Prof: Today I want to
talk about the Industrial Revolution from a variety of
aspects. Everything on the board I put
on our website, so don’t worry about copying it
down. It’s all pretty obvious.
Doing the Industrial Revolution
across the century is no easy task, but we will do it and do
the reading. Let me just say that the way
people look at what used to be called Industrial Revolution,
and I guess some people still call it that,
has changed dramatically. Through the 1950s and into the
1960s, the idea of the Industrial
Revolution was that it was the work of some genius inventors
who created machines used primarily in the textile
industry–but also in mining–that eliminated blocks
to assembly line production. Then everybody was crowded into
factories and the new brave world opened up.
In fact, one of the most
interesting books and great classics that is still in print
was written by an economic historian at Harvard who’s still
around called David Landes. It’s a good book called The
Unbound Prometheus, which was basically that.
Some of the inventions that I
briefly describe in your reading, the spinning jenny,
etc., refer to that. That kind of analysis led one
to concentrate on England, where the Industrial Revolution
began, and to view industrialization
as being a situation of winners and losers (by not going as
fast). In your reading I give you some
pretty obvious examples of reasons for the Industrial
Revolution first coming to England: the location of
resources, particularly coal;
a country in which nowhere is more than seventy-five miles
away from the sea; precocious canals and roads;
banking systems; fluidity between classes and a
very large and increasingly larger proletariat;
agricultural revolution, etc. With that kind of analysis,
those places that didn’t industrialize as fast,
for example, France,
one thought they were “retarded”;
a word that was used, unfortunately,
at that time. Then one tried to see why not.
That analysis has been rejected
greatly over the past years, because the Industrial
Revolution is measured by more than simply large factories with
industrial workers and the number of machines.
This is the point of the
beginning of this. The more that we look at the
Industrial Revolution, the more we see that the
Industrial Revolution was first and foremost an intensification
of forms of production, of kinds of production that
were already there. Thus, we spend more time
looking at the intensification of artisanal production,
craft production, domestic industry–which we’ve
already mentioned, that is, people,
mostly women but also men and children, too,
working in the countryside. The rapid rise of industrial
production was very much tied to traditional forms of production.
In Paris, for example,
in 1870, the average unit of production had only slightly
more than seven people in it. So, if you only look for big
factories and lots of machines, you’ll be missing the boat on
the Industrial Revolution. To be sure,
when we think of the Industrial Revolution we think of
Manchester, which grew from a very small
town into this enormous city full of what Engels called
“the satanic mills” of industrial production.
Or you think of smoky
Sheffield, also in Northern England.
Or you think of Birmingham in
the midlands. If you think of France you’ll
think of Lille and its two burgeoning towns around it,
Tourcoing and Roubaix. Or you think of Saint Etienne,
which was kind of France’s Manchester.
In Germany you think of the
Rhineland and the Ruhr. In Italy you think of Turin and
Milan. In Russia, you think of the
Moscow and St. Petersburg region.
In Spain, Barcelona.
Indeed, those are classic cases
of industrial concentration, where you do have really
significant mechanization over a very long period of time.
You do have large towns with
smoky factories full of workers. But again, and we’ve
underestimated–in fact, the second edition has more
about this than the first, which you’re reading–the
degree of industrial production in the late Russian empire.
Yet, to be sure,
when I say that the Industrial Revolution is first and foremost
an intensification of forms of industries that already existed,
if you were a parachutist and you’re somehow floating down
over Europe from, say, the middle of the
eighteenth century through the middle of the nineteenth
century, what you would see is that
there were still all sorts of industry,
a rapid increase of industrial production that is out in the
countryside, that’s not in factories.
It’s done in a very traditional
way. Or rural handicrafts,
people producing all sorts of things still at home.
There’s a marvelous book
written by a scholar called Maxine Berg, who teaches at
Warwick in England. The book is called The Age
of Manufacture. She reexamined the Industrial
Revolution and discovered that, for example,
the town of Birmingham, which produced all sorts of
toys, big toy manufacturers,
that even though you had a lot of factories,
you still had a lot of the toys being finished or even produced
by women working in the hinterland, that is,
the arrière pays, or the environs of Birmingham.
