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Lo, this is the tarantula's den!
--Thus Spake Zarathustra.
THE FACTORY ITSELF
THAT ugly group of ramshackle buildings in themidst of a fertile farming country in Indiana, in which men, women and children arefrenziedly packing tomatoes, corn and peas into tin cans, is a factory.
That monstrous ugly set of retorts, furnaces,coal and ore piles, in grimy, sooty Pittsburgh, in which straining and sweating menare producing iron and steel, is a factory.
That light but ugly loft with its rows and rowsof sewing machines, one of dozens of similar lofts in a great rabbit-warren of abuilding in New York, in which hurried men and women are making clothes, is a factory.
And so is that model cotton mill somewhere inthe Sunny South surrounded by its model village of brightly painted frame bungalowsall as like as peas in a pod. The men, women and children may be spinning and weavingcotton goods in a model mill; they may be living in model houses, buying from a modelcommissary, attending a model church, and their children studying in a model school,yet the mill and its life is ugly because work, homes, movies, schools, and churchesare planned and provided for the millworkers by the omnipotent corporation whichplans the details of their lives precisely as it selects the looms and spindles whichthey operate.
The buildings which house the average factory--itsmachinery, workers, supplies and goods--are most often a collection of ugly wooden,brick, or concrete structures. Sometimes they are standard factory buildings madein a factory devoted to the factory production of factory buildings and then shipped"knocked down" to the place where they are erected. Sometimes the buildingsare what are known as "lofts"; block-like structures, each floor of whichis rented by a separate factory. Occasionally the buildings are architectural "gems,"but gems which conceal the fact that they exist primarily to be efficient by thethin expedient of superimposing a veneer of period architecture upon what would bemuch more fitting if its frankly utilitarian purposes were intelligently exploited.
Factories are to be found everywhere; sometimesin the country, sometimes in a suburb of a city, but oftenest in the city itself.They are found most often in the city because they prosper best in a large consumingmarket or near enough to one so that they secure a cheap and adequate outlet fortheir output. Sometimes, however, they are found close to the source of their rawmaterials, or where the materials can be secured at a minimum of expenditure fortransportation. Nearly always they are located where there is a large adaptable laborpopulation.
But no matter where they are located, city orcountry, they tend to concentrate population.
They are congestion makers.
Factories make the country into towns, townsinto small cities, the small cities into large ones. They are the most efficienturbanizers which man has yet evolved. They are therefore the best of all inflatersof land values. The hustling communities and the "realtors" who keep themhustling are forever seeking more factories.
The sequence which they worship is:
Higher realty values.
The factory is a slum breeder. Today it is admittedlya slum breeder but it will always be a slum breeder--Matthew Arnold to the contrarynotwithstanding.
It breeds slums for two reasons.
First, it can afford to pay its workers onlywhat the competition of other factories permits it to pay. Wages are still relativelylow--too low to permit the wage earner to live outside of slums. For the factorytoday is in the hands of acquisitive, ruthless, quantity-minded men who find in theintense pressure of competition ample justification for exploiting labor to the uttermostlimit. The factory worker is therefore paid too little to afford the time and theexpense of living far from his job. The capitalistic factory therefore is a congestionbreeder--a breeder of districts which are congested because men, women and childrenmust live close to the factories to enable all the members of the family of workingage to secure work.
Secondly--and this reason applies to the factorywhether in the city or in the country--factory work checks any tendency toward part-timefarming. The factory worker produces factory goods for others to consume; he subsistson what other factories produce for him. The factories located in the country andsuburban districts make it possible for the workers to have space around their homesin which to garden. But even with space, and even if strength enough remains afterthe day's work, only the thriftiest workers have gardens: the vast majority get theirfoodstuffs out of packages and tin cans. The foreign-born workers, in whom the farmingtradition is not quite dead, and the ex-farmers who take a job in the factory, bothgarden somewhat--for a time. But when their wives and children also begin to takeplaces in the factory, the garden usually is abandoned. With gardening ended, thecountry factory surrounds itself with what might be called country slums--slums whichare, if anything, more depressing than their city prototypes.
Socialization of the factory would enable theworker to get the full wages to which he is entitled, although the wages might notprove to be as high as socialists expect; they might not be even as high as the wageswhich capitalism finds it possible to pay. But even if real wages were higher--muchhigher--that would not lessen the extent to which the factory would be a slum breeder.Factory workers would live in better slums--more hygienic slums, containing apartmenthouses instead of tenements, and they would fill their homes with showy furnishingsinstead of shabby ones. There might be less squalor, but there would be no less ugliness.
