To the Third Millennium: The Third Way or The Third Reich?

©Terry Boardman Dec. 1998

This article was first published in the inaugural issue of

Transintelligence Internationale magazine Feb-March 1999

There has been a lot of babbling in the English-speaking media in recent years, most of it very unclear, about  a  “Third Way” in politics and even economics. The Internet is now stuffed with groups, media organs, even new political parties calling themselves “The Third Way”. Many people, such as Tony Blair in the UK and his friend Bill Clinton in the US, have obviously had glimpses of  this elusive creature. Serious academic tomes have been written about it. Social thinkers and philosophers such as the prophet of communitarianism, Amitai Etzioni in the US, have argued at least for the existence of its habitat, if not for the creature itself. Within the fashionable  neo-Darwinist hothouse atmosphere of our millennium-turning  times, “the Third Way” would seem to have become a veritable ‘missing link’. Even those in the world of international affairs who have been called  ‘big beasts’, such as global financier George Soros and political demiurge Henry Kissinger, have claimed that modern global corporate capitalism is simply too red in tooth and claw and needs to be muzzled somehow if the world economy is to survive. Since the end of the Soviet communist dinosaurs after 1989, there has been a growing sense that the one-sided, no-holds-barred free market capitalism  of the 80s and early 90s will no more prove to be the wagon train that leads to the promised land of the Far West (to borrow Francis Fukuyama’s hackneyed metaphor) than Karl Marx’s dictatorship of the proletariat. “We have moved past the sterile debate between those who say government is the enemy and those who say government is the answer. My fellow Americans, we have found a third way.” [1] Here ended a State of the Union sermon by President Clinton, who has  preached the same gospel to Britain’s Tony Blair, the Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi and Brazilian President Henrique Cardoso. French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin seems warm to the idea, as is Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in Germany.

These would-be ‘radical centrists’  reject the Thatcher-Reagan credo of the 1980s – that markets should rule and governments should provide only minimal services: courts, police and fire departments. The preachers of the Third Way advocate “social and economic policies that are more humane and inclusive than those of right-wing or conservative political parties but which do not represent a return to old-time socialist policies of government ownership and heavy-handed intervention in the economy.” [2] The inner circles of the Clinton and Blair administrations have already met three times to discuss the issue, and apparently, “are discussing ways to create an alliance of centre/centre-left parties.” [3] After the decades of left-right political battles throughout the western world that  dominated the 20th century, with the end of the Cold War a new social-democratic political consensus, a veritable new order of politics seems to be emerging. Writing in “New Democrat” Magazine, Al From, a member of the influential Democratic Leadership Council that created Bill Clinton’s presidency, rejected calls for a third political party in the US:

“Our national debate is still framed as it has been for most of the past quarter century by liberals steadfastly defending big, centralised, bureaucratic government and conservatives trying to repeal it….What’s missing is a nobler calling for our politics–a sense of rising to a higher ground; of embracing goals that speak to people’s aspirations and their need for purpose and accomplishment in their lives; of building a government that’s accountable and effective. That’s why we need a different approach to politics, a third way. The credo of this new politics should rest on three pillars:
· The Jefferson-Jackson ideal of equal opportunity for all, special privilege for none;
· An ethic of mutual responsibility, under which government has a responsibility to create opportunities for its citizens, but citizens have responsibilities too; and
· A new, enabling role for government, in which government equips people to solve their own problems instead of a government that assumes it knows best or one that abandons public responsibility altogether.
Our goal should be to develop solutions to the most perplexing problems facing America as it moves from the Industrial to the Information Age”. [4]