If you take smoky Sheffield,
a grim kind of place in the nineteenth century,
where they produced knives and cutlery.
You still had a lot of these
products being finished by people out in the countryside.
If you take the North of
France, if you think of a town like
Reims, famous for champagne,
it was a big industrial center but it wasn’t the center of
mechanized production until after about 1850.
What you had is you had all
these people out in the countryside, mostly women,
who are doing spinning and weaving and carding and that
kind of thing. Or around Nancy in the east of
France. By 1875 you still had something
like 75,000 women who were embroiderers working in the
countryside. Rural industry intensifies.
Finally, at the end–not at the
end, but it depends on where you are–you have this implosion of
work into factories. So, by the end of the century
the kind of traditional view that one would have of the
Industrial Revolution has really arrived,
where factory production and above all,
in the textile industry. The textile industry is the
leading edge of the Industrial Revolution.
You have women who used to work
at home that are now working in factories as what the British
call textile operatives. Or Switzerland,
you think of Switzerland as being the famous mercenaries in
the early modern period or the very wealthy bankers in our own
day. But if you think of a town like
Zurich, on the lake, there was all sorts of industry
in the uplands of Zurich, up into the hills and even into
the mountains around Zurich, of handicraft production.
Or Austria, in the
Austria-Hungarian empire, there’s hundreds of thousands
of people working in the textile industry.
The details aren’t as important
as the fact that, to be sure, the mines that you
read about in Germinal, which is a great, great read,
and the factories that I will describe in a while are
described by Engels–and I couldn’t do better than
that–are a reality and they become the industrial
experience. When you think of Detroit,
Michigan, in the 1930s, or Flint, Michigan,
in the 1930s, or you think about now the rust
belt of Connecticut of Torrington and these places that
were once booming industrial towns.
That’s the kind of classic
model. The American model really is
closer to what people used to think the Industrial Revolution
meant in the case of Europe. But that’s not a subject for
now. A couple points–by the way,
I don’t think I’ll ever get to my notes, but it doesn’t really
matter. First of all,
and this is another reason why the Industrial Revolution starts
in England. You can’t have an industrial
revolution without an agricultural revolution.
What the Agricultural
Revolution does is increases the amount of food produced that’s
going to feed your burgeoning proletariat, your labor force.
This is a place,
all of Europe increases in population.
The French population is unique;
it stops growing in 1846 and 1847.
In simply stops,
skids to a halt. But everywhere else,
the population grows. There are regional differences
in France, as there are regional differences everywhere.
But the Industrial Revolution
depends on the Agricultural Revolution for an increase in
food supply. This makes possible the
increase in urban population, thus also increasing the demand
for food. Also, the Agricultural
Revolution particularly, but not just in the case of
England, increases capital formation.
You’ve got this sort of surplus
of money, bucks, pounds, fric,
cash that can be invested in industry.
This is precisely what happens.
That’s why the Agricultural
Revolution is absolutely important.
These three things,
Industrial Revolution, Agricultural Revolution,
and the growth of cities, are very much tied together.
Let me give you an example,
which you certainly don’t have to remember.
Think of Manchester.
I describe the statistics in
there, that the growth of Manchester is a prodigious,
scary thing. I’ll talk more about how rural
and urban elites are frightened by the growth of cities,
particularly in Germany, but in France, England,
and in the United States, later. What the growth of Manchester
does is it really changes the countryside around and helps
bring the Agricultural Revolution.
What do I mean by that?
You find the same thing around
Paris, around Berlin, or around Warsaw,
almost any big city that I can think of.
In response to this urban
growth, this big octopus of people and
money, of rich people and poor people,
I’ll talk about some of the rich people next time on
Wednesday. You’ve got an expanded demand
for food. In that ring immediately around
a city like Manchester, you’ve got a dramatic expansion
of people doing what they call truck farming.
They’re specializing in crops
for the urban market–fruit, vegetables, things like that.
