Front Page Titles (by Subject) 4: The Individual and Society - Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
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4: The Individual and 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 Individual and Society
Society is not mere reciprocity. There is reciprocity amongst animals, for example when the wolf eats the lamb or when the wolf and she-wolf mate. Yet we do not speak of animal societies or of a society of wolves. Wolf and lamb, wolf and she-wolf, are indeed members of an organism—the organism of Nature. But this organism lacks the specific characteristic of the social organism: it is beyond the reach of will and action. For the same reason, the relation between the sexes is not, as such, a social relation. When a man and a woman come together they follow the law which assigns to them their place in Nature. Thus far they are ruled by instinct. Society exists only where willing becomes a co-willing and action co-action. To strive jointly towards aims which alone individuals could not reach at all, or not with equal effectiveness—that is society.20
Therefore, Society is not an end but a means, the means by which each individual member seeks to attain his own ends. That society is possible at all is due to the fact that the will of one person and the will of another find themselves linked in a joint endeavour. Community of work springs from community of will. Because I can get what I want only if my fellow citizen gets what he wants, his will and action become the means by which I can attain my own end. Because my willing necessarily includes his willing, my intention cannot be to frustrate his will. On this fundamental fact all social life is built up.21
The principle of the division of labour revealed the nature of the growth of society. Once the significance of the division of labour had been grasped, social knowledge developed at an extraordinary pace, as we see from a comparison between Kant and those who came after him. The doctrine of the division of labour as put forward by eighteenth-century economists, was far from fully developed when Kant wrote. It had yet to be made precise by the Ricardian Theory of International Trade. But the Doctrine of the Harmony of Interests had already anticipated its far-reaching application to social theory. Kant was untouched by these ideas. His only explanation of society, therefore, is that there is an impulse in human beings to form a society, and a second contrary impulse that seeks to split up society. The antagonism of these two tendencies is used by Nature to lead men towards the ultimate goal to which it wishes to lead them.22 It is difficult to imagine a more threadbare idea than such an attempt to explain society by the interplay of two impulses, the impulse “to socialize oneself” and the impulse “to isolate oneself.” Obviously it goes no farther than the attempt to explain the effects of opium from the virtus dormitiva, cuius est natura sensus assupire (the sleep-inducing property whose nature is to dull the senses).
[20. ]Therefore, too, one must reject the idea of Guyau, which derives the social bond directly from bi-sexuality. See Guyau, Sittlichkeit ohne Pflicht, translated by Schwarz (Leipzig, 1909), p. 113 ff.
[21. ]Fouillée argues as follows against the utilitarian theory of society, which calls society a “moyen universal” (“universal means”) (Belot): “Tout moyen n’a qu’une valeur provisoire; le jour oùun instrument dont je me servais me devient inutile ou nuisible, je le mets de côté. Si la société n’ est qu’un moyen, le jour où, exceptionellement, elle se trouvera contraire à mes fins, je me delivrerai des lois sociales et moyens. sociaux.... Aucune considération sociale ne pourra empêcher la révolte de l’individu tant qu’on ne lui aura pas montré que la société est établie pour des fins qui sont d’abord et avant tout ses vraies fins à lui-même et qui, de plus, ne sont pas simplement des fins de plaisir ou d’intérêt, l’intérêt n’étant que le plaisir différé et attendu pour l’avenir ... L’idée d’intérét est précisément ce qui divise les hommes, malgré les rapprochements qu’elle peut produire lorsqu’il y a convergence d’intérêts sur certains points.” (“Every means has only a temporary value; the day when a means ceases to serve me or becomes harmful to me, I cast it aside. If society is only a means, the day when, by some special circumstances, it is found to act contrary to my ends, I will free myself from its social laws and social means.... No social consideration can prevent an individual from rebelling when it has not been demonstrated to him that society exists for ends which are primarily and above all his own true ends and, further, which are not simply for the ends of pleasure or self-interest, self-interest being only pleasure postponed and expected in the future.... The idea of self-interest is precisely what divides men, in spite of the cooperation it can produce when self-interests coincide in certain instances.”) Fouillée, Humanitaires et libertaires au point de vue Sociologique et moral (Paris, 1914), pp. 146 ff.; see also Guyau, Die englische Ethik der Gegenwart, translated by Peusner (Leipzig, 1914), pp. 372 ff. Fouillée does not see that the provisional value which society gets as a means, lasts as long as the conditions of human life, given by nature, continue unchanged and as long as man continues to recognize the advantages of human co-operation. The “eternal,” not merely provisional, existence of society follows from the eternity of the conditions on which it is built up. Those in power may demand of social theory that it should serve them by preventing the individual from revolting against society, but this is by no means a scientific demand. Besides no social theory could, as easily as the utilitarian, induce the social individual to enrol himself voluntarily in the social union. But when an individual shows that he is an enemy of society there is nothing left for society to do but make him harmless.
[22. ]Kant, “Idee zu einer allgemeinen Geschichte in weltbürgerlicher Absicht” (Collected Works, Vol. I), pp. 227 ff. Publisher’s Note: In English pp. 17 ff. in On History, ed. Lewis White Beck.