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THE FACTORY'S CUSTOMERS
ADAM SMITH called man a manufacturing animal.But Adam Smith published "The Wealth of Nations" in 1776. He never sawa copy of a daily newspaper filled with hundreds of advertisements urging peopleto buy every conceivable article and commodity. He never saw a popular magazine witha circulation in the millions of copies and containing hundreds of pages of advertisingurging the people of the entire nation to buy the various products which our factoriesare producing. And of course he never saw a self-service grocery store, nor a chainstore, nor a modern department store, and above all, he never saw a modern bargainsale. Had he lived to see these things; had he lived to see the serried ranks ofwomen whose daily occupation it is to descend on the shopping districts; had he livedto see the dawn of the distribution age when selling and not manufacturing was becomingthe principal occupation of men, he would have called man a buying and not a manufacturinganimal.
When he wrote, he saw the factory as an instrumentdevised by man as an instrumentality for manufacturing. He did not foresee that thefactory would ultimately turn upon its creators. He did not foresee that the factorywould force manufacturers to devote themselves to creating buyers to consume whatindustry produced. He did not, therefore, see that the factory would ultimately bisecthumanity by making one-half of it into earning animals and one-half of it into spendinganimals.
Add the stimulus of profits, to the ever presentfear of bankruptcy, and modern industry's preoccupation with the process of creatingbuyers is readily understood. For the manufacturer, the creation of buyers for hisproducts is vital if be is to maintain his sales volume. He must keep his factoriesproducing enough to pay an adequate return upon the investment in them. For the factoryworker, and indeed for everybody dependent for their livelihood upon the operationof the factory, the failure to create enough buyers for the products of their factorymeans unemployment and hard times.
Fortunately for the sales department of the factory,the coming of factory production and the consequent decline in domestic productiondestroyed the self-sufficiency of men and forced them to supply their wants and desiresby buying what formerly they had produced and fashioned for themselves. Men ceasedto devote their time and thought to making and producing things for themselves, anddevoted them to earning the money essential to the buying of what they needed andwanted. The money economy which was thus thrust upon man forced him to go to workfor wages; to go into business to earn profits, to adopt professions which commandedcash returns. Within a hundred years of the time that Adam Smith called attentionto the fact that man was a manufacturing animal, men bad become creatures expectedand trained to devote themselves to bringing home money; women creatures expectedand trained to spend the money which their men brought home. By a perfectly naturalcourse of evolution a folkway has developed in which the man plays the part of anearning-animal and the woman that of a buying-animal. Both are expected to be consumersof factory products, but the modern woman, rather than the modern man, has becomethe factory's actual customer.
The pre-eminent position of women as the purchasingagents for the home in these days is made evident in the following table from "WhatAbout Advertising?" "' The table is based upon a recent survey of retailstores in New York City. In only two of the twelve classes of retail establishmentswere men more numerous than women as customers. These two classes sold hardware andautomobiles.
The table shows the percentages of purchasesmade by men and by women in twelve classifications.
Type of store:
Percent of Purchases By Men
Percent of Purchases By Women
With buying the primary economic function ofthe modern woman, she ceases to be a domestic producer. The dominant type of womantoday is no longer a homemaker. Indeed there is no dominant type. The modern womanmay be a shopper, a job-holder, a careerist, or a homemaker. The difference betweenthese four readily distinguishable types of women in respect to economic functionis one only of degree. Not even the modern homemakers are consciously domestic producers.All types of women today are customers of the factory--even the homemakers who areslowly disappearing because the men who direct factories know what they want whilethe homemakers do not.
In industrialized America there are still considerablenumbers of homemakers--women to whom homemaking is still a career and motherhoodlife's great adventure. Mostly they are to be found on the farms of the country,although a dwindling but gallant minority of urban homes can still boast of them.
Because of the glamour of adventure which hasbeen thrown about, the woman who earns a living outside of the home, we tend to forgetthat the making of a home is not only a career but a creative career of the highestorder.
Homemaking is an art.
All art is self-expression. But art is also discipline.The artist expresses himself, but he expresses himself within the discipline whichthe art he practices imposes upon him. The painter has to master the technique ofplacing lines, shadows, and colors upon a plane surface before he can produce a reallybeautiful painting. The number of different elements with which he has to contendare actually few in number. Yet everybody recognizes that what he produces out ofthese elements is the product of his creative ability--ability which varies in differentpainters from zero to that of the highest genius.
