Hauge Institute


There is no collected presentation of Hans Nielsen Hauge's ethics.  He has not published anything of that kind, neither has anybody else attempted to make such a compendium in writing.  Part of the reason for this could be that this would be a very difficult undertaking since Hauge represents a vision of wholeness that includes a Christian life as well as existence generally.  He was no sectarian philosopher with one thought for his private life and quite another for his public life.  For him there was a distinct connection between the two, both for himself and for others.  This comes across quite clearly in Hauge's correspondence, as previously mentioned.  However we will try to render a short and systematic presentation of Hauge's ethics in this booklet.  To simplify the process, they can be divided into three main categories: 1) Hauge's vision of mankind, 2) Hauge's vision of society, 3) Hauge's vision of work.

Hauge's vision of mankind

Hans Nielsen Hauge was inspired by the idea of the spirit of community practised by the early Christians.  It was expressed in the way they lived in a spiritual and practical community where all was shared.  It was a brotherhood with room for all.  This idea of a brotherhood places the interests of the community in the centre and is the direct opposite of the individualism that marks today's society.


Hauge placed this concept of a brotherhood in an economic and material context, where those who had extra capital were expected to invest in something useful which would provide people with work and service.  In Hauge's philosophy of a brotherhood, was included the challenge to the Friends to sustain each other economically in times of difficulty and to lend each other money should the need arise.  Hauge himself approached Friends around the country on several occasions with requests for merchandise to help establish new ventures; he also asked for money for the establishment of new businesses, or the payment of debts.  Haugians helped each other economically which in many ways gave them a head start compared with other traders.


Do not demand too much nor place too many burdens on your workers, no more than

a Fellow Brother can be expected to bear. (Hauge)


Demands for efficiency and increased production usually take precedence over caring and consideration for individual needs today.  However, Hauge was able to place the fellow worker at the centre of attention so that consideration for the individual was balanced with the industry's need for profit, to keep it going.  The notions of burdens and brother are important concepts in Hauge's vision of men.  He points out that the leader also has the function of caring, that the person in question must have an eye open for the worker's living and working conditions.  If anyone is to function well at the work place, the leader must show care and consideration so each one can develop to his best capacity in the work process and - in the community.  This requires the right person at the right place, something Hauge emphasised greatly in his work, and people should have tasks which interest them and which they can perform in a correct and useful manner. Hauge was lucky to have a great understanding of people, and insight into how to place his colleagues.  He also emphasised that all kinds of people could be given useful work.  Neither handicap, gender nor age were of importance to Hauge when it came to working in his industries or for the Haugian Societies.


The aspect of caring is of the utmost importance for the workers' well being and will to work.  Hauge understood this, and it is also considered in modern theories of leadership that an improvement of the lot of the worker at his work place, will give the business a better economic rendering.  A business which takes care of its workers' well-being, not only their performance, will come to see that there will be greater enjoyment, less absenteeism and in many cases an improvement in the work.  This is especially so where the theories of modern leadership are concerned regarding the transformation theory or the theory of change.  This theory includes the whole person and points to the fact that if a person is to function well in his working situation, then the people in leadership must consider the individual so he can develop in the process of work and in the social context at work.


We should beware of all outward appearance of ambition and self-importance.


Here Hauge warns the Friends of selfishness and individualistic attitudes.  He was of the opinion that egocentricity and self-interest are harmful to the community.  He was afraid that the Society of Friends would become very self-centred and thus lose its community function.  He also meant this on the economic level.  That was why he warned his followers against  ambition and self-importance as a motivation, because then one would be in danger of being self-centred, materialistic and of seeking solely to secure one's own economic position or social status.  The only motive for creating profit or ownership according to Hauge, was not for one's own benefit, but to use what one had for the benefit of others - to share the benefits, to put it simply.

Hauge's vision of society

It was very important to Hauge that people have no right of ownership over material goods such as money, property or natural resources.  These are God's property, which He has given to men in stewardship, for their own benefit and that of their fellowmen.  The following quote expresses his opinion on the subject:


We should use and have the good things of the world to govern as good housekeepers (Hauge).


The expression "good housekeepers" means individuals have the responsibility of stewardship over something for someone else, that is to say, God, so as to serve the community for the greater good.  Stewardship requires a far-sighted perspective both of the planning of resources and the fulfilment of the project.  It also requires creativity and seeing possibilities which others may not have thought of.  Being an entrepreneur and a pioneer was an important part of Hauge's life, and he encouraged his Friends to do the same.  " The good and the wise live and use their talents, strength and fortune for themselves, so that they can shape it for the good of others; they are stewards and look for possibilities.  " In the philosophy of stewardship lies the clear incitement to also be steward over ecological values, the resources of the earth, in a far-sighted, responsible and social manner.


