Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Solidarism, II: Durkheim’s Prescription

Durkheim’s solution to what he called anomie was to claim that it is a moral obligation for people to organize to restructure society into monopolistic vocational groups, (Ibid., 226, 228) achieving “functional representation” (Ibid., 226.) to alter the division of labor by shifting from mechanical solidarity to organic solidarity. (Ibid.) The act of organizing would subsume not merely individual rights, but individual personalities, into the group, thereby achieving, in Durkheim’s opinion, a natural society.  As Schumpeter commented,

“[Durkheim] realized that individual behavior can never be explained exclusively from the facts that pertain to the individual himself and that it is necessary to fall back upon the influences of his social environment.  This can be done in many ways.  Durkheim’s way was to construct a group mind — or, since his method was to explain things by means of material about primitive civilizations, a tribal mind — that feels and thinks and acts as such: since this idea itself is of romantic origin, we may describe Durkheim’s position as a sort of positivist romanticism.” (Schumpeter, History of Economic Analysis, op. cit., 794.)

German and Austrian Christian Socialism
Durkheim’s theory of solidarism found its way quickly into Catholic social teaching.  It was one of the guiding principles embodied in Das Katholisch-Soziale Manifest, “The Catholic-Social Manifesto,” a compendium published in 1932. (Studienrunde katholischer Soziologen, Katholisch-soziales Manifest.  Mainz: Mathias Grünewald, 1932.) Reiterating Durkheim’s thought, contributors condemned capitalism on the grounds that “it divided people into antagonistic classes based on wealth, that it led to the production of goods which lacked cultural value because the producers were interested only in profit, and that the workers who produced all the wealth did not receive proper compensation for their efforts.” (Alfred Diamant, Austrian Catholics and the Social Question, 1918-1933.  Gainesville, Florida: University of Florida Press, 1959, 68.)

“The reform of society according to the Manifest would have to be based on corporative principles.  The corporate order which would result from this reform would be not only a socioeconomic system, but a moral-religious one as well.  The material basis of that corporative order would be the principle of Lehen; that is to say, all property is created by God, man can have it for use only and must render services to God and the community for this privilege.  In this way property would serve its proper dual purpose: sociocultural as well as individual ends.  Nevertheless, the authors of the Manifest conceded that individuals could have title to property, provided proper safeguards were established.

“Based on property and organized on the principle of Lehen, economic activity would be governed by the principles of Stand and Beruf.  Stand, in brief, was to be the community of those pursuing a common Beruf (vocation).  By pursuing a Beruf under the control of a Stand, the individual would be assured a standesgemässer Unterhalt (in effect, a “family wage”).  It would enable him to care for himself and those entrusted to his care, as well as pursue his cultural goals, namely, family maintenance, education, security for old age, and others.” (Ibid.)

This is pretty bad, for Durkheim’s solidarism was just a fancy way of saying socialism.  That being the case, how did it ever become respectable?


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