In precisely the same way, the creative abilityof the homemaker can vary from zero to that of veritable genius. But the elementswith which the homemaker has to produce her work of art are far more numerous thanthose which the painter uses, and the technique she has to master far more difficult.She has to work with living beings: husband, children, friends, relatives, acquaintances.She has to work with inanimate materials which include nearly everything that mankindproduces: food, clothing, shelter, furnishings. Finally, she has to work with theintangibles of life which include practically all of mankind's cultural activities:society, religion, literature, music and art. Out of these diverse elements--humanbeings, inanimate materials, cultural interests--the homemaker creates a home astruly as an artist creates a painting. He works in a studio--in effect a laboratoryin which he evokes in a his painting. She works in a whole series of laboratoriesin a garden, in a kitchen, in a nursery, in a sewing room, in a dining room, in aliving room. And in these she creates what should be, as it is in some cases, themost beautiful thing which mankind has up to the present time created: a desirableenvironment in which to rear children, a comfortable place for herself and her mate,and a center of the good life for those who are within the social circle of whichher home is a center. The time may come when the difficulty of the task will be recognized,and when the highest degrees of the colleges of the world will be reserved for thewoman who has equipped herself for a career as homemaker.
Against the dwindling remnant of homemakersin America the factory is waging a relentless war of extermination. The factory extendsitself by taking over the homemakers' creative activities. One by one it has takenaway from them the household crafts and the household arts that furnished them themeans to creative selfexpression. The true crafts have all gone. Sewing is going;cookery is threatened; only furnishing the home may survive. The wonder is that thereare still so many aspiring homemakers left. The wonder is that all women have notyet turned away f rom the task of creating homes, and despairingly accepted conditionswhich they see no way to alter-conditions which force them to rent homes and to buyeverything to put in them; conditions which not only make them buy their family'sclothes, food, furnishings, but also to buy education, culture and entertainmentfor them.
Today, in our factory-dominated civilization,only the farming class can still boast of homemakers in large numbers. The greaterself-sufficiency of farm life explains their survival in rural America. But the automobile,and the good roads which the automobile has brought into existence, are fast thinningeven their ranks. Closer contact with the city and the prestige it accords to thefactory-made product, instead of stimulating farm housewives to a higher type ofhomemaking, is leading them to abandon many of the things they still do of a productiveand creative nature. Reading daily newspapers, seeing movies, hearing radio programs,shopping in stylish stores, make the farm family want to wear factory clothes, toeat factory foods, to use factory furniture. The time may come when the farm homemakersof the country will cease all individual home production and join the urban womenin their devotion to the factory product and their dependence upon factory production.
In urban America the homemakers are fast becomingextinct. Neither among the really rich, nor among the great masses of wage earnersand office and store workers are there any considerable number of women of the homemakingtype to be found. The instinct for homemaking does not seem able to survive the temptationsof hotel and resort life in one case, nor the pressure of flat and tenement lifein the other. The homes of the rich and of the poor tend to become dormitories: theplaces in which the members of the family sleep but not the places in which theylive.
As for Suburbia: it can boast of some homemakerswho use the land and the room available in the suburban home for a relatively productivedomestic life, but they are being daily reduced in number. Suburbia does not furnisha social life which encourages housewives to make homemaking a creative occupation.On the contrary, suburban women are expected to devote their time to "keepingup with the Joneses." They become increasingly women to whom a home in the fashionablesection of the town, membership in the fashionable church, and patronage of the town'sfashionable doctor are the great values in life.
Suburban housewives hide their economies andparade their extravagances. They patronize the fashionable tradesmen of their town,and shop in the most expensive city stores so that high class delivery wagons maystop at their door--because it is the thing to do. The battle for social prestigeis won by the amounts they dare to spend.
In Suburbia it is a social handicap to contributeto family welfare by creative and productive work in the home.
Within a very short time after the coming ofthe factory, careerist women appeared. Women of wealth; women of ability and personality;women of education and of intelligence were among the first to revolt at the desiccatedhomemaking into which church, state and factory were thrusting them. Yet they werethe very women who could least be spared from homemaking. They were the women whoshould have discovered that woman's real task was, as Ellen Key said, "to ennoblewoman's sphere, not necessarily to enlarge it."
