Abraham Rotstein, Notes de fin de semaine III

From Karl Polanyi
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Weekend Notes (Overview)

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Texte en anglais à traduire en français

Religion et Révélation

[4][1] Christianity was not understood by the Apostles or since. It was carried along by the Christological element. Only exceptionally did we get Christian heresies such as Communism? The Apostles met Jesus alive after the crucifixion and then preached that he was the son of God and this story spread. There is nothing of the meaning of Christianity in the Crusades which was long sustained movement.

Parmi les Juifs there was an intolerant eradication of their idolatrous sects to the extent where no trace of them remains although they are referred to in the Old Testament. This seemed to go with a strong religious sense.

The Essenes didn't wish to continue. They didn't marry nor have children. There is a strong feeling in Christianity that the end of the world was imminent. The Acts was the only contemporary recounting of events.

Polanyi a passé plusieurs années dans toutes les religions du monde. Puis Les grandes ligne de l’Histoire [The Outline of History] de Wells, sont apparues. Chaque religion parlait d’une ‘Voie’, d’un ‘Chemin’, d’une ‘Route’.

Confucius had no notion of theism or God. He was in the great Chinese liberal tradition – not to label. The English also have this aversion to labelling – it is limiting. This Chinese idea of [5] allowing and wanting all opinions is an expression of the reality of society.

The teachings of Christ were not understood – were called the interim ethics.

P. pense que mon dernier brouillon (12 juillet 1956)[2] révèle que ma compréhension des révélations est complète – j’ai tout fait mien. Ce que j’ai écrit dans ma lettre révèle que je pense la même chose que P. – les choses sont dans la même séquence et le même contexte auxquels elles appartiennent et tout le reste est fortuit.

P. personally tends to keep to a minimum of assumptions and starts on the inner insights. He does not tend to link them, nor give them an etiology - a causal background. This is probably because any causational background brings in definite assumptions of a historical or literary kind.

For exemple, if you link something to the Old Testament, then the truth of what you say hinges on the criticism of the Old Testament, e.g. do Fundamentalism and the Synoptic agree, or what about John's view?

Old Testament criticism was created by Wellhausen et les Juifs didn't take note of it, when less than had the German Christians didn't taken note of the New Testament critics. Fundamentalists preferred obscurantism to New Testament criticism, but the English took up the New Testament criticism. Les Juifs choisirent l'obscurantisme all the way and took no note of Wellhausen, nor of Weber and Meyer's books on the history of Judaism. Les Juifs dirent que c'était antisémite et donc anti-progressiste et anti-libéral. The Deuteronomy story wasn't taken note of.

[6] Its discovery in the temple in 621 was slurred over. The post-exilic and pre-exilic part of the O.T. was not noted. After the Codex Hammurabi's discovery – 1902, a fashion spread generally that Judaism was Babylonian. There is a Babylonian origin of the story of Eden. Les érudits juifs stoppèrent et se retirèrent dans l'obscurantisme.

The post-exilic period - 445, corresponds in time to Periclean Athens. Egyptian literature takes us back 1000 years and Ugaritic literature echoes another 1000 years (It is a lovely literature in which much is entirely enchanting.)

Le point est que, si la structure de la conscience humaine est analysée, les changements et les séquences de révélations, en un sens, l’historicité en termes de race n’est pas pertinente, parce que c’est peut-être l’individu qui va au travers elles. La phylogénétique contient – chaque enfant a en lui la peur de l’expérience de la mort et il ne serait pas pertinent si la race passait au travers de lui dans le Paléolithique ou le Néolithique ou par l’Histoire. Nous sommes plus sûrs du fait que ces éléments existent que de la date de leur provenance et de la manière dont cela est apparu.

The certainty, validity and dignity of this knowledge is of a different order than the kind of knowledge about the origins or causes and this inner knowledge is the only evidence we have for religion. It is called revelation because we can't deduce it from anything. Revelation implies that it wasn't there before, or that it doesn't exist in other cultures. It is knowledge which comes about, but when it's there it's certain. In religion it is natural, because these are the concepts that apply to the subject. There is nothing more certain than the knowledge of inner experiences, since outer experiences are only mediated. It is knowledge, not faith or belief. It doesn't differ from knowledge as [7] faith differs. It is not that we only believe it - this is a misconception about religious knowledge. It is external knowledge that is mediated. It is just that the subject is different, not the certainty of the knowledge.

What about the validity of introspection, insofar as every individual has different experience? Psychology today is not introspective, it just studies behaviour. P. doesn't agree with behaviourism that only behaviour is an objective fact. There is thinking and feeling. In anthropology P. stands for operational definitions as much as possible, but we can't insist on them without stultifying them. We can't pretend not to understand what the other fellow says. P. is not anti-behaviourist provided it is taken reasonably.

Revelation is a different realm of experience. Some religions would be shattered if miracles proved true and others would be affirmed. Jesus refused to do miracles, although he could do them in the then-accepted sense. It meant rare powers of influence and these powers were not infrequent in the East - psychologically and physiologically rare phenomena. They couldn't understand then what e.g. the physiologist means by miracle, since nature's laws were not formulated.

With Revelation you now know something for certain. When a child suddenly fears, it comes to him as a revelation, and the certainty is complete. It is revealed as if a curtain is drawn away. You see it. That for which it is a metaphor is simpler and clearer. It is irreversible and never ceases to operate.

There are no adequate theories of mind and consciousness. The mind is an English word and other words exist in other languages, [8] e.g. "Geist" and spirit or mind don't mean the same thing. Their real importance lies in their use and the situation in which they are used. This is an Instrumentalist idea which is near the Pragmatist or Dewey position. In the theory of knowledge there are many sound elements in the Nominalist rather than the Realist position. P. is not a Pragmatist nor an Instrumentalist, although there is some truth in both positions. P. only says this to excuse himself. The distinction of the basic terms consciousness and mind and the term "awareness" are important (what most people mean by consciousness).