This raises two points. Firstly, the three pillars mentioned are in no way ‘new’. Almost all politicians in the post-war western world, left and right, would claim to have been guided by them; and secondly, Mr. From places the emergence of the Third Way within the context of  a certain way of looking at time and history. From a somewhat more ‘liberal’ perspective, Robert Gilman, of the Context Institute, wrote in 1993 that the Third Way had to be seen in the context of two grand macrohistorical shifts from the Tribal Era to the Age of Empire 5000 years ago, and today, from the Age of Empire to the Planetary Era[5] :  “the end of the Cold War is just part of a much larger set of historical trends. Understanding these trends can enable us to work with history, rather than struggling against it, and thus be much more effective in contributing to the development of a humane and sustainable world.” The need for what Gilman  called ‘the Big Picture’ was echoed by the British Home Secretary Jack Straw in a key speech of 3rd July 1998 in which he extolled the Labour Party’s new social philosophy of the Third Way: “political theory really does matter.  However secular our society may have become, people cannot live by bread alone.  They need a framework of belief.  Those who govern in their name, in Parliament and the executive need to share that framework – indeed to have marked it out, to have some pretty clear sense of direction, so that there is some template for the scores of individual decisions which they have to make every day.” [6]

Here we are getting into some very muddy waters. A secular society which  does not believe in God is here said by Straw to need a framework of belief, an understanding of time and historical development that justifies social and political action. Originally, in ancient times, religious ‘beliefs’ were not beliefs at all; they were knowledge of the invisible world, based on individual insight. These insights were ‘true’ for the individuals involved. As this insight declined, priestly castes arrogated to themselves the right to issue intellectually thought-out dogmas about how the world was constituted, which people had to obey. These dogmas were said to be ‘truth’. Now Straw says that, in the absence of both individual spiritual insight and priestly dogma, we need new versions of reality, new dogmas in effect, worked out for us by politicians and their allies in universities and thinktanks. It is claimed that on the basis of this new understanding of history – where we have been, and what has just ended – we can assess both what we need for the present and the course of our future direction. One can certainly concur with that last assertion; the problem is who produces the understanding, and is it ‘true’ or not?

What Time Is it Actually?

What then is the nature of  the great historical movement that is coming to an end as the   third millennium dawns ? We need to be clear about this, for any understanding of a  Third Way will depend upon it. What is coming to an end is not only the first great wave of industrialisation, based on mechanical manufacturing and mass urban centres. That is merely the materialistic outer form of the change – the technological garments of a deeper inner development. As so many people today, on both right and left, have been conditioned to think in materialistic terms in the last 150 years by the state-run education systems that spread the dominant values of the era, they see little beyond these technological changes, believing them to be the prime movers of history: the printing press, the gun, the sextant, the steam engine, the electromagnetic motor and others. In this sense, all who think this way, whether on right or left,  have become Marxists, believers in the doctrine of historical materialism. Michael Greaney of the US-based right-leaning Centre for Economic and Social Justice has written that: “The Third Way can be summed up in three words: Power, Property and Credit. Democratic access to all three is essential to a free and just society.” [7] All this means is just Power: political power, economic power, and financial power. This preoccupation with power is an understandable result of the thinking current in the Industrial Age, when men  – and it was usually men – became mesmerised with the sheer power of materiality and machinery. This obsession with technological power they allowed to influence all their thinking; the English Vorticist and Italian Futurist thinkers in the first decade of this century were a prime example of this. In this last decade of the century, we have seen how those who are intoxicated with the power of computers have allowed the disease of computeritis to infect their own thinking. Robert Gilman wrote that there are  “three areas – technology, industrial output, and population – in which change needs to occur to move us toward a sustainable future.”[8]  All three parameters are eminently measurable by computer modelling, and indeed, Gilman’s arguments are predicated upon the global computer model ‘World3′  in the influential book “Beyond the Limits” by Meadows, Meadows, and Randers.

It is not, however, merely technology and the socio-economic phenomena dependent on it that are now changing. Something more profound is at work. For technological development occurs as a result of changes in the spirit of Man. It is ideas and insights that lead to technological innovations. Hegel understood this truth, which is why he put spirit at the centre of his view of history. Marx did not understand it, which is why he turned Hegel’s philosophy upside down and made matter pre-eminent. Both men were children of their time, however, in different ways. Hegel belonged to the very small group in the late eighteenth century who understood something of how the human spirit had changed over the centuries and how human society had changed as a result. He pointed to the fact that in ancient Asia, only one had been ‘free’ – the ruler, or God-king. In the world dominated by Mediterranean values, he said, only some had been ‘free’ – the aristocrats, priests, and oligarchs, whereas in the post-Renaissance world, all now had the possibility to be ‘free’. By ‘freedom’ he meant essentially, not so much the freedom to do and act which is so much prized by the English-speaking world, but rather the freedom to think, the freedom  of the human spirit to awaken. All were now free, he argued, to choose voluntarily to put themselves at the service of the state, which became a reflection of the freely chosen will of a sovereign democratic citizenry. It was in this sense that Hegel believed that history had ‘come to an end’  with the victory of the French revolutionary citizens’ army over the conscript soldiers of the Prussian autocrat at the Battle of Jena in 1806. He saw the battle as a symptom of this enormous spiritual change that was taking place in his time.

