Contractual Bonds and Hegemonic Bonds–Mises


The Reich of the Nazis and the commonwealth of the
Marxians are planned as societies of undisturbed peace. They are to be
created by pacification, i.e., the violent subjection of all those not ready to
yield without resistance.”


2. Contractual Bonds and Hegemonic Bonds
There are two different kinds of social cooperation: cooperation by virtue
of contract and coordination, and cooperation by virtue of command and
subordination or hegemony.
Where and as far as cooperation is based on contract, the logical relation
between the cooperating individuals is symmetrical. They are all parties
to interpersonal exchange contracts. John has the same relation to
Tom as Tom has to John. Where and as far as cooperation is based on command
and subordination, there is the man who commands and there are
those who obey his orders. The logical relation between these two classes
of men is asymmetrical. There is a director and there are people under his
care. The director alone chooses and directs; the others — the wards — are
mere pawns in his actions.
The power that calls into life and animates any social body is always
ideological might, and the fact that makes an individual a member of any
social compound is always his own conduct. This is no less valid with
regard to a hegemonic societal bond. It is true, people are as a rule born
into the most important hegemonic bonds, into the family and into the
state, and this was also the case with the hegemonic bonds of older days,
slavery and serfdom, which disappeared in the realm of Western civilization.
But no physical violence and compulsion can possibly force a man
against his will to remain in the status of the ward of a hegemonic order.
What violence or the threat of violence brings about is a state of affairs in
which subjection as a rule is considered more desirable than rebellion.
Faced with the choice between the consequences of obedience and of disobedience,
the ward prefers the former and thus integrates himself into
the hegemonic bond. Every new command places this choice before him
again. In yielding again and again he himself contributes his share to the
continuous existence of the hegemonic societal body. Even as a ward in
such a system he is an acting human being, i.e., a being not simply yielding
to blind impulses, but using his reason in choosing between alternatives.

What differentiates the hegemonic bond from the contractual bond is
the scope in which the choices of the individuals determine the course of
events. As soon as a man has decided in favor of his subjection to a hegemonic
system, he becomes, within the margin of this system’s activities
and for the time of his subjection, a pawn of the director’s actions. Within
the hegemonic societal body and as far as it directs its subordinates’ conduct,
only the director acts. The wards act only in choosing subordination;
having once chosen subordination they no longer act for themselves, they
are taken care of.
In the frame of a contractual society the individual members exchange
definite quantities of goods and services of a definite quality. In choosing
subjection in a hegemonic body a man neither gives nor receives anything
that is definite. He integrates himself into a system in which he has to
render indefinite services and will receive what the director is willing to
assign to him. He is at the mercy of the director. The director alone is free
to choose. Whether the director is an individual or an organized group of
individuals, a directorate, and whether the director is a selfish maniacal
tyrant or a benevolent paternal despot is of no relevance for the structure
of the whole system.
The distinction between these two kinds of social cooperation is
common to all theories of society. Ferguson described it as the contrast
between warlike nations and commercial nation;3 Saint Simon as the contrast
between pugnacious nations and peaceful or industrial nations; Herbert
Spencer as the contrast between societies of individual freedom and
those of a militant structure;4 Sombart as the contrast between heroes and
The Marxians distinguish between the “gentile organization” of
a fabulous state of primitive society and the eternal bliss of socialism on
the one hand and the unspeakable degradation of capitalism on the other
The Nazi philosophers distinguish the counterfeit system of bourgeois
security from the heroic system of authoritarian Führertum. The valuation
of both systems is different with the various sociologists. But they

fully agree in the establishment of the contrast and no less in recognizing
that no third principle is thinkable and feasible.
Western civilization as well as the civilization of the more advanced
Eastern peoples are achievements of men who have cooperated according
to the pattern of contractual coordination. These civilizations, it is true,
have adopted in some respects bonds of hegemonic structure. The state
as an apparatus of compulsion and coercion is by necessity a hegemonic
organization. So is the family and its household community. However,
the characteristic feature of these civilizations is the contractual structure
proper to the cooperation of the individual families. There once prevailed
almost complete autarky and economic isolation of the individual household
units. When interfamilial exchange of goods and services was substituted
for each family’s economic self-sufficiency, it was, in all nations
commonly considered civilized, a cooperation based on contract. Human
civilization as it has been hitherto known to historical experience is preponderantly a product of contractual relations.
Any kind of human cooperation and social mutuality is essentially an
order of peace and conciliatory settlement of disputes. In the domestic
relations of any societal unit, be it a contractual or a hegemonic bond,
there must be peace. Where there are violent conflicts and as far as there
are such conflicts, there is neither cooperation nor societal bonds. Those
political parties which in their eagerness to substitute the hegemonic system
for the contractual system point at the rottenness of peace and of
bourgeois security, extol the moral nobility of violence and bloodshed and
praise war and revolution as the eminently natural methods of interhuman
relations, contradict themselves. For their own utopias are designed
as realms of peace. The Reich of the Nazis and the commonwealth of the
Marxians are planned as societies of undisturbed peace. They are to be
created by pacification, i.e., the violent subjection of all those not ready to
yield without resistance. In a contractual world various states can quietly
coexist. In a hegemonic world there can only be one Reich or commonwealth
and only one dictator. Socialism must choose between a renunciation
of the advantages of division of labor encompassing the whole earth
and all peoples and the establishment of a world-embracing hegemonic
order. It is this fact that made Russian Bolshevism, German Nazism, and
Italian Fascism “dynamic,” i.e., aggressive. Under contractual conditions
empires are dissolved into a loose league of autonomous member nations.
The hegemonic system is bound to strive after the annexation of all independent

The contractual order of society is an order of right and law. It is a
government under the rule of law (Rechtsstaat) as differentiated from the
welfare state (Wohlfahrtsstaat) or paternal state. Right or law is the complex
of rules determining the orbit in which individuals are free to act. No
such orbit is left to wards of a hegemonic society. In the hegemonic state
there is neither right nor law; there are only directives and regulations
which the director may change daily and apply with what discrimination
he pleases and which the wards must obey. The wards have one freedom
only: to obey without asking questions. ◗

3Cf. Adam Ferguson, An Essay on the History of Civil Society (new ed; Basel, 1789), p. 208.
4Cf. Herbert Spencer, Th e Principles of Sociology (New York, 1914), vol. 3, pp. 575–611.
5Cf. Werner Sombart, Haendler und Helden (Munich, 1915).
6Cf. Frederick Engels, Th e Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (New York,
1942), p. 144.

The Mises Reader, pp. 79-82, Shawn Ritenour, Editor

(Pages 63-66 PDF)


The Mises Reader

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