What makes the place in which mankind today producespractically all the commodities it consumes a factory?
In the sense in which I use the term factoryit applies only to places equipped with tools and machinery to produce "goods,wares or utensils" by a system involving serial production, division of labor,and uniformity of products.
In this definition certain qualifying phrasesdescribing the factory system are used, because a mere place in which tools, machineryand power are used and in which many persons are working is not necessarily a factory.A garage doing large quantities of repair work on automobiles is much like a factoryin appearance. So is a railroad repair shop. Yet neither of these lineal descendantsof the roadside smithy is truly a factory.
The distinctive attribute of the factory itselfis the system of serial production. It is not, as might be thought, machine productionnor even the application of power to machinery. Machinery and power, it is true,make modern serial production possible but only as iron and steel make the modernautomobile possible. No one would make the mistake of saying iron and steel are theautomobile. No one should make the mistake of saying that power and machinery arethe factory. Only the establishment in which a product of uniform design is systematicallyfabricated with more or less subdivision of labor during the process is a factory.Large power and heavy machinery may not even be used. A dress factory, for instance,uses little power and no heavy machinery. It is nevertheless a factory, with a factorytechnique of production, a factory product, a factory labor problem, a factory distributionproblem, and a pro rata contribution to the factory blight upon civilization.
Production in Europe up to the beginning of theindustrial revolution was of three kinds: domestic production, custom production,and guild production.
Domestic production was then, and what survivesof it still is, a family function. In the peasant hut the methods of production andthe products themselves were simple and rustic. In the manor houses, however, therewas a considerable organization of the family and its retainers, and the productsmade reflected the higher standards of the upper classes. Domestic production isdistinguishable from all other types because it is directed toward the making ofthings which the family itself consumes. Home sewing, home preserving, home washing,are surviving examples of domestic production.
Custom production, which played so great a partin the economy of the pre-industrial era, survives today in very few fields and ofthese custom tailoring is probably the most important. Custom production was theprincipal means of support of the village smithy, the village miller, the villagecabinet-maker. It did not however prevent these custom workers from devoting a partof their time to husbandry. When planting and harvesting required their attention,or whenever the volume of trade slackened, it was possible for the custom producersto devote themselves to productive labor on the land.
Guild production began with the specializationof the functions of the master craftsmen. The master craftsman's life before guildproduction developed was a highly integrated existence. He was himself a master workman,a superintendent of his journeymen and apprentices, an employer taking risks formaterial, food, and wages, often a producer of his own raw materials; a merchantbuying raw materials, and a shopkeeper selling finished goods. With the coming ofthe merchant guilds the craftsman evolved into no less than six different persons:the large merchant, the shopkeeper large and small, the merchant employer, largemaster, small master, and journeyman.
By the beginning of the eighteenth century Europeanindustry meant far more than baking bread, making cloth, cobbling shoes, and fashioningfurniture for use in the immediate neighborhood. It meant the production on a largescale of goods to be sold in distant places--cloth, clocks, shoes, beads, dishes,hats, buttons. The guild members engaged in the production of these goods conformedminutely to the directions of their guilds. The guilds were thus enabled to engagein commercial operations of great magnitude and to conduct not only a national butalso an international trade for their members.
Towards the close of the eighteenth century,Arkwright laid the foundations for the modern factory. He began by patenting a power-spinningmachine which incorporated ideas of his own with those which he filched by "business"methods from Kay and High and Wyatt and Paul, with all of whom he worked at one timeor another. He finished laying the foundations of industrialism when he establishedthe custom of enlisting capital not only in the manufacture of yarn by the factorysystem but also in the establishment of the yarn market which was indispensable tothe distribution of the factory product. It was speculation in this yarn market,rather than inventing and manufacturing, which enabled him to amass the fortune whichwon him knighthood.
Stephenson's work in perfecting the steam railroadwas almost a contemporaneous development. It was not only fortuitous in point oftime: it fitted in so perfectly as to seem almost pre-ordained. As a matter of fact,the rise of the factory created such enormous demands for coal, for freight, andfor travel that existing transportation facilities were utterly incapable of satisfyingthem. It became plain to everybody that fortunes were to be made by those who suppliedthe demands for transportation. When the steam railroad made it possible to haulcoal and raw materials to the factory in large volume and to transport in equal volumefactory products to the place where they could be sold, the last link in the chainof events which destroyed the medieval agricultural and commercial economy had beenforged.