Marx was also a child of his time in the sense that he belonged to the much larger group of western humanity that was becoming more and more enmeshed in materialism. For while the spirit of Western Man  had indeed become freer and more awake since the days of  Pico della Mirandola, Martin Luther and Giordano Bruno, it had also become ever more cut off from real spiritual insight. The dogmas of the Catholic church had been replaced for the most part by the barren Biblical literalism of the Protestants or else by the mystifying and desiccated pseudo-esoteric ceremonies of the Freemasons. In their ongoing search for what they felt, however inchoately, to be freedom and self-mastery, more and more men in the West turned away from any real inner path and looked instead towards science, technology, commerce, and industry; they turned towards the material, physically observable power of what they called ‘Nature’. This was what, from the 17th century onwards, essentially distinguished the West more and more from the East, and indeed from the rest of the world, where inner mystical paths to the spirit were never cut off to the extent they had been in the West. To put it in Christian religious terms, the ways to the Father (the invisible Cosmic Ground of  Being and Non-Being) and the Son (the Ladder between the Invisible Father and the Visible Mother Nature) were avoided in favour of  vigorously embracing, even raping, Mother Nature. It was this essentially spiritual, or rather, non-spiritual development that gave rise to the abstract intellectual doppelgänger (double) that has been the ‘matter-realism’ of the last 400 years and the techno-culture that grew up nurtured by that alma mater. All the poisonous ‘isms’ of  the modern age – racism, chauvinism, sexism and many more -  are but the ugly offspring of their diabolical mother – Mater Realism, the spectre who has been able to force herself between Mother Nature and mankind. Separated by this intellectual spectre from the Father and the Son, and thus lacking in men’s minds  a relation to the invisibleworld, Mother Nature alone can give no truly holistic enlightenment. This is a point which some of the  wilder, more pantheistic members of today’s   Green movement – those who declare that humanity is a parasitic pestilence on the body  of the Earth Goddess Gaia who does not really  need humanity, or those who would like to kill vivisectionists – do not yet realise. Both reds and greens – some of them united in their materialism -  have not yet understood that one cannot bring about real peace by violence.

Three Historical Waves in History

What then is the larger meaning of this spiritual change that is occurring? The Austrian thinker and spiritual scientist Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) pointed to it clearly some 80 years ago, but we failed to pay attention. Steiner, like Hegel and Gilman, described how there had indeed been three great changes since ancient times. In the first period, which he dated to approximately the 8th century BC, all social developments  were guided by spiritual or religious impulses. There were no politics or economics  as such in those days; spiritual life was predominant. This model of society can be seen both in ‘primitive’ tribal societies where all was dependent on the word of chiefs or shamans, and also in sophisticated societies such as ancient Egypt and China, where the King was a God on earth and his court was modelled on the vertical hierarchies of the heavenly or spiritual world. After the 8th century, the political sphere as we know it – the sphere of law, justice, and civil rights -  began to emancipate itself from the spiritual realm. This process took some 2000 years to realise itself. Symptoms of it were the increasing secularisation and politicisation of Greek culture, the legal innovations of Rome, and the struggles between mediaeval Emperors and  Popes in Europe. The growth of the English parliamentary system (the rebellion of the barons in 1215 against God’s representative, the King) and the German Protestant princes’ successful rebellion in the 16th century against the Pope, the Vicar of Christ, finally sealed this emergence of a second principle; it meant the emancipation of the political principle in itself from  the religious or spiritual principle.

