Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis

Ludwig von Mises
Mises, Ludwig von
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J. Kahane, trans.
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Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, Inc.
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Foreword by Friedrich A. Hayek not available online
11 of 47


The Social Order and the Political Constitution

1 The Policy of Violence and the Policy of Contract


The domination of the principle of violence was naturally not restricted to the sphere of property. The spirit which put its trust in might alone, which sought the fundamentals of welfare, not in agreement, but in ceaseless conflict, permeated the whole of life. All human relations were settled according to the "Law of the Stronger," which is really the negation of Law. There was no peace; at best there was a truce.


Society grows out of the smallest associations. The circle of those who combined to keep the peace among themselves was at first very limited. The circle widened step by step through millennia, until the community of international law and the union of peace extended over the greatest part of humanity, excluding the half savage peoples who lived on the lowest plane of culture. Within this community the principle of contract was not everywhere equally powerful. It was most completely recognized in all that was concerned with property. It remained weakest in fields where it touched the question of political domination. Into the sphere of foreign policy it has so far penetrated no further than to limit the principle of violence by setting up rules of combat. Apart from the process of arbitration, which is a recent development, disputes between states are still, in essentials, derided by arms, the most usual of ancient judicial processes; but the deriding combat, like the judicial duels of the most ancient laws, must conform to certain rules. All the same, it would be false to maintain that in the intercourse of states, fear of foreign violence is the one factor that keeps the sword in its sheath.*39 Forces which have been active in the foreign policy of states through millennia have set the value of peace above the profit of victorious war. In our time even the mightiest war lord cannot isolate himself completely from the influence of the legal maxim that wars must have valid reasons. Those who wage war invariably endeavour to prove that theirs is the just cause and that they fight in defence or at least in preventive-defence; this is a solemn recognition of the principle of Law and Peace. Every policy which has openly confessed to the principle of violence has brought upon itself a world-coalition, to which it has finally succumbed.


In the Liberal Social Philosophy the human mind becomes aware of the overcoming of the principle of violence by the principle of peace. In this philosophy for the first time humanity gives itself an account of its actions. It tears away the romantic nimbus with which the exercise of power had been surrounded. War, it teaches, is harmful, not only to the conquered but to the conqueror. Society has arisen out of the works of peace; the essence of society is peacemaking. Peace and not war is the father of all things. Only economic action has created the wealth around us; labour, not the profession of arms, brings happiness. Peace builds, war destroys. Nations are fundamentally peaceful because they recognize the predominant utility of peace. They accept war only in self-defence; wars of aggression they do not desire. It is the princes who want war, because thus they hope to get money, goods, and power. It is the business of the nations to prevent them from achieving their desire by denying them the means necessary for making war.


The love of peace of the liberal does not spring from philanthropic considerations, as does the pacifism of Bertha Suttner*40 and of others of that category. It has none of the woebegone spirit which attempts to combat the romanticism of blood lust with the sobriety of international congresses. Its predilection for peace is not a pastime which is otherwise compatible with all possible convictions. It is the social theory of Liberalism. Whoever maintains the solidarity of the economic interests of all nations, and remains indifferent to the extent of national territories and national frontiers, whoever has so far overcome collectivist notions that such an expression as "Honour of the State" sounds incomprehensible to him, that man will nowhere find a valid cause for wars of aggression. Liberal pacificism is the offspring of the Liberal Social Philosophy. That Liberalism aims at the protection of property and that it rejects war are two expressions of one and the same principle.*41

2 The Social Function of Democracy


In internal politics Liberalism demands the fullest freedom for the expression of political opinion and it demands that the State shall be constituted according to the will of the majority; it demands legislation through representatives of the people, and that the government, which is a committee of the people's representatives, shall be bound by the Laws. Liberalism merely compromises when it accepts a monarchy. Its ideal remains the republic or at least a shadow-principality of the English type. For its highest political principle is the self-determination of peoples as of individuals. It is idle to discuss whether one should call this political ideal democratic or not. The more recent writers are inclined to assume a contrast between Liberalism and Democracy. They seem to have no clear conceptions of either; above all, their ideas as to the philosophical basis of democratic institutions seem to be derived exclusively from the ideas of natural law.


Now it may well be that the majority of liberal theories have endeavoured to recommend democratic institutions on grounds which correspond to the theories of natural law with regard to the inalienable fight of human beings to self-determination. But the reasons which a political movement gives in justification of its postulates do not always coincide with the reasons which force them to be uttered. It is often easier to act politically than to see clearly the ultimate motives of one's actions. The old Liberalism knew that the democratic demands rose inevitably from its system of social philosophy. But it was not at all clear what position these demands occupied in the system. This explains the uncertainty it has always manifested in questions of ultimate principle; it also accounts for the measureless exaggeration which certain pseudo-democratic demands have enjoyed at the hands of those who ultimately claimed the name democrat for themselves alone and who thus became contrasted with liberals who did not go so far.


The significance of the democratic form of constitution is not that it represents more nearly than any other the natural and inborn rights of man; not that it realizes, better than any other kind of government, the ideas of liberty and equality. In the abstract it is as little unworthy of a man to let others govern him as it is to let someone else perform any kind of labour for him. That the citizen of a developed community feels free and happy in a democracy, that he regards it as superior to all other forms of government, and that he is prepared to make sacrifices to achieve and maintain it, this, again, is not to be explained by the fact that democracy is worthy of love for its own sake. The fact is that it performs functions which he is not prepared to do without.


It is usually argued that the essential function of democracy is the selection of political leaders. In the democratic system the appointment to at least the most important public offices is decided by competition in all the publicity of political life, and in this competition, it is believed, the most capable are bound to win. But it is difficult to see why democracy should necessarily be luckier than autocracy or aristocracy in selecting people for directing the state. In nondemocratic states, history shows, political talents have frequently won through, and one cannot maintain that democracy always puts the best people into office. On this point the enemies and the friends of democracy will never agree.


The truth is that the significance of the democratic form of constitution is something quite different from all this. Its function is to make peace, to avoid violent revolutions. In non-democratic states, too, only a government which can count on the backing of public opinion is able to maintain itself in the long run. The strength of all governments lies not in weapons but in the spirit which puts the weapons at their disposal. Those in power, always necessarily a small minority against an enormous majority, can attain and maintain power only by making the spirit of the majority pliant to their rule. If there is a change, if those on whose support the government depends lose the conviction that they must support this particular government, then the ground is undermined beneath it and it must sooner or later give way. Persons and systems in the government of non-democratic states can be changed by violence alone. The system and the individuals that have lost the support of the people are swept away in the upheaval and a new system and other individuals take their place.


But any violent revolution costs blood and money. Lives are sacrificed, and destruction impedes economic activity. Democracy tries to prevent such material loss and the accompanying psychical shock by guaranteeing accord between the will of the state—as expressed through the organs of the state—and the will of the majority. This it achieves by making the organs of the state legally dependent on the will of the majority of the moment. In internal policy it realizes what pacifism seeks to realize in external policy.*42


That this alone is the decisive function of democracy becomes clearly evident when we consider the argument which opponents of the democratic principle most frequently adduce against it. The Russian conservative is undoubtedly right when he points out that Russian Tsarism and the policy of the Tsar was approved by the great mass of the Russian people, so that even a democratic state form could not have given Russia a different system of government. Russian democrats themselves have had no delusions about this. As long as the majority of the Russian people or, better, of that part of the people which was politically mature and which had the opportunity to intervene in policy—as long as this majority stood behind tsardom, the empire did not suffer from the absence of a democratic form of constitution. This lack became fatal, however, as soon as a difference arose between public opinion and the political system of tsardom. State will and people's will could not be adjusted pacifically; a political catastrophe was inevitable. And what is true of the Russia of the Tsar is just as true of the Russia of the Bolshevists; it is just as true of Prussia, of Germany, and of every other state. How disastrous were the effects of the French Revolution, from which France has psychically never quite recovered! How enormously England has benefited from the fact that she has been able to avoid revolution since the seventeenth century!


Thus we see how mistaken it is to regard the terms democratic and revolutionary as synonymous or even as similar. Democracy is not only not revolutionary, but it seeks to extirpate revolution. The cult of revolution, of violent overthrow at any price, which is peculiar to Marxism, has nothing whatever to do with democracy. Liberalism, recognizing that the attainment of the economic aims of man presupposes peace, and seeking therefore to eliminate all causes of strife at home or in foreign politics, desires democracy. The violence of war and revolutions is always an evil to liberal eyes, an evil which cannot always be avoided as long as man lacks democracy. Yet even when revolution seems almost inevitable Liberalism tries to save the people from violence, hoping that philosophy may so enlighten tyrants that they will voluntarily renounce rights which are opposed to social development. Schiller speaks with the voice of Liberalism when he makes the Marquis de Posa implore the king for liberty of thought; and the great night of August 4th, 1789, when the French feudal lords voluntarily renounced their privileges, and the English Reform Act of 1832, show that these hopes were not quite vain. Liberalism has no admiration to spare for the heroic grandiosity of Marxism's professional revolutionaries, who stake the lives of thousands and destroy values which the labour of decades and centuries has created. Here the economic principle holds good: Liberalism wants success at the smallest price.