While the factory was busily engaged in makingit unnecessary for these women to devote themselves to homemaking as a career, theythemselves were busily engaged in proving that they could do equally well everythingwhich had been formerly considered exclusively the work of men or believed exclusivelya masculine prerogative. They devoted themselves first to the winning of the variousequalities with men which go under the name of women's rights; the right to academiceducation; the right to engage in the same professions and occupations; the rightto vote; finally, the right to sexual freedom.
Perhaps no other single movement in all historywas fraught with so much in the way of good for the future of the race as was thisassertion of the rights of womankind. Many of the rights for which the women wholed the movement struggled have so far proved of trifling importance, but takingthem as a whole, they had a tendency to free woman for a voluntary contribution tothe life of mankind. They were a direct attack upon the involuntary contributionwhich the state, church and society had up to that time demanded of women. They hada tendency to make her entrance upon wifehood and motherhood voluntary and so tomake a mutual undertaking of the vital activities which have to be conducted by menand women in common. But the struggle had a most unfortunate effect upon the womenwho made the work of winning these rights the basis of their careers.
The ablest among them set themselves up in oppositionto everything that savored of compromise with men. Their rebellion against the age-oldconditions which the men had complacently accepted, made them react against any normalrelationships with the opposite sex at all. These spirited, independent women formedthe habit of looking upon homemaking and motherhood as a sort of treason to the causeto which they were devoted. Work outside of the home seemed a heaven-sent outletfor their energies. They devoted themselves to reform, to law, to medicine, to journalismand finally to business. By comparison with careers in these fields, partnershipwith men in the creation of homes and the continuance of the race seemed submissionto a lifetime of drudgery. Homemaking and motherhood seemed to offer them no scopefor the expression of ability, no opportunity for adventurous activity and no hopefor recognition and reward of genius.
Of the institutions which evolved out of thewoman's rights movement, the women's colleges probably contributed most to settingup an abnormal appreciation of careers and an equally abnormal depreciation of marriages.A dean of one woman's college once made the significant remark that three-quartersof the women who graduated from her college were failures. Asked what type of graduatesshe considered the failures she answered: "Why, those who wasted their educationsby marrying." Only of late is it beginning to dawn upon these teachers of womenthat partnership in the creation of a home and a family is woman's true career inlife, precisely and exactly as it is man's. The awakening has probably come too lateboth for the women and the men. The factory has in the meantime taken over so manyof the functions of the home that the graduates from the euthenics courses, now beingadded to the curriculum of these colleges, will probably find as little to do intheir homes as do the men.
In turning their backs on homemaking, the careeristswholeheartedly embrace the earn-and-buy theory of living. They are buyers of everythingthat they consume, and generally very poor buyers as well. Lacking all training andlacking all interest in the homely activities of life, they are almost certain tobe poor judges both of values and of merchandise. The more completely they devotethemselves to their careers, the more ignorant they are certain to be about the thingsthat they have to buy. But this is a burden of which they are generally unconscious.
Theirs is a life above mundane things. The careeristshave managed to evolve a folkway--a pattern of life--that shields them from thesegrosser aspects of life. Most of them live intensively in their work, associate onlywith their own kind, know nothing of the possibilities of life in partnership withthe complementary sex. Most of them live an abnormal sex-life--one ranging from completesex-starvation to the partial sex-life of unions without home or children. For fewof them marry, and fewer still have children. Thus they invite the life-long frustrationwhich nature inflicts upon all those who flout her mandate of fecundity.
The excessive specialization which careeristsimpose upon themselves, however excusable to great genius, is no more good for normalwomen than it is for normal men. If anything this specialization is more harmfulto women than it is to men, because the penalty exacted by nature from women whorefuse motherhood is greater than that exacted from men who refuse fatherhood. Forthe majority of women, even for the women who have the ability to attain a considerablemeasure of success in careers outside of the home, the chance for achieving happinessin marriage and partnership with the right man--even if it is necessary to try marriagea number of times in order to find the right one--is better than the chance of achievingit in even the most successful of specialized careers. Specialization is bad formen--it is worse for women. Women's careers, even more than men's, ought, therefore,to be complementary to homemaking.
Unfortunately the factory system interposes everykind of obstacle to the development of homes which can enlist the talents of ablewomen. It destroys the economic utility of women's work in the home. It cheats thewomen in the home of opportunity for self-expression in what they do. It deprivesthem of their husband's assistance in building real homes, because the men are forcedto be away most of their days. And at the same time that it thus lessens the significanceof all work in the home, it opens innumerable alternative careers for them. The careeristsare therefore going to increase in number. As they increase in numbers, they willincrease in prestige and inflict an ever more galling feeling of inferiority uponthose women who strive to make homemaking their careers. Women of spirit will shrinkmore and more from homemaking and motherhood, and leave both increasingly to theless desirable types of women.
