Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1: Thought and Being - Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
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1: Thought and Being - 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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Thought and Being
It was said by Feuerbach: “thought proceeds from being, but not being from thought.”84 This remark, which was intended to express merely the renunciation of Hegelian Idealism, becomes in the famous aphorism, “Man is what he eats” (“Der Mensch ist was er isst”)85 , the watchword of Materialism, as represented by Büchner and Moleschott. Vogt stiffened the materialist thesis by defending the statement “that thoughts stand in about the same relation to the brain as the gall to the liver or urine to the kidneys.”86 The same naive materialism, which, ignoring all the difficulties, attempts to solve the basic problem of philosophy simply and completely by referring everything concerned with the mind to a physical phenomenon, is revealed also in the economic conception of history of Marx and Engels. The title “Materialist Conception of History” is true to the nature of the theory; it emphasizes, in the striking manner intended by its founders, the epistemological homogeneity between their belief and the materialism of their time.87
According to the materialist conception of history thought depends on social being. This doctrine has two different versions fundamentally contradictory to each other. The one explains thought as a simple and direct development of the economic environment, of the conditions of production, under which men live. According to this version there is no history of science and no history of the individual sciences as independent evolutionary sequences because the setting of problems and their solutions do not represent a progressive intellectual process, but merely reflect the momentary conditions of production. Descartes, says Marx, regarded the animal as a machine, because he “sees with the eyes of the manufacturing period, as distinguished from the eyes of the Middle Ages, when the animal was regarded as the assistant of man—a position assigned to it also at a later date by Herr von Haller in his Restauration der Staatswissenschaft.”88 In such a passage it is clear that the conditions of production are regarded as facts independent of human thought. They “correspond” in turn to a “definite stage of development” in the “material productive forces,”89 or, what is only another way of putting the same thing, to “a definite stage in the development of the means of production and of transport.”90 The productive forces, the means of work, “result in” a definite order of society.91 “Technology reveals the active conduct of man towards nature, the direct productive process of his life, and consequently his social conditions of life and the spiritual ideas which arise from them.”92 It never seems to have occurred to Marx that the productive forces are themselves a product of human thought, so that one merely moves in a circle when one tries to derive thought from them. He was completely bewitched by the word-fetish, “material production.” Material, materialistic, and materialism were the fashionable philosophic catch-words in his time, and he could not escape their influence. He felt that his foremost task as a philosopher was to remove the “deficiencies of the abstract natural-science materialism which exclude the historical process”; those deficiencies which he thought he could perceive “in the abstract and ideological theories of its spokesmen, as soon as they venture beyond their special sphere.” And that is why he called his procedure “the only materialistic, hence the only scientific method.”93
According to the second version of the materialist conception of history, class interest determines thought. Marx says of Locke that he “represented the new bourgeoisie in all its forms: the industrialists versus the working classes and paupers, the merchants versus the old-fashioned usurers, high finance versus state debtors, and in one of his own works he even demonstrated the bourgeois intelligence to be the normal human intellect.”94 For Mehring, the most prolific of the Marxian historians, Schopenhauer is “the philosopher of the terrified philistines ... in his sneaking, selfish, and slandering way the spiritual image of the bourgeoisie which, frightened by the clash of arms, trembling like the aspen, retired to live on its revenues and foreswore the ideals of its epoch like the plague.”95 In Nietzsche he sees “the philosopher of the Upper Bourgeoisie.”96
His judgments in economics represent this point of view most clearly. Marx was the first to divide economists into bourgeois and proletarian, a division which etatism afterwards made its own. Held explains Ricardo’s theory of rent as “dictated simply by the hate of the moneyed capitalists against the landed proprietors,” and thinks that Ricardo’s whole theory of value can only be looked upon “as the attempt to justify, under the semblance of an endeavour to secure natural rights, the domination and profits of Capitalism.”97 The best way to disprove this view is to point out the obvious fact that Marx’s economic theory is nothing more than a product of the Ricardo school. All its essential elements are taken from the Ricardian system, from which it derives also the methodological principle of the separation of theory and politics and the exclusion of the ethical point of view.98 Politically, classical economics was employed both for defending and for attacking Capitalism, for advocating as well as for rejecting Socialism.
Marxism makes use of the same method with regard to modern subjective economics. Unable to oppose it by a single word of reasonable criticism, the Marxian tries to dispose of it by denouncing it as “bourgeois economics.”99 To show that subjective economics is not “capitalist apologetics” it should be sufficient, surely, to point out that there are socialists who stand firmly by the theory of subjective value.100 The evolution of economics is a process of the mind, independent of the supposed class interests of economists, and has nothing to do with supporting or condemning any particular social institutions. Every scientific theory can be misused for political purpose; the politician does not need to construct a theory to support the aims he happens to pursue.101 The ideas of modern Socialism have not sprung from proletarian brains. They were originated by intellectuals, sons of the bourgeoisie, not of wage-earners.102 Socialism has captured not only the working class; it has supporters, open and secret, even amongst the propertied classes too.
[84. ]Feuerbach, Vorläufige Thesen zur Reform der Philosophie, 1842, Collected Works, Vol. II (Stuttgart, 1904), p. 239.