Democracy is self-government of the people; it is autonomy. But this does not mean that all must collaborate equally in legislation and administration. Direct democracy can be realized only on the smallest scale. Even small parliaments cannot do all their work in plenary assemblies; committees must be chosen, and the real work is done by individuals; by the proposers, the speakers, the rapporteurs, and above all by the authors of the bills. Here then is final proof of the fact that the masses follow the leadership of a few men. That men are not all equal, that some are born to lead and some to be led is a circumstance which even democratic institutions cannot alter. We cannot all be pioneers: most people do not wish to be nor have they the necessary strength. The idea that under the purest form of democracy people would spend their days in council like the members of a parliament derives from the conception we had of the ancient Greek city State at its period of decay; but we overlook the fact that such communities were not in fact democracies at all, since they excluded from public life the slaves and all who did not possess full citizen rights. Where all are to collaborate, the "pure" ideal of direct democracy becomes impracticable. To want to see democracy realized in this impossible form is nothing less than pedantic natural law doctrinairianism. To achieve the ends for which democratic institutions strive it is only necessary that legislation and administration shall be guided according to the will of the popular majority and for this purpose indirect democracy is completely satisfactory. The essence of democracy is not that everyone makes and administers laws but that lawgivers and rulers should be dependent on the people's will in such a way that they may be peaceably changed if conflict occurs.


This defeats many of the arguments, put forward by friends and opponents of popular rule, against the possibility of realizing democracy.*43 Democracy is not less democracy because leaders come forth from the masses to devote themselves entirely to politics. Like any other profession in the society dividing labour, politics demand the entire man; dilettante politicians are of no use.*44 As long as the professional politician remains dependent on the will of the majority, so that he can carry out only that for which he has won over the majority, the democratic principle is satisfied. Democracy does not demand, either that parliament shall be a copy, on a reduced scale, of the social stratification of the country, consisting, where peasant and industrial labourers form the bulk of the population, mainly of peasants and industrial labourers.*45 The gentleman of leisure who plays a great role in the English parliament, the lawyer and journalist of the parliaments of the Latin countries probably represent the people better than the trade union leaders and peasants who have brought spiritual desolation to the German and Slav parliaments. If members of the higher social ranks were excluded from parliaments, those parliaments and the governments emanating from them could not represent the will of the people. For in society these higher ranks, the composition of which is itself the result of a selection made by public opinion, exert on the minds of the people an influence out of all proportion to their mere numbers. If one kept them from parliament and public administration by describing them to the electors as men unfit to rule, a conflict would have arisen between public opinion and the opinion of parliamentary bodies, and this would make more difficult, if not impossible, the functioning of democratic institutions. Non-parliamentary influences make themselves felt in legislation and administration, for the intellectual power of the excluded cannot be stifled by the inferior elements which lead in parliamentary life. Parliamentarism suffers from nothing so much as from this; we must seek here the reason for its much deplored decline. For democracy is not mob rule, and to do justice to its tasks, parliament should include the best political minds of the nation.


Grave injury has been done to the concept of democracy by those who, exaggerating the natural law notion of sovereignty, conceived it as limitless rule of the volonté générale (general will). There is really no essential difference between the unlimited power of the democratic state and the unlimited power of the autocrat. The idea that carries away our demagogues and their supporters, the idea that the state can do whatever it wishes, and that nothing should resist the will of the sovereign people, has done more evil perhaps than the caesar-mania of degenerate princelings. Both have the same origin in the notion of a state based purely on political might. The legislator feels free of all limitations because he understands from the theory of law that all law depends on his will. It is a small confusion of ideas, but a confusion with profound consequences, when he takes his formal freedom to be a material one and believes himself to be above the natural conditions of social life. The conflicts which arise out of this misconception show that only within the framework of Liberalism does democracy fulfil a social function. Democracy without Liberalism is a hollow form.

3 The Ideal of Equality


Political democracy necessarily follows from Liberalism. But it is often said that the democratic principle must eventually lead beyond Liberalism. Carried out strictly, it is said, it will require economic as well as political rights of equality. Thus logically Socialism must necessarily evolve out of Liberalism, while Liberalism necessarily involves its own destruction.


The ideal of equality, also, originated as a demand of natural law. It was sought to justify it with religious, psychological, and philosophical arguments; but all these proved to be untenable. The fact is that men are endowed differently by nature; thus the demand that all should be equally treated cannot rest on any theory that all are equal. The poverty of the natural law argument is exposed most clearly when it deals with the principle of equality.


If we wish to understand this principle we must start with an historical examination. In modern times, as earlier, it has been appealed to as a means of sweeping away the feudal differentiation of individuals' legal rights. So long as barriers hinder the development of the individual and of whole sections of the people, social life is bound to be disturbed by violent upheavals. People without rights are always a menace to social order. Their common interest in removing such barriers unites them; they are prepared to resort to violence because by peaceable means they are unable to get what they want. Social peace is attained only when one allows all members of society to participate in democratic institutions. And this means equality of All before the Law.


Another consideration too urges upon Liberalism the desirability of such equality. Society is best served when the means of production are in the possession of those who know how to use them best. The gradation of legal rights according to accident of birth keeps production goods from the best managers. We all know what role this argument has played in liberal struggles, above all in the emancipation of the serfs. The soberest reasons of expediency recommend equality to Liberalism. Liberalism is fully conscious, of course, that equality before the Law can become extremely oppressive for the individual under certain circumstances, because what benefits one may injure another; the liberal idea of equality is however based on social considerations, and where these are to be served the susceptibilities of individuals must give way. Like all other social institutions, the Law exists for social purposes. The individual must bow to it, because his own aims can be served only in and with society.


The meaning of legal institutions is misunderstood when they are conceived to be anything more than this, and when they are made the basis of new claims which are to be realized at whatever cost to the aim of social collaboration. The equality Liberalism creates is equality before the Law; it has never sought any other. From the liberal point of view, therefore, criticism which condemns this equality as inadequate—maintaining that true equality is full equality of income through equal distribution of commodities—is unjustified.


But it is precisely in this form that the principle of equality is most acclaimed by those who expect to gain more than they lose from an equal distribution of goods. Here is a fertile field for the demagogue. Whoever stirs up the resentment of the poor against the rich can count on securing a big audience. Democracy creates the most favourable preliminary conditions for the development of this spirit, which is always and everywhere present, though concealed.*46 So far all democratic states have foundered on this point. The democracy of our own time is hastening towards the same end.


It is a strange fact that just that idea of equality should be called unsocial which considers equality only from the point of view of the interests of society as a whole, and which wants to see it achieved only in so far as it helps society to attain its social aims; while the view which insists that equality, regardless of the consequences, implies a claim to an equal quota of the national income is put forward as the only view inspired by consideration for society. In the Greek city State of the fourth century the citizen considered himself lord of the property of all the subjects of the State and he demanded his part imperiously, as a shareholder demands his dividends. Referring to the practice of distributing common property and confiscated private property, Aeschines made the following comment: "The Athenians come out of the Ecclesia not as out of a political assembly but as from the meeting of a company in which the surplus profit has been distributed."*47 It cannot be denied that even to-day the common man is inclined to look on the State as a source from which to draw the utmost possible income.


But the principle of equality in this form by no means follows necessarily from the democratic idea. It should not be recognized as valid a priori any more than any other principle of social life. Before one can judge it, its effects must be clearly understood. The fact that it is generally very popular with the masses and therefore finds easy recognition in a democratic state neither makes it a fundamental principle of democracy nor protects it from the scrutiny of the theorist.

4 Democracy and Social-Democracy


The view that democracy and Socialism are inwardly related spread far and wide in the decades which preceded the Bolshevist revolution. Many came to believe that democracy and Socialism meant the same thing, and that democracy without Socialism or Socialism without democracy would not be possible.


This notion sprang principally from a combination of two chains of thought, both of which sprang originally from the Hegelian philosophy of history. For Hegel world history is "progress in the consciousness of freedom." Progress takes place in this way: "... the Orientals only knew that one is free, the Greek and Roman world that some are free, but we know that all men are free as such, that man is free as man."*48 There is no doubt that the freedom of which Hegel spoke was different from that for which the radical politicians of his day were fighting. Hegel took ideas which were common to the political doctrines of the epoch of enlightenment and intellectualized them. But the radical young Hegelians read into his words what appealed to them. For them it was certain that the evolution to Democracy was a necessity in the Hegelian sense of this term. The historians follow suit. Gervinus sees "by and large in the history of humanity," as "in the internal evolution of the states," "a regular progress ... from the spiritual and civil freedom of the single individual to that of the Several and the Many."*49


The materialist conception of history provides the idea of the "liberty of the many" with a different content. The Many are the proletarians; they must necessarily become socialists because consciousness is determined by the social conditions. Thus evolution to democracy and evolution to Socialism are one and the same thing. Democracy is the means towards the realization of Socialism, but at the same time Socialism is the means towards the realization of democracy. The party title, "Social Democracy," most clearly expresses this co-ordination of Socialism and democracy. With the name democracy the socialist workers' party took over the spiritual inheritance of the movements of Young Europe. All the slogans of the pre-March*50 radicalism are to be found in the Social-Democratic Party programmes. They recruit, for the party, supporters who feel indifferent to or are even repulsed by the demands of Socialism.


