Front Page Titles (by Subject) 2: Darwinism - Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
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2: Darwinism - 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’s fate is determined unequivocally by his Being. Everything that is has necessarily proceeded from his Becoming, and everything that will be results necessarily from that which is. The situation at any given moment is the consummation of history.44 He who understood it completely would be able to foresee the whole future. For a long time it was thought necessary to exclude human volition and action from the determination of events, for the special significance of “imputation”—that thought-process peculiar to all rational action—had not been grasped. It was believed that causal explanation was incompatible with imputation. This is no longer so. Economics, the Philosophy of Law, and Ethics have cleared up the problem of imputation sufficiently to remove the old misunderstandings.
If, to simplify our study, we analyse the unity we call the individual into certain complexes it must be clearly understood that only the heuristic value of the division can justify our doing so. Attempts to separate, according to external characteristics, what is essentially similar can never survive ultimate examination. Only subject to this admission can we proceed to group the determinants of individual life.
That which man brings into the world at birth, the innate, we call racial inheritance or, for short, the race.45 The innate in man is the precipitate of the history of all his ancestors, their fate, and all their experiences. The life and fate of the individual do not start at birth, but stretch back into the infinite, unimaginable past. The descendant inherits from the ancestors; this fact is outside the sphere of the dispute over the inheritance of acquired characteristics.
After birth, direct experience begins. The individual begins to be influenced by his environment. Together with what is innate, this influence produces the individual’s Being in each moment of his life. The environment is natural in the form of soil, climate, nourishment, fauna, flora, in short, external natural surroundings. It is social in the shape of society. The social forces acting on the individual are language, his position in the process of work and exchange, ideology and the forces of compulsion: unrestrained and ordered coercion. The ordered organization of coercion we call the State.
Since Darwin we have been inclined to regard the dependence of human life on natural environment as a struggle against antagonistic forces. There was no objection to this as long as people did not transfer the figurative expression to a field where it was quite out of place and was bound to cause grave errors. When the formulas of Darwinism, which had sprung from ideas taken over by Biology from Social Science, reverted to Social Science, people forgot what the ideas had originally meant. Thus arose that monstrosity, sociological Darwinism, which, ending in a romantic glorification of war and murder, was peculiarly responsible for the overshadowing of liberal ideas and for creating the mental atmosphere which led to the World War and the social struggles of today.
It is well known that Darwin was under the influence of Malthus’s Essay on the Principle of Population. But Malthus was far from believing struggle to be a necessary social institution. Even Darwin, when he speaks of the struggle for existence, does not always mean the destructive combat of living creatures, the life or death struggle for feeding places and females. He often uses the expression figuratively to show the dependence of living beings on each other and on their surroundings.46 It is a misunderstanding to take the phrase quite literally, for it is a metaphor. The confusion is worse confounded when people equate the struggle for existence with the war of extermination between human beings, and proceed to construct a social theory based on the necessity of struggle.
The Malthusian Theory of Population is—what its critics, ignorant of sociology, always overlook—merely a part of the social theory of Liberalism. Only within such a framework can it be understood. The core of liberal social theory is the theory of the division of labour. Only side by side with this can one make use of the Law of Population to interpret social conditions. Society is the union of human beings for the better exploitation of the natural conditions of existence; in its very conception it abolishes the struggle between human beings and substitutes the mutual aid which provides the essential motive of all members united in an organism. Within the limits of society there is no struggle, only peace. Every struggle suspends in effect the social community. Society as a whole, as organism, does fight a struggle for existence against forces inimical to it. But inside, as far as society has absorbed individuals completely, there is only collaboration. For society is nothing but collaboration. Within modern society even war cannot break all social ties. Some remain, though loosened, in a war between states which acknowledge the binding force of International Law. Thus a fragment of peace survives even in wartime.
Private ownership in the means of production is the regulating principle which, within society, balances the limited means of subsistence at society’s disposal with the less limited ability of the consumers to increase. By making the share in the social product which falls to each member of society depend on the product economically imputed to him, that is, to his labour and his property, the elimination of surplus human beings by the struggle for existence, as it rages in the vegetable and animal kingdom, is replaced by a reduction in the birth-rate as a result of social forces. “Moral restraint,” the limitations of offspring imposed by social positions, replaces the struggle for existence.
In society there is no struggle for existence. It is a grave error to suppose that the logically developed social theory of liberalism could lead to any other conclusion. Certain isolated phrases in Malthus’s essay, which might be interpreted otherwise, are easily accounted for by the fact that Malthus composed the original incomplete draft of his famous first work before he had completely absorbed the spirit of Classical Political Economy. As proof that his doctrine permits of no other interpretation, it may be pointed out that, before Spencer and Darwin, no one thought of looking on the struggle for existence (in the modern sense of the expression) as a principle active within human society. Darwinism first suggested the theories which regard the struggle of individuals, races, nations, and classes as the basic social element; and it was in Darwinism, which had originated in the intellectual circle of liberal social theory, that people now found weapons to fight the Liberalism they abhorred. In Darwin’s hypothesis, long regarded as irrefutable scientific fact, Marxism,47 Racial Mysticism,48 and Nationalism found, as they believed, an unshakable foundation for their teachings. modern Imperialism especially relies on the catchwords coined by popular science out of Darwinism.