Enormous profits were the rule among these earlymanufacturers. For a long time factory spun yarn and factory woven cloth were soldin both domestic and foreign markets at prices which were based upon costs establishedby workshop and cottage industry. The profits were so large that the incidental horrorsinvolved in the destruction of the livelihoods of the craftsmen were disregardedby the general public, just as the infamy of child-labor, which the factories introduced,was disregarded by the entire commercial world. Tough-fibered business men, encouragedby tough-fibered economists, exploited the theory that the social gain from increasedproduction and from the extension of foreign trade fully justified the horrors ofthe factory system.
It is impossible to form a sound conclusion asto the value to mankind of this institution which the Arkwrights, the Watts, andthe Stephensons had brought into being if we confine ourselves to a comparison ofthe efficiency of the factory system of production with the efficiency of the processesof production which prevailed before the factory appeared.
A very different comparison must be made.
We must suppose that the inventive and scientificdiscoveries of the past two centuries had not been used to destroy the methods ofproduction which prevailed before the factory.
We must suppose that an amount of thought andingenuity precisely equal to that used in developing the factory had been devotedto the development of domestic, custom, and guild protection.
We must suppose that the primitive domestic spinningwheel had been gradually developed into more and more efficient domestic machines;that primitive looms, churns, cheese presses, candle molds, and primitive productiveapparatus of all kinds had been perfected step by step without sacrifice of the characteristic"domesticity" which they possessed.
In short, we must suppose that science and inventionhad devoted itself to making domestic and handicraft production efficient and economical,instead of devoting itself almost exclusively to the development of factory machinesand factory production.
The factory-dominated civilization of today wouldnever have developed. Factories would not have invaded those fields of manufacturewhere other methods of production could be utilized. Only the essential factory wouldhave been developed. Instead of great cities, lined with factories and tenements,we should have innumerable small towns filled with the homes and workshops of neighborhoodcraftsmen. Cities would be political, commercial, educational, and entertainmentcenters. The homestead would have developed in countless directions and would havecontinued the economic center of the family. Efficient domestic implements and machinesdeveloped by centuries of scientific improvement would have eliminated drudgery fromthe home and the farm.
Before we can say that the coming of the factorywas a good thing for mankind, we must ask ourselves whether this supposititious worldwould have been a more comfortable and beautiful world than the one in which we actuallyhave come to live.
We must, in short, make a comparison betweenthe factory economy which we have today and a hypothetical economy which I believeshould have been developed.
I appreciate that the apologists for the factory,both the defenders of the existing capitalistic factory system, and the proponentsof a reformed socialistic factory system, will join hands in saying that the introductionof any such hypothetical economy into the discussion introduces a chimerical andutopian element which renders the whole argument academic. In this respect both wouldclaim that they are more "practical" than I. For both are subscribers tothe proposition that the development of the factory is essential to the comfort ofmankind. Both will therefore pride themselves on dismissing as impractical the ideasof anyone who ventures to suggest that mankind might with profit abandon much ofpresent day factory production, precisely as mankind thought it profitable to abandondomestic, craft and guild production in the course of the industrial revolution.I insist, however, that there is ample historical precedent for envisaging such apossibility. The Arkwrights were considered by the practical men of their day hopelesstheorists. The factory system of production seemed to be as different from the prevailingmethod of production as the hypothetical system to which I am calling attention differsfrom our modern factory system. Time, however, vindicated the practicability of theArkwrights. Time may vindicate my belief in the practicability of the abandonmentof our present factory system.
When Samuel Slater in 1790 brought to Americathe factory idea as it had up to that time developed in England and erected the firstcotton mill at Pawtucket, R. I. nearly everything consumed in the American home waseither produced in the home itself or made to order in community mills and customworkshops.
