Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1: The Nature of Society - Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
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1: The Nature of Society - 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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The Nature of Society
The idea of human destiny dominates all the more ancient views of social existence. Society progresses towards a goal fore-ordained by the deity. Whoever thinks in this way is logically correct if, in speaking of progress and retrogression, of revolution and counterrevolution, of action and reaction he lays on these concepts the emphasis adopted by so many historians and politicians. History is judged according as it brings mankind nearer to the goal or carries it farther away.
Social science, however, begins at the point where one frees oneself from such habits, and indeed from all valuation. Social science is indeed teleological in the sense in which every causal study of the will must be. But its concept of purpose is wholly comprised in the causal explanation. For social science causality remains the fundamental principle of cognition, the maintenance of which must not be impaired even by teleology.10 Since it does not evaluate purposes, it cannot speak of evolution to a higher plane, in the sense let us say, of Hegel and Marx. For it is by no means proved that all evolution leads upwards, or that every later stage is a higher one. No more, of course, can it agree with the pessimistic philosophers of history, who see in the historical process a decline, a progressive approach to a bad end. To ask what are the driving forces of historical evolution is to ask what is the nature of society and the origin and causes of the changes in social conditions. What society is, how it originates, how it changes—these alone can be the problems which scientific sociology sets itself.
That the social life of men resembles the biological process is an observation of ancient date. It lies at the basis of the famous legend of Menenius Agrippa, handed down to us by Livy. Social science did itself little good when, inspired by the triumph of Biology in the nineteenth century, voluminous works developed this analogy to the point of absurdity. What is the use of calling the products of human activity “social intercellular substance”?11 Who was enlightened when scholars disputed which organ of the social body corresponded to the central nervous system? The best comment on this form of sociological study was the remark of an economist, to the effect that anyone who compared money with blood and the circulation of money with the circulation of blood would be making the same contribution to economics as would be made to biology by a man who compared blood with money and the blood-circulation with the circulation of money. Modern biology has borrowed from social science some of its most important concepts—that of evolution, of the division of labour, and of the struggle for existence. But it has not stopped short at metaphorical phrases and conclusions by analogy; rather has it proceeded to make profitable use of what it had gained. On the other hand biological-sociology did nothing but play a futile word-spinning game with the ideas it borrowed back. The romantic movement, with its “organic” theory of the state has done even less to clear up our knowledge of social interrelations. Because it deliberately cold-shouldered the most important achievement of social science up to that date—the system of classical Political Economy—it was unable to utilize the doctrine of the division of labour, that part of the classical system which must be the starting point of all sociology, as it is of modern biology.12
Comparison with the biological organism should have taught sociology one thing: that the organism can only be conceived as a system of organs. This, however, merely means that the essence of the organism is the division of labour. Only division of labour makes the parts become members; it is in the collaboration of the members that we recognize the unity of the system, the organism.13 This is true of the life of plants and animals as well as of society. As far as the principle of the division of labour is concerned, the social body may be compared with the biological. The division of labour is the tertium comparationis (basis for comparison) of the old simile.
The division of labour is a fundamental principle of all forms of life.14 It was first detected in the sphere of social life when political economists emphasized the meaning of the division of labour in the social economy. Biology then adopted it, at the instigation in the first place of Milne Edwards in 1827. The fact that we can regard the division of labour as a general law must not, however, prevent us from recognizing the fundamental differences between division of labour in the animal and vegetable organism on the one hand and division of labour in the social life of human beings on the other. Whatever we imagine to be the origin, evolution, and meaning of the physiological division of labour, it clearly does not shed any light on the nature of the sociological division of labour. The process that differentiates and integrates homogeneous cells is completely different from that which led to the growth of human society out of self-sufficient individuals. In the second process, reason and will play their part in the coalescence, by which the previously independent units form a larger unit and become parts of a whole, whereas the intervention of such forces in the first process is inconceivable.
Even where creatures such as ants and bees come together in “animal communities,” all movements and changes take place instinctively and unconsciously. Instinct may very well have operated at the beginning and in the earliest stages of social formation also. Man is already a member of a social body when he appears as a thinking, willing creature, for the thinking man is inconceivable as a solitary individual. “Only amongst men does man become a man” (Fichte). The development of human reason and the development of human society are one and the same process. All further growth of social relations is entirely a matter of will. Society is the product of thought and will. It does not exist outside thought and will. Its being lies within man, not in the outer world. It is projected from within outwards.
Society is co-operation; it is community in action.
To say that Society is an organism, means that society is division of labour.15 To do justice to this idea we must take into account all the aims which men set themselves and the means by which these are to be attained. It includes every inter-relation of thinking and willing man. Modern man is a social being, not only as one whose material needs could not be supplied in isolation, but also as one who has achieved a development of reason and of the perceptive faculty that would have been impossible except within society. Man is inconceivable as an isolated being, for humanity exists only as a social phenomenon and mankind transcended the stage of animality only in so far as co-operation evolved the social relationships between the individuals. Evolution from the human animal to the human being was made possible by and achieved by means of social cooperation and by that alone. And therein lies the interpretation of Aristotle’s dictum that man is the πσλιτιχὸν (the living body politic).
[10. ]Cohen, Logik der reinen Erkenntnis, 2nd ed. (Berlin, 1914), p. 359.
[11. ]As is done by Lilienfeld, La pathologie sociale (Paris, 1896), p. 95. When a government takes a loan from the House of Rothschild organic sociology conceives the process as follows: “La maison Rothschild agit, dans cette occasion, parfaitement en analogie avec l’action d’un groupe de cellules qui, dans le corps humain, coopèrent à la production du sang nécessaire à l’alimentation du cerveau dans l’espoir d’en être indemnisées par une réaction des cellules de la substance grise dont ils ont besoin pour s’activer de nouveau et accumuler de nouvelles énergies.” (“The House of Rothschild’s operation, on such an occasion, is precisely similar to the action of a group of human body cells which cooperate in the production of the blood necessary for nourishing the brain, in the hope of being compensated by a reaction of the gray matter cells which they need to reactivate and to accumulate new energies.”) (Ibid., p. 104.) This is the method which claims that it stands on “firm ground” and explores “the Becoming of Phenomena step by step, proceeding from the simpler to the more complex.” See Lilienfeld, Zur Verteidigung der organischen Methode in der Soziologie (Berlin, 1898), p. 75.
[12. ]It is characteristic that just the romantics stress excessively society’s organic character, whereas liberal social philosophy has never done so. Quite understandably. A social theory which was genuinely organic did not need to stress obtrusively this attribute of its system.
[13. ]Cohen, Logik der reinen Erkenntnis, p. 349.
[14. ]Hertwig, Allgemeine Biologie, 4th ed. (Jena, 1912), pp. 500 ff; Hertwig, Zur Abwehr des ethischen, des sozialen und des politischen Darwinismus (Jena, 1918), pp. 69 ff.
[15. ]Izoulet, La cité moderne (Paris, 1894), pp. 35 ff.