Threefold Social Organism

Historically, when we humans think about how our needs could be met in our social life together as a ‘society’, three distinctions inevitably keep showing up:

  • Plato’s ideal state had three parts “corresponding to the human soul” – the intellectual governing class, the soldier class defending the state, and the peasant/worker class of farmers and artisans;
  • the French Revolution wanted “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite”;
  • The American Declaration of Independence calls for “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”.

A New York Times lead piece on this weird Independence Day weekend 2020 calls on these three distinctions again out of the disorienting strangeness of this, our, time:  “In recent months, under the banner ‘The America We Need’, the Opinion section has presented a wide range of ideas for reforging our economy, our society, and our democracy … to better serve the people of the United States.”

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs (1943) are more likely met in a threefold social structure.

The idea of the threefold nature of social life is resonating again through social reformers like Otto Scharmer at the MIT Presencing Institute. “OPEN MIND, OPEN HEART, OPEN WILL”, the three change processes of the theory U social technology, describe the changes in our personal consciousness if we are to ‘presence’ a conscious approach to our shared social existence.

“I think it is now time for social scientists to step out of the shadow and to establish an advanced social sciences methodology that integrates science (third-person view) social transformation (second-person view) and the evolution of self (first-person view) into a coherent framework of consciousness-based action research.”   – C. OTTO SCHARMER, MIT, THEORY U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges – The Social Technology of Presencing

Through threefold world-building we recognize and activate three self-evident strengths of our human nature:

Humanity’s intelligence evolves in freedom. 

“Play is evolution … Original play is an evolutionary force that is inherently moral and kind, spiritual and curious, asking existential questions … Childhood intelligences are evolutionarily higher order intelligences!” 

~ O. Fred Donaldson, Playing By Heart: The Vision and Practice of Belonging (1993)

Humanity’s soul expands in unconditional justice and equality   

“… recognition of the other is never solely an individual’s gift to give. 

Love is not law. The system in its entirety must recognize the other.” 

~ Zadie Smith, “Who Is To Be Master? The radical vision of Toyin Ojih Odutola”,
 The New Yorker, August 17, 2020

Humanity prospers in collaboration. 

“The well-being of a community of people working together  will be the greater, the less the individual claims for themselves  the proceeds of their work, i.e. the more of these proceeds they make over to their fellow-workers, the more their own needs are satisfied, not out of their own work, but out of the work done by others.” 

~ Rudolf Steiner, “Fundamental Social Law (1917)

“Even Darwin understood that evolution is the story of how different species developed increasingly better methods of collaborating.”

 ~ Douglas Rushkoff, host of Team Human, “Why Evolution Is Actually More About Collaboration Than Competition”, Forbes (January 22, 2019)



It is March 1919. Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), has just published “An Appeal to the German Nation and Global Civilization”.  

“One Hundred Years: In Recognition of Rudolf Steiner’s Threefold Commonwealth”, John Bloom (2017)