Resources for developing a whole society perspective
A "starter pack" for threefolding
There are countless ways we try to bring health to society, yet they almost always address one issue without seeing the whole. But society can’t be made healthy this way. It keeps changing, evolving. We can’t renew it without grasping the lawfulness of its evolution and the dynamic relationship of its parts.
“The individual stone is useless if it does not fit into the overall (building) plan. Reform the law, religion, or anything else — as long as you only take account of the particular item, without having an understanding of the whole, it only results in demolition…
All separate reform movements — emancipators, abstainers, vegetarians, animal protectors and so forth — are only useful if they all work together.” — Rudolf Steiner
But developing such an understanding is difficult. Rudolf Steiner, who worked tirelessly to make the wholeness of society visible (work that he called “social threefolding” because it addressed the relationship of the economy, government, and culture), left behind a vast trove of books and lecture cycles. But starting with a hefty book can be daunting. So what are some other ways?
The Whole Social is one such way, one that starts with the current events around us (though all the articles still have a specific focus — the most all-encompassing might be “Society’s Open Secret”). But what are the best doorways out of Steiner’s work itself?
Below is a collection of articles that are all great starting points because of their brevity, scope, and power. They’re accessible and also provocative. They’re juicy. In addition, many are about topics that are harder to come by from a threefold perspective, so folks already immersed in threefolding may be especially excited to discover them.
I hope you enjoy.
(PS — below these articles I’ve also shared some of the books that I think are the best to start with, as well as a few other related resources.)
(PPS — there’s one translation issue to be aware of when reading. The word that Steiner uses to describe the life of culture is “Geistesleben,” which means the life of the mind or spirit. This can be confusing as all three terms are used at times.)
Besides these shorter pieces, it’s important to still point out some of the best books on threefolding. At the top of that list would be Towards Social Renewal, followed by Rethinking Economics (variously translated as World Economy and Economics), and then perhaps The Social Future. Also, there are a couple of really great compilations — one consisting of Steiner’s public articles called Renewing the Social Organism, and an especially rich compendium of some of his most important essays and lectures called Social Threefolding (edited by Stephen Usher).
Besides Steiner, there are also a number of other writers who have published on threefolding (mostly in German, but also in English). To go through such a list would take too long, but I’ll just mention two resources I think are under-appreciated: the social writings of Owen Barfield as well as the body of work that the Economics conference at the Goetheanum has built up.
Lastly, for those who are looking for a bit more guidance through these ideas, I’ve written a 12 lesson correspondence course called Transforming Society, which can be taken up by both individuals and groups.
What do you recommend when people ask, “Where should I begin with threefolding?” If you have further suggestions, please share them in the comments section below.
From The Temple Legend, pp. 145-146