The Darwinian—or more correctly, pseudo-Darwinian-social theories have never realized the main difficulty involved in applying to social relations their catchwords about the struggle for existence. In Nature it is individuals who struggle for existence. It is exceptional to find in Nature phenomena which could be interpreted as struggles between animal groups. There are, of course, the fights between groups of ants—though here we may be one day obliged to adopt explanations very different from those hitherto accepted.49 A social theory that was founded on Darwinism would either come to the point of declaring that the war of all against all was the natural and necessary form of human intercourse, thus denying that any social bonds were possible; or it would have, on the one hand, to show why peace does and must reign within certain groups and yet, on the other, to prove that the principle of peaceful union which leads to the formation of these associations is ineffective beyond the circle of the group, so that the groups among themselves must struggle. This is precisely the rock on which all non-liberal social theories founder. If one recognizes a principle which results in the union of all Germans, all Dolichocephalics or all Proletarians and forms a special nation, race, or class out of individuals, then this principle cannot be proved to be effective only within the collective groups. The anti-liberal social theories skim over the problem by confining themselves to the assumption that the solidarity of interests within the groups is so self-evident as to be accepted without further discussion, and by taking pains only to prove the existence of the conflict of interests between groups and the necessity of conflict as the sole dynamic force of historical development. But if war is to be the father of all things, the fruitful source of historical progress, it is difficult to see why its fruitful activity should be restricted within states, nations, races, and classes. If Nature needs war, why not the war of all against all, why merely the war of all groups against all groups? The only theory which explains how peace is possible between individuals and how society grows out of individuals is the liberal social theory of the division of labour. But the acceptance of this theory makes it impossible to believe the enmity of collective groups to be necessary. If Brandenburgers and Hanoverians live in society peacefully side by side, why cannot Germans and Frenchmen do so too?
Sociological Darwinism is unable to explain the phenomenon of the rise of society. It is not a social theory, but “a theory of unsociability.”50
A fact which clearly exposes the decay of sociological thought in recent decades, is that people now begin to combat sociological Darwinism by pointing to examples of mutual aid (symbiosis) which, Biology has only lately discovered in the vegetable and animal kingdoms. Kropotkin, a defiant antagonist of liberal social theory, who never understood what he rejected and combated, found among animals the rudiments of social ties and set these up in opposition to conflict, contrasting the beneficial principle of mutual aid with the harmful principle of war-to-the-knife.51 Kammerer, a biologist enslaved by the ideas of Marxist Socialism, demonstrated that in addition to conflict the principle of aid dominates life in Nature.52 At this point Biology returns to its starting-point, Sociology. It hands back the principle of divided labour given it by Sociology. It teaches Sociology nothing new, nothing essential that had not been included in the theory of the division of labour as defined by the despised Classical Political Economy.
[44. ]Taine, Histoire de la littérature anglaise (Paris, 1863), Vol. I, p. xxv.
[45. ]Ibid., p. xxiii: “Ce qu’on appelle la race, ce sont ces dispositions innées et héréditaires que l’homme apporte avec lui à la lumière.” (“Race is the innate and hereditary characteristics and tendencies with which man is born.”)
[46. ]Hertwig, Zur Abwehr des ethischen, des sozialen und des politischen Darwinismus, pp. 10 ff.
[47. ]Ferri, Sozialismus und moderne Wissenschaft, trans. Kurella (Leipzig, 1895), pp. 65 ff.
[48. ]Gumplowicz, Der Rassenkampf (Innsbruck, 1883), p. 176. On Gumplowicz’s dependence on Darwinism see Barth, Die Philosophie der Geschichte als Soziologie, p. 253. The “liberal” Darwinism is a badly thought out product of an epoch which could no longer grasp the meaning of the liberal social philosophy.
[49. ]Novicow, La Critique du Darwinisme Social, p. 45.
[50. ]Barth, Die Philosophie der Geschichte als Soziologie, p. 243.
[51. ]Kropotkin, Gegenseitige Hilfe in der Tier und Menschenwelt, German edition by Landauer (Leipzig, 1908), pp. 69 ff.
[52. ]Kammerer, Genossenschaften von Lebewesen auf Grund gegenseitiger Vorteile (Stuttgart, 1913); Kammerer, Allgemeine Biologie (Stuttgart, 1915), p. 306; Kammerer, Einzeltod, Völkertod, biologische Unsterblichkeit (Vienna, 1918), pp. 29 ff.