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3: Collectivism and Socialism - Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis 
Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, trans. J. Kahane, Foreword by F.A. Hayek (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1981).
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Collectivism and Socialism
The contrast between realism and nominalism which runs through the history of human thought since Plato and Aristotle is revealed also in social philosophy.28 The difference between the attitude of Collectivism and Individualism to the problem of social associations, is not different from the attitude of Universalism and Nominalism to the problem of the concept of species. But in the sphere of social science this contrast—to which in philosophy the attitude towards the idea of God has given a significance which extends far beyond the limits of scientific research—has the highest importance. The powers which are in existence and which do not want to succumb, find in the philosophy of Collectivism weapons for the defence of their rights. But even here Nominalism is a restless force seeking always to advance. Just as in the sphere of philosophy it dissolves the old concepts of metaphysical speculation, so here it breaks up the metaphysics of sociological Collectivism.
The political misuse of the contrast is clearly visible in the teleological form which it assumes in Ethics and Politics. The problem here is stated otherwise than in Pure Philosophy. The question is whether the individual or the community shall be the purpose.29 This presupposes a contrast between the purposes of individuals and those of the social whole, a contrast which only the sacrifice of the one in favour of the other can overcome. A quarrel over the reality or nominality of the concepts becomes a quarrel over the precedence of purposes. Here there arises a new difficulty for Collectivism. As there are various social collectiva, whose purposes seem to conflict just as much as those of the individuals contrast with those of the collectiva, the conflict of their interests must be fought out. As a matter of fact, practical Collectivism does not worry much about this. It feels itself to be only the apologist of the ruling classes and serves, as it were, as scientific policeman, on all fours with political police, for the protection of those who happen to be in power.
But the individualist social philosophy of the epoch of enlightenment disposed of the conflict between Individualism and Collectivism. It is called individualistic because its first task was to clear the way for subsequent social philosophy by breaking down the ideas of the ruling Collectivism. But it has not in any way replaced the shattered idols of Collectivism with a cult of the individual. By making the doctrine of the harmony of interests the starting point of sociological thought, it founded modem social science and showed that the conflict of purposes upon which the quarrel turned did not exist in reality. For society is only possible on these terms, that the individual finds therein a strengthening of his own ego and his own will.
The collectivist movement of the present day derives its strength not from an inner want on the part of modern scientific thought but from the political will of an epoch which yearns after Romanticism and Mysticism. Spiritual movements are revolts of thought against inertia, of the few against the many; of those who because they are strong in spirit are strongest alone against those who can express themselves only in the mass and the mob, and who are significant only because they are numerous. Collectivism is the opposite of all this, the weapon of those who wish to kill mind and thought. Thus it begets the “New Idol,” “the coldest of all cold monsters,” the State.30 By exalting this mysterious being into a sort of idol, decking it out in the extravagance of fantasy with every excellence and purifying it of all dross,31 and by expressing a readiness to sacrifice everything on its altar, Collectivism seeks consciously to cut every tie that unites sociological with scientific thought. This is most clearly discernible in those thinkers who exerted the keenest criticism to free scientific thought from all teleological elements, whilst in the field of social cognition they not only retained traditional ideas and teleological ways of thinking but even, by endeavouring to justify this, barred the way by which sociology could have won for itself the liberty of thought already achieved by natural science. No god and no ruler of Nature lives for Kant’s theory of cognition of nature, but history he regards “as the execution of a hidden plan of nature in order to bring about a state-constitution perfect inwardly—and, for this purpose, outwardly as well—as the only condition in which she can develop all her abilities in humanity.”32 In the words of Kant we can see with especial clearness the fact that modern Collectivism has nothing more to do with the old realism of concepts but rather, having arisen from political and not from philosophical needs, occupies a special position outside science which cannot be shaken by attacks based on the theory of cognition. In the second part of his Ideen zu einer Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit (Ideas to a Philosophy of the History of Humanity) Herder violently attacked the critical philosophy of Kant, which appeared to him as “Averroic” hypostasization of the general. Anyone who sought to maintain that the race, and not the individual, was the subject of education and civilization, would be speaking incomprehensibly, “as race and species are only general concepts, except in so far as they exist in the individual being.” Even if one attributed to this general concept all the perfections of humanity—culture and highest enlightenment—which an ideal concept permits, one would have “said just as little about the true history of our race, as I would if, speaking of animality, stoneness, metalness, in general, I were to ascribe to them the most glorious, but in single individuals self-conflicting, attributes.