Almost as soon as this period closed with the Renaissance, a third emancipation began to show itself. It too is likely to last a very long time before it becomes established, but since about 1600 and the rise of the global merchant adventurers, the economic sphere has been seeking to emancipate itself from political control. Obviously, the agricultural, industrial, commercial, and financial revolutions since the end of the 17th century (notably the founding of the Bank of England in 1694) have been major symptoms of this process, as have been the ideas of the free market and free trade, the thoughts of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, economic self-interest and competitive advantage, and the abolition of tariffs. It has been a particularly tortuous process, because it directly affects the livelihoods of millions and changes their lives in ways that the previous emancipation of the political realm did not; it literally uproots them. What is coming to a close today with the end of the Cold War is only the end of the first, and hopefully most violent, phase of this emancipation of economic life. It was the phase in which the decline of moral values as a result of the fading of   individual spiritual insight overlapped the first primitive technological and industrial developments. Many capitalists and owners, failing to realise the essential elements of co-operation and service to others upon which all economic life depends, treated their fellow human beings as chattel and sometimes worse than animals. The moral indignation which such unjust and unfair behaviour produced  rapidly took the form of revolutionary socialism and ultimately resulted in the desire to eliminate those who were seen to be torturing the new industrial proletariat, the working class. The insight that economic life should be based on service to all was then, in societies which underwent socialist or communist revolutions, carried too far, and systems of  ‘scientific socialism’ and  political control by bureaucrats were applied to the economy in such countries. This had the effect of stultifying and virtually destroying the economy altogether.

Rudolf Steiner indicated that individual liberty is the prime concern of the spiritual sphere, even though, as Hegel said with regard to the monarchs and despots of ancient Asia, it may happen that individual liberty  is sometimes  the liberty of only one man. Luther’s defiant words before the Emperor Charles V “Here I stand. I can do no other” are a prime example of the individual’s desire to connect in his own way to whatever he believes the spiritual world to be. In liberty therefore is emphasised what is different between people: different ways to the spirit, different artistic insights, intuitions and styles. Yet liberty is the principle of ‘oneness’  in personal religious terms: what is my relationship to God; how do I seek to be one with the spiritual world? The struggle for equality, on the other hand, is the hallmark of  the second social realm, that of politics. We may be different in ourselves, with different talents and capacities, but we are equal as human beings, and have equal rights to basic necessities and fair dealing by virtue of our simple humanity. Politics adjusts my relationship with the other man; it is I and You. It has an essentially dualistic nature, and as such, it is the most ‘earthbound’ of the three spheres of social life, because all life on the material plane consists of polarities (male-female, positive-negative, hot-cold, expansion-contraction, East-West, producer-consumer). It is thus dominated by the number two; the dualistic adversarialism of the law courts and legislatures in Britain and the USA are a clear reflection of  this. Because we have only  recently entered the era of economic emancipation from politics, our thinking is still very much conditioned by the habits of the previous era, when politics was coming into its own. Owing this historical overlap, dualistic ways of thought and modes of action have thus been rife in economic life too: bosses versus workers, ‘them and us’, public or private sector,  staff and line management. Companies have been seen essentially as belonging to and existing for the management and the shareholders; the workers and the customers are invisible. The deadly bipolarity of the Cold War was  but the grossest manifestation of this dualism which had poisoned the nascent economic life of the West since the early decades of the Industrial Revolution epoch: the USSR and the USA were two nations in East and West whose political systems were based on what were thought to be two mutually exclusive answers to the problems thrown up by the Industrial and Commercial Revolutions.

It is this dualism of thought – the infection of the ‘young and immature’ economic sphere both with the older thought-habits of the political realm (from which result communist economics: ‘I demand that you  be equal to me in misery’) and with the even older thought-habits of the spiritual realm (which gave rise to free market liberal economics: ‘I must be free to exploit what I want’) – that is now coming to an end in the vague gropings for a Third Way.

