Apr 5, 2023Liked by Seth Jordan

Hey Seth Thomas Jordan, I love this piece, thank you for writing it. A few thoughts and speculations that I'd enjoy your comment on:

° You say that work and goods cannot be exchanged one for another, and quote Steiner as saying that this is a living lie and "impossible." This confuses me inexorably, since it is the norm in our culture. Everyone who works in the service industry, everyone who walks a paper route or cuts hair or drives an Uber is then living a lie. If that's true, then what are the manifestations and repercussions of that lie? How would we know? Or, better, how would we untangle that lie from all of the other lies that we live in contemporary Western culture?

° Your part about degradation of dignity hits home with a vengeance for me these days. I have given up most rights to dignity in my workplace, and allow myself to be routinely harassed and degraded, in order to attend to what I feel called to -- address climate change, and also earn a living. Sure, one could volunteer similar work, and there are many who do (some who are much more effective than I), but such people either have to be independently wealthy or possess an inordinate degree of faith that the world will somehow provide for them. In my experience, watching myself and others, the world often doesn't. At least not the way the world is presently configured.

° You cite the military as being an historical example of where income is separated from work. "Soldiers haven’t been paid a wage for their work, instead they labor on behalf of the whole and receive a livelihood that’s adequate to their needs." It's my understanding that for most of human history soldiers have been paid with the loot and pillage that they obtain when they defeat an enemy. It is only fairly recently that soldiers have earned a 'salary.'

° "the work which a person carries out ... must be determined by (their) capacities and the requirements of human dignity." But what if the work is inherently undignified? Pumping out septage, coal mining, garbage collection, and prostitution come to mind, but there are many others. If the person is receiving no recompense as a direct result of their labor then why would they do it? Who would do such work without direct recompense? Perhaps Steiner believed that such work would fall away and no longer be necessary? Or saints would arise from within the new society to fulfill such tasks?

It seems that helping people to uncover and live their true calling or life's mission is a key to all of this.

Great stuff to ponder Seth, thanks.

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Hey Tad,

These are fantastic thoughts and questions. Thanks for sharing them.

° This picture of a living lie is a super interesting one. How I see it is that in the realm of social phenomena there are certain dynamics, there's a certain lawfulness at work (as in any realm of phenomena). We can of course be blind to that lawfulness - work against it - which then just creates suffering over time. So for instance, we can think that the point of education is to shape people in any way that the community (i.e., the state) wants. But this doesn't consider the reality - that people have innate predispositions. If we were to take that as a given, then we'd form education so that it draws out those latent capacities, and then we'd form the professions in a similar way - so that each person could find their rightful place. This would serve both the community and every individual in the healthiest way. But we work against that reality, and people are miserable - they feel unseen and inadequate, they hate their jobs, and they somehow have this feeling that they're not doing what they came here to do. And it's not the only reason for all this misery, but I would it's probably the main one, and yet we can't see that this baseline misperception is creating all these terrible repercussions, so we don't do anything about it.

It's no different with labor. Yes, we can buy and sell labor, but again it's a misperception of the underlying reality, which is that producing and products are fundamentally different and we're actually always just selling the products/results of our labor. So coming back to your questions, the barber and the Uber driver aren't doing something that's a lie unless they're billing for their time and labor power. In reality they're selling a product or service - a haircut, a ride.

The fact that we don't even try to see the underlying reality has huge repercussions. We think we can just create whatever we want and call it whatever we want, but the reality is biting us hard. So land, labor, and capital aren't commodities. Commodities are really some part of the land that's been taken up and transformed by labor and brought to market (the apple isn't a commodity until it's picked and brought to the store). And the means of production is only a commodity when it's first bought, but then it changes and becomes a bundle of rights like land. When we pretend these things are all the same (because we've never tried to distinguish them) then it distorts everything into all sorts of bizarre proportions.

° Your second point about being forced to work in undignified ways is a great one, and touches on this last point. When we've distorted everything in the way we have, everyone has to contort themselves in all sorts of terrible ways in order to fit within the system. (Reminds me of the Krishnamurti quote "It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.")

° I think you're right concerning the military example. I think Steiner is just speaking about the military as it exists as an arm of the modern state. The protective/warrior function has existed in every group, and that it doesn't mean it's always been treated in the same way in all those different contexts.