P. thinks mind is the compulsive element in thought and communication. The simile is the river and the ice floating in it. The stream of consciousness is the river and that which is crystallized is the ice. They are the same material bur operate under different laws. Logic is the crystallography of the mind and is there in all compulsive flow of consciousness - law or morals or esthetics or geometry or emotion. The logic of emotion is the same as the logic of the intellect. This comes from John Macmurray. The dialectic of emotion is a mind product. Don't confuse mind and intellect. The mind takes in intellect, emotion and value, e.g. includes law, ethics and aesthetics. With aesthetics there is something valuational yet it is essentially emotional material. This is a justified treatment but we have generally narrowed the world of “mind” to intellect and cut out emotion as subjectivism. (Klages would have said emotion was pre-mind man).

For Macmurray, the movement of the mind as pure dialectic was shown in the dream - moving according to its own inner law - that is dialectic.

[9] The theological content or revelation doesn't mean anything and there is no point in it. If God was revealed to you, you think of God. Revelation is a personal event. It happens to you (?). God is the meaningful entity in the world, or the world is a meaningful entity. Otherwise we could never have found meaning in it. Yet that is what we do. The one thing that is certain is that we can't originate meaning. "Logos” in John signifies means meaning. Any other belief is either illogical or nonsensical.

The philosopher says that this is nonsense. In terms of his discipline he has excluded the assumption on which P. rests - the mind satisfied with the certainty that he participates in the meaning of the world. That we couldn't have invented meaning is obvious to P. It is obvious that the sphere of existence with "You" being "I" to yourself is different from a mechanical or organic event. Nor is there this meaning in growth e.g. the apple tree is the seed of last year. In the world of the organic, different things are the same, and in the mechanical world, measuring of effect is meaningful. Gravitation is statement of causation in the mechanical world. There is also a statement of identity in the organic world e.g. my friend at the age 3, is now 68.

Personal meaning is the third type of statement. What is more certain its the meaning? Otherwise you get into the crazy behaviouristic circles of George S. Mead - two people communicating like two dogs illogically conceived as machines. Meaning doesn't bear explanation i.e. reducing it to something more familiar. One can't reduce meaning further. It is the basic element in the theory of knowledge.

P.'s scientific training and inner life coincide. There is no contradiction here. That comes from formulating religious knowledge not as [10] making society all that it can be we are free to resign ourselves to what it is and live the light of our freedom. This is a different existence.

The growing point of this is that it is no use arguing that we are free in the abstract to the full in society, that such a freedom is illusionary. Therefore of such a freedom there is nothing taken away by society organizing one way or the other. We must organize society to ensure a concrete freedoms. Then distinctions can be made. We cannot have freedoms unless we institutionalize them as a state of freedom. And we can't resign ourselves to the reality of society as it is unless we change the concrete actual to its limits. We can't resign ourselves to the reality of society limiting Christian freedom, in the sense in which the responsibility to our conscience requires it, unless we do what we can to ensure the right, the just and the demands of love. If there is no limit to this effort because we cannot know where it lies.

Owen says we have to resign ourselves to these dangers. P. agrees that in one sense we have to resign ourselves to this situation. Then we can leave to society the molding of man. However there is a lack of clarity here, and P. feels strongly that to reject a movement towards justice and humaneness because that would limit freedom is wrong. A complex society limits freedom anyway. Unlimited freedom does not exist and there are irremediable evils connected with a complex society which we can only see if we try to eliminate them, e.g. that production is a curse anyway, whether we eliminate machines or not.

Owen suggested that we put machines in a village to alleviate conditions. He only tried to answer the question that reform are no good [11] anyway since you can't remove the curse of labor. His concern was the machine and he said that it shouldn't be used indiscriminately. Owen was told that there must be social classes and proletarians and his answer was to educate these people through the trade union movement (started in his name in 1828) and also co-operative (1844).

P. is led to the conclusion of resignation to the existence of economic value and of institutions as inherent in society, but what Owen meant is not so clear.

The evidence of the reality of society lies in the fact that we cannot help creating these events even though we do not wish to, and also in the inevitable alternatives, we can only choose to have less power and not to have no power. Even our wish to have less or no power creates another power - those who disestablish existing power, e.g. anarchists gaine their power from are such opinion.

The complex society __ one can know whom he hits. In America people feel if you don't buy you ruin others by depriving them of what they need.

Through the market you values some peoples gifts and abilities and devaluate others. You cannot avoid destroying lives. You are not force not to do so.

The Humean analysis is that power is nothing but opinion, e.g. that the King can order his soldiers to shoot someone is based on the power of opinion. So called public opinion is suborganized power and can be as deadly as highly organized power, only one cannot contract out of it. It is an objectification of the subjective state of affairs. Anybody can objectify my secret opinion and use it as his power.

The classics thought the same way of economic value, an objectified subjective condition. For the person, his approval of utility is subjective, [12] but on the market it becomes costs e.g. $2 and he can't neither get it or sell it cheaper. The objectification of value in market price is the same transformation or objectification of the subjective state as governmental power is of private opinion.

Perhaps other things are like law - if something is objectified for a third person is a law. The Objectification is Hegelian term. He said that spiritual realities like law are the objectification of spirit or 'geist'. P. doesn't share this form of the idea but it comes into the argument as the reality of society and you can't contract out of it. Power, economic value, law are paradigms of social reality.

It's not the expression of opinion that creates power, it's the fact that you hold it. e.g. “he's guilty whether you can prove it or not” is a conviction in time, but others can act upon it overtly.

Similarly in the economic value argument: I can't help influencing price in the market just as long as I valuate things - as long as I want one thing more than another in the market.

The point which must be made is that this power is an objective fact. When we overlook this we forget that public opinion is such a phenomenon and so is valuation. When not valuing something, we destroy the value of those producing it since they are made into “non-valeurs”.

Likewise with institutions, some people imagine they don't create institutions because they are anti-institutionalist. However, they only create other institutions that have an “anti-institutionalist effect.

Institutions imply a reference to the opinions we hold, e.g. there are no hospitals in a society where opinion we hold, e.g. there are no hospitals in a society where opinion makes absolutely no difference between the sick and the healthy. On another level, the absence of such a difference may be a movement for the abolition of hospitals (?)

