Front Page Titles (by Subject) 6: The Theory of the Class War and the Interpretation of History - Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
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6: The Theory of the Class War and the Interpretation of History - 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 Theory of the Class War and the Interpretation of History
The opinion that history leads to Socialism is almost universal today. From Feudalism through Capitalism to Socialism, from the rule of the aristocracy through the rule of the bourgeoisie to proletarian democracy—thus, approximately, people conceive the inevitable evolution. The gospel that Socialism is our inescapable destiny is acclaimed by many with joy, accepted by others with regret, doubted by only the courageous few. This scheme of evolution was known before Marx, but Marx developed it and made it popular. Above all Marx managed to fit it into a philosophic system.
Of the great systems of German idealist philosophy only those of Schelling and Hegel have had a direct and lasting influence on the formation of the individual sciences. Out of Schelling’s Natural Philosophy grew a speculative school whose achievements, once so much admired, have long been forgotten. Hegel’s Philosophy of History mesmerized the German historians of a whole generation. People wrote Universal History, History of Philosophy, History of Religion, History of Law, History of Art, History of Literature according to the Hegelian scheme. These arbitrary and often eccentric evolutionary hypotheses have also vanished. The disrespect into which the schools of Hegel and Schelling brought philosophy led Natural Science to reject everything that went beyond laboratory experiment and analysis, and caused the Moral Sciences to reject everything except the collection and sifting of sources. Science limited itself to mere facts and rejected all synthesis as unscientific. The impulse to permeate science once more with the philosophic spirit had to come from elsewhere—from biology and sociology.
Of all the creations of the Hegelian School only one was fated to a longer lease of life—the Marxian Social Theory. But its place was outside scholarship. Marxian ideas have proved utterly useless as guides to historical research. All attempts to write history according to the Marxian scheme have failed lamentably. The historical works of the orthodox Marxists, such as Kautsky and Mehring, made no progress at all in original and exhaustive research. They produced only expositions based on the researches of others, expositions whose only original feature was an effort to see everything through Marxist spectacles. But the influence of Marxist ideas extends far beyond the circle of orthodox disciples. Many historians, by no means to be classed politically as Marxian socialists, approach them closely in their views on the philosophy of history. In their works the Marxian influence is a disturbing element. The use of such indefinite expressions as “exploitation,” “the striving of capital for surplus value,” and “proletariat” dulls the vision that should be kept clear for the impartial scrutiny of the material, and the idea that all history is merely a preliminary to the socialist society prompts the historian to do violence in his interpretation of the sources.
The notion that the rule of the proletariat must replace the rule of the bourgeoisie is largely based on that grading of the estates and classes which has become general since the French Revolution. People call the French Revolution and the movement it introduced into the various states of Europe and America the emancipation of the Third Estate and think that now the Fourth Estate must have its turn. We may overlook here the fact that a view which regards the victory of liberal ideas as a class triumph of the bourgeoisie and the Free Trade Period as an epoch of the rule of the bourgeoisie, presupposes that all elements of the socialist theory of society are already proved. But another question immediately occurs to us. Must this Fourth Estate, whose turn is now supposed to come, be sought in the proletariat? Might not one look for it with equal or greater justice in the peasantry? Marx, of course, could have no doubts on the subject. In his view it was a settled thing that in agriculture big-scale concerns would oust small-scale enterprises and the peasant make way for the landless labourer of the latifundia. Now, when the theory of the inability of medium and small-scale agricultural enterprise to compete has long been buried, a problem arises which Marxism cannot answer. The evolution which is going on before our eyes would permit us to suppose that domination was passing into the hands of the peasants rather than that of the proletarians.82
But here, too, our decision must rest on our judgment of the efficiency of the two social orders, the capitalist and the socialist. If Capitalism is not the diabolical scheme shown in socialist caricature, if Socialism is not the ideal order which socialists assert it to be, then the whole doctrine collapses. The discussion always returns to the same point—the fundamental question whether the socialist order of society promises a higher productivity than Capitalism.
[82. ]Gerhard Hildebrand, Die Erschütterung der Industrieherrschaft und des lndustriesozialismus (Jena, 1910), pp. 213 ff.