Nearly every home at that time had its "loom"room. Not every loom room contained a loom, but a very large number of them did.Most of them, however, contained yarn spinning equipment. They contained wool-wheelsand flax-wheels. They contained flax-brakes of various kinds; wool-cards and wool-combs;several kinds of reels, and of course, the ubiquitous dye-pots. The heavy wool wasspun on the big wool-wheels; the lighter fibers--flax, cotton, silks and hemp--werespun on flax-wheels. With this equipment, and the assistance of custom weavers, fullers,and tailors, the American home was supplied with its textiles and clothing. The productswere often of a quality that can hardly be duplicated today. The quality had to beof the best. The labor which had to be put into the production of goods made it necessarythat what was fabricated should wear long enough to justify the time put into theirmanufacture.
Country dwellers of all classes produced practicallyall their own foodstuffs. The wealthy, when they dwelt in cities, usually securedtheir foodstuffs from their country estates. Artisans and shopworkers usually combinedfarming with the pursuit of their crafts and so supplied the foodstuffs for theirown tables. Only a very small number of homes in the cities and towns had to buytheir "victuals."
The pioneer home, not only produced its own foodstuffsbut many of the implements with which the foodstuffs were grown and harvested, andcooked and preserved. Grist mills, bread troughs and yeast jars; churns and cheesepresses; syrup-making equipment, cracker-stamps, sausage-guns, turn-spits; ciderand vinegar barrels, brick ovens and smoke-houses were part of the equipment of nearlyevery home. The foods which could not be stored dry or packed in vegetable cellarswere preserved by drying, smoking and pickling. The equipment for this purpose consistedof an amazing variety of ingenious baskets, buckets and jars. It consisted of equipmentunknown today and used in arts lost to the homemakers of this age who use foods whichcome from factories--from dairies, sugar mills, biscuit factories, packing houses,canneries, and bakeries. With this primitive equipment even the poorest home of thosetimes, though it is true the fare was often coarse and sometimes monotonous, enjoyedan abundance that made it possible to indulge in the luxury of hospitality. The openlatch string was a social rite which extended not only to relations, friends andneighbors, but to the strangers who travelled by the door. This system of productionmade possible a lavish hospitality which seems legendary in this day. The table inthe better American colonial home groaned beneath the foodstuffs and potables served,while the quantity and variety were so great that to the modern taste the old cuisineseems positively vulgar.
The production of most other things consumedin those days was much like that of foodstuffs and textiles. The homes either containedequipment which made it possible for the family to produce them--to produce its own"simples" and medicines, its own candles, its own soaps and cleansers,its own furniture and implements--or the family relied upon neighborhood artisanswho operated workshops in which these things were made in conjunction nearly alwayswith farming.
Manufacturing was confined to neighborhood industrieswhich devoted themselves to the relatively few products that did not lend themselvesto domestic manufacture. The neighborhood mills and shops used wind and water tooperate their heavy machinery. The countryside was dotted with grist mills, lumbermills, forges, tanneries and potteries. Though inferior in efficiency, the neighborhoodindustries were superior esthetically to the factories which replaced them. Theywere, so to speak, country evoked. They fitted into the country, as the factory fitsinto the crowded city.
Slowly but surely with the advent of Samuel Slaterand his imitators, the loom room and equipment for domestic production disappearedfrom the homes, and the community mills and neighborhood shops disappeared from thecountryside. The question is, was this decay due to an economic insufficiency inherentin individual production or was it due to an insufficiency largely adventitious?Is it not possible that workshop and domestic producers lost in competition withthe factory merely because they did not, and perhaps could not at that time, utilizethe early stream of scientific progress of which the factory took advantage?
Production in the old-fashioned home and workshopwas a laborious and time consuming process. But the things produced were durable.And they had charm and infinite variety, which the growing army of antiquarians engagedin collecting them now recognize. Both because of intrinsic quality and expressivecharm, they endured. High quality, with slow depreciation, was an inevitable corollaryof individual production, just as poor quality, with rapid depreciation, is an inevitablecorollary of serial production. With individual production, the quality had to begood. The busy men and women of those days could not afford the luxury of shoddymaterials and inferior workmanship because they could not spare the time to replacethings frequently. With serial production, however, man has ventured into a topsy-turvyworld in which goods that wear out rapidly or that go out of style before they havea chance to be worn out seem more desirable than goods which are durable and endurable.Goods now have to be consumed quickly or discarded quickly so that the buying ofgoods to take their place will keep the factory busy.
By the old system production was merely the meansto an end.
By the new system production itself has becomethe end.