Hauge was of the opinion that everyone has his share of responsibility within the community, and that those who have the means should contribute to the establishment of enterprises to be able to give people work.  It was especially true that within the farmers' community and other well-to-do people in the country that one should save one's pennies in case of difficult times.  To have some money tucked away in the bottom of the chest was considered a wise disposal of extra resources.  Hauge did not criticise this practice outright, but focused rather on the fact that material goods were a gift from God.  According to the Bible, one was a steward and should use one's money in the best possible way so that it could grow and become a blessing to others.


Everyone should help establish and manage factories and works according

to their fortune and gifts, so idle hands may work. (Hauge)


It was with this challenge that Hauge approached his Friends who had made and saved money in other activities.  There was a large amount of unemployment in Hauge's time especially among labourers.  As Hauge travelled around the country, he saw that much of the poverty around was the result of the fact that many had no remunerative work.  So it became very important to him to implement measures to create work places.


In Hauge's opinion, self-interest and personal gain were not the main reason for his investments.  On the contrary it was the call to serve that was the driving force and the motivation behind the business activities.  While earlier religious leaders had not engaged in trade with the excuse that such activities were wicked and selfish, Hans Nielsen Hauge pointed out the possibility and the necessity of being a child of God in all one's walks.  He showed that it was possible to combine spiritual and practical activity.  The Haugians saw quite rightly that certain tradesmen allowed themselves to be governed by desires for personal gain, but that was something which characterised the person and not trading as such.  The market place could serve both God and mammon, if you like, depending on how one behaved there.  The Haugians initiative and hard-work philosophy contributed to a legitimising of the market as an institution, and so to the building up of a functioning and independent trade and industry among the lesser citizens of Norway.


Hauge's thoughts on work

Much of the reason behind giving people work was to be rid of poverty.  To work was to accept one's share of the responsibility, and he sought to have as many as possible in work.  At the same time Hauge met with a lot of opposition in the community, mostly during the years in Bergen.  He thought that if he and his Friends were busy, hard-working and God-fearing people, that this would be a positive thing and dampen the opposition.  He well understood the shining power of example, and was careful to admonish his Friends to be God-fearing, thrifty and hard-working.


Our work and our willingness to serve should shine. (Hauge)


Hauge often used the words "light up" and "shine" in connection with everyday behaviour, especially with work.  Hauge knew that the relationship between living and preaching would be most obvious in the work place.  He emphasised the need for enthusiasm, hard work and a humble desire to serve.  In this way one could be a good example for one's friends, colleagues and others.


Hauge was of the opinion that everybody needed to be engaged in something worthwhile, having work that was tailored to age, gender and working capacity.  The idea of equality was a major principle in his philosophy of work and employment.  This was a social and ethical idea which brought down the barriers of the time and placed a high standard for social and ethical philosophy.  Hauge's ideal would even today have problems in being adopted.  Eiker Papirmolle, (The Eiker Paper Mill) in which Hauge was heavily involved was a typical example.  Of the 50 employed, 21 were women, 12 were youth, some were handicapped physically and others mentally, and one was weak through old age.  In Hauge's working world there was room for everybody as long as they were prepared to do their part.


Hauge's social and ethical perspective was expressed even while he was in jail.  In 1809, behind lock and key without prosecution, there was the threat of a famine in Norway.  Because of a war blockade along the coast of Norway, little salt was being imported.  Corn was also scarce, and as a substitute for bread, people had to eat more meat and fish.  But there was not enough salt for the food conservation.  Salt was produced in Vestfold and on Svanoy near Bergen, but in comparison with the need the production was so little as to be considered a drop in the ocean.  Hauge then sent a recommendation to the governing commission informing them of his experience in establishing a salt-cooking enterprise.  He suggested he be set free from jail, as well as receiving a loan of 300 riksdaler, so he could establish salt-cookeries throughout the country.  He was duly set free and received his riksdaler, and after a short time he got another loan and established several other salt-cookeries which functioned with success.  After a period of six months' freedom, during which he had loyally avoided holding any revival meetings and only working with the salt-cookeries, Hauge had to return to prison because his case was due.



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