The relation of Marxist Socialism to the demand for democracy was determined by the fact that it was the Socialism of the Germans, the Russians, and the smaller nations which lived under the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and the empire of the Tsars. Every opposition party in these more or less autocratic states had to demand democracy first of all, so as to create the conditions that must precede the development of political activity. For the Social Democrats this practically excluded democracy from discussion; it would never have done to cast a doubt on the democratic ideology pro foro externo.


But the question of the relation between the two ideas expressed in its double name could not be completely suppressed within the party. People began by dividing the problem into two parts. When they spoke of the coming socialist paradise they continued to maintain the interdependence of the terms and even went a little farther and said that they were ultimately one. Since one continued to regard democracy as in itself a good thing, one could not—as a faithful socialist awaiting absolute salvation in the paradise-to-be—arrive at any other conclusion. There would be something wrong with the land of promise if it were not the best imaginable from a political point of view. Thus socialist writers did not cease to proclaim that only in a socialist society could true democracy exist. What passed for democracy in the capitalist states was a caricature designed to cover the machinations of exploiters.


But although it was seen that Socialism and democracy must meet at the goal, nobody was quite certain whether they were to take the same road. People argued over the problem whether the realization of Socialism—and therefore, according to the views just discussed, of democracy too—was to be attempted through the instrumentality of democracy or whether in the struggle one should deviate from the principles of democracy. This was the celebrated controversy about the dictatorship of the proletariat; it was the subject of academic discussion in Marxist literature up to the time of the Bolshevist revolution and has since become a great political problem.


Like all other differences of opinion which divide Marxists into groups, the quarrel arose from the dualism which cuts right through that bundle of dogmas called the Marxist system. In Marxism there are always two ways at least of looking at anything and everything, and the reconciliation of these views is attained only by dialectic artificialities. The commonest device is to use, according to the needs of the moment, a word to which more than one meaning may be attached. With these words, which at the same time serve as political slogans to hypnotize the mass psyche, a cult suggestive of fetishism is carried on. The Marxist dialectic is essentially word-fetishism. Every article of the faith is embodied in a word fetish whose double or even multiple meaning makes it possible to unite incompatible ideas and demands. The interpretation of these words, as intentionally ambiguous as the words of the Delphic Pythia, eventually brings the different parties to blows, and everyone quotes in his favour passages from the writings of Marx and Engels to which authoritative importance is attached.


"Revolution" is one of these words. By "industrial revolution" Marxism means the gradual transformation of the pre-capitalist way of production into the capitalist. "Revolution" here means the same as "development," and the contrast between the terms "evolution" and "revolution" is almost extinguished. Thus the Marxist is able, when it pleases him, to speak of the revolutionary spirit as contemptible "putschism" ("insurrectionism"). The revisionists were quite right when they called many passages in Marx and Engels to their support. But when Marx calls the workers' movement a revolutionary movement and says that the working class is the only true revolutionary class, he is using the term in the sense that suggests barricades and street fights. Thus syndicalism is also right when it appeals to Marx.


Marxism is equally obscure in the use of the word State. According to Marxism, the State is merely an instrument of class domination. By acquiring political power the proletariat abolishes class conflict and the State ceases to exist. "As soon as there is no longer any social class to be kept in suppression, and as soon as class domination and the struggle for individual existence based on the hitherto existing anarchy of production are removed, along with the conflicts and excesses which arise from them, then there will be nothing more to repress and nothing that would make necessary a special repressive power, a state. The first act in which the State really appears as representative of the whole society—the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society—is simultaneously its last independent act as a state. The intervention of state power in social affairs becomes superfluous in one field after another until at last it falls asleep of its own accord."*51 However obscure or badly thought out may be its view of the essence of political organization, this statement is so positive in what it says of the proletarian rule that it would seem to leave no room for doubt. But it seems much less positive when we remember Marx's assertion that between the capitalist and the communist societies must lie a period of revolutionary transformation, in addition to which there will be a corresponding "political period of transition whose state can be no other than the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat."*52 If we assume, with Lenin, that this period is to endure until that "higher phase of communist society" is reached, in which "the enslaving subordination of individuals under the division of labour has vanished, and with it the contrast of mental and physical work," in which "work will have become not only a means to life but itself the first necessity of life," then of course we come to a very different conclusion with regard to Marxism's attitude to democracy.*53 Obviously the socialist community will have no room for democracy for centuries to come.


Although it occasionally comments on the historical achievements of Liberalism, Marxism entirely overlooks the importance of liberal ideas. It is at a loss when it comes to deal with the liberal demands for liberty of conscience and expression of opinion, for the recognition on principle of every opposition party and the equal rights of all parties. Wherever it is not in power, Marxism claims all the basic liberal rights, for they alone can give it the freedom which its propaganda urgently needs. But it can never understand their spirit and will never grant them to its opponents when it comes into power itself. In this respect it resembles the Churches and other institutions which rest on the principle of violence. These, too, exploit the democratic liberties when they are fighting their battle, but once in power they deny their adversaries such rights. So, plainly, the democracy of Socialism exposes its deceit. "The party of the communists," says Bukharin, "demands no sort of liberties for the bourgeois enemies of the people. On the contrary." And with remarkable cynicism he boasts that the communists, before they were in power, advocated the liberty of expression of opinion merely because it would have been "ridiculous" to demand from the capitalists liberty for the workers' movement in any other way than by demanding liberty in general.*54


Always and everywhere Liberalism demands democracy at once, for it believes that the function which it has to fulfil in society permits of no postponement. Without democracy the peaceful development of the state is impossible. The demand for democracy is not the result of a policy of compromise or of a pandering to relativism in questions of world-philosophy,*55 for Liberalism asserts the absolute validity of its doctrine. Rather, it is the consequence of the Liberal belief that power depends upon a mastery over mind alone and that to gain such a mastery only spiritual weapons are effective. Even where for an indefinite time to come it may expect to reap only disadvantages from democracy, Liberalism still advocates democracy. Liberalism believes that it cannot maintain itself against the will of the majority; and that in any case the advantages which might accrue from a liberal regime maintained artificially and against the feeling of the people would be infinitesimal compared to the disturbances that would stay the quiet course of state development if the people's will were violated.


The Social Democrats would certainly have continued to juggle with the catchword democracy, but, by an historical accident, the Bolshevist revolution has compelled them prematurely to discard their mask, and to reveal the violence which their doctrine implies.

5 The Political Constitution of Socialist Communities


Beyond the dictatorship of the proletariat lies the paradise, the "higher phase of the communist society," in which, "with the all round development of individuals, the productive forces will also have increased, and all the springs of social wealth will flow more freely."*56 In this land of promise "there will remain nothing to repress, nothing which would necessitate a special repressive power, a state ... In place of the government over persons comes the administration of things and the direction of productive processes."*57 An epoch will have begun in which "a generation, grown up in new, free social conditions, will be able to discard the whole lumber of State."*58 The working class will have gone, thanks to "long struggles, a whole series of historical processes," by which "the men, like the conditions, were completely transformed."*59 Thus society is able to exist without coercion, as once it did in the Golden Age. Of this Engels has much to relate, much that is beautiful and good.*60 Only we have read it all before, all better and more beautifully expressed in Virgil, Ovid, and Tacitus!

Aurea prima sara est aetas, quae vindice nullo,
    sponte sua, sine lege fidem rectumque colebat.
Poena metusque aberant, nec verba minantia fixo
    aere legebantur*61
(The first golden age flourished, which begat truth and justice spontaneously;
No laws of formal guarantees were needed. Punishment and fear were unheard of; no savage, restrictive decrees were carved on bronze tablets.)


It follows from all this that the Marxists have no occasion to occupy themselves with problems concerned with the political constitution of the socialist community. In this connection they perceive no problems at all which cannot be dismissed by saying nothing about them. Yet even in the socialist community the necessity of acting in common must raise the question of how to act in common. It will be necessary to decide how to form that which is usually called, metaphorically, the will of the community or the will of the people. Even if we overlooked the fact that there can be no administration of goods which is not administration of men—i.e. the bending one human will to another—and no direction of productive processes which is not the government over persons—i.e. domination of one human will by another*62—even if we overlooked this we should still have to ask who is to administer the goods and direct the productive processes, and on what principles. Thus, once again we are beset by all the political problems of the legally regulated social community.


All historical attempts to realize the socialist ideal of society have a most pronounced authoritarian character. Nothing in the Empire of the Pharaohs or of the Incas, and nothing in the Jesuit State of Paraguay was suggestive of democracy, of self-determination by the majority of the people. The Utopias of all the older kinds of socialists were equally undemocratic. Neither Plato nor Saint-Simon were democrats. One finds nothing in history or in the literary history of socialist theory which shows an internal connection between the socialist order of society and political democracy.