They specialize because there
are people there that are going to pay for and eat what they
produce. Take the example of Paris,
which I’ll come back and talk about with great relish someday.
The suburbs of Paris,
a place called Montreuil, which is kind of a grim part of
eastern Paris. It used to be famous for its
cherries, and fruits, and that kind of thing that
they were producing for the urban market.
Or wine, if you can imagine
wine being produced, what a horrible idea,
in the region of Paris. It’s Asnières,
on the Seine. They used to produce wine for
Paris’s vast market. Then the next big ring around
Manchester, you’ve got the big fish eating the little fish.
They are more productive.
As this commercial agriculture
develops and more productive production–that’s a terrible
sentence, there’s a greater productivity
in response to this urban demand.
On the far, distant places you
have people specializing in the production of cattle,
that is, milk and meat for the market.
Of course, the other thing
which goes without saying is that in the course of the
nineteenth century you’ve got this amazing development in
shipping. Pretty soon with steel,
and with refrigeration–and just like now you’ve got lamb
arriving from New Zealand and things like that.
This is largely in response to
the increase of these large urban conurbations.
We use the term
“conurbation” to describe cities that grow up
so much that they actually merge together.
The American Northeast became
sort of a conurbation. It’s very hard when going to
New Jersey to ever see where there aren’t cities.
One ends and then the other
starts. That becomes the case in parts
of Northern England as well. The term “protoindus
trialization” there is what we mean by the
expansion of industrial production along very
traditional lines. What I put in parentheses
there, domestic or rural industry, we’ve already talked
about. So, first you’ve got this
expansion of industry in the countryside.
I’ll give you one example.
Again, I hate to keep taking
examples occasionally from France, but I know that best.
The city of Lyons,
which is a big soap producing city,
what you have in the first half of the nineteenth century is
you’ve got an implosion of work into Lyons,
into this working class suburb called the Croix-Rousse–it
doesn’t matter, although it’s a neat place.
It’s a really neat place.
Then in the 1850s the people
that owned the silk begin to put work back out into the
countryside. Why would they do that?
Because the women working there
or the men working there worked for less than people living in
the city. Again, if you’re parachuting
down starting about 1750, you have to imagine hundreds of
thousands of little dots out in the countryside.
And even more of them as the
Industrial Revolution gets kicking along before you finally
have this implosion or movement in and around cities.
More about that when I talk
about cities. I’ll help explain why European
cities are so different than American cities,
with the poor living on the outside and the rich living
within. Large-scale industrialization
has a lot to do with that. Having said all of that,
let me talk a little bit about–I’ll never get to my
notes, but this is fun anyway–women’s work.
Did the Industrial Revolution
change women’s work? There are continuities in
women’s work which are extremely important,
and ultimately there will be changes as factory production
comes to dominate in many places in industrial Europe.
Yet, there are certain things
that don’t change about women’s work and women’s roles in the
household. Women remain the head of the
family economy. Women, whether they’re married
or simply living with people that they’ve been living with
for a short or long time, run the family economy and it’s
true whether they are in rural Switzerland in the uplands of
Zurich, working in the textile
industry, or whether they are textile
operatives in Manchester or someplace like that.
The Industrial Revolution does
not change other aspects of women’s work in that at least
well into the nineteenth century in most parts of industrial
Europe, women are still working in the
countryside but also major employers of women don’t change
at all with industrialization. The classic case hereto is
England, and that is domestic service.
If you were going to take
England in, say, 1850,
the largest three categories of people doing anything are not in
this order, but just about all the same
number would be women working as domestics.
Some men worked as domestics,
too. Say, domestic service,
textile operatives, and an important category that
I’m going to talk about later in my theme of “it’s bitter
hard to write the history of remainders,”
rural agricultural laborers, rural proletarians.
Another category of women’s
work, again which one hesitates to evoke, is of course
prostitution. The Industrial Revolution
doesn’t change that sad aspect of women’s work.
It increases with urban growth
the number of people working as prostitutes in even very small
towns. The number of prostitutes in
Paris or London is simply incalculable.