“33 In his reply to this Kant completes the divorce of ethical-political Collectivism from the philosophical concept-realism. “Whoever said that no single horse has horns but the species of horses is nevertheless horned would be stating a downright absurdity. For then species means nothing more than the characteristic in which all individuals must agree. But if the meaning of the expression ’the human species’ is—and this is generally the case—the whole of a series of generations going into the infinite (indefinable), and it is assumed that this series is continuously nearing the line of its destiny, which runs alongside of it, then it is no contradiction to say, that in all its parts it is asymptotic to it, yet on the whole meets it-in other words, that no link of all the generations of the human race but only the species attains its destiny completely. Mathematicians can elucidate this. The philosopher would say: the destiny of the human race as a whole is continuous progress, and the completion of this is a mere idea—but in all intention a useful idea—of the aim towards which we, according to the plan of Providence, have to direct our exertions.”34 Here the teleological character of Collectivism is frankly admitted, and there opens up an unbridgeable chasm between it and the way of thought of pure cognition. The cognition of the hidden intentions of Nature lies beyond all experience and our own thought gives us nothing upon which to form a conclusion as to whether it exists or what it contains. Such behaviour of individual man and of social systems as we are able to observe provides no basis for a hypothesis. No logical connection can be forged between experience and that which we shall or may suppose. We are to believe—because it cannot be proved—that against his will man does that which is ordained by Nature, who knows better; that he does what profits the race, not the individual.35 This is not the customary technique of science.
The fact is that Collectivism is not to be explained as a scientific necessity. Only the needs of politics can account for it. Therefore it does not stop, as conceptual realism stopped, at affirming the real existence of social associations—calling them organisms and living beings in the proper sense of the words—but idealizes them and makes them Gods. Gierke explains quite openly and unequivocally that one must hold fast to the “idea of the real unity of the community,” because this alone makes possible the demand that the individual should stake strength and life for Nation and State.36 Lessing has said that Collectivism is nothing less than “the cloak of tyranny.”37
If the conflict between the common interests of the whole and the particular interests of the individual really existed, men would be quite incapable of collaborating in society. The natural intercourse between human beings would be the war of all against all. There could be no peace or mutual sufferance, but only temporary truce, which lasted no longer than the weariness of one or all the parts made necessary. The individual would, at least potentially, be in constant revolt against each and all, in the same way as he finds himself in unceasing war with beasts of prey and bacilli. The collective view of history, which is thoroughly asocial, cannot therefore conceive that social institutions could have arisen in any way except through the intervention of a “world shaper” of the Platonic δημιουργὸξ (one who works for the people). This operates in history through its instruments, the heroes, who lead resistant man to where it wants him. Thus the will of the individual is broken. He who wants to live for himself alone is forced by the representatives of God on earth to obey the moral law, which demands that he shall sacrifice his well-being in the interests of the Whole and its future development.
The science of society begins by disposing of this dualism. Perceiving that the interests of separate individuals within society are compatible and that these individuals and the community are not in conflict, it is able to understand social institutions without calling gods and heroes to its aid. We can dispense with the Demiurge, which forces the individual into the Collectivism against his will, as soon as we realize that social union gives him more than it takes away. Even without assuming a “hidden plan of nature” we can understand the development to a more closely-knit form of society when we see that every step on this way benefits those who take it, and not only their distant great-grandchildren.
Collectivism had nothing to oppose to the new social theory. Its continually reiterated accusation, that this theory does not apprehend the importance of the collectiva, especially those of State and Nation, only shows that it has not observed how the influence of liberal sociology has changed the setting of the problem. Collectivism no longer attempts to construct a complete theory of social life; the best it can produce against its opponents is witty aphorism, nothing more. In economics as well as in general sociology it has proved itself utterly barren. It is no accident that the German mind, dominated by the social theories of classical philosophy from Kant to Hegel, for a long time produced nothing important in economics, and that those who have broken the spell, first Thünen and Gossen, then the Austrians Carl Menger, Böhm-Bawerk, and Wieser, were free from any influence of the collectivist philosophy of the State.
