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between leaders and followers; and this hate will be all the more
inappeasable when it is open to every one to rise in the world, and
none can cherish the excuse that he is the victim of a social system
of overwhelming power. To-day this hatred is masked by the general
class-hatred - hatred of the monopolists of culture, of position and of

At the bottom of it, however, lies even to-day the more universal
hatred of the defeated for the victor, and when those three monopolies
have fallen, it will emerge in its original Cain-like form. It cannot
be appeased by any mechanical device. Human inequality can never be
abolished, human accomplishment and work will always vary, and the
human passion for success will always assert itself.

We have discussed the material foundation and the stratification of
the German people when full socialization has been realized. Let us
now forecast the manner of their existence.

The future community is poor; the individual is poor. The average
standard of well-being corresponds, at best, to what in peace-time one
would expect from an income of 3000 marks.[13] But the requirements of
the population are not mediævally simplified - they could not be, in
view of the density of the population and the complexity of industrial
and professional vocations. They are manifold and diverse, and they
are moreover intensified by the spectacle of extravagance offered by
the profiteering class and the licence of social life. The traditional
garden-city idyll of architects and art-craftsmen is a Utopia about as
much like reality as the pastoral Arcadianism of Marie Antoinette.

All things of common use are standardized into typical forms. It must
not be supposed, however, that they are based on pure designs and
models. The taste of the artist will clash with that of the crowd, and
since the former has no authority to back him he will have to
compromise. The compromise, however, consists in cheap imitation of
foreign models, for in foreign countries art-industry will exist, and
no legislation can prevent its products from finding their way (in
reproductions or actual examples) into Germany and being admired
there. Our half or wholly imitative products are turned out as cheaply
as possible, in substitute-materials, and are made as well or as ill
as the relics of our craftsmanship permit, or as our existing
machinery for the purpose is capable of. Cheapness and ease of
manufacture are the principles aimed at, for even with narrow means no
one will want to do without certain things; fashions still prevail,
and will have to be satisfied with things that do not last, but can be
constantly changed.

How far will a new system of education tend to simplify the needs of
men and women and to purify their taste? Probably very little, for
good models will be lacking, poverty is not fastidious, and the taste
of the populace is the sovereign arbiter. But on this taste it depends
whether vulgar ornaments and gewgaws, frivolities and bazaar-horrors,
are to satisfy the desires of the soul.

Objects of earlier art and industry have been alienated through need
of money or destroyed by negligence. Here and there one may find an
old cup or an engraving, as we do to-day in plundered territories, but
these things are disconnected specimens; all they can do is
occasionally to interest an artist. Whoever wants to procure some
object or to get something done which has not been standardized in the
common range of approved requirements must gain it by a tedious course
of pinching and saving. Personal possessions in the way of books,
musical instruments, works of art, as well as travel outside the
prescribed routes are rarities; a tree of one's own, a horse of one's
own are legendary things.

Thus luxury in its better aspect has gone to ruin quicker than in the
bad. All outlay devoted to culture, to beauty, to invigoration has
dried up; all that survives is what stimulates, what depraves and
befouls; frivolities, substitutes and swindles. What we have arrived
at is not the four-square simplicity of the peasant-homestead, but a
ramshackle city suburb. To some of us it is not easy, and to many it
is not agreeable to picture to themselves the aspect of a thoroughly
proletarianized country, and the difficulty lies in the fact that the
popular mind has, as it were by universal agreement, resolved to
conceive the future on a basis of domestic prosperity about tenfold as
great as it can possibly be. The leaders and office-holders of the
proletariat have an easy task in convincing themselves and others that
what they approve and are struggling for is the so-called middle-class
existence with all the refinement and claims of historic culture.
Tacitly, as a matter of course, they accept what plutocracy has to
give them, and imagine that the loans they take up from the
civilization and culture of the past can be redeemed from the social
gains of the future.

