Guillaume de Greef: The Social Theory of an Early Syndicalist

Guillaume de Greef: The Social Theory of an Early Syndicalist

Guillaume de Greef: The Social Theory of an Early Syndicalist

Guillaume de Greef: The Social Theory of an Early Syndicalist

Excerpt

IN DE GREEF'S social theory, the basic phenomenon of society is always economic, and the test of a society's welfare is the healthiness of its economic life. At the bottom of that healthiness must lie the freest possible "circulation" of economic goods and services, the least possible clogging "dead weight" or friction in their exchange. And this implies that the conditions of the exchange must be free and equal, voluntary in the fullest sense of the word. "Contractualism" must govern all the relations of the economic man--or rather of the economic group, for unlike his master, Proudhon, De Greef always conceives of man as acting in a corporate rather than an individual capacity. (This doctrine will only become clear as we study in full De Greef's theory of "contractualism" later on; here it is merely mentioned to show how different De Greef's picture of the ideal social order is from the type of industrial society in which he actually found himself.) What he looks for is an order in which distribution shall find its "natural" outlets in groups of voluntarily associating exchangers, where extremes of wealth shall cease to exist, and where the iron hand of government and church shall no longer dominate the people's life. Let us compare this picture with the Belgium of the eighteen-sixties.

The Industrial Revolution came to Belgium nearly a generation later than to England, in the eighteen-thirties, and took effect rapidly. At the beginning of the century the country was already the most densely populated in Europe . . .

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