Aolib.comFragment of Photochrom print of the front of Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany (ca. 1897)

On the Significance of Science and Art »

By graf Leo Tolstoy

Men who behave thus are guided by their sense, their conscience; and hence we, the men endowed with sense and conscience, all assert that such a division of labor is right. But if it should chance that the blacksmiths were able to compel other people to work for them, and should continue to make horse—shoes when they were not wanted, and if the teachers should go on teaching when there was no one to teach, then it is obvious to every sane man, as a man, i.e., as a being endowed with reason and conscience, that this would not be division, but appropriation, of labor. And yet precisely that sort of activity is what is called division of labor by scientific science. People do that which others do not think of requiring, and demand that they shall be supported for so doing, and say that this is just because it is division of labor.

That which constitutes the cause of the economical poverty of our age is what the English call over—production (which means that a mass of things are made which are of no use to anybody, and with which nothing can be done).

It would be odd to see a shoemaker, who should consider that people were bound to feed him because he incessantly made boots which had been of no use to any one for a long time; but what shall we say of those men who make nothing,–who not only produce nothing that is visible, but nothing that is of use for people at large,–for whose wares there are no customers, and who yet demand, with the same boldness, on the ground of division of labor, that they shall be supplied with fine food and drink, and that they shall be dressed well? There may be, and there are, sorcerers for whose services a demand makes itself felt, and for this purpose there are brought to them pancakes and flasks; but it is difficult to imagine the existence of sorcerers whose spells are useless to every one, and who boldly demand that they shall be luxuriously supported because they exercise sorcery. And it is the same in our world. And all this comes about on the basis of that false conception of the division of labor, which is defined not by reason and conscience, but by observation, which men of science avow with such unanimity.

Division of labor has, in reality, always existed, and still exists; but it is right only when man decides with his reason and his conscience that it should be so, and not when he merely investigates it. And reason and conscience decide the question for all men very simply, unanimously, and in a manner not to be doubted. They always decide it thus: that division of labor is right only when a special branch of man’s activity is so needful to men, that they, entreating him to serve them, voluntarily propose to support him in requital for that which he shall do for them. But, when a man can live from infancy to the age of thirty years on the necks of others, promising to do, when he shall have been taught, something extremely useful, for which no one asks him; and when, from the age of thirty until his death, he can live in the same manner, still merely on the promise to do something, for which there has been no request, this will not be division of labor (and, as a matter of fact, there is no such thing in our society), but it will be what it already is,–merely the appropriation, by force, of the toil of others; that same appropriation by force of the toil of others which the philosophers formerly designated by various names,–for instance, as indispensable forms of life,–but which scientific science now calls the organic division of labor.

The whole significance of scientific science lies in this alone. It has now become a distributer of diplomas for idleness; for it alone, in its sanctuaries, selects and determines what is parasitical, and what is organic activity, in the social organism. Just as though every man could not find this out for himself much more accurately and more speedily, by taking counsel of his reason and his conscience. It seems to men of scientific science, that there can be no doubt of this, and that their activity is also indubitably organic; they, the scientific and artistic workers, are the brain cells, and the most precious cells in the whole organism.

Ever since men–reasoning beings–have existed, they have distinguished good from evil, and have profited by the fact that men have made this distinction before them; they have warred against evil, and have sought the good, and have slowly but uninterruptedly advanced in that path. And divers delusions have always stood before men, hemming in this path, and having for their object to demonstrate to them, that it was not necessary to do this, and that it was not necessary to live as they were living. With fearful conflict and difficulty, men have freed themselves from many delusions. And behold, a new and a still more evil delusion has sprung up in the path of mankind,–the scientific delusion.

You are not logged in