Page images

compatible with freedom. The problem thus presented is, as has already been indicated, not single but twofold. It implies both a criticism of modern industrial organisation and a criticism of modern society. In neither field can we hope to reach the simple solution or panacea for which men are always seeking. Both challenge us to a realistic enterprise of experiment, investigation, and imagination. But some suggestions of possible roads of advance towards a greater diffusion of freedom and happiness may be briefly given.

The majority of citizens in a modern community earn their livelihood by working for wages or salaries under conditions over which they have little or no control. They are cogs in a machine, items on a paysheet, instruments of production, the human raw material of large-scale undertakings, whether publicly or privately owned. Yet not only religion but customary morality teaches men to regard one another, not as instruments used to achieve other men's ends, but as individual human beings, and as 'ends in themselves.' The world of large-scale enterprise has been organised on a basis of wealth-production. It is not easy to readjust it so as to bring it into harmony with the unalterable rights of human nature, of which the claims of labour are an expression. In what directions can a beginning be made?

One way of relief lies through decentralisation. The word 'self-government' is misleading, since it suggests that an individual factory, sometimes even the manual workers in a factory, are in a position to exercise a determining control over the activity and function in which they are engaged. In point of fact, as the history of attempts at a real 'self-governing workshop' amply proves, an individual mill or factory can no more be dissociated from the general industry or commercial system of which it forms a part than an individual post-office or railway station. The record of the ruthless process which transformed the ideal of a Russia of local Soviets into one of the most highly centralised governments ever known is a useful commentary on the more unthinking aspirations for local self-government in industry. Closely examined, the decisions which have

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

to be taken in an individual business or factory, or even in the National Council of an industry-as Mr Goodrich's valuable study of British conditions shows-are not comparable to the legislative activity of a Parliament but to the administrative activity of a Civil Service. They are concerned not with the what, but with the how-not as to whether the nation shall go to war, or grant selfgovernment to Ireland, or disestablish the Church, or whether the factory shall manufacture soap or cottongoods or cocoa, but as to the conditions under which an assumed and pre-existing activity shall be carried on. The use of such words as 'self-government' and 'democracy,' therefore, is apt to be misleading, and to give currency to analogies between industry and politics which the reformer will find it dangerous to press; for he will find, on comparing functions, that the opposite number' of his supposedly self-governing body of workers by hand or brain is not at Westminster, but among the skilled bureaucracy in Whitehall.

Nevertheless, when all this has been granted, there is a large field, of which Mr Rowntree's latest book, 'The Human Factor in Business,' gives examples in detail, for the extension of individual freedom and of democratic control over the conditions under which the daily task is carried on. The York Cocoa Factory, with its elaborate system of Joint Committees, may not be a Paradisesome may even be romantic enough to look wistfully back to the cocoa-less world of which the adjoining Minster remains an inspiring symbol-but to compare it with what the Swindon Works were at the time when Mr Alfred Williams,† a remarkably truthful and scholarly observer, was employed there, is to compare light with darkness. Of the elaborate structure of the Whitley scheme, with its National and District and Works Councils, it is the last-named which have maintained most vitality; for it is in the factory or shop itself, face to face with its infinitely various practical problems, that the lesson of corporate responsibility in industry is to be learnt, and the boon of freedom to be wrested from

* C. L. Goodrich, The Frontier of Control; a Study of British Workshop Politics.' New York, 1920.

† Author of 'Life in a Railway Factory.' London, 1915.

[ocr errors]

the forbidding material of modern production. There is room here for every kind of experiment; and enough has been achieved, both in Britain and America, to enable us to realise that the buildings in which the activities of modern industry are carried on need no longer bear resemblance, either in their outward form or in their inner spirit, to a barracks or a prison, but can and ought to be as dignified and ennobling, and as perfectly planned for their purpose, as other public buildings in which men and women are congregated for far fewer hours in the week.

A second way lies in the development of the possibilities of team-work. There are many physical processes-rowing is one of them-which lose their unpleasantness and even become agreeable when performed together with others, with the rhythm and swing of a social activity. The creative artist, indeed, of whom Ruskin and Morris were thinking, prefers to work alone, at his own pace and in his own way. But, in Anglo-Saxon communities, at any rate, he is a rare type; and there is enough experience to show that most men, and even many women, can find pleasure in an otherwise monotonous activity if it is pursued in a social atmosphere; Lancashire women who return to the loom after marriage, not for the money but for the company, are a case in point.