If we look closer we find that the ideal of the higher phase of communist society, ripening only in remote distances of the future, is, as the Marxists view it, thoroughly undemocratic.*63 Here, too, the socialist intends that eternal peace shall reign—the goal of all democratic institutions. But the means by which this peace is to be gained are very different from those employed by the democrats. It will not rest on the power to change peacefully rulers and ruling policy, but on the fact that the regime is made permanent, and that rulers and policy are unchangeable. This, too, is peace; not the peace of progress which Liberalism strives to attain but the peace of the graveyard. It is not the peace of pacifists but of pacifiers, of men of violence who seek to create peace by subjection. Every absolutist makes such peace by setting up an absolute domination, and it lasts just as long as his domination can be maintained. Liberalism sees the vanity of all this. It sets itself, therefore, to make a peace which will be proof against the perils which threaten it on account of man's inextinguishable yearning for change.

Notes for this chapter

As, for instance, Lasson maintains (Prinzip und Zukunft des Völkerrechts, Berlin, 1871), p. 35.
Bertha Suttner (1843-1914) was an Austrian author, pacifist, and 1905 Nobel Peace Prize recipient (Pub.).
In their efforts to debit capitalism with all evil, the socialists have tried to describe even modern imperialism and thus world war as products of capitalism. It is probably unnecessary to deal more fully with this theory, put forward for the unthinking masses. But it is not inappropriate to recall that Kant represented the facts correctly when he expected the growing influence of "money power" would gradually diminish warlike tendencies. "It is the spirit of commerce," he says, "which cannot exist side by side with war" (Kant, "Zum ewigen Frieden," vol. 5, Sämtliche Werke, p. 688); see also Sulzbach, Nationales Gemeinschaftsgefühl und wirtschaftliches Interesse (Leipzig, 1929), pp. 80 ff. Publisher's Note: In English, "Perpetual Peace." In On History. Immanuel Kant, ed. Lewis White Beck (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1963), p. 114.
In some sense it is, perhaps, not altogether an accident that the writer who, at the threshold of the Renaissance, first raised the democratic demand for legislation by the people—Marsilius of Padua—called his work Defensor Pacis (Atger, Essai sur l'Histoire des Doctrines du Contrat Social [Paris, 1906], p. 75; Scholz, "Marsilius von Padua und die Idee der Demokratie" [Zeitschrift fur Politik, 1908], vol. 1, pp. 66 ff.
See, on the one hand, especially the writings of the advocates of the Prussian authoritarian state; on the other, above all, the syndicalists (Michels, Zur Soziologie des Parteiwesens in der modernen Demokratie, 2nd ed. [Leipzig, 1925]), pp. 463 ff.
Max Weber, Politik als Beruf (Munich and Leipzig, 1920), pp. 17 ff.
The natural-law theories of democracy, which fail to appreciate the essentials of the division of labor, cling to the idea of the "representation" of electors by elected. It was not difficult to show how artificial was this concept. The member of parliament who makes laws for me and controls for me the administration of the postal system, no more "represents" me than the doctor who heals me or the cobbler who makes shoes for me. What differentiates him essentially from the doctor and the cobbler is not that he fulfills services of a different kind for me but that if I am dissatisfied with him I cannot withdraw the care of my affairs from him in the same simple way I can dismiss a doctor or a cobbler. To get that influence in government which I have over my doctor and shoemaker I want to be an elector.
To this extent one can say with Proudhon: "La democratie c'est l'envie" ("Democracy is envy") (Poehlmann, Geschichte der sozialen Frage und des Sozialismus in der antiken Welt, vol. 1, p. 317, fn. 4).
Ibid., vol. 1, p. 333
Hegel, Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Weltgeschichte, ed. Lasson (Leipzig, 1917), vol. l, p. 40.
Gervinus, Einleitung in die Geschichte des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts (Leipzig, 1853), p. 13.
i.e., German radicalism before the revolution of 1848 (Trans.).
Engels, Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft, 7th ed. (Stuttgart, 1910), p. 302. Publisher's Note: in English, see Anti-Dühring: Herr Eugen Dühring's Revolution in Science (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1954), p. 389.
Marx, Zur Kritik des sozialdemokratischen Parteiprogramms von Gotha, ed. Kreibich (Reichenberg, 1920), p. 23. Publisher's Note: In English, see Critique of the Gotha Programme, rev. trans. (New York: International Publishers, 1938), p. 18, or in Capital, the Communist Manifesto and Other Writings, ed. and introd. Max Eastman (New York: Random House, Modern Library, 1932). p. 355.
Ibid., p. 17; also V. I. Lenin, Staat und Revolution (Berlin, 1918), p. 89. Publisher's Note: In English, see Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme, p. 10. or p. 7 in the Eastman anthology; also Lenin, "The State and Revolution," in Selected Work in Two Volumes (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1952), vol. 2, pt. 1, pp. 199-325. The reference cited here is p. 290 in this English translation.
Bukharin, Das Programm der Kommunisten (Bolschewiki) (Zurich, 1918), pp. 24 ff. Publisher's Note: For an English translation, see Program of the Communists, Bolshevists, 1918.
As is the opinion of Kelsen, "Vom Wesen und Wert der Demokratie," in Archiv für Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, vol. 47, P. 84; also Menzel, "Demokratie und Weltanschauung," in Zeitschrift für öffentliches Recht, vol. 2, pp. 701 ff.
Marx, op. cit., p. 17. Publisher's Note: In English, see Critique of the Gotha Programme, rev. trans. (New York: International Publishers, 1938), p. 10, or Marx, Capital, the Communist Manifesto and Other Writings, ed. and introd. Max Eastman (New York: Random House, Modern Library, 1932), p. 7.
Engels, op. cit., p. 302. Publisher's Note: In the English, op. cit., p. 389.
"Engels, Preface to Marx, Der Bürgerkrieg in Frankreich, Politische Aktions-Bibliothek (Berlin, 1919), p. 16. Publisher's Note: In English, see Engels, "Introduction to the German Edition" of Marx's "The Civil War in France" (1871), in Marx, Capital, the Communist Manifesto and Other Writings, ed. and introd. Max Eastman (New York: Random House, Modern Library, 1932), p. 381.
Marx, Der Bürgerkrieg, p. 54. Publisher's Note: In English, see p. 408 of Eastman anthology cited in fn. 19.
Engels, Der Ursprung der Familie, des Privateigentums und des Staates, 20th ed. (Stuttgart, 1921), pp. 163 ff. Publisher's Note: In English, see Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (New York: International Publishers, 1972), pp. 162 ff.
Ovid, Metamorphoses, I, pp. 89 ff.; also Virgil, Aeneid, VII, pp. 203 ff.; Tacitus, Annal, III, p. 26; Poehlmann, Geschichte der sozialen Frage und des Sozialismus in der antiken Welt, vol. 2, pp. 583 ff.
Bourguin, Die sozialistischen Systeme und die wirtschaftliche Entwicklung, trans. Katenstein (Tübingen, 1906), pp. 70 ff.; Kelsen, Sozialismus und Staat, 2nd ed. (Leipzig, 1923), p. 105.
Also Bryce, Moderne Demokratien, trans. Loewenstein and Mendelssohn Bartholdy (Munich, 1926), vol. 3, pp. 289 ff. Publisher's Note: In English, see James Bryce, Modern Democracies (New York: Macmillan, 1921), 2 vols.

End of Notes

12 of 47


The Social Order and the Family

1 Socialism and the Sexual Problem


Proposals to transform the relations between the sexes have long gone hand in hand with plans for the socialization of the means of production. Marriage is to disappear along with private property, giving place to an arrangement more in harmony with the fundamental facts of sex. When man is liberated from the yoke of economic labour, love is to be liberated from all the economic trammels which have profaned it. Socialism promises not only welfare—wealth for all—but universal happiness in love as well. This part of its programme has been the source of much of its popularity. It is significant that no other German socialist book was more widely read or more effective as propaganda than Bebel's Woman and Socialism, which is dedicated above all to the message of free love.


It is not strange that many should feel the system of regulating sexual relations under which we live to be unsatisfactory. This system exerts a far reaching influence in diverting those sexual energies, which are at the bottom of so much human activity, from their purely sexual aspect to new purposes which cultural development has evolved. Great sacrifices have been made to build up this system and new sacrifices are always being made. There is a process which every individual must pass through in his own life if his sexual energies are to cast off the diffuse form they have in childhood and take their final mature shape. He must develop the inner psychic strength which impedes the flow of undifferentiated sexual energy and like a dam alters its direction.


A part of the energy with which nature has endowed the sexual instinct is in this way turned from sexual to other purposes. Not everyone escapes unscathed from the stress and struggle of this change. Many succumb, many become neurotic or insane. Even the man who remains healthy and becomes a useful member of society is left with scars which an unfortunate accident may re-open.*64 And even though sex should become the source of his greatest happiness, it will also be the source of his deepest pain; its passing will tell him that age has come, and that he is doomed to go the way of all transient, earthly things. Thus sex, which seems ever and again to fool man by giving and denying, first making him happy and then plunging him back into misery, never lets him sink into inertia. Waking and dreaming man's wishes turn upon sex. Those who sought to reform society could not have overlooked it.