Promoted by quantity-minded men combining a fanaticfaith in the value of manufactures with a thirst for wealth, and assisted by governmenttariffs and subsidies and municipal and state gifts and grants of land and capital,factory production slowly but surely displaced individual production. It produceda higher level of wages for unskilled laborers. It made it possible for great massesof consumers to buy "goods, wares and utensils" which they had not beenable to use and possess before. It created a material well-being which did not existin the days of individual production. By using power and machinery on a new scale;by abandoning personal and custom production for serial production of uniform, standardizedproducts, and by departmentalizing and subdividing labor, it put the ponderous andinefficient equipment in the homes and workshops out of business.
No doubt the change was inevitable. The water-wheeland the windmill put the hand-crank and the foot-treadle out of business. The steamengine put the water-wheel out of business. But now the gasoline engine and the electricmotor have been developed to a point where they are putting the steam engine outof business. The modern factory came in with steam. Steam is a source of power thatalmost necessitates factory production. But electricity does not. It would be poeticjustice if electricity drawn from the myriads of long neglected small streams ofthe country should provide the power for an industrial counter-revolution.
On the credit side of the factory and of factoryproduction must be entered one outstanding item: the provision of a revolutionaryincrease in the quantities of products and commodities.
By lowering prices, the factory makes it possiblefor the masses of people to consume more. By lowering quality and lessening durability,it makes it necessary for them to consume more. Finally, by eliminating self-expressionin the making of the products, it lessens their attachment to the things which theybuy and possess. All these effects of factory production tend to make the averageindividual consume more, waste more, and destroy more than in the past. Superficiallythis has been all to the good: we now eat more, wear more clothes, live in betterhouses, use more furnishings and utensils, transport ourselves more speedily andfreely than ever before.
Mankind has not, however, attained to this stateof material well-being without paying a ghastly price in real comfort for the partwhich the factory played in achieving it. The material well-being may be worth theprice. The question which interests me is, was it necessary to have paid that price,and if unnecessary, should we not cease making similar sacrifices of comfort merelythat we may still further increase our consumption of creature comforts?
The first effect of the production of seeminglyunlimited quantities of commodities and their being placed on sale at prices muchlower than previously prevailed was to drive workshop products off the markets andto curtail if not entirely destroy domestic production. A disorganization of theeconomy of the world unprecedented in all history followed. An essentially agriculturaleconomy with a small admixture of the commercialism fostered by the merchant guildswas changed violently into an essentially industrial economy with a small admixtureof agriculture. The industrial revolution created a host of novel political, legal,economic and social problems: child labor, trade unionism, universal manhood suffrage,socialism, woman suffrage, economic and sex independence of both men and women. Theseproblems were outgrowths of efforts to create an equilibrium in the relations ofcapital and labor--a relationship at least as stable as that which had at one timeprevailed between master and servant. The problem is probably unsolvable; even thesocialists, who think they have a solution for it, are blithely unaware of the partplayed by functional and ineradicable attributes of the factory in making man subservientto his machines.
The second effect of the production of seeminglyunlimited quantities of products was the development of a new economic basis forimperialism.
Before the coming of factory production commercedevoted itself to procuring what the buying public wanted, rather than to marketingwhatever producers fabricated. Foreign commerce barely went beyond the exchange ofluxury goods. Merchants were essentially importers. They exported only in order tomake importation possible. The fur traders, for example, went into the wildernessto secure furs. They carried wares to exchange for them not because there was a pressureto export the wares but because wares were the instrumentalities which enabled themto get the furs the buying public sought.
Before the industrial revolution European nationsdeveloped foreign trade only because they wanted what foreign countries produced.They wanted spices, then of relatively greater importance than today--pepper andcinnamon from Egypt, Ceylon, Sumatra, Western India; ginger from Arabia, India, China;nutmegs, cloves, allspice from the Spice Islands and the Malay Archipelago. Theywanted precious stones: diamonds, rubies, and pearls from Persia, India, and Ceylon.They wanted glass, porcelain, silks, rugs, tapestries, metal work from the entireOrient. They wanted tea from China. They wanted gold and silver, furs and tobaccofrom America. For all these things they offered in exchange whatever Europe thenproduced: rough woolen cloth, arsenic, antimony, quicksilver, tin, copper, lead.European traders usually found the balance against themselves and they paid the differencein gold and silver.