The stages at which a nation arrives year by year, can be estimated by
its building. In the new order, little is being built. Apart from
certain perfunctory garden-cities, which are being erected for the
principle of the thing, to meet the needs of a few thousand favoured
households, and which perhaps will never be finished, we will for
decades have to content ourselves with new subdivisions and
exploitation of the old buildings; old palaces packed to the roof with
families, will stand in the midst of vegetable gardens and will
alternate with empty warehouses in the midst of decayed cities. In the
streets of the suburbs the avenues of trees will be felled, and in the
cities grass will grow through the cracks of the pavement.

For a long time it used to be believed that the passion of the
landscape painters of the seventeenth century for introducing ruins
with hovels nestling among them arose from a feeling for romance.
This is not so - they only painted what they saw around them after the
ravages of the Thirty Years' War. It must not be supposed, however,
that the forecast in these pages is based on the consequences of the
war; these no doubt must darken our picture of the future; but the
shadows, which I have put in as sparingly as I could, are essentially
the expression of a greatly reduced economic efficiency, combined with
the uniformity produced by the general proletarianization of life with
the absence of any correcting factor in individual effort of a
rational character and of the influence of higher types.

A brighter trait in the material conditions of life will be formed by
effort of a collective character, such as even the most penurious
community may be able to undertake. The more severely the domestic
household has to pinch, and the more unattractive it thereby becomes,
the more completely will life be forced into publicity. Private claims
and aspirations, which cannot be satisfied, will be turned over to the
public. Men will gather in the streets and places of public resort,
and have more mutual intercourse than before, since every transaction
of life, even the most insignificant, will have to be a subject of
discussion, agreement and understanding. In all the arrangements of
social life, _e.g._ for news, communications, supplies, discussion and
entertainment, and demands will be made and complied with for greater
convenience and comprehensiveness, for popular æsthetics and popular
representation. In these arrangements and in these alone Art will
have to find its functions and its home. Public buildings, gardens,
sanatoriums, means of transit and exhibitions will be established at
great cost. All the demands of the spirit and of the senses will seek
their satisfaction in public. There will be no lack of popular
performances, excursions, tours and conducted visits to collections;
of clubs, libraries, athletic meetings and displays. The aspect of
this tendency from the point of view of culture and ethics we have
still to consider; in its social aspect (apart from the fact that it
causes a vacuum in the home and forces young people to the surface of
life, and in spite of its mechanical effect) it will act as a
comforting reminiscence of the civic commonalty and solidarity of
mediæval times.

In considering the spiritual and cultural life of a fully socialized
society, we have to start with the assumption that any one man's
opinion and decision are as good as another's. Authority, even in
matters of the highest intellectual or spiritual character, only
exists in so far as it is established, acknowledged and confirmed
either by direct action of the people's will, or indirectly through
their representatives. Every one's education and way of life are much
the same; there are no secrecies, no vague authority attaching to
special vocations; no one permits himself to feel impressed by any
person or thing. Every one votes, whether it be for an office, a
memorial, a law, or a drama, or does it through delegates or the
delegates of delegates. Every one is determined to know the how and
where and why of everything - just as to-day in America - and demands a
plausible reason for it. The reply, "This is a matter you don't
understand," is impossible.

Everything is referred to one's own conscience, one's own
intelligence, one's own taste, and no one admits any innate or
acquired superiority in others. In debate, the boundaries between the
ideal and the practicable are obliterated; for on the one hand every
one is too much preoccupied with material needs, and on the other, too
confident, too unaccustomed to submit himself to what in former days
was called a deeper insight, too loosely brought up to let himself be
taught. We never, therefore, hear such judgments as: This, although it
is difficult, is a book to be read; this drama ought to have been
produced although it is not sensational; I don't myself care for this
memorial, but it must remain because a great artist made it; this is a
necessary branch of study, although it has no practical application; I
will vote for this man on account of his character and ability,
although he has made no election-promises. On the other hand, the
following kind of argument will have weight: This historic building
must be demolished, for it interferes with traffic; this collection
must be sold, for we need money; we need no chair of philosophy, but
we do need one for cinema-technique; these ornamental grounds are the
very place for a merry-go-round; tragedies are depressing, they must
not be performed in the State theatres. Let us recall certain oversea
legislation - carried out, be it noted in countries still swayed by the
traditional influence of culture - and these examples will not seem