The economic process consists essentially of three activities: production, distribution, and consumption. These three are  based essentially not on ‘I-ness’ or ‘you-ness’ but on  ‘we-ness’,  which implies fraternity, co-operation, and service to the community. Because, however, this IS pre-eminently the age of  economicemancipation, the principle of ‘threeness’  is in danger of being misapplied to everything, not just to the economy. Thus, one hears of the search for the third way not only in economics, but also in politics, in the health system, in the social system, in the arts – everywhere, whereas each of the three spheres of social life – government, business, and what could be called the cultural sphere in general – need to be ruled by the principles which are suitable to them: equality in politics, liberty in cultural life, and fraternity in the economic sphere. Only when we keep this in mind can we begin to find the means of  relating the three spheres to each other in a healthy way. Very many of today’s problems are caused because of our failure firstly to disentangle the three spheres from each other. When we mix them up, we are working against the direction of historical evolution itself, as soviet communism tried to do, and the effort will only end in disaster.

The Yawn of the New

With this in mind, let us look at some contemporary social phenomena. No doubt with the approaching new century on the near horizon, there has been a plethora of  New This and New That throughout the developed world in the 1990s. Perhaps  the first example of this particular phenomenon was the emergence of the Japanese splinter group from the Liberal Democrat Party in 1993 which called itself the New Politics Party (Shinseito), or maybe it was even earlier, in 1991, when George Bush announced the imminent arrival of the New World Order. The Labour Party in Britain soon relabelled itself New Labour after the ‘young’ Tony Blair took over as leader and the epithet ‘New’ began appearing in countless party documents and programmes: New Britain, New Politics, the New Deal on Employment. Education in particular has been singled out for the ‘newness’ treatment by the minister responsible, David Blunkett, who claims he wants to prepare the country for the ‘new challenges’ he says it will face in the 21st century in ‘an ever more competitive global economy’. Not only has New Labour embraced the national curriculum for education (introduced by the so-called party of individual liberty, the Conservatives), which requires all state schools to teach the same syllabus, it also has engaged in greater levels of intervention in schools than any previous administration. Teachers are groaning under the weight of bureaucratic impositions on their work by government, while Blunkett continues to lecture them on the need for more and more changes. What is the government’s thinking behind all this pressure that makes it wish to engage in so much political meddling in the cultural sphere?

The answer lies in a threefold lack of ‘newness’. Firstly, the government continues to take a new leaf out of an old book of the 1970s and 1980s. The Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher  devised the National Curriculum not least because it had been impressed by  arguments from academics and businesspeople that Japan’s economic success in those decades rested on its high standard of average achievement in schools, especially in maths and science; the Conservatives judged that those standards were attributable to the high level of government intervention in, if not actual total control of, an education system and  a curriculum that was tightly regulated by the Japanese Ministry of Education. This was because the Japanese government’s criterion for action in education, its public policy documents notwithstanding, was always and only: how to maximise Japan’s economic success. The youth of Japan were and still are seen as potential industrial foot soldiers in Japan’s struggle for survival and had to be trained as such. This Social Darwinist notion of nations struggling for survival in the international economic jungle was one the Japanese picked up from the likes of Herbert Spencer, the 19th century British Social Darwinist philosopher who gave informal advice to members of the Japanese government at a time when Japan was trying to stay out of the rapacious clutches of  the western imperialist Powers. Clearly, such notions of national economic competition are hardly ‘new’. They go back to Charles Darwin, whose epoch-making book The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, it is usually forgotten, bore the sub-title or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

Hugely influential British imperialist thinkers at the turn of the century, such as Alfred Lord Milner, Leo Amery, Earl Grey, and left-wingers like Sidney and Beatrice Webb, H.G.Wells, and Bertrand Russell who had an interest in social policy and ‘humanising’ the Empire gathered together over a number of years in a dining club known as ‘The Coefficients’. There, at the beginning of the century, they discussed the kind of left-right accommodation ‘in the national interest’ that now at the end of the century, Tony Blair’s New Labour believes it stands for.  Milner, the Webbs, Grey, and Wells all wished Britain to reform itself so that it would have the vitality to continue to be ‘top dog’. Blair and Blunkett wish the same so that Britain can ‘lead in the 21st century’; there is a similar breast-beating, an inherent ‘we-deserve-to-be-best-and-can-be’ attitude. None of this is in any way ‘new’.