The estimates in Paris go from
20,000 to 100,000. Lots of women who are married
become prostitutes pour faire sa fin de mois,
to pay off the bills at the end of the month.
This sad aspect of women’s
work, people forced into prostitution by want,
doesn’t really change with industrialization.
The numbers simply get bigger
and bigger. Of course, one of the results
of this, this isn’t the time to discuss
this, but there’s a sort of panic at
the end of the nineteenth century about syphilis and about
venereal disease and all that. Also which ironically helps
further condemn ordinary people in elite minds,
which is a coincidence, since many of the patrons or
many of the clients of prostitutes were middle-class
males no matter what country you’re talking about.
More about women’s work in a
while in the context of factories.
Here again, history has its
history, too. When I grew up,
to the extent I ever did, as a student when I was
thinking about doing a dissertation,
and becoming an historian, and all that stuff,
what people studied was–the reason I put it in
quotes–;”working class consciousness.”
We were sort of children of the
very late or the 1960s or 1970s and everybody wanted to follow
the great English historian E.P. Thompson,
who wrote a monumental book called The Making of the
English Working Class. Everybody wanted to find the
making of class-conscious workers in various places.
Everybody wanted to study the
crowd, as in The Crowd in the
French Revolution, my late friend,
George Rudé’s famous book,
the crowd here or the crowd there.
The first article I ever
published was called “The Crowd in the Affair du Limoges,
April 27,1848.” Now I look back sometimes and I
think, “Who cares?” But anyway, in the 1980s the
move kind of turned away from that and more people started
studying the middle class. More about the middle class
folk in the nineteenth century and what my friend,
Peter Gay, called the bourgeois century next time around.
you can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater,
and class remains a fundamental concept.
If you’re going to understand
nineteenth and twentieth century Europe, you have to understand
social class, because there’s a reality.
We live in a country now where
people like to think there are no classes.
Well, don’t get me going on the
current economic crisis. I can remember people going
down to the Ford plant in Ypsilanti and Detroit and trying
to get people who work in those places interested in the war,
against the war in Vietnam, and getting absolutely nowhere
and hearing arguments that in America we don’t have classes.
That simply isn’t true.
Anyway, in the nineteenth
century social class was a real thing.
Nobody had a stronger class
identity than the middle class. That’s what I’m going to talk
about next time. I can hardly wait.
There was a working class,
but not everybody saw themselves as workers,
as a form of identity as opposed to something else.
People can have multiple
identities. When we talk about nationalism,
that’s an obvious point to make.
If you ask people who they are,
they might say they’re Protestant or they’re Jewish or
they’re Catholic or they’re Muslim or they might say they’re
from this extended family or they’re from this region.
They’re Bavarian or whatever.
In the nineteenth century-class
identity, the sense of being workers as a class apart was a
reality. That’s just the way it is.
That was worth studying and
people did some very good work on it.
It’s kind of come back, too.
It’s kind of come back.
Anyone who’s been in Britain,
where class identity is so revealed by language,
there isn’t anyplace, including France or any place
else that I know where a difference in accent is so
revealing as to not only where you are from,
but who you are in terms of social class.
It’s really just amazing.
It remains true in France and
some other places. There was a strangler.
There are always these
stranglers around in Britain. There was one guy was this
hardcore killer, a bad guy killing a bunch of
people about fifteen years ago. Finally, they get all these
experts on language and he called up I guess a radio
station and sort of “Here I am.
Come and get me”
kind of thing. They had him pegged where he
was within something like ten miles of where they ended up
arresting him, which is in Bradford in the
north of England. Language is one of the ways
that people reveal their class. In the nineteenth century we’re
talking about workers and how some workers,
but not all, began to see themselves as
proletarians. That seems like one of those
trendy words, but it meant something to
people. A proletarian is somebody
dependent on their own labor, usually unskilled or
semi-skilled, in order to survive.
There are two aspects to the
One is kind of the objective
sense that you are a laborer. You may be a harvester.
