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The New Society by Walther Rathenau







Walther Rathenau, author of _Die neue Gesellschaft_ and other studies of economic and social conditions in modern Germany, was born in 1867. His father, Emil Rathenau, was one of the most distinguished figures in the great era of German industrial development, and his son was brought up in the atmosphere of hard work, of enterprise, and of public affairs. After his school days at a _Gymnasium_, or classical school, he studied mathematics, physics and chemistry at the Universities of Berlin and of Strassburg, taking his degree at the age of twenty-two. Certain discoveries made by him in chemistry and electrolysis led to the establishment of independent manufacturing works, which he controlled with success, and eventually to his connexion with the world-famous A.E.G.--_Allgemeine Electrizitaetsgesellschaft_--at the head of which he now stands. During the war he scored a very remarkable and exceptional success as controller of the organization for the supply of raw materials. He is thus not merely a scholar and thinker, but one who has lived and more than held his own in the thick of commercial and industrial life, and who knows by actual experience the subject-matter with which he deals.

The present study, with its wide outlook and its resolute determination to see facts as they are, should have much value for all students of latter-day politics and economics in Europe; for though Rathenau is mainly concerned with conditions in his own land the same conditions affect all countries to a greater or less degree, and he deals with general principles of human psychology and of economic law which prevail everywhere in the world. It is not too much to say that "The New Society" constitutes a landmark in the history of economic and social thought, and contains matter for discussion, for sifting, for experiment and for propaganda which should occupy serious thinkers and reformers for many a day to come. His suggestions and conclusions may not be all accepted, or all acceptable, but few will deny that they constitute a distinct advance in the effort to bring serious and disinterested thought to the solution of our social problems, and in this conviction we offer the present complete and authorized translation to English readers.



Is there any sign or criterion by which we can tell that a human society has been completely socialized?

There is one and one only: it is when no one can have an income without working for it.

That is the sign of Socialism; but it is not the goal. In itself it is not decisive. If every one had enough to live on, it would not matter for what he received money or goods, or even whether he got them for nothing. And relics of the system of income which is not worked for will always remain--for instance, provision for old age.

The goal is not any kind of division of income or allotment of property. Nor is it equality, reduction of toil, or increase of the enjoyment of life. It is the abolition of the proletarian condition; abolition of the lifelong hereditary serfage, the nameless hereditary servitude, of one of the two peoples who are called by the same name; the annulment of the hereditary twofold stratification of society, the abolition of the scandalous enslavement of brother by brother, of that Western abuse which is the basis of our civilization as slavery was of the antique, and which vitiates all our deeds, all our creations, all our joys.

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