Where there is no appeal to authority, where none need fear
disapproval or ridicule, where convenience is prized and thrift rules
supreme, there thought and decision will be short-breathed, and will
never look beyond the needs of the day. Who will then care for far-off
deductions, for wide arcs of thought? Calculation comes to the front,
everything unpractical is despised; opinions are formed by discussion,
everyday reading and propaganda. Men demand proofs, success, visible
returns. The fewer the aims, the stronger will be their attraction.
People are tolerant, for they are used to hearing the most varied
opinions, and all opinions have followers, from the water-cure to
Tâoism; but the only opinion of any influence is that whose followers
are many.

Public opinion settles everything. The champions of absolute values
have to accommodate themselves to the law of competition. Religious
teaching has to seek the favour of the times by the same methods as a
new system of physical culture. A work of art must compete for votes.
Only by popularity-hunting can anything come to life; there will be no
doing without much talking. As in the later days of Greece, rhetoric
and dialectic are the most powerful of the arts.

And since manual labour cherishes silently or openly a bitter grudge
against intellectual labour, the latter has to protect itself by a
pretence of sturdy simplicity; when two teachers are competing for the
head-mastership of a classical school each tries to prove that he has
the hornier hand.

Most things in this new order are decided by weight of numbers.
Advertisement and propaganda are banished from socialized industry and
commerce; instead, they compete in the service of personal and ideal
aims - in elections, theatres, systems of medicine, superstitions,
arts, appointments, professorships, churches.

Art has for the third time changed its master - after the princes,
Mæcenas, the middle-class market; after Mæcenas, the plebs, and export
trade. Whether by means of representation through gilds, by
compulsion, by patronage, or by favour, Art has become dependent; it
must explain, exhort, contend; it can no longer rest proudly on
itself. It must aim at getting a majority on its side, and this it can
only do by sensationalism. Like all other features of intellectual
life, it must march with the times. Like all technique, research,
learning and handicraft it suffers through the loss, for several
generations, of tradition and hereditary skill, but together with this
drop there is also a drop in the character of the demand; quality has
given way to actuality.[14]

Certain reactions based on practical experience are not excluded;
the constant comparison with the past and with foreign countries will
show the value of the cultivation of a science, of an art which has no
fixed prepossessions and serves no immediate aims. Measures are taken,
though without much conviction, by free Academies or the like, to win
back something of this; but the atmosphere is not favourable to such
attempts, and an artificial and sterile discipline is all that can

The general tone is that of an excitable, loquacious generation, bent
on actualities and matters of practical calculation, fonder of debate
than of work, not impressed by any authority, prizing success,
watching all that goes on abroad, taking refuge in public from the
sordidness of private life, and passionately hostile to all
superiority. Through the constant secession of elements to which this
tone is antipathetic a kind of natural selection is constantly taking
place, and the political defencelessness of the transition period
favours disintegrating tendencies of foreign origin. The carving away
of ancient German territories works in the same direction. Apart from
the varying influence of the four strata already referred to, the
general tone will be set by the half-Slavonic lower classes of Middle
and North Germany, who have brought about and who control the existing
conditions, and by the other elements which have been assimilated to

In place of German culture and German intellectuality we have a state
of things of which a foretaste already exists in parts of America and
of Eastern Europe. The fully socialized order, repelling all tutelage
through those strata which possess a special tradition, outlook and
mentality, has created its own form of civilization.


[Footnote 10: Rathenau means that it cannot be entertained except on
the hypothesis of the profound _inward_ change, which is to be
discussed later on.]