[13] P. has these things on record 30 years ago. It is not possible to contract out of society. (Cf. Tolstoy and "nicht tun" - not doing, i.e. doesn't need machine, power and police - doesn't work).

The Christian idea that every individual is unique may now be grounded on the permutations and combinations of genes.

My question: the reality of society as an effective answer to the problem of the Essence of Fascism.

P. wrote the Essence of Fascism in 1935. He left Vienna in '31 and '33 and had been working on the reality of society line. Macmurray wrote a book on Community and Society with the ideal of society which institutes the community of persons. The world importance of Fascism is its hostility to Christianity, wishing to go back to pagan or pre-Christian times.

There is a contradiction here. P. insisted on the idea of opinion forming power and no contracting out. We might have less power or use it differently but the idea of power as evil must be rejected. P.'s friends were then on the non-resistance line of Ghandi. His doctrine was directed against the Gandhist utopia, which was the same as Tolstoy's.

On the question of freedom, the powerless society was the ideal but that is shown not to be identical with a society of no government. Public opinion may crush life out of people, yet it is a pure illusion that it depends on government. The thing must be built in such a way as to force the problem into the center and force the formidable revelation of the reality of society. It must be clear where the drama lies. One [14] should not think that by centering on freedoms he undermines the position of abstract freedom. (P. has never given in the unfreedom). If one means a society without power he is just mistaken. If the abstraction of freedoms is maintained it can only be identified with the absence of government.

J.S. Mill in his famous essay on Liberty pointed out that the way trade is organized is not a matter of freedom. He personally favors the free system of trading but this is not a question of liberty and it doesn't make society free or unfree. This is the only source we possess on what liberty and it doesn't make society free or unfree. This is the only source we possess on what liberty is unless we fall back on Paul and Christian freedom. Few people realize where we got this idea from. It was regarded as a metaphor for manumission - to free the slave, “eletheros” - free, “eletherea” - liberty. However, Aristotle meant by “elethera” liberality, the liberal gentleman - all varieties of the public-spirited enlightened gentleman. Paul uses “eletherea” as the state the slave is in after he is removed from slavery. Also if tyranny interferes with “eletherea” it also applies. The peoples' privileges were called liberty - with whom it could trade etc.

When do public liberties mean what they mean today? It was Locke in two treatise on Civic Government in 1690 who established this principle that civic government is limited etc. The American Constitution was instituted from Locke. These civic liberties are prior to the French Revolution. The freedoms came later in the Bill of Rights (the first nine amendments, including amendment No. 5) in 1791. These were first called freedoms. The English Bill of Rights of 1689 implemented the Declaration of Rights of the preceding year - The Glorious Revolution. The English had it 100 years earlier. Bills of Rights were feudal [15] institution meaning privileges - auto nemos, you own land to yourself (?). Luther's "Christian menschen freiheit" is a theological concept.

In Dahomey once a year there was general criticism and self-criticism in which the Kings couldn't participate, although usually you could only approach the King in the dust. We have the minutes of these meetings. (Les Juifs ont similar idea in spring?)

Paul activates the life of the spirit.

Resignation is not a psychological process. You have changed to be something different from what you were. This can be misunderstood. Its meaning is not a process, but that your consciousness changes its form, not its content.

What is it in the wind that makes mathematics compelling? It is not a habit.

[16] (My letter July 10/56):

The first industrial revolution was tillage. The second was the machine. Tillage with no irrigation is a horror. The inner link is between death and how the curse is formulated there. This really gave a content to life which is work. Human life as we know it springs from the finiteness of life.

Jesus said man may be washed out forever right away and this is a terrible message. He said to resign yourself but if you do it you are in state of the life of the spirit, and this gives you abundance of life.

P. points to each of the terrible revelations because it is the beginning of life, and this is the real meaning of Christianity. It reveals something man is not conscious of and the very resignation is the fount of the life of the spirit.

Buddha is very similar to Jesus but Buddhism has nothing much else to say either. It hasn't much to do with historical events. In our part of world, the prophets and Jesus made the biggest commotion. Nous avons aussi les Esseniens et eux aussi étaient Juifs. We know that Jesus was in some tradition that had been there for quite a time. We know more definitely that the Essences teachings were akin to these of Jesus. Jesus believed in the negation of self and that the body was sin, and he gave away his clothes. In the topicality of a total understanding of life, nothing else has the cutting edge of the three revelations.

[17] Two things are added in P.'s mind: 1) the new sociology as an attempt to express the reality of society.
2) to restore the place of the individual in society through accepting the antinomy of Rousseau - each apparently contradicting or suspending the former. The method is dialectical and that's how the mind works. The Rousseau antinomy is an expression of the reality of society, but it is underdeveloped. But it is a strong foundation for a non-atomistic sociology although dragging in a wrong philosophic position. It is not the recrudescence of Fascism and contains no kind of Socialist temptation.

We return to the “Essence of Fascism” on a higher level, but with the basic which is basic insight which is crucial, and this is the turning point.

Margaret Mead is very good on the economy of primitive society (see book quoted ing G.T.) but he ended up with giving a general sociology. This contained the classical fallacy of the personality and culture position. Her personality investigations were very fruitful but philosophically it was childish nonsense. She wrote that the answer to the Rousseau dilemma was the congruence of the two. This was the same position as Rousseau, that the individual should be indoctrinated. (Rousseau's achievement was to have discovered the antinomy but he was not libertarian in the least.) Mead really expressed the “Quiet American” idea without the idealism, only the adjustment side. She was throughly totalitarian without her intending it. It was a non-philosophical position. But it would make life impossible and moreover meaningless if it were possible. Nothing could ever happen and no [18] one could want to strive or achieve anything. There is no room for any event exonet the static. It explains how nothing ever happens, not how it can exist at all. It is an absurdity. Margaret Mead is a fail. She is really the “Quiet American” - the real “Quiet American”.