You may pick grapes for the
wine harvest. You may be carrying around
large boxes, which is what I did at Alice
Love’s Jams and Jellies in Portland, Oregon,
or at Kellogg’s of Battle Creek,
where I also worked, totally unskilled,
but again that was not going to be my lifelong identity,
because I was able to go on to do something else.
But in Europe you were born
into the proletariat in most cases.
If you grew up as a Catholic,
in this part of France, you still would have been a
practicing Catholic, a Catholic guy,
a young boy or young woman in and around Saint Etienne or in
Lille, the chances were overwhelming
that you were going to follow your parents into the mines.
You were going to go in the
mines. As a matter of fact,
again I hate giving these French examples,
but there’s an expression that’s really only used there
that I’ve ever heard when a kid screws up,
does something he’s not supposed to.
What they say is deux
semaines dessous une benne, which is if you spend two
weeks ducking down like this and having to help guide this cart
full of coal up and down the railroad tracks,
you won’t screw up like that again, little boy.
The sense of you were born into
the world of work. In America there were all these
kinds of literature, the equivalent of Boys
Life about remarkable assents into the social
stratosphere, that America was the land of
opportunity. Well, America was the land of
opportunity, to be sure, with availability of land.
But cases of social mobility
were actually fairly limited. This was certainly the case in
almost all of Europe. You were essentially born into,
for most people, this status.
The other thing that happened,
and this explains the rise of class consciousness,
is that people who–suddenly the bottom drops out of their
economic life–that’s a fairly appropriate analogy for
today–who were artisans, who were craftsmen,
become really the first, depending on where we’re
talking about. It begins really about the turn
of the century, that is,
1800 or slightly before, but mostly afterward,
by 1830 in England and then follows in other countries in
many, many places. Artisans and craftsmen are
really the first to see themselves as a class apart.
Not unskilled workers.
This is pretty obvious.
Artisans and craftsmen are
educated up to a point. They have a sense of dignity
about their trades. They have organizations.
They have mutual aid societies,
for example. There’s a craft guild
organization in France called the compagnonnage.
This came from the medieval
times when they built the big cathedrals and all of that.
They have organization.
They have a sense of pride in
craft dignity. Karl Marx, who was a pretty
smart guy, he got a lot of things wrong,
but he got a lot of things right.
Karl Marx wrote in the 1830s
and 1940s about how workers’ wages were declining.
He was right for artisans.
There’s no question about it.
Artisans are at the forefront
of every single social and political movement that you can
think of in the French Revolution.
There we go.
Who stormed the Bastille?
It was artisans,
1830 in France, 1848 in Austria,
in Berlin, in Paris. It was artisans.
Why all of a sudden do they get
mad? There’s really two reasons,
two things that happened to artisans that caused their
economic situation to go downhill.
First of all,
the French Revolution or the effects of the French Revolution
destroy the guilds. Anybody can be a tailor or a
shoemaker or whatever, a glassmaker.
If you learn the skills,
there’s no one who’s going to say no, you can’t get in this
union. You might be able to get in
this mutual aid society or friendly society,
but you can’t do the work because the guilds are gone.
The French Revolution banishes
the guilds, laissez faire, Adam Smith, et cetera,
et cetera. There are laws against unions.
Strikes are not legal in France
until 1864. The corporation acts are
reinforced by the fear in Britain of the French
Revolution. But what happens is you’ve got
what can be called, Bill Sewell has called it that,
a friend of mine in Chicago, the crisis of expansion.
You’ve got all these people now
who say, “Hey, I’m going to be a tailor,
too.” If you lived in Berlin or
someplace in the 1840s, you would hear tailors walking
along the street pushing carts full of clothes that they had
made from the beginning to the end,
of suits being sold for practically nothing.
Because there’s so many other
people making suits as well. Also, mechanized production
means that you can buy suits off the rack, and they’re getting
very little for their suits. They didn’t wake up and think,
“Gee, I can’t remember how to make a suit.”
They got these suits.
They can make them and they
can’t sell them. Their wages are declining.
Are they mad?
Who do they blame?
They blame the state and they
blame the bourgeoisie, the middle class,
the middlemen. For example,
in the case of tailors, there are a lot of middlemen
who’ve got capital. What do you do?