The vast majority of women whom the factory hasdriven out of the home, however, are not careerists. They are mere jobholders. Itis necessity which has driven them out of the home to earn money. Ambition for acareer is a minor motive if it is present at all. Our factories and offices are fullof women jobholders--women who are there because they have to earn money, and whoseinterest is not in the work they do, but in the pay which they get for it.
According to Miss Mary Anderson, head of theWomen's Bureau of the United States Department of Labor, these women are in Americanindustry to stay.
They take employment young--when they leave school, and if they stop work to get married, it is only a short time before circumstances force them back to their tasks again. Failure of husbands to make adequate incomes is the cause.
Too many people, however, blame the married woman who goes out of the home in this fashion, failing to realize it is dire necessity that is making her do it. The women themselves suffer, as well as the families and society. A whole new set of social problems--not really new in age, but unique in this generation--is the result.
For some time to come fortunate job-holders maystill find in marriage and housekeeping a means of escape from their "jobs,"but as the nation becomes more and more urbanized, and the home of less and lesseconomic utility, this will become an escape more and more difficult to achieve.One quarter of all the women gainfully employed in the United States are alreadymarried women. Vast numbers of men find it impossible to support wives, much lessfamilies, on the money which they alone earn. When they marry their wives have tocontinue working outside the home, and have to postpone motherhood as long as possible.
The training for buying of these job-holderswho form the vast majority of the factory's customers is pitifully inadequate forthe task with which they are confronted. For buy they must when they marry, whetherthey retain their jobs or leave them to start a home. If they remain at work, thecooking, sewing and washing which they do at home must be done evenings after workor Saturday afternoons and Sundays. Naturally the amount of this work is reducedto a minimum. They cannot afford, as can their more able or more wealthy fellow-workers,the careerists, to go to restaurants very much, so they become what may be calledwithout exaggeration, tin-can cooks. It is quite surprising how complete a meal theycan prepare once they have learned to use a can opener with ease and precision, andit is quite amazing how elaborate some of these can openers have to be so as to reducethe dangers and the fatigue of this part of their housekeeping to a minimum.
They know little or nothing about the actualcontents of the cans and packages which they buy. The manufacturers' advertisinggives them a vague feeling that the advertised brands are the best, but they buyvery largely whatever the retail clerks, who know as little as the women themselves,hand out to them.
They know nothing about the textiles which theybuy. How should they? The different fibers are very largely just names to them. Theyknow nothing about the construction of the goods and of their relative utility ordurability. How can they? They have never seen the different fibers grown; neverseen them spun into yarn; probably do not know what a loom is at all.
Their ignorance about the nature and the valueof foods and textiles is duplicated in almost every class of product which they arecalled upon to buy. They probably abandon even the most elementary kinds of homesewing. They believe that the factories, in which they work or have worked and withwhich they are more or less familiar, make things so much more efficiently than theycan be made in a home, and at so much lower costs, that it is foolish to make anythingthemselves. It is astonishing how often even thoughtful people fail to distinguishbetween the low costs for which the factory can make things and the high price atwhich they have to be sold by the time all the costs of distribution are added tothe bare factory cost.
If these job-holding types of women devote alltheir time to their homes, it is usually because the coming of children forces themto do so. But even if they spend all of their time at home, there is no assurancethat, with so much more of their time free to shop, they will do their marketingmore intelligently than their nonhousekeeping sisters. They expend large drafts oftheir energy in haunting the stores advertising bargain sales, and in shopping fromstore to store so as to save small sums on individual items. They do not realizethat the amount of energy which they expend in order to save a cent or two per canon the soup they buy, would enable them to make a better soup at home, at practicallyno cost at all. They so proudly buy with the herd that it is pitiful to see how gloriouslythey save at the spigot and waste at the bunghole. They buy from hand to mouth partlybecause their earnings do not permit them to buy in economical quantities and partlybecause the small flats or houses in which they live give them little room in whichto accumulate any considerable quantity of supplies. This type of woman in ever increasingnumbers furnishes the mass of actual customers for factory products. To reduce allthe women of the country to the job-holders' complete dependence upon the factoryproduct, the vast majority of factories are bending all their energies.