You can't insist on the elimination of all the power in government. In a Socialist system the problem ceases, and there is no reason not to have a truly Christian position. Under Russian 'exploitation' there must be some kind of discipline and hierarchy. But we accept the minimum requirement of society freely in arranging a distributive system.

The basic Rousseau idea should be taken up with the idea that Parsons in an elaboration. With Rousseau, the constitution of personality should be a function of the 'volonté générale'. Parsons said no - they should harmonize. Mead said this was the only answer to a human society, i.e. no society can exist where they don't harmonize. This is the American fiery cross of double adjustment. It is the death in its most glorified form. Once the individual personality structure, those who pretend to be alive really walk in a cemetery.

Parson's value is that it is not hopelessly harmonistic but capable of elaboration. Hegel's system,was used to justify everything and them the left Young Hegelians used it to establish the Prussian state.

For Parsons, see the introduction to the book “Toward a General Theory of Action” (not social action) the introduction by Shils and Parsons and Terry's sum up.

[19] It is the same as the whole personality work: Mead Linton, Kardiner, Gorer. It is all nonsense trying to use the early education of the child. After the child has stopped being interested in daily functions he can speak and told something. That's when the story begins. It may be both. With toilet habits only, you have to account for hundreds of personality whether it is relevant.

The importance of the Parsonian theory is in the correlation of personality structure to culture, which can be taken up scientifically. What they call culture is the mutual role expectations of society. But the question of the individual doesn't come up here. This would show that the whole of psychology is related to this sociology. By personality structure he means how a Red Indian child of four differs from the French of Chinese. Some people would operate with core values around which it is developed.

Our revelations are events in the history of the race, but otherwise they would relate to what these mean. Core values refer to definite idiosyncrasies. e.g. magic, a fascinated relationship to nature, animals or plants. Then there is religion.

Core values are not subject to comparative treatment but we stress the same ineffable element.

P. has a scientific mind and doesn't live in the world of the indescribable, ineffable and incomparable, but he doesn't deny it.

We maintain the polarity between society and the individual although this is not atomistic: [20] 1) the individual is the individual in community. It is not possible to isolate him.
2) Our effective access to society is through ourselves. We do not operate with society in terms of abstract notions but change ourselves to do what is strategic in regard to society.

Otherwise we are in a solipsistic position from the individual point of view. You would get into nirvana where you have decreed you are nothing but a function of society. Stevenson said that this polarity. The whole point is to find the simple outline.

Culture is the counterpressure to Nature. Without it, man would act under the natural pressures of hunger, sex, and the realm of freedom would not exist.

Perhaps, as a passing thought, there would be the realm of dealing with personal problems - not to give way and react to the pressure of circumstances.

Man is reached by Nature through the physiological sphere. Paul started with Nature being the master. If the spirit were the depth and truth of Christianity becomes apparent. It is not the Christology. We don't have any special derivation from the Paulinian or Augustinian positions (?).

In reference to culture, man's capacity to react to Nature's pressure may be less today than among primitive peoples. This is nothing but [21] lack of imagination and ignorance (?) Then Margaret Mead is on the right track.

If man is hungry, the first thing would do is what others do. This is opposed to the idea that the physiological urge has a consequence which would relieve that urge. If he is hungry he does nothing. He wouldn't pull down a banana if it is ridiculous or forbidden. It may be accepted or approved, but he would never do a thing which causes a scandal. In this regard the discoveries of the anthropologists are decisive.

The 18th century behaviour doesn't exist. Hobbes' negative utopia was an entirely novel fantasy in which the element of truth is zero. The wolf behaves as a wolf and human beings are the same. Hobbes and Parsons are naive in assuming the natural state in which human beings behave.

Abundance means more than enough, e.g. if fruit rots. In “The Argonauts” you have Villa Malia Trobriand Islanders who, as magic, ate berries and the demon took their appetites away. They enjoyed the idea of rotting food. From their appetites away. They enjoyed the idea of rotting food. From their gardens they feed their Sister's family, heaping it up in a display to prove that the wife has a good brother. They display it before carrying it over, and also afterwards.

Ecology and nature still exist and ecological limitations are really final. It is not true that man doesn't think to the future. Most of his effort is not in production but conservation. The pressure of nature is not as strong as we think and man is capable of suicide and starving himself to death. On the average free will doesn't exist. A whole society may decide to die but that is very exceptional.

The laws of human society are different from the laws of the individual. Man wouldn't have the conviction of free will if he could withstand any [22] pain or pressure. He could choose death. Some can stand pain indefinitely and have a stronger feeling of freedom. Man has the capacity of killing himself while sane. In Homer or the O.T. no one kills himself. Suicide is crucial. Some animals can kill themselves. They have the capacity of desisting from life.

This is relevant to what we imagine man to be like in his reaction to pressure and freedom. How is this related to suicide? Jesus committed suicide to prove his freedom. It means that he sacrificed himself. In Homer, Diomedes commits suicide but he is declared man. Barbarian King all commit suicide if things go wrong, but pre-Christians don't seem to commit suicide.

However, we are talking about what the collectivity would do, and man acts as a member of the collectivity because he doesn't live alone. Culture anyway isn't what individuals produce individually.

All this needs judgment or insight and it takes some care to find it. The usual type of conversation is insufficient. One doesn't get far in the conversation with the half-stranger.

There are two realms of freedom, in the culture and in personal life. We don't want freedom for its own sake. Christian freedom is a very personal matter; what conscience would dictate for salvation. There is a tremendous concern and fear for inner life.

It is not freedom in general. Freedom from constraint and a specific kind of constraint is meant here. It means we don't want meaningless things instead of meaningful ones - e.g. never the wild ass in the desert.

[23] Rousseau has clarified the meaning of freedom and Kant accepted it as freedom under law. Without law there is no moral freedom. You accept the law yourself and then you judge yourself by the law. Otherwise there is thoughtless anarchism. This follows from Rousseau and is the meaning of individual freedom.

For Rousseau democracy is not a resolution of freedom and equality. The new notion of democracy is that which is born by the people. This is generally accepted, except by T.S. Eliot. P.'s original Rousseau essay is theoretical and is of greater importance.

