Who wants to convince himself of the truth about egoism has to go more intimately into various universal principles. He would have to abandon himself thoughtfully to the question whether the work that is paid personally is really life-sustaining, whether it depends on this work? — It is curious to put this question. However, not sooner than one thinks about it, one is able to inform about the social question.
Imagine — this is a paradoxical comparison — a man transported to an island. He has only to supply himself. You say, he must work! — However, he must not only work, this is not the point, but something must be added to his work. If the work is only work, it can eventually be useless for his life. Think once that the man on the island would do nothing but to throw stones during fourteen days. This would be a strenuous work, and according to usual human concepts, he could earn quite a lot of wage. Nevertheless, this work is not at all connected with life. Work is life-sustaining and has value only if anything else is added. If this work consists of the cultivation of the soil and one receives the products of the earth, then work has something to do with life. We see even with lower beings that work is separated from production. Thus, we see a possibility to get to the tremendously important sentence that work as such has no meaning for life, but only that work which is guided wisely. What is to be produced using human wisdom serves the human being. The modern social thinking offends against this sentence because it does not understand in the least.
It does not depend on the fact that anybody invents beautiful abstract theories, but the real progress depends on the fact that every single human being learns to think socially. Modern thinking is often antisocial. It is antisocial, for example, if anybody is on Sunday afternoon outdoors and says, animated by occasion: I write twenty postcards. It is correct and socially intended to know and to feel that these twenty cards cause so many postmen climbing so and so many stairs. It is social thinking to know that any action, which one does, has an effect in life. Now, however, somebody comes and says that he thinks socially inasmuch as he understands that more postmen must be employed and get their bread because of this card writing. — This is, as if one thinks of anything that one wants to build in order to employ unemployed workers. However, it does not depend on job creation, but that the work of the human beings is used solely to create valuable goods.
To be continued
Source: Rudolf Steiner – GA 54 – The Riddles of the World and Anthroposophy: The Social Question and Theosophy -Hamburg, March 2, 1908
Previously posted on 17 juli 2021