° Are pumping out septage, coal mining, garbage collection, and prostitution all really inherently undignified? Are they that different than my example of a person sewing clothes in a sweatshop? 7 or 8 years ago I heard Linda Thomas speak (she's the woman who has trailblazed the art of cleaning as a spiritual path) and she described how, in order to send her child to a Waldorf kindergarten, she had to take cleaning jobs which seemed to her like low, menial labor. But she also cleaned the school that her child attended and found herself cleaning the bathroom, and they had these tiny toilets for all the 5 and 6 year olds, and the only way to clean them was to get on your knees and really get into these little toilets and she found that it became super powerful and meaningful to do this thing - it was like an act of prayer to get down and take care of that which is seemingly the lowest (it reminds me of Francis of Asissi with the lepers). Garbage and sewage and coal (and I would perhaps also argue sex) are all things that we desperately need. Can we see the dignity of those services? It's a sensitive topic obviously, but I have wondered if there isn't a place for sex-work as a kind of healing work (as respectable as anyone in the medical profession) for those who can't find their way into romantic relationships. I don't know. But I do wonder if the frustration and misery that can build up in people because of such sexual difficulties couldn't be worked with in healthier ways?

That said, I do think some types of work are terrible and don't serve anyone's needs - how many people are just trying to find ways to game the system, to spam people, etc? Or to create things that have no real use and will fall apart once you leave the shop? And how much unnecessary labor is there? (I thought David Graeber's "Bullshit Jobs" was interesting in this respect). There are so many tasks that shouldn't be done, and people should have the freedom to walk away from them.

Thanks for your thoughts on this, Tad. Always interested to hear more, if there's more to share. Hope all's well - Seth

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Apr 13, 2023Liked by Seth Jordan

Great topic and stimulating commentary.

Thank you all.

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Apr 5, 2023Liked by Seth Jordan

Hmmm . . . quick response before I head out to a sauna and dinner with a friend. I like your thoughts about the dignity of 'demeaning' labor if it is undertaken out of free will and a sense of service. I also like your vision around sex work transformed into a healing practice. I have a friend who remembers doing that kind of work in a past life. I question the word 'need' with regard to sex, though. In fact, I question that word with regard to just about everything: what does it mean? Who needs sexuality? Everybody, or just some? If everybody - then there are plenty of people who do not have that need met, so is it really a need? If just some - then why do some need it and others not? I don't know what 'need' means anymore, unless it's used conditionally - 'I need a car to get to Northampton by 6 tonight because the train has already left and I don't know how to teleport yet.'

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As I see it, everyone has different needs. They're individual and they change during the course of our lives (so, yes, I'd say they're conditional too). Just because they're not met and we don't die, doesn't mean they're not real needs though. In general terms, I'd say that everyone has the need to live a dignified life, and in order to do so we need a dignified livelihood (income) and not just a subsistence livelihood. A dignified livelihood would meet all our needs, not just the needs of the body (to survive), but also the need for rest and spiritual nourishment (to thrive). Everyone needs to develop their latent capacities, so they need access to education and culture to do so. So I'd say living such a dignified life is a general need, but it will mean something different for each individual.

Of course, some "needs" will infringe on other people, and that's where it gets tricky, but that's also where our laws and agreements come in. Someone might want to use a piece of land however they see fit, and in the process pollute the river running alongside it, but that infringes on everyone else's bodily well-being. So we make common agreements/laws around these things... and in the process we get a bigger and bigger state machine. But ideally the activity of living together will educate us so that our needs evolve and we don't always need laws to keep us from harming each other but can do so out of our own free volition. I think that's the direction we should be aiming for, both in ourselves and in society. And I think certain things, like a really free cultural life, would encourage it.

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I do have an interesting idea that can change or have an effect on how labor is viewed in the world . I call it Vours ( voluntarily hour exchange). Within communities exchange of time happens , but boundaries are not very clear. And many social groups snd organizations utilize voluntary hours . And what a person does with their time is an expression of free agency and because it’s private is outside the domain of the public , and therefor regulation.

So I propose a system of voluntary hour exchange and a accounting system to keep track to help guide and ensure it’s not exploited . A key feature is that there is a commitment to balance out voluntary hours given and received in a period. Either weekly

, monthly or such . This determines the rate of participation . This is primarily

Done in specified groups . The most obvious is parent groups that trade child care time . But it could be modified to either be with social organizations or more geographically .

A feature I’d that all time is equal . My time is exchanged for another’s time irrespective of what the labor market determines . More like how families exchange time .

Sure I should be a leading voice behind this idea snd try to become an economic king , but I think I first really just want people to appreciate it and bring it to life somehow .

We will see

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Well, I do appreciate Steiner .

I think Steiner working at a time of a Marxist revolution plays a part in such ideas .

Where I think Steiner was in the correct observation was in the three fold social order. And I think the model itself can offer some perspective on how to view or read it. The economic sphere is different then the cultural sphere . In the cultural sphere of work like endeavours these ideas that your posting make more sense . Like teaching . But in the production of goods , like farming, value for production makes more sense .

I believe labor laws and wage laws actually reflect what Steiner was referring to. Despite these social controls the social system is still gamed toward great income disparity . And oddly by those that seem to gather to discuss how to social engineer the world ( WEF).

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Hey - thanks for your thoughts.