It is well-known that Darwin’s ideas are rooted in the economic thoughts of 18th century thinkers Thomas Malthus and Adam Smith. Their ideas were in turn rooted in the prevalent materialism of the 18th century ‘enlightenment’ – a self-centred ‘me-ism’ and the self-interest of the lower ego. In their ideas about a free trade and an economic life that is based on self-interest, in other words, the cultural principle of ‘liberty’ rather than the economic principle of ‘fraternity’, we encounter another strand of New Labour’s Third Way. In his speech of the 3rd July 1998, Home Secretary Jack Straw stated:  “the starting point for our social philosophy and policy has to be the economy, the way it is managed and the reality that national economies cannot insulate themselves from what is going on in the rest of the world.  Rapid technological change, instantaneous international movement of capital, free trade and  low-wage economies, all impose constraints on national governments…We have accepted the imperative of the prevailing world economic system in its broadest sense, both because of its intrinsic merits, and because there is no alternative better system on offer.(my emphasis)  But we have neither accepted the economic management of our predecessors nor their economicdoctrine, with its elevation of the power of money as some sort of moral principle.” True, the Third Way advocates may not have accepted the idea that the market should determine everything, but they have accepted the essentials of  Smith and Darwin when they accept unregulated globalisation and free trade, and when they say, like David Marquand, Principal of Mansfield College at Oxford University: “the central fault line in modern post-industrial society is between the winners and the losers in the global marketplace.” They have accepted the implications of Smith and Darwin when they say, like Jack Straw, that the starting point for social philosophy and policy should be the economy. For the economy is only one third of  social life, and is in no way intrinsically pre-eminent. They fail to see that while  changes in the economy may seem to have  been driving world history since the mid-18th century (Industrial Revolution, capitalism vs. socialism, Cold War etc), as I pointed out above, those changes, which represented the beginning of the emancipation of economic life,   actually reflected  alterations in Man’s spirituality. Moreover,  the proponents of the Third Way have accepted the gloomy pessimism of Malthus when, like Robert Gilman, they anchor their thoughts  to computer models of world population forecasts.

A Threefold Society – the Really ‘New’

Hardly anything  about the Third Way is in any sense ‘new’ or creative; rather, it is but a mish-mash and a throwback to the past – to the 1980s, to the 1900s, to the 1850s and even to the 1770s. The political thinking of the 2000 years before the Renaissance was essentially dualistic. This political dualism has carried on into our own era, but whereas in the economic sphere it had the effect of starkly polarising concepts of politics, economics and industrial relations, producing the left-right battles of the 20th century, now the Third Way advocates wish to get round this dualism merely by contracting the polarity into a mish-mash – a false consensus, a false unity. They are seeking to unite the old division between left and right, managers and workers on the basis of a new national sense of purpose. Jack Straw: “…the new Clause 4 is the Third Way – a clear, coherent route between the Right (especially the nineteenth century Liberal New Right) and the old, neo-Marxist Left.”

