Front Page Titles (by Subject) 2: Chiliasm and Social Theory - Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
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2: Chiliasm and Social Theory - 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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Chiliasm and Social Theory
The metaphysical philosophy of history must be clearly distinguished from the rational. The latter is built up solely on experience, seeking results which are based on logic and empiricism. Wherever rational philosophy has to go beyond this, it tries hypotheses, but it never forgets where experience ceases and hypothetical interpretations begin. Where experience is possible it avoids using conceptual fictions; it never tries to supplant experimental science. Its only aim is to unify our view of social events and of the course of historical evolution. Only thus is it able to establish a law which governs changes in social conditions. By indicating, or attempting to indicate, the force which determines the growth of society, it endeavours to reveal the principle determining social evolution. This principle is assumed to be externally valid, that is, it is active so long as there is any society at all. Were it otherwise, a second principle would have to be placed next to this one, and it would be necessary to show under which conditions the first ruled and under which the second. But this only means that the law governing the interchange of the two principles would be the ultimate Law of Social Life.
To define a principle according to which society grows, and changes in social conditions take place, is a different thing from defining the course which social evolution takes. Such a course is necessarily limited. It has a beginning and an end. The reign of a law is necessarily unlimited, without beginning or end. It is continuity, not an occurrence. The law is imperfect if it defines only a part of social evolution and leaves us in the lurch after a certain point. In this case it would cease to be a law. The end of social evolution can be no other than that of society itself.
The teleological view describes the course of evolution in all its windings and deviations. Thus it is typically a theory of stages. It shows us the successive stages of civilization until one is reached which must necessarily be the last, because no other follows it. When this point has been reached it is impossible to see how history is to proceed.8
The chiliastic philosophy of history takes the “standpoint of Providence, which lies beyond all human wisdom”; it aims at prophesying as only “the eye of a God” could prophesy.9 Whether we call its teaching Poetry, Prophecy, Faith, Hope or anything else whatever, there are two things it can never be: Science or Knowledge. Nor may it be called hypothesis, any more than the utterances of a clairvoyant or a fortune-teller may be called hypotheses. It was an unusually clever trick on the part of the Marxists to call their chiliastic teachings science. Such a step was bound to be effective in an age when people relied on nothing but science, and rejected metaphysics (though, admittedly, only to surrender themselves uncritically to the native metaphysics of Büchner and Moleschott).
The law of social evolution tells us much less than the metaphysics of evolution. It limits its statements a priori in admitting that its sway can be frustrated by the co-existence of forces other than those it describes. On the other hand, it admits no limits to its applicability. It claims eternal validity, it is without beginning and without end. But it does not evoke a dark fate whose “will-less and impotent bearers” we are. It discloses only the inner driving power of our own will, revealing how it conforms to natural laws and why its existence is necessary. This is insight, not into man’s destiny, but into man’s doings.
In so far as “scientific” Socialism is metaphysics, a chiliastic promise of salvation, it would be vain and superfluous to argue scientifically against it. It serves no useful purpose to fight mystical dogmas with reason. There is no teaching fanatics. They must break their heads against the wall. But Marxism is not merely chiliasm. It is sufficiently influenced by the scientific spirit of the nineteenth century to attempt to justify its doctrine rationally. With these attempts, and these only, we shall deal in the following chapters.
[8. ]Wundt, Ethik, 4th ed. (Stuttgart, 1912), Vol. II, p. 246. One sees in Engels’ survey of the history of warfare a characteristic example of how ready the representatives of this movement are to see the end of all evolution attained. Engels there—1878—expresses the opinion that, with the Franco-German war, “a turning point of quite other importance than all previous ones had occurred” in the history of warfare. “Weapons are so perfected that a fresh process of any revolutionary influence is no longer possible. When one has guns which can hit a battalion as far as the eye can see and rifles which can do the same with a single person as aim, with which loading takes less time than firing, then all further advances are more or less indifferent in field war. Thus the era of evolution on this side is essentially closed.” See Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft, p. 176. Publisher’s Note: p. 236 in the English edition. In judging other views, Marx understands well how to find out the weaknesses of the theory of stages. According to their teachings, says Marx, “a history has existed but none exists any longer.” See Das Elend der Philosophie, German translation by Bernstein and Kautsky, 8th ed. (Stuttgart, 1920), p. 104. He merely does not notice that the same will be true of his teachings on the day when the means of production will have been socialized. Publisher’s Note: In English, Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy: Answer to the “Philosophy of Poverty” by M. Proudhon (Moscow: Foreign Language Publishing House), p. 112.
[9. ]Kant, “Der Streit der Fakultäten” (Collected Works, Vol. I), p. 636.