Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1: Solidarism - Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
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1: Solidarism - 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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In recent decades few have managed to remain uninfluenced by the success of the socialist criticism of the capitalist social order. Even those who did not want to capitulate to Socialism, have tried in many ways to act according to its criticism of private ownership in the means of production. Thus they have originated systems, ill-thought-out, eclectic in theory and weak in politics, which attempted to reconcile the contradictions. They were soon forgotten. Only one of these systems has spread—the system which calls itself Solidarism. This is at home above all in France; it has been called, not unjustly, the official social philosophy of the Third Republic. Outside of France, the term “Solidarism” is less well known, but the theories which make Solidarism are everywhere the social-political creed of all those religiously or conservatively inclined who have not joined Christian or State Socialism. Solidarism is distinguished neither by the depth of its theory, nor the number of its adherents. That which gives it a certain importance is its influence on many of the best and finest men and women of our times.
Solidarism starts by saying that the interests of all members of society harmonize. Private ownership in the means of production is a social institution the maintenance of which is to the interest of all, not merely of the owners; everyone would be harmed were it replaced by a common ownership endangering the productivity of social labour. So far, Solidarism goes hand in hand with Liberalism. Then, however, their ways separate. For solidarist theory believes that the principle of social solidarity is not realized simply by a social order based on private ownership in the means of production. It denies—without, however, arguing this more closely or bringing to light ideas not put forward before by the socialists, especially the non-Marxists—that merely acting for one’s own property-interests within a legal order guaranteeing liberty and property ensures an interaction of the individual economic actions corresponding to the ends of social co-operation. Men in society, by the very nature of social co-operation, within which alone they can exist, are reciprocally interested in the well-being of their fellow men; their interests are “solidary,” and they ought therefore to act with “solidarity.” But mere private ownership in the means of production has not achieved solidarity in the society dividing labour. To do so, special provisions must be made. The more etatistically inclined wing of Solidarism wants to bring about “solidary” action by State action: laws shall impose obligations on the possessors in favour of the poorer people and in favour of the public welfare. The more ecclesiastically inclined wing of Solidarism wants to achieve the same thing by appeals to the conscience; not by State laws, but by moral prescriptions: Christian love will make the individual fulfil his social duties.
The representatives of Solidarism have laid down their social-philosophic views in brilliantly written essays, which reveal all the splendour of the French spirit. No one has been better able to paint in beautiful words the mutual dependence of men in society. At the head of them all is Sully Prudhomme. In his famous sonnet he shows the poet on awaking from a bad dream in which he has seen himself, as division of labour has ceased and no one will work for him, seul, abandonné, de tout le genre humain. (Alone, abandoned by all mankind.) This leads him to the knowledge:
They have also known well how to state their case firmly, either by theological45 or juristic arguments.46 But all this must not blind us to the inner weakness of the theory. Solidarist theory is a foggy eclecticism. It demands no special discussion. It interests us here much less than its social ideal, which claims “to avoid the faults of the individualist and socialist systems, to maintain that which is right in both.”47
Solidarism proposes to leave the private ownership in the means of production. But it places above the owner an authority—indifferent whether Law and its creator, the State, or conscience and its counsellor, the Church—which is to see that the owner uses his property correctly. The authority shall prevent the individual from exploiting “unrestrainedly” his position in the economic process; certain restrictions are to be imposed on property. Thus State or Church, law or conscience, become the decisive factor in society. Property is put under their norms, it ceases to be the basic and ultimate element in the social order. It continues to exist only as far as Law or Ethics allow, that is to say, ownership is abolished, since the owner, in administering his property, must follow principles other than those imposed on him by his property interests. To say that, under all circumstances, the owner is bound to follow the prescription of Law and Ethics, and that no legal order recognizes ownership except within limits drawn by the norms, is by no means a reply. For if these norms aim only at free ownership and to prevent the owner from being disturbed in his right to keep his property as long as it does not pass to others on the basis of contracts he has made, then these norms contain merely recognition of private ownership in the means of production. Solidarism, however, does not regard these norms as alone sufficient to bring together fruitfully the labour of members of society. Solidarism wants to put other norms above them. These other norms thus become society’s fundamental law. No longer private property but legal and moral prescription of a special kind, are society’s fundamental law. Solidarism replaces ownership by a “Higher Law;” in other words, it abolishes it.
Of course, the solidarists do not really want to go as far. They want, they say, only to limit property, but to maintain it in principle. But when one has gone so far as to set up for property limits other than those resulting from its own nature, one has already abolished property. If the owner may do with his property only that which is prescribed to him, what directs the national economic activity is not property but that prescribing power.
Solidarism desires, for instance, to regulate competition; it shall not be allowed to lead to “the decay of the middle-class” or to the “oppression of the weak.”48 This merely means that a given condition of social production is to be preserved, even though it would vanish under private property. The owner is told what and how and how much he shall produce and at what conditions and to whom he shall sell. He thus ceases to be owner; he becomes a privileged member of a planned economy, an official drawing a special income.
Who shall decide in every single case, how far Law or Ethics go in limiting the owner’s rights? Only the Law or Ethics itself.
Were Solidarism itself clear about the consequences of its postulates, it would certainly have to be called a variety of Socialism. But it is far from clear. It believes itself fundamentally different from State Socialism,49 and the majority of its supporters would be horrified, were they to recognize what their ideal really was. Therefore its social ideal may still be counted one of the pseudo-socialist systems. But it must be realized that what separates it from Socialism is one single step. Only the mental atmosphere of France, generally more favourable to Liberalism and Capitalism, has prevented the French Solidarists and the Jesuit Pesch, an economist under French influence, from overstepping decisively the boundary between Solidarism and Socialism. Many, however, who still call themselves solidarists, must be counted complete etatists. Charles Gide, for example, is one of these.
[45. ]Here one must name before all the Jesuit Pesch, Lehrbuch der Nationalökonomie, Vol. I, 2nd ed. (Freiburg, 1914), pp. 392-438. In France there is a conflict between catholic and freethinking solidarists—about the relation of the Church to the State and to society, rather than about the real principles of social theory and policy—which makes Church circles suspicious of the term “solidarism.” See Haussonville, “Assistance publique et bienfaisance privée” (Revue des Deux Mondes, Vol. CLXII, 1900, pp. 773-808); Bouglé, Le Solidarisme (Paris, 2907), pp. 8 ff.
[46. ]Bourgeois, Solidarité, 6th ed. (Paris, 1907), pp. 115 ff.; Waha, Die Nationalökonomie in Frankreich (Stuttgart, 1910), pp. 432 ff.
[47. ]Pesch, op. cit., Vol. I, p. 420.
[48. ]Ibid., p. 422.
[49. ]Ibid., p. 420.