The dualism that is inherent in politics, and which is rooted in the  feelings that ‘you are  (not) less (or more) of a human being than I am’, cannot be allowed to continue to infect the cultural and economic spheres of  social life, but nor can that dualism be addressed by forcing it into a ‘new’ unity. The solution for the third millennium is neither a Third Way between Two Other Ways which have been rejected as outdated, nor a Third Way that is only a forced reconciliation of  polar opposites. That would be to remain within dualistic thinking and to miss the essential nature of what is happening in our time. Rather than this, we need, as Rudolf Steiner foresaw in 1917, to press on to a thoroughgoing threefolding, or triformation of society. This would allow the three spheres  – cultural, political, and economic – real emancipation in their own domains, while at the same time allowing them to inform and balance each other. New Labour and the Japanese elite believe with Jack Straw that “Government is …there to provide a competitive environment in which enterprise and not monopoly can flourish; to ensure a proper flow of adequately trained and educated people; to maintain research and development.” New Labour are showing they understand the nature of education and the cultural sphere even less than Old Labour. For Straw acknowledges that the grand social engineering designs of previous Labour administrations failed because they addressed only external institutional matters. For example, they attempted to eradicate class divisions by changing school systems. At least then they did not seek to tell teachers what to teach in the classroom, but now Straw believes in “the paramount importance of intervening inside the classroom to monitor and to raise standards as David Blunkett is now doing”.  This is to infringe the very principle of liberty of cultural life – in the area of human thinking, which ought to govern education. How can one nurture freethinking citizens when those who teach them are not allowed to think for themselves and are told what to teach? In a threefold society there would be no government interference whatsoever with the content of education, because education would be seen to be for the individual not for the economic service of  some ‘UK plc’. The very concept of  ‘UK plc’ would be thought absurd, because it would be realised that a political community is inherently different from a company. Footballers would not wear company logos on their shirts, because it would be understood that the economic sphere has no right to exert pressure on the cultural sphere, neither would corporate  lobbying be allowed in Parliament. A threefold society would not mean that the community would allow capitalists to exploit their workers. On the contrary, the very right to establish a company would become dependent not on the principle of  liberty (“I want to set up a company, no matter how trivial and useless its products”), but of fraternity and service (“how much does the community need such a company?”); the establishment of new companies would be determined by economic, not political or bureaucratic, associations of people working within the economic field; these economic associations would also monitor the economic dealings within their field of specialisation.  Companies would not be seen as existing primarily to enrich their shareholders, but to serve the customers and the wider community. It would be understood that the animal struggle for survival has no place in human society, and the destruction of families and communities due to redundancies and lay-offs would cease because wages and salaries would not be paid by companies but by the community as a support tothe human right to existence not as a reward for labour. It would be seen that multinational corporations cannot simply be allowed to impose their will in the name of ‘free trade’ upon political and ethnic communities with unique traditions and modes of living that go back centuries.

Many other changes, some very radical, would follow naturally when the threefold principle of emancipation and disentangling of the three spheres from each other was realised. Once clearly disentangled, the work of connecting the three in a vibrant inter-relating organism can begin. This is a genuinely ‘new’ idea for the third millennium and the next phase of economic emancipation – one that would recognise morality, not just profit. It was no accident that Margaret Thatcher and the neo-liberal free marketeers only spoke about freedom and the rule of law and never mentioned fraternity. That is because their economic concepts were stuck in the 18th century when the threefold slogan ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’ had only just been thought of; ‘fraternity’ had only just been added to the other two. The western world has never succeeded in realising a society on the basis of those three ideals, because the essential nature of economic life – fraternity and service -  has not yet been grasped. The formal division of labour, in which we all depend on each other for goods and services, is the closest we have got to it. Yet though we so depend, we do not respect each other for it, because our cultural values have decayed to the point of nihilism, mutual suspicion and fear. We have let the principles of the other two spheres – liberty and equality – invade the economic sphere, and the result has been a self-centred laisser faire capitalist economy  and a bureaucratically imprisoned socialist command economy.

Liberty and equality must be returned to their proper spheres, and  fraternity allowed to take its place at last as the guiding principle of economy. Although the idea of the threefold society is genuinely new compared to the Third Way, it is ‘new’ only in the sense that people have not yet woken up to the fact that it has been developing for about 2500 years and particularly since the Renaissance, although only in the 20th century perhaps could this be realised. It has, as Rudolf Steiner indicated, been living in people’s unconscious wills; this is why it is no mere intellectual utopian scheme. On the contrary, it is part of the very  woof and weft of  modern history. It will out, as they say, but if we ignorantly try to prevent it, we will only end up in a series of cul-de-sacs.

Third Way, Third Reich?