A third line of approach, all the more necessary if team-work is developed, lies through variety of occupation. We are accustomed to think of men and women as knowing only one language and possessing only one means of livelihood. We shall not be civilised, or relieved from the danger of wars arising from misunderstanding, until bi-lingualism is general; and to have an alternative occupation is as desirable, both for individual self-realisation and for social convenience, as to speak two languages. There are many occupations-University teaching is one of them-which, by the manner in which they are distributed through the year, offer the relief of a dual activity, of what may be called a double gear. How different is the rhythmical alternation of periods of term and vacation from the unnatural monotony of fifty weeks' continuous employment at a small task, followed by a hectic fortnight of bewildered

idleness! This is not Nature's way in her arrangement of the seasons, nor need it be man's way; and, as Prince Kropotkin pointed out years ago in his 'Fields, Factories, and Workshops,' there are numerous communities, as, for instance, agricultural villages equipped with cheap power, which have long since discovered how to adjust their economy to the needs of a two-gear existence.

Such suggestions open out a broad field of inquiry, into which the psychologists, too long confined to pedagogy and other formal studies, are at last beginning to penetrate. Prof. Myers' book and the studies in industrial fatigue undertaken by Prof. Stanley Kentt and others, show that there is an increasing.realisation that 'the occupation makes the man,' and that the mental and moral, as well as the physical, effects of work upon character and personality need careful study. One last point must be mentioned, in a somewhat different field from the preceding-the need for publicity. At the recent Industrial Co-operation Conference in New York an address was delivered on 'Taking the Mystery out of Business.' A great deal of the suspicion and bad feeling, both between brain-workers and manual workers and between competitors in the same line of business, arises from undue secrecy. If industry and commerce are really to become great professions, they must learn, as the doctors have learned, to regard improvements in technique as contributions to the common stock. In so far as secrecy concerns, not the methods, but the profits of enterprise, the tendency will diminish in proportion as service rather than gain becomes, as with other professions, the dominating motive.

These brief indications are not put forward as a substitute for far-reaching changes in organisation, but to draw attention to problems, too long ignored, which have to be faced under any system of large-scale industry. The issue between public and private ownership will inevitably continue to be prominent; but recent experience will count for nothing if it continues to be discussed as an issue of principle and not of detail and

'Mind and Work.' London, 1920. 1

+ 'Journal of Industrial Hygiene.' New York.

Vol. 287.-No. 471.


expediency. Behind it, as behind the suggestions put forward above, lies the fundamental issue of the transformation of motive, with all its implications of new possibilities of partnership between the two parties which, whether as employer' and 'employed,' or as 'management' and 'labour,' have too long worked rather on the discredited system of balance of power than according to a common programme of service. When industry and trade become real professions—and not till then-they will be in a position to employ Capital instead of being employed, and often exploited, by it.

It is not, however, inside the industrial system but in the wider field of politics that there is the most need for changes of the sweeping kind which the revolutionaries advocate for industry. Had the Socialist movement, from the forties onward, concentrated on constructive political effort rather than on an attack on the entrepreneur, it would have more laurels to show to-day for three-quarters of a century of fighting. Here again space permits but of the briefest indications. Why are so many workers dissatisfied with their work, apart altogether from the conditions under which it is carried on? There are three answers. Either because it is insufficiently paid in comparison with other occupations, and so enjoys inferior repute; or because it is not the work most suited to their capacities; or because it is of such a degrading character that no one would willingly undertake it.

Here are three separate problems, each of them not industrial but social. We shall not have a society of free men and women till our traditional valuations of employment have been transformed and the miner and the land-worker have lost their sense of being, in some mysterious way, inferior to the bank-clerk and the teacher. In England, at any rate, and still more in certain parts of the Continent, both social values and customary scales of remuneration and of living are being transformed very rapidly; and the day is perhaps not far distant when the young aristocrat who wishes to earn his livelihood by pruning fruit-trees or looking after cattle and horses will not need to cross the ocean to California or New Zealand in order to follow his bent. The far-reaching consequences of such a development

« PreviousContinue »