Rousseau or not - that human society has the will to survive makes its members behave accordingly. For the individual there is a principle of survival governing his behaviour (life instinct) and he may get himself killed for his own sake. Society also fights for its way of life, not for its survival. What identifies society is the pattern and way of life. In this way society resembles the individual. (Plato had this, Hobbes had this frontispiece in his book of a ghat with small muscles consisting of men-Leviathan editions.)

The will to survive is not identical with the physical body. Roughly it may be, but it is not. If living is dying, most people take risks - even……… One can forget about Rousseau.

The answer to this must be empirical; i.e. a society consisting of individuals behaves on one principle and society on another. It is an antinomy. This is actually happening and we don't know how. (See Rousseau section for discussion of "first approximation").

This must be one of the main problems of Parsons. The point is to be familia with such a conception and to see how far one could rely [24] on it. The great advantage is using Parsons without his background.

The alternatives to atomistic safeguards are two:

  1. Society should be a revelation which is a limit to freedom in a basic way.
  2. This should not unhinge the postulate of freedom.

It puts the stress on the illusions of the libertarian position: freedom as an organizing principle is embodied in a market society with a market economy. The individual's freedom is safeguarded by regarding freedom as an organizing principle.

We are much more definite in what we mean than others are.

The emphasis lies where P. saw it twenty years ago. Maturity is resignation or acceptance of the reality of society but not as an excuse for not living up to the postulates of freedom. It is something in the light of which it can reasonably be accomplished.

P. disregards a number of basic humanistic ideas like some degree of stability, justice and nearness to nature. In a work of this kind one has to fix on some simple line.

Can we accept peace and freedom as the main concern of the future? The main concern now is with physical survival and avoidance of the totalitarian trend in society.

This doesn't eliminate the economic problem but subordinates it (i.e. relativizes it). We have been unable to relativize it and have [25] accepted it as the measure for justice, freedom, order and law. Freedom is behaviour in a perfect market and the opposite is called dictatorship because the market isn't free. Market behaviour is the application of reason, and justice is the kind of exchange or rate of the free market. Everything else is unjust. Justice is the price which the market produces and it is a just prices as if a judge had decided it (commutative justice).

We have to get near the hard core, the reality of society, while maintaining the postulate of freedom. We must convince man of the need for maturity or he'll perish or be degraded against the abstract formulation of idealism which concretely doesn't apply. P. is like Shaw. The message is that freedom is possible in a complex society at a price and then a higher life will develop. Regarding freedom as choice, and the market as offering the most choice is childish. Freedom is limited by the involuntary consequences of willed actions. In a concrete society this is obvious and we'll have to create concrete institutions.

Now the Russians are beginning to realize that the road is free and not obstructed by false alternatives of freedom versus justice. […]

[26] Christianity never accepted that and the Communists couldn't accept Socialism as a Christian derivation.

[…] [27] As far the Fromm position is concerned we must mobilize the essential Christian position as being a limited one. The Christians don't realize it and don't like it. They say that Jesus didn't mean it in the social sense. One centers here on nuclear phenomena like power or economic value. The inevitable alternative is that whether you do something or don't, you are affecting other peoples' lives. […]

Le problème Rousseau

[28] Rousseau is the founder of political theory. (It is almost a theory of society). P. often held that in the duality of “volonté générale” and the “volonté de tous” Rousseau established the basic problem and dynamic of political theory.

Rousseau's volonté générale isn't a volonté at all but the survival and behaviour of society as a society. There is here no volonté at all - society in an emergency behaves so as to survive, while the individual behaves so he survives. Maybe it is the Parsionan society and the Parsonian personality structure.

This is a complete antinomy and requires a real answer - how does a society constituted of individuals survive when individuals act to assure their own survival? […]

The individual concerned with his own survival maintains his personal personality (Christian freedom). The second revelation is regarded as relevant and not suspended but limited and enriched by the reality of society. This is what the metaphysics answers. (What I said about losing the individual self in the emphasis on the reality of society is to the point).

In the Great Transformation, the requirements which refer to society are justice and freedom. Owen didn't see the problem of freedom.

Now there is a whole range of problems of this double axis of political theory. If the survival of society is rational, the man's life is irrational, and this irrationality is the postulate of his personality and [29] integrity. The second revelation is to maintain it.

P. thinks he knows on of the answers: in an emergency individuals act as members of society, while outside of it, they don't. This is in a time-limited sense. But in a structural sense there is no limit of time - a human being always acts as a member of society in maintaining the strategic values by having the individual internalize these values and in an emergency they become the operative ones. Thus we can use the truth content of Parsons' theorem - although the specific one is good, the general one is weak.

The Rousseau idea exercised P.'s mind for 20 years. The main works here were the Contrat Social, Reasons of Equality, and On Progress. […] [30] […] [31] […][32]

Klages et l'Histoire

[33] Mankind's history is a brief history and we are only now filling in the wide spaces - like the old maps of Africa. History up to 20-30 years ago had vast blanks, not of historical time but of prehistory and the neolithic and paleolithic periods, elastic blanks with tremendous gaps. There is a big difference between ordinary ignorance and these gaps, since you don't know what is in them. Certain kinds of thinking is thus unjustified as long as these gaps exist, e.g. you can't generalize.

Today we have filled in much in time and space. The anthropologists have had a look at all peoples of the world. Everything is listed and we can begin to generalize. Formerly we could imagine any number of types since we didn't know all. Now for the first time the possibility exists of describing man with empirical universality.

Also in time, there is a filling … […]

We are then ready to go into a new anthropology in the theological sense. Many things have been done till now which are semi-conjectural [34], but they are too little factual, e.g. Wyte (?) had a metaphysical theory of the mind 15 years ago. Also Ludwig Klages had similar ideas. With Spann there was a renaissance of the metaphysical. He took up from Hegel an element that is very much on the lines of modern science - holism. Smuts wrote a book on it and P. is definitely a Holist although he didn't read this book.

Aristotelian metaphysics contains the idea that the whole is before the part, a principle used now in biology and Gestalt psychology. This is not absurd metaphysically and there is no reason why this should not be valid empirically.