You say, “Look,
I’m going to get a bunch of suits made.
Here are all these tailors,
they don’t have enough to work.”
I’m not giving you a very good
example, because I don’t know a damn thing about being a tailor.
But they say,
“Okay, you guys do the sleeves.
You guys do the pants,
because you can do them all one after another and you don’t have
to worry about doing the rest of it.
Then I’ll pick up everything
that you make.” This is a continuation of rural
industry. “Then I will sell it in
the markets.” Into World War I you still had
single women in Paris now chained to their sewing machine,
not literally, but they’ve got to pay off
their sewing machine. The sewing machine starts
before electricity, but after electricity comes
along. They’re working by themselves.
Their day isn’t cut short
anymore by the end of daylight. It’s cut short by sheer fatigue
and producing these goods for this market.
and shoemakers, and all of that,
they’re in every single movement.
They are the ones who first
say, “Hey, you know what?
All we workers,
we’ve got some stuff in common. This is amplified by
residential patterns, people living in and around
where they work, et cetera, et cetera.
I’ll give you an example that I do know something about which is
porcelain. Porcelain is one of these
products that’s a luxury good. Renoir, the great painter,
started out–he was born in Limoges, France in 1841–Renoir
starts out decorating plates. He painted plates.
Along comes this new
technological innovation. If you did, and I only did very
briefly, make those model airplanes and
stuff like that, there were little decals that
you’d stick on the plane to represent the Spitfire,
or whatever American fighters or boats.
I’m not such a war guy,
so I stopped that pretty quickly.
So, somebody invents one of
these decals that can be baked on to high quality plates
between the first and second baking.
Porcelain remains a luxury good.
The people that used to paint
them are sent to the warehouse where they work for about a
third of what they would make as skilled painters.
They didn’t wake up one day and
say, “Geez, I can’t remember how you paint
a plate anymore.” No one’s going to pay them to
paint plates except for very special orders.
Glassmaking is the same thing.
People that formed bottles used
to be very well paid. Then a machine is invented that
comes along and does the same thing.
It turns out bottles by the
zillions to be filled with wine and whatever.
They’re out of luck.
Are they mad?
Pretty soon they start
thinking, “You know these unskilled people,
we have some of the same grievances.”
They begin seeing themselves as
a class apart. Class consciousness isn’t sort
of an invention of lefties from the 1970s like yours truly.
It’s not at all.
It was a reality.
It wasn’t for everybody,
but if you read a lot of literature,
especially from London or from anywhere about the kinds of
solidarities that people had because of their social class,
and the sense that they formed a class apart and were relegated
to sort of a permanent proletarian status by forces
that they can’t control–the state and big money and big
capital. People would be a little better
off if they were thinking about that now.
Anyway, that’s that.
Having said that,
I want to turn in the last ten minutes to–did I get all that
I want to turn to something
that complements that. That is a discussion of
industrial discipline. One thing as workers learn to
strike, going on to strike for better
working conditions, for more money,
for better hours, shorter hours,
et cetera, et cetera, one has to imagine what the
world looked like for them. What did they think about
things that were happening to them?
One of the things that had
happened to them was this sort of nineteenth-century end stage
of the Industrial Revolution, that is, factory production.
If you were an artisan,
if you were a tailor–I keep using these examples,
but they’re so stuck in my mind–or shoemaker,
you basically worked when you wanted.
You worked in response to
demand for your product. Many of these people were on
the move, going from one place to the next.
But you worked kind of when you
wanted to, or when there was a demand for your product.
If you were in domestic
industry, and you were a woman working in the hinterland of
Zurich, you worked when there was demand for your work.
Then you took time off to nurse
your child or to take account of the family to see how we were
doing, if there was enough to tie
through until the next week. You more or less worked on your
own. A pottery baron called Josiah
Wedgwood, you’ve probably heard of
Wedgwood pottery, just before 1800 he’s trying to
think about how you make all these workers that he had– how
do you make them respond in the very same way,
so they don’t just kind of get up and wander off or spend time
talking or enjoying themselves? How do you get them all to work
at his single command? His dream, his fantasy was that
he wanted a set of workers that responded as fingers on two
hands in response to his command.
