Historical Examples and Current Trends, continued

  • Some five thousand years ago in Egypt, the three social realms were one in the person of the pharaoh. Considered a god, he was the high priest, the earthly king, and in a sense owned everything in Egypt. 

  • Some twenty-five hundred years later, in classical Athens, religion (a facet of culture) was no longer as fused with the state, which was a democracy, though not for its slaves. 

  • Five- or six hundred years after that, under the Roman Empire, culture had in some ways become still more distinct from the state. Thus, for example, one did not need to be culturally Italian in order to become a citizen of Rome. 

  • Still later, the waning of feudalism and serfdom in medieval Western Europe and the growth of “free” towns there meant the emergence of an increasing distinction between the state (represented by the nobles) and economic life. 

  • In the first half of the nineteenth century, when slavery was suppressed in the British Empire, state and economy in that respect became more distinct from each other, because fundamental human rights had thus been withdrawn to some extent from the field of economic transactions. 

  • During the 1800s the growing availability of state schooling ("public" schools) in the U.S., regardless of a family’s ability to pay tuition, was in part motivated by the desire to make cultural life independent of economic power. In practice, however, state schooling often brought culture under the dominance of both state and economic power, since educational freedom generally remained the prerogative of families with the economic resources to choose from among non-state schools if desired. Less advantaged families increasingly had relatively little choice but to accept a local government school's cultural outlook and pedagogical content as determined by political majorities and elites and by economic power.

According to Steiner the historical threefolding process tends toward greater educational freedom in the cultural sphere, more socially responsible and cooperative forms of capitalism in the economic sphere, and a more incorruptible democracy in the political sphere. To understand why cooperative forms of capitalism are more likely than conventional mainstream capitalism to maintain the independence of the economy vis-à-vis the state, click “Cooperative Economic Life.”

This blog will probably focus on news that relates in some way to three of today's reform movements with the most potential to advance the historical threefolding process, namely, efforts 1) to raise thicker walls between money and politics, 2) to make sure that all families, not just those with financial resources, have the means to choose from a variety of non-state schools for their children, and that control of education by state and economic power is minimized or ended; and 3) to expand cooperative business and cooperative, non-statist forms of economics, as partly exemplified by the growing field of B-corporations, whose relatively new legal form permits and requires corporate officers not only to increase shareholder value but also to maximize benefits to the community, the employees, and the environment.

Here's an 18 minute TED talk on B-corporations:

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