How little Collectivism was able to surmount the difficulties in the way of amplifying its doctrine is best shown by the manner in which it has treated the problem of social will. To refer again and again to the Will of the State, to the Will of the People, and to the Convictions of the People is not in any way to explain how the collective will of the social associations comes into being. As it is not merely different from the will of separate individuals but, in decisive points, is quite opposed to the latter, the collective will cannot originate as the sum or resultant of individual wills. Every collectivist assumes a different source for the collective will, according to his own political, religious and national convictions. Fundamentally it is all the same whether one interprets it as the supernatural powers of a king or priest or whether one views it as the quality of a chosen class or people. Friedrich Wilhelm IV and Wilhelm II were quite convinced that God had invested them with special authority, and this faith doubtless served to stimulate their conscientious efforts and the development of their strength. Many contemporaries believed alike and were ready to spend their last drop of blood in the service of the king sent to them by God. But science is as little able to prove the truth of this belief as to prove the truth of a religion. Collectivism is political, not scientific. What it teaches are judgments of value.
The Social Order and the Political Constitution
[28. ]Pribram, Die Entstehung der individualistischen Sozialphilosophie (Leipzig, 1912), pp. 3 ff.
[29. ]Thus Dietzel (“Individualismus,” Handwörterbuch der Staatswissenschaften, 3rd ed., vol. 5, p. 590) formulates the contrast of the individual principle and the social principle. Similarly Spengler, Preussentum und Sozialismus (Munich, 1920), p. 14.
[30. ]Nietzsche, “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” vol. 6, Werke (Krönersche Klassikerausgabe), p. 69. Publisher’s Note: In English, see Thus Spake Zarathustra, pp. 103-439 in The Portable Nietzsche, ed. Walter Kaufman (New York: Viking Press, 1954). Reference here is to No. 11, “On the New Idol.”
[31. ]“L’État étant conçu comme un être ideal, on le pare de toutes les qualités que l’on rêve et on le dépouille de toutes les faiblesses que l’on hait” (“The state, being conceived as an ideal being, is endowed with all the qualities of our dreams and stripped of all those qualities we hate”) (P. Leroy-Beaulieu, L’État moderne et ses fonctions, 3rd ed. [Paris, 1900], p. 11); also, Bamberger, Deutschland und der Sozialismus [Leipzig, 1878], pp. 86 ff.
[32. ]Kant, Idee zu einer allgemeinen Geschichte in weltbürgerlicher Absicht, vol. 1, Sämtliche Werke, Inselausgabe (Leipzig, 1912), p. 235. Publisher’s Note: In English, “Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View” (Complete Works, Insel Edition). In On History. Immanuel Kant, ed. Lewis White Beck and trans. Lewis White Beck, Robert E. Anchor and Emil L. Fackenheim (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1963), p. 21.
[33. ]Herder, Ideen zu einer Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit, vol. 13, Sämtliche Werke, ed. Suphan (Berlin, 1887) pp. 345 ff.
[34. ]Kant, Rezension zum zweiten Teil von Herders Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit, vol. 1, Werke, p. 267. On this, see Cassirer, Freiheit und Form (Berlin, 1916), pp. 504 ff. Publisher’s Note: In English, “Review on the Second Part of Herder’s Ideas for a Philosophy on the History of Mankind.” In On History. Immanuel Kant, ed. Lewis White Beck (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1963), p. 51.
[35. ]Kant, Idee zu einer allgemeinen Geschichte ... p. 228. Publisher’s Note: In English this is page 16 of Idea for a Universal History ... as cited above.
[36. ]Gierke, Des Wesen der menschlichen Verbände (Leipzig, 1902), pp. 34 ff.
[37. ]In “Ernst und Falk,” Gespräche für Freimaurer, vol. 5. Werke (Stuttgart, 1873), p. 80.