That’s what he wants.
He and his successors create
strategies of doing just that. In doing so they launch this
sort of protracted struggle, which is very revealing about
the bigger processes at play in the nineteenth century.
Factories have a lot to do with
that. Hereto, I say that with such
intensity for my bad experiences working in factories.
I once was working in Alice
Love’s Jams and Jellies. I was supposed to be to work
about 6:00 in the morning after a night I probably shouldn’t
have had. The last thing I remember was
the guy. He didn’t like me because I was
a college guy. I always had my mighty maize
and blue Michigan shirt on. He said, “Listen,
idiot”–I was on jams and jelly duty.
There was a huge machine.
You have to imagine an enormous
accordion. They’d put all these berries in
there. Then the press would squeeze
them into jelly, which we would drink or eat and
make ourselves sick. It would build up a lot of
pressure and the last thing I remember him saying was,
“Listen, idiot,” that was me,
“don’t leave your finger on that button very long.”
As I was trying to figure out
who had beaten whom the night before in the American League,
the thing blew up. This enormous tidal wave of
boysenberry juice engulfed me and I was burned.
Actually, I was out on sick
leave for two weeks or I was just down playing basketball and
getting paid to do that. This tidal wave of
boysenberries, a forklift with about something
like 2,000 jars of apple butter spun out of control.
It was a terrible,
terrible mess. But the point of this is that I
hated the foreman. As I left, I said,
“Too bad for you, foreman.”
I take that back.
I didn’t say that.
Anyway, the point of this is
that factories become first of all a way of maintaining
industrial discipline. In the first factories in
Britain they were not there because you had these machines
that were there immediately. James Watts’ steam engine was
not used really for about fifteen years after it was made,
because there weren’t many things it could do.
The first factories were there
putting together artisans, semi-skilled workers,
and unskilled workers as a form of industrial discipline.
When you think,
if you see postcards–at the end of the nineteenth century,
really about 1900, the craze for postcards begins
in Europe and in the United States, too.
Now, these postcards are
extremely expensive if they have people in them,
particularly people at work. They’re really,
really–and I have all sorts of them from Limoges and the
porcelain industry and from the strikes.
But if you see these pictures,
when workers had their pictures taken together,
they’re always in front of the door.
You had to enter the door or
leave the door. The signal was given by the
clock and by the bell that called you to work.
If you were late,
too bad for you. You could be docked or fired,
and there are lots more people out there who would like to have
those jobs. What happens in the nineteenth
century is that the factory, before really its role as a
houser of big thundering machines,
in many places the factory was first and foremost a way of
putting discipline on workers. There’s a terrible case in
Brooklyn, I think in 1912 or something,
where 150 or 200 women were burned to death because the
bosses or the foreman had locked the doors,
so they couldn’t go out and “chatter.”
What they begin to do in the
middle of the nineteenth century is have rules,
regulations for work, what you can do,
what you can’t do, and what you must do.
You can’t talk.
If you were a porcelain worker
and something blew up in the oven, that was docked from your
salary. In order to watch over these
workers, they bring in the foreman, fore-people.
There was a strike in Limoges
because the fore-person, a woman,
was very religious and she made the workers kneel down on the
ground and pray with their knees on the stone before work
started. No separation of church and
work there. They bring in foremen who are
going to enforce these–to see if you’re a good worker or if
you’re a bad worker. Now, workers resent this very
much. How did workers view the
bosses, for example? In the 1820s and 1830s,
you’re still working in smaller units of production in most
places in Europe if you’re in a factory.
You’ve got an issue with the
boss. The boss is somebody who might
give you a little extra on Christmas, or something like
that. The boss is somebody you knew.
There was a sense of,
“Well, you’re not doing me right now.
This isn’t right and I’m going
to leave until you get it together and do better by
me.” The boss is a presence.
