Bourgeois society has produced a type of man, perfectly in its image. It is the “liberal personality” who is entirely taken by the economy and occupies key posts in industry, commerce, and finance. The economy is his destiny from every point of view, and he understands politics exclusively as a function of the economy. His well being, the sentiment that he has of his own importance, his social position are indissolubly linked with economic trends. Thus all his field of vision is occupied by the economy, of the sort that appears to him as the first cause of everything that happens, as the center of his existence. Finally, even his relation to nature is distorted. He considers it as a reserve of energy that he must exploit in a rational manner, developing it to obtain a good revenue. He is detached from all that is elementary. For him that is not a dark force that irresistibly leads, but a source of energy from which he can turn a profit. He treats national feeling in the same fashion. Coldly calculating, he tears the veil of nationality and feels no emotion. He reckons the utility of making believe that such economic interests are “the vital needs of the nation.” The enthusiasm for the fleet animating the demand for steel shielding plates, and war is a rare occasion to realize its benefits. The liberal personality becomes the author of this scandalous abuse that defiled the fallen Reich and turned away the German workers from the idea of the state: this abuse that consists of invoking national interest when the appetite for gain and the intention of exploitation allows them to take loot safely. The implementation of a selfish plot, under the form of “national business,” it was a blasphemy that destroyed the innocence of the national feeling. Since these times, when a nationalist wave rises, we instinctively search for the bourgeois liberal who is behind it and who is waiting for the occasion of enriching himself.
The liberal personality is the most typical representative of bourgeois society. But in order to be able to exist, he must incorporate and steer the acceptance of its scale of values to all these layers of society that cannot be part of it without certain reservations. The peasant, the intellectual, the aristocrat, the soldier, the employee dependent on his boss, and the worker, not entirely proletarianized, cannot echo him body and soul. Never were those and those they represent so exclusively dependent on economic facts, contrary to the liberal personality. They still guard a particular position that is not determined by money and wealth. They have a bourgeois orientation, without being bourgeois on the interior. They adapted to bourgeois society only to conserve the non-bourgeois elements inside of themselves. They see the world through the glasses of the bourgeoisie, but they still cannot remove these glasses and make another image of the world. The peasant is attached to his fields and to the rhythm of nature, even if he has learned the secrets of account management. The intellectual protested in his heart against the fact that the force of his reflections and the abundance of his imagination were submitted to the law of supply and demand on the public market. Certainly, the Junker and the soldier adopted to this society, but they compensated in contempt to that which they could no longer oppose. The employee refused to accept that his social value objectively depended on his position. With his romantic ideas, he shined with the dignity of his rank. By wrapping himself in the cult of a beautiful past, he surmounted the doleful humiliation the present inflicted on him. The non-proletarian worker, finally, searched to acquire a conscience of his particular and personal value, remaining attached to religious and patriotic traditions.
Bourgeois society pressed to facilitate the compromise with these social classes whose essence was foreign to it. In the regards to the peasant, it observed a prudent and discreet attitude. The concession, that it made to its particular rules of life, was surprisingly lenient. It paid attention to what it found there from its economic point of view. It coaxed the the intellectual by publicly proclaiming “equality in the rights of education and property.” It prevented any down and out student from playing to the nobility of his spirit against the share of the director general’s profits. Generously, it placed the instruction, this “provision” of knowledge, besides the possession of property, the provision of material goods. It flattered the aristocrat and the soldier by making their way of life as a model, and by paying them nicely for marriage arrangements with them. It did not bother the employee, playing with his middle age hobbies. If, during the hours of work he was a good, docile proletarian, he would have the right to procure some compensation in the virile liberty of fantasies of fellowship. It tried to buy the “non-Marxist” worker, without realizing the situation fully, with work communities and social institutions
Bourgeois society could capture these social classes because it could assure them of sufficient revenues. Those who knew how to adapt, would be free from need. The rebellion was defended under the pain of death by starving, a means of making docile the most recalcitrant fellows.
It is true that in Germany, bourgeois society revealed in time its impotence in a domain in which is should have had suggestive force and that would be the true bearer of its existence: after 1918, it showed itself incapable of assuring the masses of their work and their daily bread. Its economic miracles had served as the means of corruption. Right now it remains in debt to miracles. Its magic vanished; we discovered that what it wanted to make happen was balderdash for the truth. By making the economy the motor of the universe, its world lost its sense, as the economy no longer functioned.
It gave reasons to doubt it precisely to these social classes who, in their heart of hearts, had never really taken part in it. Thus it did not know to prevent the peasants from being driven from their lands. It completely abandoned the intellectual. To the men of honor, the soldier in particular, it inflicted a shame without parallel. Even the worker, not engaged in the class struggle, was delivered into despair. It had become the enemy and the curse of all these men. The fact that it continued to exist, ruined those to which it appealed to. It no longer had the reserves that permitted it to distribute alms to those whose reluctance it has to bear in this regard. The principles on which bourgeois society rested suddenly served to justify the ruin of those who, until the present, it had won the confidence of by promises of economic benefits. Everywhere, it spread distress and misery where we waited for well-being and progress. He who was not, in his heart, a bourgeois no longer had any reason to defend bourgeois society. It could not longer convince anyone of its mission and appeared as a deception and a fraudulent organization. The charm that bourgeois values and ways of life exercised had been broken. The fundamental thing, the voice of ethnic substance, the base instincts, which had been sacrificed for so long to the discipline of bourgeois life, recovered its voice. We must pose the question of to be or not to be and understand immediately that to be is incompatible with the maintenance of bourgeois society.
We felt it most profoundly after overlooking that bourgeois society had become an institution and a measure of security for the world of Versailles, this world that is in fundamental opposition to the reclamation of Germany’s right to life. Where we do argue this reclamation, it would be necessary henceforth to organize the revolt against bourgeois society. If the bourgeois and capitalist economy constrains Germany to dissolve into Pan-Europa, Germany must show blood and fire to this society for which the economy represents destiny.
Bourgeois society, which must justify itself by economic successes, lost its power over the peasantry, the intelligentsia, the soldier, and the employees and workers, when with the signature on the Treaty of Versailles, it thrust them into misery. From this fact, a new impulse, natural and German, surged in them, and only in them. Since then, there are only a few thousand of captains of industry, bankers, administrators, and sell out journalists whose precarious existence lies there, for interior reasons, to maintain bourgeois society. Outside of them, this society can only remain, at most, by the habit and the law of inertia. But nothing will permit it to stay forever. The Decline of the West of Spengler is the prophecy of the collapse of bourgeois society. And his little book Man and Technics addresses itself to the same society by giving them the kind advice to die with dignity.