William Morris – A factory as it might be

slow burn

“Now as to the work, first of all it will be useful and therefore honourable and honoured; because there will be no temptation to make mere useless toys, since there will be no rich men cudgelling their brains for means for spending superfluous money and consequently no “organisers of labour” pandering to degrading follies for the sake of profit, wasting their intelligence and energy to contriving snares for cash in the shape of trumpery, which they themselves heartily despise. Nor will the work turn out trash; there will be no millions of poor to make a market for wares which no one would choose to use if he were not driven to do so; everyone will be able to afford things good of their kind and as will be shown thereafter, will have knowledge of goods enough to reject what is not excellent; coarse and rough wares may he made for rough or temporary purposes, but they will openly proclaim themselves for what they are; adulteration will be unknown.

“Furthermore machines of the most ingenious and best approved kinds will be used when necessary, but will be used simply to save human labour; nor indeed could they be used for anything else, in such well-ordered work as we are thinking about; since, profit being dead, there would be no temptation to pile up wares whose apparent value as articles of use, their conventional value as such, does not rest on the necessities or reasonable desires of men for such things, but on artificial habits forced on the public by the craving of the capitalists for fresh and ever fresh profit: those things have no real value as things to be used, and their conventional (let us say sham) utility value has been bred of their value as articles of exchange for profit, in a society founded on profit mongering.

“Well the manufacture of useless goods, whether harmful luxuries for the rich or disgraceful makeshifts for the poor have come to an end, and we still being in possession of the machines once used for mere profit grinding but now used only for saving human labour, it follows that much less labour will be necessary for each workman; all the more as we are going to get rid of all non-workers, and busy-idle people; so that the working time of each member of our factory will be very short, say, to be much within the mark, four hours a day.

“Now it may be allowable for an artist, that is one whose ordinary work is pleasant and not slavish, to hope that in no factory will all the work, even that necessary four hours work, be mere machine-tending; and it follows from what was said above about machines being used to save labour, that there would be no work which would turn men into mere machines; therefore at least some portion of the work, the necessary and in fact compulsory work I mean, would be pleasant to do; the machine-tending ought not to require a very long apprenticeship, therefore is no case should any one person be set to run up and down after a machine through all his waking hours everyday, even so shortened as we have seen; now the attractive work of our factory, that which was pleasant in itself to do, would be of the nature of art: therefore all slavery of work ceases under such a system, for whatever is burdensome about the factory would be taken turn and turn about and so distributed would cease to be a burden, would be in fact a kind of rest from the more exciting or artistic work.”



One comment

  1. Reblogged this on and commented:
    A historical piece and technology today is light years ahead of when William Morris wrote these words but…the underlying message about the necessity and meaning of work is in our view, still relevant. In fact, given the rise of bullshit non-jobs, more relevant than ever…

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