[Footnote 11: _Kritik der dreifachen Revolution._ S. Fischer.]

[Footnote 12: The classes referred to are (1) the old aristocracy, (2)
the aristocracy of officialism, (3) that of traditional middle-class
culture; (4) the mass of what is called Socialism.]

[Footnote 13: £150 in pre-war values. By thrift, by co-operation, and
by the cheapness of the public services generally, a surprisingly high
standard of life could be maintained on this kind of income in pre-war

[Footnote 14: Aktualität; as, for instance, reference to current


Thoughtful and competent judges to whom I have submitted the foregoing
section of my work have said to me: This is Hell. That is perhaps
going too far, since those who will live in that generation and who
have themselves helped it into being will have become more or less
adapted to their circumstances.

A large part of the proletariat of to-day will certainly not be
daunted by the prospect, but will regard it as a distinct improvement
on their present situation. That is the terrible fact, a fact for
which we are responsible and for which we must atone, with what ruin
to German culture remains to be seen.

Who, in this Age of Mechanism, who on the side of the bourgeoisie, who
of our statesmen, our professors, our captains of industry, above all
who of our clergy, has pitied the lot of the working-man? The
statesmen, for peace' sake, worked out the Insurance Laws; the
professors, with their emphatic dislike to the world of finance and
their unemphasized devotion to the monopoly of their own stipends,
preached a doctrinaire socialism; the clergy lauded the
divinely-appointed principle of subordination; the great
industrialists, wallowing in their own greed for power, money, favour,
titles and connexions, scolded the workers for wanting anything. The
silent subjugation of our brothers was assured through the laws of
inheritance, our leaders put the socialistic legislation in fetters,
freedom of combination was thwarted, electoral reform in Prussia was
scornfully denied, demands for better conditions of living, conditions
which to-day we think ridiculously low, were suppressed by force. And
all the time, the cost of a single year of war, a tiny fraction of the
war-reparations, would have sufficed to banish want for ever from the
land. At last the millions of the defenceless and disappointed were
driven into that war of the dynasties and the bourgeois, which was
unloosed by the folly of years, the dazzlement of weeks, the
helplessness of hours.

If the state of things I have foreseen is hell, then we have earned
hell. And it ill becomes us to wrap ourselves in the superiority of
our culture, to rebuke the masses for their want of intellect, their
want of character, their greed, and to keep insisting on the
unchangeability of human character, on the virtues of rulership and
leadership, on the spiritual unselfishness and intellectual priesthood
of the classes born to freedom. Where was this heaven-nurtured
priestly virtue sleeping when Wrong straddled the land and the great
crime was wrought? It was composing feeble anthologies and pompous
theories, cooking its culture-soup, confusing, with true professorial
want of instinct, 1913 with 1813[15] - and putting itself at the
disposition of the Press Bureau. _That_ was the hour in which to fight
for the supremacy of the spirit. Now romance comes, as it always does,
too late.

What is romance in history? It is sterility. It is incapacity to
imagine, still less to shape, the yet unknown. It is an inordinate
capacity for flinging oneself with feminine adaptability into anything
that is historically presented and accomplished - from Michael Angelo
to working samplers. Fearing the ugly present and the anxious future,
the romantic takes refuge with the dear good dead people, and spins
out further what it has learned from them. But every big man was a
shaper of his own time, a respecter of antiquity and conscious of his
inheritance as a grown and capable man may be; not a youth in
sheltered tutelage, but a master of the living world, and a herald of
the future. "Modernity" is foolish, but antiquarianism is rubbish;
life in its vigour is neither new nor antique, but young.