Taking Spann as a continuation of Hegel, Klages was the opposite (?) - a pupil of Nietzsche. The biological principle was his starting point but he went further. The mind has the same peculiar character as in Hegel i.e. mind the meaning, not a psychological function - 'geist' for which there is no translation. Klages is a vitalist with the idea that life is destroyed by the mind - consciousness destroys unconsciousness.

The great weakness of Klages' excellent theories is that he must historicize them, and says when and to whom and to whom it happened and then he gets into trouble. The Greek period is too short and this happens over ages. P. thinks there is truth in the approach and these are interesting and exciting speculations on human consciousness.

These exerted a big influence on the Nazis although both Spann and Klages were anti-Nazi - Spann was banned and Klages went to Switzerland. Rosenberg, the third man is not a thinker, but expressed [35] deeply the essence of the movement to the world and the lasting importance of the Klages episode.

For Klages man as a vegetative soul is the natural form of consciousness. […]

These are all metaphysical ideas, not empirical and all this is told in symbolic form in Greek mythology. The mind must end in the destruction of life. Klages went further than Nietzsche who had said that rationality and selflessness were destructive elements but did include the Will to power. Klages disagreed with Nietzsche and held that the Will to Power in a somnolent nature was also mind. He did not accept it as life emanations. In Christianity a mind phenomenon is a compelling element of cause. In Klages there is no compelling element.

P. accepts the other alternative and sides with the mind against life. The very essence of Christianity is the life of the spirit - more life but with a peculiar addition. The world religions recognized that the eruption of the mind and spirit creates danger to man's happiness - but they answered don't allow the ego to develop, or self-consciousness to center on the ego. Raise the spirit to intensify life. It is peculiar that all world religions have the same subject.

[36] Klages wrote a big … […]

P. was much struck by this, but couldn't … […]

Now with the filling in of history we have a new situation with a justified temptation? History is an area of time … […]

P. was reading the “Historia Mundi” published in Switzerland which contains new informations of archaelogy and prehistory. Some of it is excellent but some is repetitions and empty - important periods and aspects are sketchy while others are crammed full.

[…] Nietzsche belonged here with his discussion of the Apollonian [37] and Dionysian, followed up by Bernard Shaw in his Superman position - the life force. But still very little has been done. The scientific mind didn't encourage it, but now is the time to think about the material we have collected.

The strongest German influence since Klages is the Austrian prehistorian Kenghien, who had an enormous influence on German historiography. He started … […]

Some of this was behind Miss Harris' work (mythological school of English classicism that did a lot of speculation on Greek religion).

The Marxists come in in a peculiar way. They took up the tribal history of man and unfortunately some premature theories were made on unileal development. They have dropped this, although it had a real sway for a time. Greek, Roman and Israelite society, had historical and anthropological evidence and no other society in the world resembled the Greek and Roman. […]

[38] Homer and Hesiod were contemporaneous - two Greek poets describing their own time but for a different audience. We shouldn't … […]

It is quite possible to make more sense out of history than appears on the surface. The last 50 years will look puzzling and contradictory with too rapid changes in 5000 years (esp. between '30 and '60).

Spann is unreadable and academic but Klages is the opposite - a lovely book, “The Cosmogonic Eros”.

My question: […] In America there was a metaphysical school represented by Emerson. The greatest mind of the Americans was Henry Adams, extremely daring. Walt Whitman was a most interesting philosopher in the same way Shelley was a philosopher.

Au-delà de La grande transformation

[39] A former pupil of P.'s (8 years ago) knows the Parsons system thoroughly and in discussions with Harry Pearson concluded that Parsons has much relevance to the Great Transformation position. […] [40] [41] [42] [43] [44]

[45] … Technological civilization threatened the everlasting existence of mankind. […]

[46] [47]


[48] P. Supports my views on industrialism and adds the idea of the exteriorization of man. There has been an enormous shift to the outside.

Leibniz had the conceptions of Monads. […]

[49] […]

Industrialization provides the concreteness of the scene, but the structure of the person is provided in the home.

Tolstoy said that technological civilization should be all destroyed. He was perhaps the greatest and deepest thinker of the whole period as it strikes one now.

[50] He died in 1910 at a small railway station, Astapova, because he had gone away from home for a day or two, although he was a very aged, sick and debile man.

This date was very close to the curtain raising. In 1908 there was the annexation crisis, and in 1912 the first scare with the war between the Turks and the Serbians. In 1914 the Austrian archduke was murdered. World War I did away with empires - the Russian, Turkish and Chinese, and the Russian Revolution has run since.

The adoption of machinery: (from memory)

There is no mention of machinery in Adam Smith. The use of machinery started with the mule, then the jenny and then Arkwright put them in a factory and made a lot of money, producing woolers at first.

No class interests favored the use of machinery - the classes had first to be created. The the question arises, why England, and why in particular the Midlands? They lived here just poor boorish Irishmen. There is no factor of science here either, as the inventors were all uneducated.

Politique moderne

[51] Dulles and Nixon are "Quiet Americans”.

Tito showed what Adenauer could have done with almost nothing in hand. […]

[52] But under the A-bomb threat there was a military necessity whoch led to the Czech and Yugoslav affairs. In Yugoslavia, the break came when it … […]

There was a recent book by an English writer (Borden Smith?) on the Czech situation. There is only one possible explanation for the purges - orders from Moscow to unify the parties at all cost. Therefore all the other elements had to be annihilated in Bulgaria, Rumania, Hungary and Germany. Stalin started then to have an effective military commend. He didn't mind which faction was to take over, but they had to be able to act instantly in a military crisis. That was the reason for all these purges. The other were called Titoist or Zionist. The horror of this Russian system is beginning to be known.

The whole American mechanism moves through panic and uncontrolled emotionalism. Americans are afraid they would panic in an emergency but modern man's self-control is at least as great as the Red Indian's. Man hasn't changed.

However, we produce the habit of lying on a large scale, stark lies, e.g. Hitler.