This was the more to be expected since many of them were themselves neurotics suffering from an unhappy development of the sexual instinct. Fourier, for example, suffered from a grave psychosis. The sickness of a man whose sexual life is in the greatest disorder is evident in every line of his writings; it is a pity that nobody has undertaken to examine his life history by the psycho-analytic method. That the crazy absurdities of his books should have circulated so widely and won the highest commendation is due entirely to the fact that they describe with morbid fantasy the erotic pleasures awaiting humanity in the paradise of the "phalanstère."


Utopianism presents all its ideals for the future as the reconstruction of a Golden Age which humanity has lost through its own fault. In the same way it pretends that it is demanding for sexual life only a return to an original felicity. The poets of antiquity are no less eloquent in their praises of marvellous, bygone times of free love than when they speak of the saturnian ages when property did not exist.*65 Marxism echoes the older Utopians.


Marxism indeed seeks to combat marriage just as it seeks to justify the abolition of private property, by attempting to demonstrate its origin in history; just as it looked for reasons for abolishing the State in the fact that the State had not existed "from eternity," that societies had lived without a vestige of "State and State power."*66 For the Marxist, historical research is merely a means of political agitation. Its use is to furnish him with weapons against the hateful bourgeois order of society. The main objection to this method is not that it puts forward frivolous, untenable theories without thoroughly examining the historical material, but that he smuggles an evaluation of this material into an exposition which pretends to be scientific. Once upon a time, he says, there was a golden age. Then came one which was worse, but supportable. Finally, Capitalism arrived, and with it every imaginable evil. Thus Capitalism is damned in advance. It can be granted only a single merit, that thanks to the excess of its abominations, the world is ripe for salvation by Socialism.

2 Man and Woman in the Age of Violence


Recent ethnographical and historical research has provided a wealth of material on which to base a judgment of the history of sexual relations, and the new science of psycho-analysis has laid the foundations for a scientific theory of sexual life. So far sociology has not begun to understand the wealth of ideas and material available from these sources. It has not been able to restate the problems in such a way that they are adjusted to the questions that should be its first study today. What it says about exogamy and endogamy, about promiscuity, not to mention matriarchy and patriarchy, is quite out of touch with the theories one is now entitled to put forward. In fact, sociological knowledge of the earliest history of marriage and the family is so defective that one cannot draw on it for an interpretation of the problems which occupy us here. It is on fairly secure ground where it is dealing with conditions in historical times but nowhere else.


Unlimited rule of the male characterizes family relations where the principle of violence dominates. Male aggressiveness, which is implicit in the very nature of sexual relations, is here carried to the extreme. The man seizes possession of the woman and holds this sexual object in the same sense in which he has other goods of the outer world. Here woman becomes completely a thing. She is stolen and bought; she is given away, sold away, ordered away; in short, she is like a slave in the house. During life the man is her judge; when he dies she is buried in his grave along with his other possessions.*67 With almost absolute unanimity the older legal sources of almost every nation show that this was once the lawful state of affairs. Historians usually try, especially when dealing with the history of their own nations, to soften the painful impression which a description of these conditions leaves on a modern mind. They point out that practice was milder than the letter of the law, that the harshness of the law did not cloud the relations between the married couple. For the rest, they get away as quickly as possible from a subject which does not seem to fit too well into their system, by dropping a few remarks about the ancient severity of morals and purity of family life.*68 But these attempts at justification, to which their nationalist point of view and a predilection for the past seduce them, are distorted. The conception afforded by the old laws and law books of the relations between man and woman is not a theoretical speculation of unworldly dreamers. It is a picture direct from life and reproduces exactly what men, and women too, believed of marriage and intercourse between the sexes. That a Roman woman who stood in the "manus" of the husband or under the guardianship of the clan, or an ancient German woman who remained subject to the "munt" all her life, found this relation quite natural and just, that they did not revolt against it inwardly, or make any attempt to shake off the yoke—this does not prove that a broad chasm had developed between law and practice. It only shows that the institution suited the feeling of women; and this should not surprise us. The prevailing legal and moral views of a time are held not only by those whom they benefit but by those, too, who appear to suffer from them. Their domination is expressed in that fact—that the people from whom they claim sacrifices also accept them. Under the principle of violence, woman is the servant of man. In this she too sees her destiny. She shares the attitude to which the New Testament has given the most terse expression:

Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.*69


The principle of violence recognizes only the male. He alone possesses power, hence he alone has rights. Woman is merely a sexual object. No woman is without a lord, be it father or guardian, husband or employer. Even the prostitutes are not free; they belong to the owner of the brothel. The guests make their contracts, not with them, but with him. The vagabond woman is free game, whom everyone may use according to his pleasure. The right to choose a man herself does not belong to the woman. She is given to the husband and taken by him. That she loves him is her duty, perhaps also her virtue; the sentiment will sharpen the pleasure which a man derives from marriage. But the woman is not asked for her opinion. The man has the right to repudiate or divorce her; she herself has no such right.


Thus in the age of violence, belief in man's lordship triumphs over all older tendencies to evolve equal rights between the sexes. Legend preserves a few traces of a time when woman enjoyed a greater sexual freedom—the character of Brünhilde, for example—but these are no longer understood. But the dominion of man is so great that it has come into conflict with the nature of sexual intercourse and for sheer sexual reasons man must, in his own interest, eventually weaken this dominion.


For it is against nature that man should take woman as a will-less thing. The sexual act is a mutual give and take, and a merely suffering attitude in the woman diminishes man's pleasure. To satisfy himself he must awaken her response. The victor who has dragged the slave into his marriage bed, the buyer who has traded the daughter from her father must court for that which the violation of the resisting woman cannot give. The man who outwardly appears the unlimited master of his woman is not so powerful in the house as he thinks; he must concede a part of his rule to the woman, even though he ashamedly conceals this from the world.


To this is added a second factor. The sexual act gradually becomes an extraordinary psychic effort which succeeds only with the assistance of special stimuli. This becomes more and more so in proportion as the individual is compelled by the principle of violence, which makes all women owned women and thus renders more difficult sexual intercourse, to restrain his impulses and to control his natural appetites. The sexual act now requires a special psychic attitude to the sexual object. This is love, unknown to primitive man and to the man of violence, who use every opportunity to possess, without selection. The characteristic of love, the overvaluation of the object, cannot exist when women occupy the position of contempt which they occupy under the principle of violence. For under this system she is merely a slave, but it is the nature of love to conceive her as a queen.


Out of this contrast arises the first great conflict in the relations of the sexes which we can perceive in the full light of history. Marriage and love become contradictory. The forms in which this contrast appears vary, but in essence it always remains the same. Love has entered the feelings and thoughts of men and women and becomes ever more and more the central point of psychic life, giving meaning and charm to existence. But at first it has nothing to do with marriage and the relations between husband and wife. This inevitably leads to grave conflicts, conflicts which are indeed revealed to us in the epic and lyric poetry of the age of chivalry. These conflicts are familiar to us because they are immortalized in imperishable works of art and because they are still treated by epigones and by that art which takes its themes from such primitive conditions as persist at the present day. But we moderns cannot grasp the essence of the conflict. We cannot understand what is to prevent a solution which would satisfy all parties, why the lovers must remain separated and tied to those they do not love. Where love finds love, where man and woman desire nothing except to be allowed to remain forever devoted to each other, there, according to our view of the matter everything should be quite simple. The kind of poetry which deals with no other situation than this can, under the circumstances of present day life, do nothing less than bring Hansel and Gretel*70 into each other's arms, a denouement which is no doubt calculated to delight the readers of novels, but which is productive of no tragic conflict.


If, without knowledge of the literature of the age of chivalry, and basing our judgment merely on information about the relations of the sexes derived from other sources, we tried to picture for ourselves the psychic conflict of chivalric gallantry, we should probably imagine a situation in which a man is torn between two women: one his wife, to whom is bound the fate of his children; the other the lady to whom belongs his heart. Or we should delineate the position of a wife neglected by her husband, who loves another. Yet nothing would lie farther from an age dominated by the principle of violence. The Greek who divided his time between the hetaeras (prostitutes or courtesans) and love-boys by no means felt that his relationship with his wife was a psychic burden, and she herself did not see in the love given to the courtesan any encroachment on her own rights. Neither the troubadour who devoted himself wholly to the lady of his heart nor his wife who waited patiently at home suffered under the conflict between love and marriage. Both Ulrich von Lichtenstein*71 and his good housewife found the chivalrous "Minnedienst" just as it should be. In fact, the conflict in chivalrous love was of an altogether different nature. When the wife granted the utmost favours to another the rights of the husband were injured. However eagerly he himself set out to win the favours of other women, he would not tolerate interference in his property rights, he would not hear of anyone possessing his woman. This is a conflict based on the principles of violence. The husband is offended, not because the love of his wife is directed away from him, but because her body, which he owns, is to belong to others. Where, as so often in antiquity and the orient, the love of man sought not the wives of others but prostitutes, female slaves, and love-boys, all standing outside society, a conflict could not arise. Love forces the conflict only from the side of male jealousy. The man alone, as owner of his wife, can claim to possess completely. The wife has not the same right over her husband. In the essentially different judgment bestowed upon the adultery of a man and the adultery of a woman and in the different manner in which husband and wife regard the adultery of one another, we see today the remnants of that code, which is otherwise already incomprehensible to us.