Finally we come to the shoppers--a type of womenespecially important because they are free to devote themselves entirely to buyingthings: clothes for themselves, furnishings for their homes, and food for their table.The shoppers live in hotels, in apartment houses, in boarding houses and occasionallyin those suburban houses which demand the minimum of labor from the mistress of thehouse. After their husbands go off to work--the husbands of shoppers are generallysalesmen, minor executives, well-paid office workers of some kind, and not infrequentlysmall manufacturers or tradesmen--they have a little work in their houses, includingthe getting of the children, if any, off to school, the whole taking up not morethan two or three hours. They are then ready for an exhausting day of shopping.
Shoppers devote an extraordinary amount of thoughtto the matter of what they buy, where they buy it, and how much their friends willthink they have paid for it. The latest styles in clothing, the redecorating of theirrooms, the buying of refreshments for their bridge parties--these are the problemsupon which they concentrate their minds. If they have some spark of creative urgenot otherwise sublimated, it takes the form of learning the new "arts"--decoratinglamp shades, painting china, dyeing batiks, making hooked rugs--in which they aregiven the opportunity to dabble by department stores. These furnish new outlets forbuying: strange things to buy for which otherwise they would have no use.
Shoppers are great patrons of the cults: of whichthe beauty cult is the prime favorite. They buy all sorts of cosmetics and perfumes;patronize beauty parlors, and devote a very large part of their time to buying whateverthe advertisements tell them is helpful in warding off old age.
At a recent convention of large dry goods merchants,a woman speaker contrasted the shoppers of today with the shoppers of the nineties--acontrast covering a relatively short period of time, but still indicative of thechange in women because no further back than the eighteen-nineties women even amongthe well-to-do classes could be homemakers without loss of caste. The women of thenineties, the speaker said, went to the stores with lists of things which they needed,and they bought them as promptly as possible. Today, this speaker said, the shoppinglists are gone. Modern shoppers do not go out to buy what they need--they go outto "shop." The principal by-product of this aimless buying, as far as themodern store goes, is an alarming increase of what is called in the trade the "returngoods evil." Things are bought, delivered, and then returned. A large part ofthe merchandise which many American department stores sell has to be sold twice beforeit stays sold. Shoppers are thus enabled to make a triple inroad upon the leisurewhich the factory furnishes them: the first, the time devoted to the original buying;the second, the time devoted to returning what was first purchased; and the third,the time devoted to buying something which is actually kept. This is the ultimatein shopping. It furnishes the shoppers with a triple justification for their existence.
Unfortunate women, forever seeking to utilizea leisure for which they lack the necessary educational equipment, and preventedby their husband's prosperity from the job-holding to which necessity drives theirpoorer sisters! But veritably perfect consumers of the factory's products: consumerswho waste large portions of what they buy; who use what they buy so carelessly thatit depreciates, much more rapidly than is normal; who discard what is still serviceablebecause some newer thing has rendered it oldfashioned.
The solicitude of the factory for its woman customersis touching in the extreme.
Let me quote upon this point one of the country'sablest apologists for modern industrialism. Writing in "The Nation's Business,"for July 1928, a magazine read by nearly 300,000 business men and published as theofficial organ of the United States Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Roy S. Durstine, Secretary-Treasurerof the advertising agency of Barton, Durstine & Osborne, Inc., New York City,said:
Not so many years ago most American women were pretty busy doing the things that manufacturers are doing for them today. Women were old at forty and soon passed on, while their hardier husbands chose younger, stronger helpmates to take up the burden. "Why did you get married again so soon?" some one asked a middle-western farmer a month after his first wife died forty years ago. "Well," was the answer, "it was either that or get a hired girl."
No wonder women on farms and in small towns and in Louisville and Atlanta and Seattle said to American industry: "We are tired of growing everything we eat and making everything we wear and use. Why can't we go into the nearest store and buy what we need when we need it?
There are certain comments to be made upon this,most of them bearing upon the question of whether the facts presented are true andthe inference based upon them justified. Let us take the first part of the statement,which includes a gross libel upon the average farmer of forty years ago, that "notso many years ago women were old at forty and soon passed on because most Americanwomen were pretty busy doing things that manufacturers are doing for them today."Even the alleged fact in this statement can be accepted by us only provisionally,while the assumption about the relationship of manufacturing to longevity is basedupon one of those half-truths in which uncritical minds delight. Mr. Durstine breezilywaves aside all that modern medicine, hygiene, dietetics, obstetrics, have done toadd to the longevity of women and blandly gives the factory the whole credit.