Canadian foreign policy is less mendacious than most. In [53] the Beaudoin and pipe-lines dispute there was a deep force for liberty but the counterforces are afraid of liberal institutions breaking down. St. Laurent was definitely anti-liberal. People value the certainty of liberal institutions functioning in an emergency rather than their being liberal.

Manuel d'anthropologie

[54] P. is now beginning a new interdisciplinary project - an old idea which he had eight years ago, to formulate questions for fields workers in anthropology with regard to economic institutions. This couldn't be done the because P. had the concept of two meanings of "economic" and the original semantics. (at that time he put together a few hundred question?) Now he has taken up the idea with the anthropologists to publish a field book of economic anthropology.

There is at present a field book for social organization called “Notes and Queries” […]

L'arrière-plan de l'œuvre de Polanyi

[55] L'arrière-plan de l'article de P. en hongrois dans le journal sociologique, (1909 à l'âge de 23 ans ?) :

The post-expresionist world was disappearing as reaction to Gauguin, Cezanne etc. Impressionism was out altogether and something new appeared in art which is decorative and formalistic Something normative appeared in poetry e.g. Claudel and the new pays and lyrics - something anti-democratic and anti-libertarian. There was the New Machiavelli of Wells and science rose to prominence instead of literature. Planning was coming up and the first signs of monopoly capitalism began to be noticed. It was the end of a competitive world and so the individualistic emphasis disappeared. It was o forecast of fascism: the working class will be led by capitalistic planning and will be normative ethical corporativistic movement. This was the main point on which it hinged. It was the same thing as Christianity which started with the slave class and went to the ruling class. That the working class turned to Bolshevism instead of syndicalism (?) is closely related to it.

The article begins with a peculiar analysis that culture of superlative sensibility and analysis will disappear and culture of a single normativity remain. Science had made an end of normativity and had man as the end (?) Darwinism ha entirely got rid of normative ideas. This was really an important forecast that came true in Italy 7 years later.

Kipling had the poem: “Once there was a people and the people were no more”. (?) [56] and this was a song of the Fascists although there were no Fascists at the time. There was no working class and two years later the International collapsed (in 1914 - years?) as if never existed.

The article remained utterly and completely uncomprehend as a case of forecasting. The changeover described is to Fascist ideology. In 1909 there had been no war for close to 100 years. The last war was 1840 (?) and we had no idea then of the movements of history. This was done on a Marxian assumption.

P. had been in the Socialist movement from 1903-1908. One year after the beginning of the Socialist youth movement which he founded, P. ceased to be a Socialist altogether. This was the declaration on a Marxist basis of his being anti-Socialist. P. turned vehemently against the Bolshevik movement in 1917 and remained entirely anti-Communist. P. changed since Hitler attack on Russia in 1941. The article was the last thing of any importance before the G.T. in 1944. P. Published nothing for 35 years. But now there is much material and then there wasn't. Main reason that P. was not productive was that he was waiting for a thorough confirmation for his interpretation of events. When it did come about, he found it very simple and he returned to Socialism independent of its scientific assertions which he rejected. He came on a religious basis and that never changed.

His most important insight was that Russian socialism was returning to a Western foundation.

P. wrote the outline of the G.T. within a week and it contained the same material as the Bennington lectures. It followed from a paragraph [57] in the Essence of Fascism on the separation of economics and politics. P. only stopped for study on Speenhamland, Malinowski, and Heckscher.

At that time the market theorem provided only a kind of insight and it wasn't substantiated that the method could be used for anything. Then at Columbia P. started to apply it to antiquity to see if it works. He spent nine years on antiquity and never changed the subject - trade, money markets. Now we have achieved twelve points of insights or discoveries which had not been seen or understood. P. had not gone much further and didn't have a conceptual system. In “The economy as instituted process”, and trade, money and markets, one chapter ending says that the market is not important. He didn't see it then, but it was implied. The difference between the born and unborn. P. now has a historical development which he didn't possess.

When P. started on all this his health was impaired. Working from 1937-57, he could have produced a life work of standard character. But P. worked on a low efficiency level especially at Columbia. P. worked on the project 8 years and he now is more effective in summing up and not as effective in collecting material.

In the selection of the directions of his work, P. was very fortunate - he hardly ever arrived at a dead end where he had spent lots of time. Not once in the ten years has he started out on a false track or made a statement that did not turn out to be sound. P. had so many brain-waves but was suspicious of all. Nothing had to be revised. P. is very suspicious of speculative methods. It was enough when Herodotus said the the Greeks: there is no market in the place altogether. P. put years [58] of work in on the assumption that Herodotus was right and so it proved. But in this regard one has to have good judgment. Almost every capacity (?) will take you off good judgement and will make it difficult to judge well.

The mind is frail and it is difficult to find something. The mind is like a trap and you are sure to be misled. That is why P. is such a strong believer in empirical research. If one fact counters you - stop. You can and should maintain a general theory until the fact is established that throws it out. If you thought it should fit and it doesn't, you must hold on anyway. What probability is there then, that anything that is true should be found without contradiction seemingly coming up?

P. had actually not done any consistent serious research work since 1920-22, and then he wrote philosophical essays and religious ethics and found nothing to put his teeth into. The time hadn't come, and it wouldn't have been heard. The situation as referred to began to develop in the 30's and the whole world change completely. P. was born for serious work at the time when the liberal epoch would lapse and new institutional work was required.

En 1922 P. travailla sur la comptabilité socialiste and tried to solve the question of pricing in a Socialist society on a purely institutionalist basis. Ultimately things didn't develop along these lines. P. thought such a bargain would express something real on account of the institutional character of personalities and what they represent. P. has a knack for the institutional approach - likes to think of a functioning mechanism and has a strong aversion to psychological argument and doesn't believe in it even though he was very intimate with thinking of Freud and Adler.

[59] P. is not political in his attitudes - he has no capacity to participate in politics but a great interest in the analysis of politics. P. was never in politics and has a strong aversion to being involved politically (on the personality level). Political people have an interest in making their weight felt and otherwise you are not a political person.