Under such circumstances, as long as the principle of violence rules, the impulse to love is denied an opportunity to develop. Banished from the homely hearth it seeks out all manner of hiding places, where it assumes queer forms. Libertinage grows rampant, perversions of the natural instincts become more and more common. Conditions are conducive to the spread of venereal diseases. Whether syphilis was indigenous to Europe or whether it was introduced after the discovery of America is a questionable point. Whatever the truth, we know that it began to ravage Europe like an epidemic about the beginning of the sixteenth century. With the misery it brought, the love play of chivalric romanticism was at an end.

3 Marriage Under the Influence of the Idea of Contract


Nowadays only one opinion is expressed about the influence which the "economic" has exercised on sexual relations; it is said to have been thoroughly bad. The original natural purity of sexual intercourse has, according to this view, been tainted by the interference of economic factors. In no field of human life has the progress of culture and the increase of wealth had a more pernicious effect. Prehistoric men and women paired in purest love; in the pre-capitalist age, marriage and family life were simple and natural, but Capitalism brought money marriages and mariages des convenances on the one hand, prostitution and sexual excesses on the other. More recent historical and ethnographic research has demonstrated the fallacy of this argument and has given us another view of sexual life in primitive times and of primitive races. Modern literature has revealed how far from the realities of rural life was our conception, even only a short while ago, of the simple morals of the countryman. But the old prejudices were too deep-rooted to have been seriously shaken by this. Besides, socialistic literature, with the assistance of its peculiarly impressive rhetoric, sought to popularize the legend by giving it a new pathos. Thus today few people do not believe that the modern view of marriage as a contract is an insult to the essential spirit of sexual union and that it was Capitalism which destroyed the purity of family life.


For the scientist it is difficult to know what attitude he should take to a method of treating such problems which is founded on high-minded sentiments rather than on a discernment of the facts.


What is Good, Noble, Moral, and Virtuous the scientist as such is not able to judge. But he must at least correct the accepted view on one important point. The ideal of sexual relations of our age is utterly different from that of early times, and no age has come nearer to attaining its ideal than ours. The sexual relations of the good old times seem thoroughly unsatisfactory when measured by this, our, ideal; therefore, this ideal must have arisen from just that evolution which is condemned by the current theory as being responsible for the fact that we have failed to attain our ideal completely. Hence it is clear that the prevailing doctrine does not represent the facts; that, indeed, it turns the facts upside down and is entirely valueless in an attempt to understand the problem.


Where the principle of violence dominates, polygamy is universal. Each man has as many wives as he can defend. Wives are a form of property, of which it is always better to have more than few. A man endeavours to own more wives, just as he endeavours to own more slaves or cows; his moral attitude is the same, in fact, for slaves, cows, and wives. He demands fidelity from his wife; he alone may dispose of her labour and her body, himself remaining free of any ties whatever. Fidelity in the male implies monogamy.*72 A more powerful lord has the right to dispose also of the wives of his subjects.*73 The much discussed Jus Primae Noctis was an echo of these conditions, of which a final development was the intercourse between father-in-law and daughter-in-law in the "joint-family" of the Southern Slavs.


Moral reformers did not abolish polygamy, neither did the Church at first combat it. For centuries Christianity raised no objections to the polygamy of the barbarian kings. Charlemagne kept many concubines.*74 By its nature polygamy was never an institution for the poor man; the wealthy and the aristocratic could alone enjoy it.*75 But with the latter it became increasingly complex according to the extent to which women entered marriage as heiresses and owners, were provided with rich dowries, and were endowed with greater rights in disposing of the dowry. Thus monogamy has been gradually enforced by the wife who brings her husband wealth and by her relatives—a direct manifestation of the way in which capitalist thought and calculation has penetrated the family. In order to protect legally the property of wives and their children a sharp line is drawn between legitimate and illegitimate connection and succession. The relation of husband and wife is acknowledged as a contract.*76


As the idea of contract enters the Law of Marriage, it breaks the rule of the male, and makes the wife a partner with equal rights. From a one-sided relationship resting on force, marriage thus becomes a mutual agreement; the servant becomes the married wife entitled to demand from the man all that he is entitled to ask from her. Step by step she wins the position in the home which she holds today. Nowadays the position of the woman differs from the position of the man only in so far as their peculiar ways of earning a living differ. The remnants of man's privileges have little importance. They are privileges of honour. The wife, for instance, still bears her husband's name.


This evolution of marriage has taken place by way of the law relating to the property of married persons. Woman's position in marriage was improved as the principle of violence was thrust back, and as the idea of contract advanced in other fields of the Law of Property it necessarily transformed the property relations between the married couple. The wife was freed from the power of her husband for the first time when she gained legal rights over the wealth which she brought into marriage and which she acquired during marriage, and when that which her husband customarily gave her was transformed into allowances enforceable by law.


Thus marriage, as we know it, has come into existence entirely as a result of the contractual idea penetrating into this sphere of life. All our cherished ideals of marriage have grown out of this idea. That marriage unites one man and one woman, that it can be entered into only with the free will of both parties, that it imposes a duty of mutual fidelity, that a man's violations of the marriage vows are to be judged no differently from a woman's, that the rights of husband and wife are essentially the same—these principles develop from the contractual attitude to the problem of marital life. No people can boast that their ancestors thought of marriage as we think of it today. Science cannot judge whether morals were once more severe than they are now. We can establish only that our views of what marriage should be are different from the views of past generations and that their ideal of marriage seems immoral in our eyes.


When panegyrists of the good old morality execrate the institution of divorce and separation they are probably right in asserting that no such things existed formerly. The right to cast off his wife which man once possessed in no way resembles the modern law of divorce. Nothing illustrates more clearly the great change of attitude than the contrast between these two institutions. And when the Church takes the lead in the struggle against divorce, it is well to remember that the existence of the modern marriage ideal of monogamy—of husband and wife with equal rights—in the defence of which the Church wishes to intervene, is the result of capitalist, and not ecclesiastical, development.

4 The Problems of Married Life


In the modern contractual marriage, which takes place at the desire of husband and wife, marriage and love are united. Marriage appears morally justified only when it is concluded for love; without love between the bridal couple it seems improper. We find strange those royal weddings which are arranged at a distance, and in which, as in most of the thinking and acting of the ruling Houses, the age of violence is echoed. The fact that they find it necessary to represent these marriages to the public as love marriages shows that even royal families have not been able to escape the bourgeois marriage ideal.


The conflicts of modern married life spring first of all from the necessarily limited duration of passion in a contract concluded for life. "Die Leidenschaft flieht, die Liebe muss bleiben" ("Passion flies, love must remain"), says Schiller, the poet of bourgeois married life. In most marriages blessed with children, married love fades slowly and unnoticeably; in its place develops a friendly affection which for a long time is interrupted ever and again by a brief flickering of the old love; living together becomes habitual, and in the children, in whose development they relive their youth, the parents find consolation for the renunciation they have been forced to make as old age deprives them of their strength.


But this is not so for all. There are many ways by which man may reconcile himself to the transience of the earthly pilgrimage. To the believer, religion brings consolation and courage; it enables him to see himself as a thread in the fabric of eternal life, it assigns to him a place in the imperishable plan of a world creator, and places him beyond time and space, old age and death, high in the celestial pastures. Others find satisfaction in philosophy. They refuse to believe in a beneficent providence, the idea of which conflicts with experience; they disdain the easy solace to be derived from an arbitrary structure of fantasies, from an imaginary scheme designed to create the illusion of a world order different from the order they are forced to recognize around them. But the great mass of men takes another way. Dully and apathetically they succumb to everyday life; they never think beyond the moment, but become slaves of habit and the passions. Between these, however, is a fourth group, consisting of men who do not know where or how to find peace. Such people can no longer believe because they have eaten of the tree of knowledge; they cannot smother their rebellious hearts in apathy; they are too restless and too unbalanced to make the philosophic adjustment to realities. At any price they want to win and hold happiness. With all their might they strain at the bars which imprison their instincts. They will not acquiesce. They want the impossible, seeking happiness not in the striving but in the fulfillment, not in the battle but in victory.


Such natures cannot tolerate marriage when the wild fire of the first love has begun to die. They make the highest demands upon love itself and they exaggerate the overvaluation of the sexual object. Thus they are doomed, if only for physiological reasons, to experience sooner than more moderate people disappointment in the intimate life of marriage. And this disappointment can easily change to revulsion. Love turns to hate. Life with the once beloved becomes a torment. He who cannot content himself, who is unwilling to moderate the illusions with which he entered a marriage of love, who does not learn to transfer to his children, in sublimated form, those desires which marriage can no longer satisfy—that man is not made for marriage. He will break away from the bonds with new projects of happiness in love, again and again repeating the old experience.