The advocates of the Third way are right in two ways: they are right in looking to the number three, for the third millennium  calls for ‘threeness’ to replace the dualism that dominated the second millennium. But it should be a real threefolding – a clear demarcation and then a dynamic inter-relating of the three spheres of social life, which are three ways ['which' omitted here]we all walk simultaneously as individuals, as citizens, as members of humanity. The Third Way, by contrast, is but another One Way. The Third Way advocates are also right to be concerned about society falling apart under the impact of economic change. This reflects the growing  and right-minded concern for morality in economics. However, Jack Straw entitled his speech of  3rd July: “Building social cohesion, order and inclusion in a market economy”. He obviously thinks the market economy threatens those things, whereas it is not so much the market economy in itself, but the misplacedcultural principle of liberty in the market economy that threatens them. In his speech he said: “… in responding to the changing economic and social challenges of our age we have to craft a new social philosophy.  Our approach must be to use social intervention to produce greater social cohesion, social order and social inclusion.  It turns its back on the first and second ways – the free market individualism of the 1980s and the statism that went before it and to which it was an extreme reaction.”

But the advocates of threefolding should beware, or rather the citizenry should beware that their political leaders’ Third Way does not, in the third millennium, turn into a more subtle version of the Third Reich. That may seem like an extreme overstatement applied to people like Jack Straw, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, but unclear thinking can have devastating consequences. When something ‘will out’, if it is not recognised and allowed its proper form, then it ‘will out’ in a distorted form. Hitler proclaimed a society of  “Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Führer”. That was a distortion of  fraternity (Reich), equality (Volk) and liberty (Führer) that sought to ignore all the developments of the past 2500 years and return to a divine leader polity reminiscent of ancient Egypt. Another such distortion is represented by organisations like the Trilateral Commission, the Rockefeller-driven semi-secretive thinktank  which works to bring about  a world of three economic blocs controlled by the elites of America, Germany, and Japan, the latter two being of course very much under the American thumb. By seeking to anchor the unitarian mish-mash of the Third Way in a national social-democratic movement centred on the nation state – UK plc, USA Inc., Deutschland AG, Nippon KK etc – the would-be Third Way Social Democrats may unwittingly  overcentralise their societies in a way that leads to a kind of  unthinking, bread-and-circuses type of soft fascism. Jack Straw himself referred to the philosopher David Selbourne who wrote: “In its thrall, the citizen comes to be perceived and treated by the civic order (and its instruments, the state and government) not as a citizen but as a consumer, customer, and bundle of wants; and the citizen, perceiving himself in like fashion, loses sense of his duties, as a citizen, to himself, his fellows, and the civic order, at worst without sense of honour or shame.”[9]. Straw does not notice the contradiction when he makes such statements as: “what we are doing is to bind communities into fighting crime through, for example, the statutory partnership in the Crime and Disorder Bill and the empowerment of local communities through measures like the Anti Social Behaviour Orders and the Child Area Curfews” (my emphasis), or: “intervention – “steering not rowing” in the phrase on Reinventing Government – seeks to treat our citizens as active participants in society, with rights yes, but with clear responsibilities too”. In numerous ways,  ‘Third Way’ adminstrations are intervening more and more in the lives of their citizens in the name of “promoting social cohesion, order and inclusion by strengthening communities and families, revitalising democracy, celebrating….multi-culturalism and reforming and strengthening the core of the welfare state”. They are doing this because they recognise that in the economic field, the old socialist statist agenda having been  laid aside, there is little else for them to do. They therefore seek to interfere in the cultural area; New Labour government ministers have enthused over “Cool Britannia”, invited rock stars to Downing Street parties and engaged in bombastic white elephant projects like the Millennium Dome in London.

It is surely no accident that the Third Way is espoused especially in the English-speaking world by friends Blair and Clinton, leaders of the two countries with the most dualistic  political systems, the two countries which regard themselves as the world’s policemen, the two countries whose political,  academic, business and military elites are the most connected, the two countries which stand behind the neo-colonial New World Order. They speak of  a Third Way, but we should be on our guard, for whether by accident or design, their Third Way will surely prove to be a One Way street.


[2]  ibid
[3]  ibid
[4]  ”New Democrat”, May/June 1995
[5]  ’What Time Is It?’ in “In Context”, p. 11, Autumn 1993
[6]  Jack Straw to the Nexus Conference, London 3rd July1998
[8]  see note 5 above
[9]  Principle of Duty, p70,[Abacus, 1994]