It is true that years ago most women were oldat forty, but so were the men, as the statistics of the life insurance companiesshow. Both men and women do not grow old so quickly today. In the case of the women,he ignores the special burden which aged the women of the past much more quicklythan the women of today and from which the men of all times have been exempt. Thewomen of the past, thanks to the superstitions of the church, were condemned to alife of incubation. It was the annual procession of babies, accompanied by the burdenof carrying the pre-natal child, of blood-letting at parturition, of obstetricalignorance, of nursing at the breast, and the strain of the slaughter of innocentsin the first year of their life, that made the women of the past prematurely old.This was the burden, as if they did not have enough without it, which kept Americanwomen "pretty busy," and the carrying of this burden is not something whichmodern "manufacturers are doing for them." When American women began tocut down the birth rate; when the number of pregnancies per woman began to shrinkfrom the traditional four surviving births, four deaths in infancy, and four miscarriages,to a total of probably less than four, including abortions, (which are not so seriouswith modern methods of curettage), women ceased to grow old at forty. This reductionin the pregnancy rate is something for which even advertising men will hardly havethe hardihood to give the factories credit. Eliminate the burden which the annualprocession of pregnancies imposed upon women, and the other work of women forty yearsago aged them hardly much more than men's work at that time aged men.
Mr. Durstine's argument is no more reliable whenhe asserts, figuratively, that the women of the country became so tired of producingthings for themselves that they asked the factories to lift the burden off theirshoulders. Where is his evidence for such a statement? Go back as far as be will,even to the time of the building of the first factories, (which were built, accordingto Mr. Durstine, in order to lift the burden of spinning and weaving off the backsof laboring men and women), and what do we find? We find that far from having askedthe factories to undertake this work, both the men and women of that time showedgreat hostility to the factory system and great reluctance at being forced to giveup the "burden" of home spinning and craft weaving.
In the Middle Ages, women were identified withtheir spindles as men with their spears. While the spears did their own work, thespindles were busy, making the yarn for clothing, for curtains and tapestries, forsoft wrappings for wounds, for banners, and in the Orient, for the rugs which arethe envy and despair of modern manufacturers. Mr. Durstine may think that women arebetter off because the factories have deprived them of this labor, but the womenthemselves made no pleas to have this work taken from them and transferred to a casteof factory hands.
I can recall practically no instance in the earlyyears of the factory in which women took the initiative in welcoming the factory.Even today, there are practically no organizations of women formed for the purposeof encouraging the growth of factories, and I can recall no convention of women whichpassed resolutions requesting manufacturers to take over the spinning, weaving, sewing,knitting, bread making, preserving, sugar making, soap making, which at one timeoccupied them. The initiative in taking over these activities always came from thefactory--as advertising men like Mt. Durstine well know.
The reason that women generally showed such reluctanceto abandoning home-work was not because they were so stupid as to refuse "toraise living standards and to gain leisure for recreation." They did not seea higher standard of living in what the factory offered them until the factory dominatedthe world and evolved a folkway which made the women see it as higher. The factoryoffered them a different canon of values: the women refused to see and superiorityin it until advertising made them do so.
To the poorer classes of women the factory offeredrelease from home-work in return for factory and office work. In the beginning thesewomen saw no gain in exchanging long hours of work at home for equally long hoursin mills, sweat shops, and stores. At first job-holding was an unavoidable interludein a life that was ultimately to mean marriage and homemaking. Today, labor lawsprevent the old exploitation of working women. The factory and office day is muchshorter. Conditions f or women workers are much better. Job-holding still seems tomost women an undesirable alternative to homemaking, but many have now come to recognizeit as an unavoidable one. Slowly but surely the women are accepting the new folkway.And in the new folkway, job-holding by women is strictly in the nature of things.
As for the more prosperous classes of women,avid acceptance of the leisure the buying of factory products made possible becamegeneral only after the factory had come to dominate our civilization and after theinvention of such meretriciously attractive uses for the time no longer needed forhousework as bridge parties and daily movies. Then women began to transform themselvesfrom producers into purchasing agents. They proved intelligent purchasing agents,however, only as long as they retained the knowledge absorbed from the days of productivehomeworking. The second and third generation no longer have such knowledge to helpthem to buy intelligently. They have leisure to shop--they even have the leisurefor recreation of which Mr. Durstine speaks--but they have neither the knowledgenecessary for intelligent buying nor the cultural disciplines which enable them touse their leisure intelligently.