But all this has nothing to do with social conditions. These marriages are not wrecked because the married couple live in the capitalist order of society and because the means of production are privately owned. The disease germinates not without, but within; it grows out of the natural disposition of the parties concerned. It is fallacious to argue that because such conflicts were lacking in precapitalist society, wedlock must then have provided what is deficient in these sick marriages. The truth is that love and marriage were separate and people did not expect marriage to give them lasting and unclouded happiness. Only when the idea of contract and consent has been imposed on marriage does the wedded couple demand that their union shall satisfy desire permanently. This is a demand which love cannot possibly meet. The happiness of love is in the contest for the favours of the loved one and in fulfillment of the longing to be united with her. We need not discuss whether such happiness can endure when physiological satisfaction is denied. But we know for certain that desire gratified, cools sooner or later and that endeavours to make permanent the fugitive hours of romance would be vain. We cannot blame marriage because it is unable to change our earthly life into an infinite series of ecstatic moments, all radiant with the pleasures of love. We should be equally wrong to blame the social environment.


The conflicts that social conditions cause in married life are of minor importance. It would be wrong to assume that loveless marriages made for the dowry of the wife or the wealth of the husband, or that marriages made miserable by economic factors are in any way as important an aspect of the question as the frequency with which literature treats of them would suggest. There is always an easy way out if people will only look for it.


As a social institution marriage is an adjustment of the individual to the social order by which a certain field of activity, with all its tasks and requirements, is assigned to him. Exceptional natures, whose abilities lift them far above the average, cannot support the coercion which such an adjustment to the way of life of the masses must involve. The man who feels within himself the urge to devise and achieve great things, who is prepared to sacrifice his life rather than be false to his mission, will not stifle his urge for the sake of a wife and children. In the life of a genius, however loving, the woman and whatever goes with her occupy a small place. We do not speak here of those great men in whom sex was completely sublimated and turned into other channels—Kant, for example—or of those whose fiery spirit, insatiable in the pursuit of love, could not acquiesce in the inevitable disappointments of married life and hurried with restless urge from one passion to another. Even the man of genius whose married life seems to take a normal course, whose attitude to sex does not differ from that of other people, cannot in the long run feel himself bound by marriage without violating his own self. Genius does not allow itself to be hindered by any consideration for the comfort of its fellows even of those closest to it. The ties of marriage become intolerable bonds which the genius tries to cast off or at least to loosen so as to be able to move freely. The married couple must walk side by side amid the rank and file of humanity. Whoever wishes to go his own way must break away from it. Rarely indeed is he granted the happiness of finding a woman willing and able to go with him on his solitary path.


All this was recognized long ago. The masses had accepted it so completely that anyone who betrayed his wife felt himself entitled to justify his action in these terms. But the genius is rare and a social institution does not become impossible merely because one or two exceptional men are unable to adjust themselves to it. No danger threatened marriage from this side.


The attacks launched against it by the Feminism of the Nineteenth Century seemed much more serious. Its spokesmen claimed that marriage forced women to sacrifice personality. It gave man space enough to develop his abilities, but to woman it denied all freedom. This was imputed to the unchangeable nature of marriage, which harnesses husband and wife together and thus debases the weaker woman to be the servant of the man. No reform could alter this; abolition of the whole institution alone could remedy the evil. Women must fight for liberation from this yoke, not only that she might be free to satisfy her sexual desires but so as to develop her individuality. Loose relations which gave freedom to both parties must replace marriage.


The radical wing of Feminism, which holds firmly to this standpoint, overlooks the fact that the expansion of woman's powers and abilities is inhibited not by marriage, not by being bound to man, children, and household, but by the more absorbing form in which the sexual function affects the female body. Pregnancy and the nursing of children claim the best years of a woman's life, the years in which a man may spend his energies in great achievements. One may believe that the unequal distribution of the burden of reproduction is an injustice of nature, or that it is unworthy of woman to be child-bearer and nurse, but to believe this does not alter the fact. It may be that a woman is able to choose between renouncing either the most profound womanly joy, the joy of motherhood, or the more masculine development of her personality in action and endeavour. It may be that she has no such choice. It may be that in suppressing her urge towards motherhood she does herself an injury that reacts through all other functions of her being. But whatever the truth about this, the fact remains that when she becomes a mother, with or without marriage, she is prevented from leading her life as freely and independently as man. Extraordinarily gifted women may achieve fine things in spite of motherhood; but because the functions of sex have the first claim upon woman, genius and the greatest achievements have been denied her.


So far as Feminism seeks to adjust the legal position of woman to that of man, so far as it seeks to offer her legal and economic freedom to develop and act in accordance with her inclinations, desires, and economic circumstances—so far it is nothing more than a branch of the great liberal movement, which advocates peaceful and free evolution. When, going beyond this, it attacks the institutions of social life under the impression that it will thus be able to remove the natural barriers, it is a spiritual child of Socialism. For it is a characteristic of Socialism to discover in social institutions the origin of unalterable facts of nature, and to endeavour, by reforming these institutions, to reform nature.

5 Free Love


Free love is the socialist's radical solution for sexual problems. The socialistic society abolishes the economic dependence of woman which results from the fact that woman is dependent on the income of her husband. Man and woman have the same economic rights and the same duties, as far as motherhood does not demand special consideration for the woman. Public funds provide for the maintenance and education of the children, which are no longer the affairs of the parents but of society. Thus the relations between the sexes are no longer influenced by social and economic conditions. Mating ceases to found the simplest form of social union, marriage and the family. The family disappears and society is confronted with separate individuals only. Choice in love becomes completely free. Men and women unite and separate just as their desires urge. Socialism desires to create nothing that is new in all this, but "would only recreate on a higher level of culture and under new social forms what was universally valid on a more primitive cultural level and before private ownership dominated society."*77


The arguments, sometimes unctuous and sometimes venomous, which are put forward by theologians and other moral teachers, are entirely inadequate as a reply to this programme. And most of the writers who have occupied themselves with the problems of sexual intercourse have been dominated by the monastic and ascetic ideas of the moral theologians. To them the sexual instinct is the absolute evil, sensuality is sin, voluptuousness is a gift of the devil, and even the thought of such things is immoral. Whether or not we uphold this condemnation of the sexual instinct depends entirely on our inclination and scale of values. The moralist's endeavour to attack or defend it from the scientific point of view is wasted labour. The limits of scientific method are misconceived when one attributes to it the role of judge and valuer; the nature of scientific method is misunderstood when it is expected to influence action not merely by showing the effectiveness of means to ends but also by determining the relative value of the ends themselves. The scientist treating ethical problems should, however, point out that we cannot begin by rejecting the sexual instinct as evil in itself and then go on to give, under certain conditions, our moral approval or toleration to the sexual act. The usual dictum condemning sensual pleasure in sexual intercourse but declaring nevertheless that the dutiful fulfillment of the debitum conjugale (conjugal duty) for the purpose of begetting successors is quite moral, springs from poverty-stricken sophistry. The married couple act in sensuality; no child has ever yet been begotten and conceived out of dutiful consideration for the State's need of recruits or taxpayers. To be quite logical, an ethical system which branded the act of procreation as shameful would have to demand complete and unconditional abstinence. If we do not wish to see life become extinct we should not call the source from which it is renewed a sink of vice. Nothing has poisoned the morals of modern society more than this ethical system which by neither condemning logically nor approving logically blurs the distinction between good and evil and bestows on sin a glittering allurement. More than anything it is to blame for the fact that the modern man vacillates aimlessly in questions of sexual morality, and is not even capable of properly appreciating the great problems of the relations between the sexes.


It is clear that sex is less important in the life of man than of woman. Satisfaction brings him relaxation and mental peace. But for the woman the burden of motherhood begins here. Her destiny is completely circumscribed by sex; in man's life it is but an incident. However fervently and whole-heartedly he loves, however much he takes upon himself for the woman's sake, he remains always above the sexual. Even women are finally contemptuous of the man who is utterly engrossed by sex. But woman must exhaust herself as lover and as mother in the service of the sexual instinct. Man may often find it difficult, in the face of all the worries of his profession, to preserve his inner freedom and so to develop his individuality, but it will not be his sexual life which distracts him most. For woman, however, sex is the greatest obstacle.


Thus the meaning of the feminist question is essentially woman's struggle for personality. But the matter affects men not less than women, for only in co-operation can the sexes reach the highest degree of individual culture. The man who is always being dragged by woman into the lower spheres of psychic bondage cannot develop freely in the long run. To preserve the freedom of inner life for the woman, this is the real problem of women; it is part of the cultural problem of humanity.


It was failure to solve this problem which destroyed the Orient. There woman is an object of lust, a childbearer and nurse. Every progressive movement which began with the development of personality was prematurely frustrated by the women, who dragged men down again into the miasma of the harem. Nothing separates East and West more decisively today than the position of women and the attitude towards woman. People often maintain that the wisdom of the Orientals has understood the ultimate questions of existence more profoundly than all the philosophy of Europe. At any rate the fact that they have never been able to free themselves in sexual matters has sealed the fate of their culture.


Midway between Orient and Occident the unique culture of the Greeks grew up. But antiquity also failed to raise woman to the level on which it had placed man. Greek culture excluded the married woman. The wife remained in the woman's quarters, apart from the world, nothing more than the mother of the man's heirs and the steward of his house. His love was for the hetaera alone. Eventually he was not satisfied even here, and turned to homosexual love. Plato sees the love of boys transfigured by the spiritual union of the lovers and by joyful surrender to the beauty of soul and body. To him the love of woman was merely gross sensual satisfaction.