True it is indeed that we love the old, many-coloured, concrete,
pre-mechanistic world; we cannot take an antique thing in our hands or
read an antique word without feeling its enchantment. It is a joy to
the heart, and one prohibited to no man, to dream at times romantic
dreams, to live in the past, and to forget, as we do it, that this
very dreaming, this very life, owes its charm to the fact that we
are of another age. It is a magic like that of childhood - but to want
to go back to it is not only childish, but a deliberate fraud and
self-deception. We should realize, as I have shown years ago, that the
difference of our age from that age is the ever-present fact of the
density of our population. Any one who wants to go back, really wants
that forty million Germans should die, while he survives. It is
ignorant, it is insincere, to put on a frown of offended virtue and to
say: For shame, what are you thronging into the towns for? Go back to
the land; plough, spin, weave, ply the blacksmith's hammer, as did our
forefathers, who were the proper sort of people. And leave the people
like us, who think and write poetry and brood and dream for you, a
house embowered in vines - there will be room enough for that! - Ah, you
thinkers and brooders, what would you say if men answered you: No! Go
yourself and spin in a factory, for you have shown clearly enough that
your thinking and brooding are futile. All your fine phrases amount to
nothing but the one dread monosyllable - Die! Are you so wicked as
that, and know it? or so stupid, and know it not?

Thought is the most responsible of all functions. He who thinks for
others must look after them, and if they live he may not slay them. It
is therefore a mischievous piece of romantic folly to point us to the
past. We must all pass through the dark gateway, and the sage has no
right to growl: Leave me out - I am the salt of the earth! The first
thing we have to do is to save humanity; not a selected pair in the
Ark but the whole race, criminals and harlots, fools, beggars and
cripples. We ourselves have cast down Authority, and there will be a
crush, and many things will look very different from what the sages
would wish and what the romantics dream. And if it is going to be hell
for people like you and me, we must only accept it in the name of
justice, and think of Dante's terrible inscription: "I was made by the
Might of God, by the supreme Wisdom and by the primal Love."[16]

But is it hell? That depends on ourselves.


[Footnote 15: In 1913 all Germany was celebrating with great pomp and
warlike display the centenary of the liberation of the country from
Napoleon, and also paying a huge property tax for the coming war.]

[Footnote 16:

_Fecemi la divina Potestate
La somma Sapienza e il primo Amore._

This is part of the inscription over the gates of Hell in the
_Inferno_, Canto III.]


Our description of the future order of society was tacitly based on
the assumption that our mentality, our ethics, our spiritual outlook,
would remain as they are at present.

This assumption is a probable one, but it is not irrevocably certain.
What we have endeavoured to demonstrate is simply the obvious
fact - the fact which our once so rigid but, since November, 1918,
uprooted and flaccid intellectualism has forgotten - that our salvation
is not to be found in any kind of mechanical apparatus or
institutions. Institutions do not mean evolution. If institutions run
too far ahead of evolution there will be reaction. When evolution runs
too far, there is revolution.

At this point both groups of our opponents will start up against us.

The Radicals cry: Ha! only give us food, give "all power to the
Soviets," let us have free-thought lectures, and mentality, insight,
experience and culture will come of themselves.

The Reactionaries smile: Ho! this man has never learned that there is
no such thing as evolution; that human character never changes.

I shall not answer either of these. They know, both of them, that they
are saying what is not true.

Something of unprecedented greatness can and must take place;
something that in the life of a people corresponds to the awakening of
manhood in the individual.

In every conscious existence there comes a moment when the living
being is no longer determined but begins to determine himself; when he
takes over responsibility from the surrounding Powers, in order to
shoulder it for himself; when he no longer accepts the forces that
guide him, but creates them; when he no longer receives but freely
chooses the values, ideals, aims and authorities whose validity he
will admit; when he begets out of his own being the relations with the
divine which he means to serve. For the German people this moment,
this opportunity, has now arrived - or is for ever lost.

We have made a clear sweep of all authorities. The inherited
influences which we accepted unconsciously have dropped away from
us - persons, classes, dogmas. The persons are done with for the
present. The classes, even though they may still keep up the struggle,
are broken to pieces together with all the best that they contained:

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