He’s there all the time,
as my boss at Dennis Uniform Manufacturing Company,
also in Portland, Oregon.
He was there all the time.
By the time the foremen start
coming in, the foreman is representing the boss.
The foreman is somebody who’s
brought in from the outside or promoted, often unjustly,
from within. The foreman replaces the boss
as the one who’s hitting on the young female workers.
They call it in French the
droit de cuissage–that’s rather crude–the right of
hitting on and scoring, putting oneself in a power
relationship with a female employee.
The foreman begins to represent
the boss. The boss now during strikes,
the language of workers during strikes is, “The boss,
he’s a letch. He’s a drunk.
He eats too much.”
He doesn’t care whether you
live or die. He’s still somebody you see
kind of walking through and all that.
You don’t like him that much,
but he’s still a presence. The strikes at the end of the
nineteenth century are very, very different.
The boss often is a very
distant person. He’s sending telegrams from
London or sending telegrams from Frankfurt to his foreman
demanding this or that. In the case of a strike in
Limoges, France, the owner of the factory was an
American called David Haviland, as in Haviland porcelain,
at one point actually demands that the U.S.
Embassy send in the
U.S. Marines, as if that was possible in
order to put an end to this disturbance, this disorder in
his factory. He or she has become a symbol
of capitalism, protected by the state and
protected by the army. This is how workers,
not all workers, but in many cases,
view the boss. Industrial discipline has been
imposed by these rules, these regulations,
and these foreman. If you don’t like it, too bad.
Women workers are no longer
allowed to nurse their children, to bring their children or to
go out and nurse them. They are forced to eat inside
the factory. That’s why tuberculosis rates
are enormous, particularly in mining and in
factories. You’ll see this in
Germinal. It’s really kind of an amazing
book. This view of workers of their
bosses tells you something about this long process,
it’s very uneven and not everywhere,
but still there–that explain this massive kind of movements
of strikes that you found in all sorts of countries–Northern
Italy, Barcelona, Moscow in 1917.
Huge strikes would be terribly
important in 1917 in Moscow. Then something else happens,
and I’m going to end with this, because it’s in a minor way an
amazing tale about a colleague, a brilliant woman I know called
Michelle Perrot, something she wrote in the late
1970s. It tells you so much about our
time. In the beginning of the
twentieth century an American engineer called Taylor comes up.
Remember, this is the time when
the Olympics have started up again.
You measure how fast people can
run the 100 or how far they can throw the shot-put.
You’re measuring things.
Car races have begun.
which was a bloody spectacle with bikes careening out of
control all the time. You see working class heroes
getting just mangled, in part through each other’s
manipulations of trying to knock them off.
But you’re measuring things.
Taylor comes up with this way
of measuring units of production, the ultimate in
industrial discipline. You were on the assembly line.
They will count the number of
units you can do of jars of apple butter that you can turn
out. If you’re not turning out
enough, “See ya’, we’ll get somebody else.
A lot of people want that job.
We’ll see ya’.”
That’s why the wages stay down,
because there are a lot of people who want those jobs
because of the growth. He becomes the darling of the
French car manufacturers. He becomes the darling.
He is a hot item.
He would be on People
magazine, if they did have one,
because he comes and tells them how they can get more effort out
of their tired, fatigued workers by counting
them. It’s just like that all the way.
when she wrote a brilliant article and edited a book I did
a long time ago, her article was called
“The Three Ages of Industrial Discipline.”
She had an amazing phrase for
the late 1970s. This was before,
thank god, cell phones. It was before personal
computers and all of that. There were computers,
but they weren’t personal computers.
She said that in this
post-industrial age, where you’ve got the rust belt,
and you’ve got factories being torn down outside Detroit,
and in Flint, and in Torrington,
and Waterbury, and places like that,
in Pittsburg, and almost anywhere you can
name that was the heart of the American industrial experience.
She predicted in 1978 that what
would replace Taylorism would be the computer.
The computer will measure in
your cubicles your performance. She said in the end,
the foreman would be replaced by “the quiet violence of
the computer.” Kind of amazing.
See you on Wednesday.