To Western man woman is the companion, to the Oriental she is the bedfellow. European woman has not always occupied the position she occupies today. She has won it in the course of evolution from the principle of violence to the principle of contract. And now man and woman are equal before the law. The small differences that still exist in private law are of no practical significance. Whether, for example, the law obliges the wife to obey her husband is not particularly important; as long as marriage survives one party will have to follow the other and whether husband or wife is stronger is certainly not a matter which paragraphs of the legal code can decide. Nor is it any longer of great significance that the political rights of women are restricted, that women are denied the vote and the right to hold public office. For by granting the vote to women the proportional political strength of the political parties is not on the whole much altered; the women of those parties which must suffer from the changes to be expected (not in any case important ones) ought in their own interests to become opponents of women's suffrage rather than supporters. The right to occupy public office is denied women less by the legal limitations of their rights than by the peculiarities of their sexual character. Without underestimating the value of the feminists' fight to extend woman's civil rights, one can safely risk the assertion that neither women nor the community are deeply injured by the slights to women's legal position which still remain in the legislation of civilized states.


The misconception to which the principle of equality before the law is exposed in the field of general social relationships is to be found in the special field of the relations between those sexes. Just as the pseudo-democratic movement endeavours by decrees to efface natural and socially conditioned inequalities, just as it wants to make the strong equal to the weak, the talented to the untalented, and the healthy to the sick, so the radical wing of the women's movement seeks to make women the equal of men.*78 Though they cannot go so far as to shift half the burden of motherhood on to men, still they would like to abolish marriage and family life so that women may have at least all that liberty which seems compatible with childbearing. Unencumbered by husband and children, woman is to move freely, act freely, and live for herself and the development of her personality.


But the difference between sexual character and sexual destiny can no more be decreed away than other inequalities of mankind. It is not marriage which keeps woman inwardly unfree, but the fact that her sexual character demands surrender to a man and that her love for husband and children consumes her best energies. There is no human law to prevent the woman who looks for happiness in a career from renouncing love and marriage. But those who do not renounce them are not left with sufficient strength to master life as a man may master it. It is the fact that sex possesses her whole personality, and not the facts of marriage and family, which enchains woman. By "abolishing" marriage one would not make woman any freer and happier; one would merely take from her the essential content of her life, and one could offer nothing to replace it.


Woman's struggle to preserve her personality in marriage is part of that struggle for personal integrity which characterizes the rationalist society of the economic order based on private ownership of the means of production. It is not exclusively to the interest of woman that she should succeed in this struggle; to contrast the interests of men and women, as extreme feminists try to do, is very foolish. All mankind would suffer if woman should fail to develop her ego and be unable to unite with man as equal, freeborn companions and comrades.


To take away a woman's children and put them in an institution is to take away part of her life; and children are deprived of the most far-reaching influences when they are torn from the bosom of the family. Only recently Freud, with the insight of genius, has shown how deep are the impressions which the parental home leaves on the child. From the parents the child learns to love, and so comes to possess the forces which enable it to grow up into a healthy human being. The segregated educational institution breeds homosexuality and neurosis. It is no accident that the proposal to treat men and women as radically equal, to regulate sexual intercourse by the State, to put infants into public nursing homes at birth and to ensure that children and parents remain quite unknown to each other should have originated with Plato; he saw only the satisfaction of a physical craving in the relations between the sexes.


The evolution which has led from the principle of violence to the contractual principle has based these relations on free choice in love. The woman may deny herself to anyone, she may demand fidelity and constancy from the man to whom she gives herself. Only in this way is the foundation laid for the development of woman's individuality. By returning to the principle of violence with a conscious neglect of the contractual idea, Socialism, even though it aims at an equal distribution of the plunder, must finally demand promiscuity in sexual life.

6 Prostitution


The Communist Manifesto declares that the "complement" of the "bourgeois family" is public prostitution. "With the disappearance of capital" prostitution would also disappear.*79 A chapter in Bebel's book on woman is headed "Prostitution, a necessary social institution of the bourgeois world." Here is amplified the theory that prostitution is as necessary to bourgeois society as "police, standing army, church, entrepreneurs, etc."*80 Since its appearance the view that prostitution is a product of Capitalism has gained ground enormously. And as, in addition, preachers still complain that the good old morals have decayed, and accuse modern culture of having led to loose living, everyone is convinced that all sexual wrongs represent a symptom of decadence peculiar to our age.


In answer to this it is sufficient to point out that prostitution is an extremely ancient institution, unknown to hardly any people that has ever existed.*81 It is a remnant of ancient morals, not a symptom of the decay of higher culture. The most powerful influence against it today—the demand for man's abstinence outside marriage—is one of the principles involved in equal moral fights for man and woman, and is therefore altogether an ideal of the capitalist age. The age of the principle of violence demands sexual purity only from the bride, not from the bridegroom also. All those factors which favour prostitution today have nothing whatever to do with private property and Capitalism. Militarism, which keeps young men from marriage longer than they wish, is anything but a product of peace-loving Liberalism. The fact that government and other officials can only marry when they are rich, as otherwise they would not be able to keep up appearances, is, like all other caste fetishes, a vestige of pre-capitalist thought. Capitalism does not recognize caste or caste customs; under Capitalism everyone lives according to his income.


Some women prostitute themselves because they want men, some because they want food. With many both motives operate. One may admit without further discussion that in a society where incomes were equal the economic temptation to prostitution would cease completely or dwindle to a minimum. But it would be idle to speculate whether or not, in a society without inequalities of income, other new social sources of prostitution could not arise. At any rate one cannot merely assume that the sexual morality of a socialist society would be more satisfactory than that of capitalist society.


It is in the study of the relations between sexual life and property, more than in any other field of social knowledge, that our ideas must be clarified and remodelled. Contemporary treatment of this problem is fiddled with prejudices of all kinds. But the eyes with which we look at the matter must not be those of the dreamer envisioning a lost paradise, who sees the future in a blaze of rose-coloured light, and condemns all that goes on around us.

Notes for this chapter

Freud, Drei Abhandlungen zur Sexualtheorie, 2nd ed. (Leipzig and Vienna, 1910), pp. 38 ff. Publisher's Note: In English, see Freud, "Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality," in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (New York: Avon Books, 1965). This citation is found on pp. 53 ff.
Poehlmann, Geschichte der sozialen Frage und des Sozialismus in der antiken Welt, vol. 2, p. 576.
Engels, Der Ursprung der Familie, des Privateigentums und des Staates, p. 182. Publisher's Note: In English, see Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (New York: International Publishers, 1972), p. 232.
Westermarck, Geschichte der menschlichen Ehe, trans. Katscher and Grazer, 2nd ed. (Berlin, 1902), p. 122; Weinhold, Die deutschen Frauen in dem Mittelalter, 3rd ed. (Vienna, 1897), vol. 2, pp. 9 ff. Publisher's Note: The Westermarck book first appeared in English as The History of Human Marriage (1891).
For example, Weinhold, op. cit., pp. 7 ff.
I Cor xi.9.
The German edition refers to "Hans und Grete," not Hansel and Gretel, the brother and sister in the Grimm fairy tale. Most likely these names were merely like "John and Mary." (Pub.)
Ulrich von Lichtenstein, a thirteenth-century poet, caricatured the form of chivalry of a knight's homage to his mistress, "Minnedienst," in his Frauendienst (1255).
Weinhold, op. cit., 1st ed. (Vienna, 1851), pp. 292 ff.
Westermarck, op. cit., pp. 74 ff.; Weinhold, op. cit., 3rd ed. (Vienna), vol. 1, p. 273.
Schröder, Lehrbuch der deutschen Rechtsgeschichte, 3rd ed. (Leipzig, 1898), pp. 70, 110; Weinhold, op. cit., vol. 2, pp. 12 ff.
Tacitus, Germania, c. 17.
Marianne Weber, Ehefrau und Mutter in der Rechtsentwicklung (Tübingen, 1907), pp. 53 ff., 217 ff.
August Bebel, Die Frau und der Sozialismus, 16th ed. (Stuttgart, 1892), p. 343. Publisher's Note: English, see Bebel, Women and Socialism, auth. trans. Meta L. Stern (New York: Socialist Literature, 1910), p. 467.
To examine how far the radical demands of feminism were created by men and women whose sexual character was not normally developed would go beyond the limits set to these expositions.
Marx and Engels, Das Kommunistische Manifest, 7th German ed. (Berlin, 1906), p. 35. Publisher's Note: In English, see "The Communist Manifesto," in Marx, Capital, the Communist Manifesto and Other Writings, ed. and introd. Max Eastman (New York: Random House, Modern Library, 1932), pp. 315-355. The reference to prostitution is on page 340 of this English edition.
Bebel, op. cit., pp. 141 ff. Publisher's Note: In the English edition cited earlier, see pp. 274 ff.
Marianne Weber, op. cit., pp. 6 ff.

End of Notes

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