It is precisely with regard to this matter ofleisure that the factory has led women into a blind alley. It is the folkway todayto consider leisure, and of course leisure for recreation, a sort of good-in-itself.Whereas the goodness or badness of leisure is precisely and exactly the same as thegoodness or badness of labor. The virtue resides no more in the length of time devotedto leisure, than in the length of time devoted to labor. It is dependent wholly uponwhat is expressed and what is extracted from time.
As a matter of fact there can be no such thingas leisure, certainly physiologically, while human beings are alive. What protagonistsof the factory like Mr. Durstine call leisure is the cessation of directly remunerativeor actually productive activity. It is the substitution of one kind of activity foractivity of another kind. Among these women customers of the factory, most of whomlack not only training but often capacity for education, leisure means time devotedto play. And it means largely vicarious play. For most of modern play is purchased.These women buy their amusements just as they buy food, clothing and shelter. Theirleisure, therefore, is really time devoted to activities which involve the consumptionof what has been bought, as contrasted to the time devoted to earning money in orderto pay for what they want to consume.
The use of time for energetic consumption andfor passive spectatorship of play, scarcely represents an improvement over the usewhich women made of their time in the past. On the contrary, a long enough periodof devotion to this kind of leisure is certain to end by transforming women intoinappreciative barbarians.
Those who think that a mere release from usefulactivity of all kinds will produce comfort are mistaken.
The factory's customers are on the wrong road.
What is needed is not a reduction of the timedevoted to productive activities but the substitution of more intelligent activitiesfor less intelligent activities.
That the process of making factory customersout of the women who, Mr. Durstine says, are tired of growing everything they eatand of making everything they wear and use, constitutes such a substitution of moreintelligent for less intelligent activity, I utterly deny.
The road to comfort leads in an altogether differentdirection. It leads to more and more domestic production and less and less factoryproduction. It requires the integration of production and consumption, not theirdisintegration.
The factory has robbed men and women of theiroccupations as producers of the family's needs and desires and forced them into thefactory in order to procure the money to pay for them.
Before the coming of the factory, producer andconsumer were one. Before the coming of the great Chicago packing houses, nearlyevery American home used to raise at least one pig, and to supply itself with itsown fresh pork, smoked ham and bacon, sausage and lard. Today pigs are raised byhog farmers, often by factory methods; they are taken to market instead of beingslaughtered at home; a packing house slaughters them, cures them and converts theminto pork, ham, bacon and lard. The consumer has nothing to do but buy these products--andto work in factories in order to get the money with which to pay for them.
As factory products increase in number and variety,the warfare upon domestic production continues until no phase of homemaking can becarried on without the competition of factory products. With enormous accretionsof capital to be invested, factories are constantly expanded and new ones built.The capital which went into the erection of flour mills first deprived the homemakersof custom and home-milled flours. Then it went into the erection of bread bakeries,and began to make worthless the homemakers' opportunity to make bread at home. Stilllater, it went into biscuit bakeries, cake bakeries, and pastry bakeries, and nowthe homemakers have this competition to meet, handicapped by the fact that socialprestige is to be won, not by the skill which is put into home baking, but by theamount which the family can spend.
When the process reaches perfection, homemakerswill completely disappear, and with them will disappear not only the home as a fewstill know it, but the home as it might be if the thought and ingenuity of man werereally devoted to developing all its possible contributions to the mental and physicalhealth, happiness, and comfort of mankind. The process has, however, gone far enoughso that great numbers of women have already ceased to be homemakers. They have abandonedhomemaking as a career because the factory makes it so difficult for the modern hometo furnish them the opportunity to gratify and satisfy their intellectual, economic,and social aspirations. Most of the women have become mere buyers of what the factoriesproduce to satisfy their own and their family's necessities and desires, and if theydevote themselves to production at all, it is to producing that one thing which seemsto command all things and to open all doors today: money!
It is difficult to disentangle the influenceupon the family of the change from the home's preoccupation with productive activitiesto its present preoccupation with consumptive activities, from all the other influenceswhich have come with the factory. The influence of more democratic forms of government;the influence of speedy and cheap forms of transportation and communication; theinfluence of periodical literature and more general literacy--all these act and reactupon the family at the same time that the factory profoundly alters the home's contributionto the economic life of the individual and to society. As a result of all these influencesthe family is smaller; it lacks continuity throughout the generations; it is notoriouslyunstable, as the rising tide of divorce and newer forms of marriage clearly indicate.Of one thing there is little doubt: the destruction of the creative and productivehome has destroyed an almost essential element in the cement which used to bold thefamily together.