My Question: How did P. ever get into economic history?
Ans: P. hated history but took up English economic history for a living and got interested and loved to teach it. Only the theory of Fascism forced him to present it, and he used English economic history to give market system history. This really was the story of economic institutions. Then P. thought it should be applied - partly economic history and partly anthropology. P. was not interested in history as dates, the ancient world etc. - just in the conceptual development and the capacity to master the situation we are now. Being diverted to an interest in the past alone P. thought repulsive, but the recognitions of the past for the present are boundless.

P. is still holding the pulse of mankind and listening to its breathing and this is a conceptual and spiritual process. Otherwise P.'s work is a mystery. We should always put this at the head of his work and P. wants to do this. P.'s students always understood that.

P. never doubted that there would be relevance in work on antiquity especially when one feels the great resistance against his thoughts. The resistance is great and growing.

The new title of the '56 book is “Studies in Institutionalization” and touches the idea that the human side of the process is the relevant one.

[60] Otherwise it may be called “Trade vs. Markets”. P. has not the gift of writing and therefore is supplemented. Harry Pearson has a great gift for smooth writing.

The intention of the G.T. was to be as clear as possible - intense, ruthless and uncompromising. P. wanted a vehicle of clarity. However this requires that you be as nakedly and barely clear as you can in writing, but P. falls in love with a metaphor.

P. asks one of his helpers to write something and then the person goes further and adds something essential. This is suitable for moving a whole array of thought on. P. thinks his new book is better because it has passed through more minds. Compared to this, one's own work is poor. If six people write it, you have proven your cas that this is a world of thought.

Avoid smoothness because the thing loses its jaggedness of ruggedness. Always watch for not being too smooth. You don't awaken the reader, you lull him.

With Rousseau you have an utter perfection of sentences producing startling effects but there is e.g. ruggedness.

Koestler's strength lies in the topicality of his subject. He is a high-grade journalist but no artist and doesn't have a gift.

Exemples of ruggedness are Somerset Maugham - interrupts and puts in something that doesn't belong - and Strindberg. With Shaw his ruggedness in thinking stemmed from an utter mastery of his subject. The introduction to Pygmalion runs entirely on the subject.

[61] The Commentary article has appeared in “Sociological Analysis” of Tulane University which is the only sociological reader in America, in Leonard Keye's book at Penn State with Sombart and Keynes, and in the new Columbia Contemporary Civilization course. It was also mentioned by Moore who quoted Polanyi that there are no economic motives. Also at Michigan State a course of Modern Doctrines, given several times has P. in the title of the course.

P. is now writing reviews on books about medieval cities. The concept of the Port of Trade is important and should be used in new areas e.g. medieval times.

P. is thinking of issuing a little book (paper back) containing possibly the Aristotle paper, and others, e.g. Syrians - riskless trade and the Commentary article.

Les Russes et les Chinois

[62] People with P.'s background are getting very rare, for their experience covers the past three generations. P.'s mother was Russian and now he is increasingly reverting to the Russians. Mankind has a certain reserve in the Russians, which everybody knew at the end of the nineteenth century. Also now the Chinese constitute endless reserves for all mankind.

If you go back 1000 years we find many tribal people, e.g. Persians, Greeks and Germanic tribes, and they are the paradigm of civilization of the time. If we go back another 1000 years we have the tribal societies where simple democratic principles were in operation, which are different from modern societies. These provide reasons for being hopeful.

“Globe… […]

A great advance… […]

There is fear of Russian military… […]

American policy… […]

P. never thought that what the Russians were doing would be a matter of concern, but what we are doing is P.'s concern.

Le jeune Marx

The early Marx was washed out by Engels and Dialectical Materialism: A non-philosophical 'tabula rasa' is the end of philosophy. This doesnt' recognize philosophical problems. It is a kind of popular approach - “now we have enough of philosophy” - i.e. all the philosophy that's possible.

Marx never wrote a line of the Dialectical Materialist lines. Anti-Duhring was full of it and Marx never reflected on that. Engles wasn't philosophical minded. Traditions of Western philosophy were a closed domain. The Chinese avoid Western philosophy. In 1937 P. started teaching at the W.E. Alliance and put out the Marx pamphlet in 1937.


[63] Art is the effort to transcend man's existence. Goethe - “Danke das der gunst der Musen” - said there is nothing but change because we age, and he breaks out in a hymn of thanks. […]


[64] P. doesn't believe in psychology. It is interesting but not important. Psychological reactions are ambivalent and not compelling. This or the other may happen and which happens doesn't depend on psychological factors but objective ones − i. e. it depends on political factors and the power situation. (Although this may be a psychological factor, that doesn't alter it). In the political situation you never meet the psychological factor, you jump it.



Maclean's magazine is an important formative influence on the Canadian mind and life.

The French coming to Straford looks like a different world.


Comment on my letter of July 10/56: Hesiod was the first to mention the curse of the soil - irrigation.


Under Hellenism, Greece was beginning to develop a market trade, not a market economy.

The Quiet American

See the reviews in “Commentary” of the “Quiet American”[3] Rahv is nonsense tinged with brilliance, while Diana Trilling in an excellent piece says Rahv hasn't answered a thing.



Life is not a process which produces a surplus over itself.

Les découvertes en nucléaire

It may be that the nuclear discoveries are irreversible. P. is afraid of the physical extinction of the race. Man is crazy enough to destroy himself.


P. thinks I have a sound gift for writting and am able to cope with new thoughts …

P. thinks my first G.T. outline stands including the sequence of the Chapters and my first article on the reality of society. The meaning of the revelations is solid, sound and clear.

Informations sur le texte

Date : 14 juillet 1956 (Entretien)
Publication originale : Abraham Rotstein, Weekend Notes III
AKP : 45/04
Autres Languages:

Lge Nom

Notes de l'éditeur

  1. Archive pagination and not Rotstein's document pagination.
  2. We do not have this draft in the KP Archives, but it would be quite similar to what A. Rotstein wrote in his July 10 letter. -- Santiago Pinault, 18 June 2017 (BST)
  3. The Quiet American is a Graham Greene's book.