Conscious Society: Anthroposophy and the Social Question
8 lectures, Dornach, February 15 – March 16, 1919 (CW 189)
Delivered in the context of postwar cultural and social chaos, these lectures form part of Rudolf Steiner’s energetic efforts to cultivate social understanding and renew culture through his innovative ideas based on “threefolding.” Steiner develops subtle and discerning perception of how social dynamics could change and heal if they were founded on real insight into our threefold nature as individuals, social beings, and economic participants in the world. He doesn’t offer a programmatic agenda for change, but a real foundation from which change can organically grow.
Social forms and reforms, says Steiner, are “created together,” not imposed by lone geniuses. Nevertheless, the detail of some of the thoughts and ideas he presents here as a possible model—down to the economic specifics of commodity, labor, taxation, ground rent, and capitalism itself—are staggering in their clarity and originality. This is no mystic effusion but a heartfelt plea, backed by profound insights, to change our thinking and the world we live in. As he points out, thoughts create reality, and so it is vital howand whatwe think.
Among the many contemporary and highly relevant topics Steiner discusses are also the nature of money and capital; taxation and the state; free enterprise and initiative; capitalism and Marxism; the relationship between employers and employees; “added value” theory and the concept of commodity; and “class consciousness,” the proletariat, and the bourgeoisie.
This volume is a translation from German of Die soziale Frage als Bewußtseinsfrage. Die geistigen Hintergründe deer sozialen Frage – Band I(GA 189)
About the Author
Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) was born in the small village of Kraljevec, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now in Croatia), where he grew up (see right). As a young man, he lived in Weimar and Berlin, where he became a well-published scientific, literary, and philosophical scholar, known especially for his work with Goethe’s scientific writings. At the beginning of the twentieth century, he began to develop his early philosophical principles into an approach to systematic research into psychological and spiritual phenomena. Formally beginning his spiritual teaching career under the auspices of the Theosophical Society, Steiner came to use the term Anthroposophy (and spiritual science) for his philosophy, spiritual research, and findings. The influence of Steiner’s multifaceted genius has led to innovative and holistic approaches in medicine, various therapies, philosophy, religious renewal, Waldorf education, education for special needs, threefold economics, biodynamic agriculture, Goethean science, architecture, and the arts of drama, speech, and eurythmy. In 1924, Rudolf Steiner founded the General Anthroposophical Society, which today has branches throughout the world. He died in Dornach, Switzerland.
Matthew Barton is a translator, editor, teacher, and poet, and taught kindergarten for many years at the Bristol Waldorf School. His first collection of poems was Learning To Row (1999). He has won numerous prizes for his work, including an Arts Council Writer’s Award and a Hawthornden Fellowship.