At one time practically every economic activityof the home involved family activity: father, mother, grandparents and children alldid their several parts in contributing to family production. In the production oftextiles, for instance, the father grew the flax or cared for and sheared the sheep;the very young and the very old members of the family spun the yarn and reeled it;the fathers and mothers wove it into cloth. Today the only economic function in whichthe various members of the average family participate as a unit is that of sharinga common lodging. Not every family even eats together; fewer still cook together.
Now the family, we are told, is for the firsttime dependent wholly upon mutual affection for its cementing medium--presurnablya great advance over the old compulsions of religion, of law, of custom. But it iseasy to overlook the fact that lasting affections do not survive in a vacuum. Affectionis most often produced as a result of experiences shared in common. Men who haveendured perils together are often made fast friends by their experiences. In fact,any kind of activity together tends to set up an emotional tie. The greater the volumeof common activities, the stouter the emotional tie. The homemaking family of thepast, in spite of the compulsions which handicapped it, probably produced just asmany happy lives as does the modern family.
It is not so difficult to determine the effectof the divorce between consumption and production on the masses of consumers. Thefactory has made the individual, as producer, shift his interest from making to earning;from craftsmanship to the wages paid for his time. It has made the individual, asconsumer, dependent upon his skill and his ability in buying, rather than upon hisability to make things for himself. It has transformed him from a self-helpful individualinto a self-helpless individual.
To a constantly increasing extent, men and womenhave become dependent for their shelter, their food, their clothing, their entertainment,upon what they can buy with money. Neither the necessities nor the luxuries whichthey desire are today gratified by their own craft and their own artistry. They aregratified to the extent to which they can procure money with which to buy things.They consume what others have produced, and are dependent for existence and happinessupon things about the making of which they know nothing.
Myriads of human beings in our cities are consumingcanned peas without ever having in their life had the opportunity to discover whetherpeas grow on trees, on bushes, or in the ground. The factory's customers are spectatorsof economic life, not actual participators in it. Not even in the work in their ownfactories are they full participators. Division and subdivision. of labor deprivesthem generally of any sight of the ends of their labor and confines them to the narrowfield of the particular operations which they repeat endlessly throughout their productivedays.
To cap the climax, the very system of productionwhich has brought about the present superabundance of material well-being is responsiblefor destroying the factory customer's sense of values.
Perhaps the most appaling account of what thishas led to is that devastating analysis of the merits of industrialized America'sfactory-made products by Stuart Chase and F. J. Schlink in "Your Money's Worth."No one can read their arraignment without being impressed with the ingenuity withwhich the factory fools its customers, and with the ignorance of the factory's customerswhich makes this fooling possible.
The factory, in the beginning, was able to proveto the buying public conclusively that it was furnishing similar products at a muchlower price than craft production could furnish them. Now, having deprived consumersof the old basis for comparison, it leaves them helpless to insure full receipt ofthe savings which mass production theoretically produces. The things they buy allcome to them from stores. They can only compare one factory's products with anotherfactory's. And when they do so, they are handicapped by their ignorance about thematerials out of which they are made, and the processes involved in fabricating them.When in the store, they are confronted with factory-made products the qualities ofwhich are influenced by their needs and desires only in the most indirect fashion.A bewildering variety of products and brands and prices are submitted to them. Thevery abundance which the factory makes possible confuses them, disarms them, andleaves them almost entirely at the mercy of the manufacturer's propaganda. Naturallycredulous, ignorance makes them gullible to an unbelievable extent. They are influencedby advertisement and sales arguments pitched in a key to appeal to intelligenceswhose average is that of twelve to fourteen-year old children. They judge the thingsthey buy by the amount of prestige the products have acquired and in the last analysismainly by the price asked for them. What is highest in price is presumably best.In their ignorance, they put a premium upon features of the product which frequentlyadd to cost without really adding to utility or beauty. They know so little aboutthe intrinsic merits of the products themselves that they are without a particleof judgment upon the question of whether the higher priced products represent commensurateincreases in value.
As the head of one of New York's largest departmentstores put the matter, echoing Oscar Wilde: "Nowadays, people know the priceof everything and the value of nothing."
GO TO CHAPTER VIII