[85. ]Feuerbach, Die Naturwissenschaft und die Revolution, 1850, Vol. X (Stuttgart, 1911), p. 22.
[86. ]Vogt, Köhlerglaube und Wissenschaft, 2nd ed. (Giessen, 1855), p. 32.
[87. ]Max Adler, who tries to reconcile Marxism with the Kantian New Criticism, vainly tries to prove that Marxism and philosophic materialism have nothing in common. See especially Marxistische Probleme (Stuttgart, 1913), pp. 60 if., 216 ff., in which he conflicts sharply with other Marxists. See, for example, Plekhanov, Grundprobleme des Marxismus (Stuttgart, 1910).
[88. ]Marx, Das Kapital, Vol. I, p. 354, note. But between Descartes and Haller stands La Mettrie, with his “homme machine,” whose philosophy Marx has unfortunately omitted to interpret genetically. Publisher’s Note: This is page 426n in the Kerr edition.
[89. ]Marx, Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, p. xi. Publisher’s Note: p. 11 in the Eastman anthology, p. 12 in the Kerr edition.
[90. ]Marx and Engels, Das Komnunistische Manifest, p. 27. Publisher’s Note: This quote appears on p. 326 of the Eastman anthology.
[91. ]Marx, Das Elend der Philosophie, ibid., p. 91. See also p. 269 of the present work. Publisher’s Note: p. l05 in the English translation.
[92. ]Marx, Das Kapital, Vol. I, p. 336. Publisher’s Note: p. 406n in the English translation.
[94. ]Marx, Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, p. 62. Barth, Die Philosophie der Geschichte als Soziologie, Vol. I, pp. 658 ff., says rightly that the comparison between the innate privileges of the nobility and the presumably innate ideas can be considered as at most a joke. But the first part of Marx’s characterization of Locke is no less untenable than the second. Publisher’s Note: p. 93 of the Kerr edition. Please note that this particular quotation is not in the excerpt reprinted in the Eastman anthology.
[95. ]Mehring, Die Lessing-Legende, 3rd ed. (Stuttgart, 1909), p. 422.
[96. ]Ibid., p. 423.
[97. ]Held, Zwei Bücher zur sozialen Geschichte Englands (Leipzig, 1881), pp. 176, 183.
[98. ]Schumpeter, “Epochen der Dogmen und Methodengeschichte,” Grundriss der Sozialökonomik, Pt. I (Tübingen, 1914), pp. 81 ff.
[99. ]Hilferding, Böhm-Bawerk’s Marx-Kritik (Vienna, 1904), pp. 1, 61. For the Catholic Marxist Hohoff, Warenwert und Kapitalprofit (Paderborn, 1902), p. 57. Böhm-Bawerk is “an indeed well gifted, ordinary economist who could not lift himself out of the capitalistic prejudices among which he grew up.” See my Grundprobleme der Nationalökonomie (Jena, 1933), pp. 170 ff. Publisher’s Note: The Hilferding essay is available in English in Karl Marx and the Close of his System by Eugen Böhm-Bawerk & Böhm-Bawerk’s Criticism of Marx by Rudolf Hilferding, ed. Paul M. Sweezy (New York: Augustus M. Kelly, 1949), pp. 121-196. The pages cited here are pp. 121 and 196. Please also note that Mises’ book, Grundprobleme der Nationalökonomie is in English as Epistemological Problems of Economics (Princeton, N.J.: D. Van Nostrand, 1960). The particular citation here is to the essay entitled “The Psychological Basis of the Opposition to Economic Theory,” essay VI in this collection, pp. 183-203. This was first published in 1931.
[100. ]See Bernard Shaw, for example, Fabian Essays (1889), pp. 16 ff. In the same way, in sociology and political science, natural law and contract theory have served both to advocate and fight Absolutism.
[101. ]If one wants to credit the materialist conception of history with having stressed the fact that social relations are dependent on the natural conditions of life and production, one must remember that this can appear as a special merit only in contrast to the excesses of the Hegelian historians and philosophers of history. The liberal philosophy of society and history and the writing of history since the end of the XVIIIth Century (even the German, see Below, Die deutsche Geschichtsschreibung von den Befreiungskriegen bis zu unseren Tagen [Leipzig, 1916], pp. 224 ff.,) Were beforehand with this knowledge.
[102. ]Of the chief representatives of French and Italian Syndicalism, Sombart, Sozialismus und soziale Bewegung, 7th ed. (Jena, 1919), p. 110, says, “So far as I know them personally—amiable, fine, educated people. Cultured people with clean linen, good manners and elegant wives, whom one meets as gladly as one’s own kind of people, and who certainly do not look as if they represented a movement which turns above all against the increasingly bourgeois nature of Socialism and wants to help the wealed fist, the genuine and true only-manual-workers to their rights.” And De Man, Zur Psychologie des Sozialismus, pp. 16 if., says, “If one accepted the misleading Marxist expression which connects every social ideology with a definite class attachment, one would have to say that Socialism as a doctrine, even Marxism, is of bourgeois origin.”