The chartered commercial companies helped themto redress that balance by throwing what amounted to a taxing power against the countriesfrom which they were importing goods. English, Dutch, French, Swedish, Danish, Scotch,and Prussian East India companies, West India companies, and companies for tradingin all the various sections of the world helped to solve the "mercantilist"problem for hungry Europe for nearly two hundred years. The era of colonial expansionfollowed and made it still easier to meet the adverse balances by securing gold andsilver and raw materials from distant colonies.
Then came the factory. Import imperialism changedinto export imperialism.
With the factory came seemingly unlimited productionat prices far below those of the craft produced goods of Asia, of America, of Africa.The English factory for the first time made it possible to produce more than couldbe absorbed by the immediate buying power of the English market. By 1860 England'sproduction of pig iron alone was larger than that of all the rest of the world. Itbecame necessary to export goods in order to keep the factories busy. Imperialismwas given a new orientation.
Import imperialism was aggression which madeit possible for the imperialist nation to get what it wanted from the conquered:silks and tea, for instance. Export imperialism, which replaced it, made it possiblefor the imperialist nation to sell to the conquered what it had to market: cottonyarn and cotton goods, for instance. The continuous operation of spinning framesand power looms drove the trader, and behind him his country's soldiers, in searchof markets. The motive of empire ceased to be freedom to import: it became freedomto export. The early imperialistic adventures of England in India were undertakenin order to secure access to the spices, precious stones, silks and other productsof India. England's present policy in India is a desperate endeavor to keep Indiaa dumping ground for the products of British mills and factories. Empire enablesBritish traders, as it enables the traders of all the modern imperialist nations,to keep the home-fires--in the factories--burning.
There is, of course, still a tremendous importimperialism. The industrialized nations still need raw materials-cotton, rubber,raw silk. But as scientists perfect the factory system, the need for imported rawmaterials becomes less and less pressing. Indigo, for instance, was at one time araw material of which the industrialized nations imported great quantities. Thencame the synthetic chemists. They made it possible for the industrialized nationsto erect factories which produced dyestuffs from ordinary coal-tar. Dependence uponthe imported product thus ended. The synthetic production of raw materials has unlimitedpossibilities, as is being shown by the rayon industry today. This synthetic imitationof silk has already rendered the highly industrialized nations less and less dependentupon the importation of raw silk. The time may come when synthetic chemistry willfinally free the industrialized nations of all dependence upon imported raw materials.Chemical factories will extract the raw materials which the factories in the industrializednations need from air, soil and water. The industrialized nations may find that theyhave attained the paradise of protectionist economics, the absolutely ideal "balanceof trade": nothing to import and unlimited quantities of goods to export.
The third effect of the production of seeminglyunlimited quantities of commodities was the infection of the world with that political-economicplague which still blights mankind--the protective tariff .
To make a market for the products of its factoriesin other nations, export imperialism developed. To protect the domestic market againstthe invasion of foreign factories, tariff walls were invented. In the United Statesthe tariff became a wall behind which its factory system was erected. Today everynation employs tariffs in some form or other, ostensibly to protect its factoriesagainst the competition of foreign factories. But tariffs, however much they mayfoster domestic manufacturing and free the nation from dependence upon foreign factories,are in reality differentials in favor of those industries which are able to securehigh rates against those which are unlucky enough to receive low rates. And as alltariffs are enacted for the benefit of manufacturers, they tend in actual practiceto create a general differential in favor of the factory and against the farm. Manufacturingis thus made supernormally profitable while agriculture is made abnormally unprofitable.
A world which accepts the dogma that man existsto produce, and which rejects the proposition that production exists for man, deservesto be plagued by protective tariffs.
Mankind might rid itself of their annoyance anddangers if economists ceased to discuss them seriously and began to ridicule themas they deserve.
The fourth effect of the production of seeminglyunlimited quantities of products was the creation of the modern domestic distributionproblem, the ushering in of the distribution age, and the facing of manufacturerswith the problem of making consumers consume all that the factories were capableof producing. High pressure marketing, national advertising, installment selling,house to house canvassing are some of the fruits of the distribution age. As thedistribution problem increases in magnitude, ways and means have to be found to enableconsumers to consume more food, more clothing, more furniture and more transportation.The population must be made to devote more and more of its time to consumption; lessand less of its time to production.
The industrial utopia will come when this principlewill be carried to its logical conclusion.
In that industrial utopia men and women will,presumably, work only one day per week--and that a very short day. They will devotethe rest of their time to consuming all that the factories produce for them. Greaterefficiency, higher wages and lower prices will make this possible.
