The three ideals of the French revolution – freedom, equality and brotherhood – are well known. It is immediately clear that these ideals are an inspiration for all kinds of social development. History, however, also shows how difficult it is to make them effective in practice. Rudolf Steiner’s achievement was to reformulate them in keeping with today’s consciousness, even though his social impulse could only be realised in a rudimentary way. In his essays and lectures on the threefold nature of society, he called for freedom throughout the field of culture. Education, in particular, should not be subject to economic and political performance targets and hence, the pressure for tests and examinations. Instead, every developing human being should have the right to an education until at least the age of 18. By then, the personality will have developed and established itself to such an extent that the young people themselves can – according to inclination – agree to a graduation exam and tackle it with enthusiasm. This happens to a certain degree in the Waldorf schools that were founded after the First World War.
The world of rights, politics and state craft come under the ideal of equality. Emancipated citizens decide for themselves the rules and laws that give form to the regional, ethnic and national communities. This is also the realm in which the conditions and framework for the cultural/spiritual, as well as those of the economy, are worked out and decided upon. The least achieved of the ideals expressed in the French Revolution is brotherhood in the economic system. This is clearly manifested in the liberal capitalism of today’s global economy, as well as in the state tutelage of socialism.
Colonialism, predatory capitalism and economic wars, followed by hunger, poverty and social misery, bear witness to a well-established lack of brotherhood. Brotherhood in the realm of economy is what today’s ‘climate youth’, critics of capitalism and the ecological movements are calling for – a respect for nature and human beings throughout the supply and value chain! This includes a pricing structure that reflects the applied and organised work in a true and sustainable way, and remunerates those involved so that they can live a dignified life. Rudolf Steiner suggested that in order to realise this, producers, traders and consumers must come together in associations and collectively decide how to put it into practice.
The motto of the Steiner’s social ethic is: “The healthy social life is found when in the mirror of each human soul the whole community finds its reflection, and when in the community, the virtue of each one is living.”
Steiner, Rudolf: World Economy (14 lectures) and Seminar, GA 340 and 341
Lamb, Gary: Steinerian Economics
Steiner, Rudolf: Rethinking Economics: Lectures and Seminars on World Economics