in civilization and democracy, 
Russia in Slavonic orthodoxy and the neutral States 
in their internationalism. 

There is no fear : we shall live, and more than live. 
For the first time for centuries we shall again be con¬ 
scious of a mission, and around all our internal 
oppositions will be twined a bond which will be some¬ 
thing more than a bond of interest. 

The goal of the world-revolution upon which we have 
now entered means in its material aspect the melting 
of all strata of society into one. In its transcendental 
aspect it means redemption: redemption of the lower 
strata to freedom and to the spirit. No one can 
redeem himself but every one can redeem another. 
Class for class, man for man: thus is a people 
redeemed. Yet in each case there must be readiness 
and in each there must be good-will. 


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