We shall have developed to the n th degreethe relatively primitive consumption resorts which we possess today. Specializationand standardization of these resorts will make it possible for mankind to consumemuch more than it does today.
Sumptuous food resorts established in the mostsalubrious surroundings will entertain thousands of men and women devoting themselveswholeheartedly to food consumption. Food in car-load lots will be shipped into theseresorts direct from the factories and unloaded on private sidings, while the wastefrom the resorts, instead of being really wasted as today in sewage systems willbe pumped to synthetic converting factories through pipelines much as crude oil isnow piped to the refineries.
The resorts devoted primarily to clothes consumptionwill be second only to the food resorts in importance. A continuous round of opportunitiesfor the display of clothes will be furnished to those who prefer to devote themselvesto the exercise of highly developed exhibitionist complexes. The opportunity to changetheir costumes a dozen times a day will make them happy. The latest styles will beshipped to them from the factories hourly by aeroplane and the discarded garmentsbaled and shipped by freight to the garnetting mills.
The country will be dotted with consumption resortsof other kinds: resorts for automobile, tire and gasoline consumption; resorts forthe consumption of furniture and house decorations; resorts, in fact, for the consumptionof all the various commodities of which a superabundance will be provided by thefactories. Man will make a virtue of his inability to "evade industry's pervasiveinfluence or wholly escape the tyranny of manufactured things."
The present six-day work week will have beengradually reduced to the one-day week. Men and women will earn in one day enoughto devote the other six days of their week to consumption. After having worked hisday in the factory or office, the New Yorker of that day will be whisked in an aerialtaxi to the great Hotel Avoirdupois at the top of one of the peaks in the Catskills--theresort which he has selected for his week-end. He will register at the office andbe assigned a number, a room, a table and a food-class. This last will be given himonly after medical examination. The resort physicians having determined his capacityto eat, the resort dietitians will then prepare the menus upon which he can bestexert that capacity. Both the intake per meal and the number of meals per day willhave thus been scientifically adjusted to his tastes and to his capacities. He willdiscard his business clothes and change to the loose, flowing robes which interfereleast with his girth-line and which make it easy for him to take the exercises andthe therapeutic treatments prescribed in order to keep him in fit condition to eat.
Then he will begin a six-day eating marathonof, perhaps, twelve meals per day. Between the meals he will of course, visit thegreat eliminatories which will be the real pride of the Hotel Avoirdupois. All theappliance of science, manipulated by skilled physicians, nurses and masseurs, willmake it possible for him to return to the table with every bit of his previous mealcompletely eliminated from his system. Artificial elimination of the waste, by themost delicate and pleasing modernizations of the old Roman vomitoriums, will be availableday and night. This very careful technique will insure maintenance of his capacityto eat and to eat with enjoyment unimpaired. He will thus be able to consume fromten to twenty times as much food as is customary today. At the end of the six days,he will check out of the resort in perfect condition and return to work having hada most enjoyable week-end.
Many may like the direction in which we seemto be travelling. They may not agree that super-consumption is the goal of our journey.But they will undoubtedly agree about the fact that today the factory is in the saddle.
The census of manufacturers makes it plain thatthe factory is steadily increasing its production while domestic and workshop productionis steadily declining. New factory industries, like bread baking, are developingand taking from the home the remaining productive activities of the individual family.In addition, the census reveals a significant tendency toward concentration of productionin larger establishments and a corresponding decrease in the volume of productionin the smaller factories. We are evidently moving at an accelerating rate of speedtoward production in large factories in which the technique of mass production willbe of maximum efficiency. As this tendency develops the aggregate profits of thesurviving manufacturing corporations will steadily increase even though mass productionwill probably have been carried beyond the point of optimum efficiency. Percentagesof profit on sales, for instance, will decline but the total profits of manufacturerswill increase because of the increased volume of production. The large aggregateprofits will make possible constantly larger corporate stock and bond structures.To pay dividends and interest upon all these securities, constantly more difficultproblems in production, distribution and finance will have to be solved. The responsibilitiesof those who manage and direct the factories will increase by arithmetical and geometricalprogressions. Overhead will increase because the units of production will have becomelarger. Production will tend to be continuous and to conform to the ideal of twenty-fourhours operation per day. Markets will have to be forced to absorb more and more goods.Consumption will be stimulated, prices made lower, goods made more and more enticing.Obsolescence, sufficient to offset improvements and inventions which tend to makegoods last longer, will have to be built into the goods.
