Front Page Titles (by Subject) 3: The Psychological Presuppositions of Socialism - Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis
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3: The Psychological Presuppositions of Socialism - 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 Psychological Presuppositions of Socialism
According to Marxism, the proletariat in capitalist society necessarily think socialistically. But why is this the case? It is easy to see why the socialist idea could not arise before there was large scale enterprise in industry, transport, and mining. As long as one could conceive of redistributing the actual physical property of the wealthy, it occurred to no one to devise any other way of securing equality of income. Only when the development of the division of labour had created large scale enterprise, unmistakably indivisible, did it become necessary to invoke the socialistic way of achieving equality. But although this explains why in the capitalist system there can no longer be any question of “dividing up,” it by no means explains why the policy of the proletariat must be Socialism.
In our day we take it for granted that the workman must think and act socialistically. But we arrive at this conclusion only by assuming that the socialist order of society is either the form of social life most advantageous to the proletariat or, at least, that the proletariat thinks it so. The first alternative has already been discussed in these pages. In view of the undoubted fact that Socialism, though it counts numerous supporters in other classes, is most widespread amongst the workers, there remains only the question why the worker, because of the position he occupies, tends to be the more receptive to the socialist ideology.
The demagogic flattering of the socialist parties praises the worker of modern Capitalism as a being distinguished by every excellency of mind and character. A sober and less biased study might perhaps arrive at a very different opinion. But this kind of inquiry may safely be left to the party hacks of the various movements. For knowledge of social conditions in general and the sociology of the party system in particular it is quite valueless. Our problem is simply to discover why the worker’s position in production should incline him to the view that the socialist method of production is not only possible in principle, but that it would be more rational than the capitalist method.
The answer is not difficult. The workman in the large or medium scale capitalist enterprise sees and knows nothing of the connections uniting the individual parts of the work to the economic system as a whole. His horizon as worker and producer does not extend beyond the process which is his task. He holds that he alone is a productive member of society, and thinks that everyone, engineer and overseer equally well as entrepreneur, who does not, like himself, stand at the machine or carry loads, is a parasite. Even the bank clerk believes that he alone is actively productive in banking, that he earns the profit of the undertaking, and that the manager who concludes transactions is a superfluity, easily replaceable without loss. Now from where he stands, the worker cannot see how things hang together. He might find out by means of hard thinking and the aid of books, never from the facts of his own working environment. Just as the average man can only conclude from the facts of daily experience that the earth stands still and the sun moves from east to west, so the worker, judging by his own experience can never arrive at a true knowledge of the nature and functioning of economic life.
But when the socialist ideology comes to this economically ignorant man and shouts:
is it any wonder if, dizzy with dreams of power, he follows this invitation? Socialism is the expression of the principle of violence crying from the workers’ soul, just as Imperialism is the principle of violence speaking from the soul of the official and the soldier.
The masses incline towards Socialism, not because it really tends to their interests but because they believe that it does so.
The Concentration of Capital and the Formation of Monopolies as Preliminary Steps to Socialism