You're right that Steiner was working at a time when there was much more Marxist activity, but of course the labor movement was incredibly active as well - they were largely one and the same. Steiner spoke often about labor laws and labor unions, how they'd made progress in certain ways, but how they fundamentally fell short of what was necessary. Even the most progressive (for instance the IWW advocated the abolition of the wage system and not just "a fair day's wage for a fair day's labor") didn't go far enough. The main two issues, in relation to the current discussion, is that they don't see that everything in the economy is linked together - you can't raise wages and prices in one place without it having a negative effect on other workers elsewhere elsewhere (this is because of the wage-price spiral, which I've written about here: https://thewholesocial.substack.com/p/a-crucial-lesson-of-the-great-resignation). The second issue is that you can't decommodify labor within the economy itself because it's the nature of economics to turn everything into a commodity.

To touch on your other point: Steiner definitely isn't only talking about cultural work when he speaks about separating work and income. Some of the quotes in this article come from Towards Social Renewal (TSR), his main book on threefolding, so he was certainly speaking about threefolding at the same time he was speaking about the separation of work and income. If anything, the thoughts in this article apply especially to non-cultural workers - he treats cultural workers a little differently in TSR. This is because when someone does cultural work they bring something new into the world and, if it's really new, then it doesn't make sense for the community to decide too much about it. Instead, the artist, inventor, or entrepreneur should have to rely on the free recognition of those who can support them. This can be in the form of business capital for a new business enterprise, or in the form of free gifts in the case of art, science, religion, or education.

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Concerning your other comment - do you know time banks? They operate in a similar way to what you're describing. If you don't know them, I'd recommend looking them up. There might be one already in operation where you live.

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Generally I don’t disagree with Steiner . But in this depiction I do. I would have to read these things directly to ponder them in the context for which he is presenting them. Like Steiner would suggest first learning medicine before exploring anthroposophical medicine , I’d suggest Steiner first read through Capital by Marx before making such ideas . Steiner himself has made a name for himself presenting history from the perspective of evolving consciousness . So to speak about labor in such ways seems out of place because labor is not made up of a singularity of consciousness. The range of consciousness amongst labor is quite broad. So tackling this problem of labor exchange in the context of conscious development is suddenly over simplistic . Where I think the work Capital by Marx goes quite deep into the details of exchange . And it’s the kind of depth that is necessary , and these texts your have presented , or from what I have read of Steiner on this subject is quite shallow broad and idealistic .

These collective ideals around income entitlement are more appropriate to a time of tribalism and blood lines . And this seems to be in contrast with the notion of conscious evolutionary epochs that Steiner speaks of . The “I in us “ for which he describes this Epoch. Few communities in the modern cosmopolitan society of the world today function like this.

The camp hill communities work mainly as residents and paid live in care givers. And when I met with people there there was misgivings as their income put limits on what they could do in life. There was no way for them to save to anything else . The idea that people would simply recognize their destiny and find the way to fulfill it is a bit fantastical. It happens to some in clear ways sometimes and lost ways in others . It’s not a given that people will simply find their destiny and most have to meander about and come into at times and not others . So this idea is just do idealistic and lacks basis in reality . The base reality for which people function in life must exist , like a canvas or platform for which some destinies may sprout while others may wait . Some people could spend their whole life simply

In the ready for some dimension of reality to open for which their destiny becomes active . So this idea is just not real .

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Mar 30, 2023·edited Mar 30, 2023Author

Just to clarify - Steiner certainly read Marx (and Smith and Ricardo and Lasalle and probably every other major economist). He speaks about economics and economic thinkers in depth, not just in his writing and speaking about threefolding but in a whole course of 14 lectures that he gave to economics students. There's a large group of people working primarily with Steiner's economic ideas (the economics conference at the Goetheanum) and out of his economic thinking has arisen the movement for ethical banking in Europe (see GLS and Triodos banks especially) as well as CSAs in the US and elsewhere. Certainly this is all quite small compared to the mainstream capitalist paradigm (it's relatively few people and communities), but that's how new ways of working generally enter into the world. I'd recommend reading some of these things before passing too strong of a judgement.

On another note: I've watched as different anthroposophical communities that were formed along these lines have fallen apart, and I've heard what you're describing around people complaining that they have no free time and no ability to save anything for the future. But that's because their work isn't receiving enough income to live a truly dignified life (to meet all their needs, including their need for rest and cultural refreshment). On the one hand, this doesn't have much to do with how the income is divided (it doesn't matter if you're paid hourly or not - if there's not enough income coming into the community, then no one can make it provide everyone with vacations and retirement). On the other hand, though, I see that as people become less inspired by their work, they talk more and more about needing money. The money replaces the interest. The need for a pension replaces the knowledge that your community will take care of you. Where there is truly vital inspiration and solidarity, paying wages just gets in the way (its very nature and form assumes that people are self-interested). But yeah, if we don't find the ways to have our work become an expression of inspiration and solidarity, then wages will probably be the only way to keep people working.

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