To evaluate this inevitable prospect, we shallconsider four aspects of the factory's influence upon mankind.
First, the factory's influence upon the qualityof the "goods, wares and utensils" mankind uses. Second, the factory'sinfluence upon those engaged in doing the work of the world. Third, the factory'sinfluence upon the public as consumer. Fourth, the factory's influence upon thatquality-minded minority which has al. ways occupied itself with the reduction ofthe chaos of life to some significant form in morals, in reason and in appearance.The discussion of these first three aspects of the influence of the factory involvesmainly a study of the sociology and economics of production but the discussion ofthis fourth aspect demands the consideration of philosophic questions usually overlookedby the conventional apologists for the factory.
A brief summary of what the factory has alreadycontributed and may yet contribute to the general welfare is advisable in order toanticipate many of the objections which are certain to be made to the unconventionalposition here taken. Such a summary will make it clear that consideration has beengiven to the most important propositions which the proponents of our factory economyadduce in its favor.
The factory has admittedly greatly increasedthe creature comfort of mankind. Innumerable articles now in general use were luxuriesenjoyed only by the gentry and quite above the aspirations of common folk beforethe factory system was established. The factory has enabled the masses to live underconditions, and to consume "goods, wares and utensils," which otherwisethey could not have afforded. Rich and poor both have been enabled to purchase moregoods and more kinds of goods and to consume and destroy them more freely than waspreviously possible.
It is, of course, difficult to determine howmuch of the credit for all this is really due to the factory itself and how muchto the fact that scientists and inventors directed their efforts to the developmentof factory machinery and factory methods to the neglect of improvements in domesticproduction. We have always to bear in mind that the well-being we credit to the factoryis based upon comparison between the low prices and high consumption made possibleby the factory after it has had the advantage of all the inventions and the increasesin scientific knowledge of the past century and a half, and the high prices and lowconsumption which prevailed under a relatively primitive system of individual production.
Even if much is subtracted on this account fromthe credit due the factory for the diffusion of material well-being, there is stilla very considerable residue of credit due the factory for providing, in large quantitiesand at low prices, all sorts of things ranging from such varied products as matchesto electric light bulbs. The factory-begotten products which form this residue ofcredit justify our toleration of what might be called the essential factory--thefactory manufacturing products which are essential to the maintenance of our presentstandards of living.
In addition to credit for its contributions tocreature comfort, the factory has to be given credit for increasing the politicalfreedom of men and women. It must be given credit for the present economic independenceand mobility of the classes which furnish us our factory labor. The worker has nowa voice in government. It is not much of a voice, but it is no doubt more than hehad before he became a recognized part of the sovereignty of the state. The workernow has the right to quit his job. He is reasonably certain that he can change toa new job whenever he wishes, and support himself in the condition to which he hadbeen accustomed without any long apprenticeship. The factory has, of course, destroyedthe old relation of master and servant between employer and employee. It has madethe worker his own master, subject only to the general state of business--to whethertimes are "good" or "bad."
Above all, the factory, certainly in its presentform, has to be credited with both raising the wages and reducing the hours of laborof the average man. The average worker now finds it easier to live in accordancewith the prevailing standards of the class in which he is born than ever before.By every definition of the term wages--money wages, hourly wages, yearly wages, realwages--the factory has increased the income of the vast majority of men. By everydefinition of the term hours of labor--yearly, weekly, daily time at labor--the factoryhas reduced the hours at which the vast majority find it necessary to engage in productivelabor. Both these things have tended to add to the material well-being for whichthe factory must be given credit. Higher wages have enabled the worker to buy more--toconsume more, use more, and enjoy more of the things a factory-dominated civilizationprovides, and shorter hours have given him more leisure for consumption, for entertainment,and for what the herd-minded masses call education.
What is more, nothing on the horizon seems topreclude the realization of more and more material well-being of this sort; nothingcan be seen which promises to check the present tendency toward lower prices, higherwages, shorter hours; nothing is visible that threatens to interfere with a standardof even more leisure and greater consumption.
The factory promises us in the future even moreriches than we enjoy today. It seems to offer us a veritable golden age.
We shall see, however, that all is not gold thatglitters.
GO TO CHAPTER V