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Signs of Change by William Morris

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Yet a few words may be necessary concerning the birth of our present
epoch and the hopes it gave rise to, and what has become of them:
that will not take us very far back in history; as to my mind our
modern civilization begins with the stirring period about the time of
the Reformation in England, the time which in the then more important
countries of the Continent is known as the period of the Renaissance,
the so-called new-birth of art and learning.

And first remember that this period includes the death-throes of
feudalism, with all the good and evil which that system bore with it.
For centuries past its end was getting ready by the gradual weakening
of the bonds of the great hierarchy which held men together: the
characteristics of those bonds were, theoretically at least, personal
rights and personal duties between superior and inferior all down the
scale; each man was born, so to say, subject to these conditions, and
the mere accidents of his life could not free him from them:
commerce, in our sense of the word, there was none; capitalistic
manufacture, capitalistic exchange was unknown: to buy goods cheap
that you might sell them dear was a legal offence (forestalling): to
buy goods in the market in the morning and to sell them in the
afternoon in the same place was not thought a useful occupation and
was forbidden under the name of regrating; usury, instead of leading
as now directly to the highest offices of the State, was thought
wrong, and the profit of it mostly fell to the chosen people of God:
the robbery of the workers, thought necessary then as now to the very
existence of the State, was carried out quite crudely without any
concealment or excuse by arbitrary taxation or open violence: on the
other hand, life was easy, and common necessaries plenteous; the
holidays of the Church were holidays in the modern sense of the word,
downright play-days, and there were ninety-six obligatory ones: nor
were the people tame and sheep-like, but as rough-handed and bold a
set of good fellows as ever rubbed through life under the sun.

I remember three passages, from contemporary history or gossip, about
the life of those times which luck has left us, and which illustrate
curiously the change that has taken place in the habits of
Englishmen. A lady writing from Norfolk 400 years ago to her husband
in London, amidst various commissions for tapestries, groceries, and
gowns, bids him also not to forget to bring back with him a good
supply of cross-bows and bolts, since the windows of their hall were
too low to be handy for long-bow shooting. A German traveller,
writing quite at the end of the mediaeval period, speaks of the
English as the laziest and proudest people and the best cooks in
Europe. A Spanish ambassador about the same period says, "These
English live in houses built of sticks and mud, {5} but therein they
fare as plenteously as lords."

Indeed, I confess that it is with a strange emotion that I recall
these times and try to realize the life of our forefathers, men who
were named like ourselves, spoke nearly the same tongue, lived on the
same spots of earth, and therewithal were as different from us in
manners, habits, ways of life and thought, as though they lived in
another planet. The very face of the country has changed; not merely
I mean in London and the great manufacturing centres, but through the
country generally; there is no piece of English ground, except such
places as Salisbury Plain, but bears witness to the amazing change
which 400 years has brought upon us.

Not seldom I please myself with trying to realize the face of
mediaeval England; the many chases and great woods, the stretches of
common tillage and common pasture quite unenclosed; the rough
husbandry of the tilled parts, the unimproved breeds of cattle,
sheep, and swine; especially the latter, so lank and long and lathy,
looking so strange to us; the strings of packhorses along the bridle-
roads, the scantiness of the wheel-roads, scarce any except those
left by the Romans, and those made from monastery to monastery: the
scarcity of bridges, and people using ferries instead, or fords where
they could; the little towns, well bechurched, often walled; the
villages just where they are now (except for those that have nothing
but the church left to tell of them), but better and more populous;
their churches, some big and handsome, some small and curious, but
all crowded with altars and furniture, and gay with pictures and
ornament; the many religious houses, with their glorious
architecture; the beautiful manor-houses, some of them castles once,
and survivals from an earlier period; some new and elegant; some out
of all proportion small for the importance of their lords. How
strange it would be to us if we could be landed in fourteenth century
England; unless we saw the crest of some familiar hill, like that
which yet bears upon it a symbol of an English tribe, and from which,
looking down on the plain where Alfred was born, I once had many such
ponderings, we should not know into what country of the world we were
come: the name is left, scarce a thing else.

And when I think of this it quickens my hope of what may be: even so
it will be with us in time to come; all will have changed, and
another people will be dwelling here in England, who, although they
may be of our blood and bear our name, will wonder how we lived in
the nineteenth century.

Well, under all that rigidly ordered caste society of the fourteenth
century, with its rough plenty, its sauntering life, its cool
acceptance of rudeness and violence, there was going on a keen
struggle of classes which carried with it the hope of progress of
those days: the serfs gradually getting freed, and becoming some of
them the town population, the first journeymen, or "free-labourers,"
so called, some of them the copyholders of agricultural land: the
corporations of the towns gathered power, the craft-gilds grew into
perfection and corruption, the power of the Crown increased, attended
with nascent bureaucracy; in short, the middle class was forming
underneath the outward show of feudalism still intact: and all was
getting ready for the beginning of the great commercial epoch in
whose LATTER days I would fain hope we are living. That epoch began
with the portentous change of agriculture which meant cultivating for
profit instead of for livelihood, and which carried with it the
expropriation of the PEOPLE from the land, the extinction of the
yeoman, and the rise of the capitalist farmer; and the growth of the
town population, which, swelled by the drift of the landless
vagabonds and masterless men, grew into a definite proletariat or
class of free-workmen; and their existence made that of the embryo
capitalist-manufacturer also possible; and the reign of commercial
contract and cash payment began to take the place of the old feudal
hierarchy, with its many-linked chain of personal responsibilities.
The latter half of the seventeenth century, the reign of Charles II.,
saw the last blow struck at this feudal system, when the landowners'
military service was abolished, and they became simple owners of
property that had no duties attached to it save the payment of a

The hopes of the early part of the commercial period may be read in
almost every book of the time, expressed in various degrees of dull
or amusing pedantry, and show a naif arrogance and contempt of the
times just past through which nothing but the utmost simplicity of
ignorance could have attained to. But the times were stirring, and
gave birth to the most powerful individualities in many branches of
literature, and More and Campanella, at least from the midst of the
exuberant triumph of young commercialism, gave to the world prophetic
hopes of times yet to come when that commercialism itself should have
given place to the society which we hope will be the next transform
of civilization into something else; into a new social life.

This period of early and exuberant hopes passed into the next stage
of sober realization of many of them, for commerce grew and grew, and
moulded all society to its needs: the workman of the sixteenth
century worked still as an individual with little co-operation, and
scarce any division of labour: by the end of the seventeenth he had
become only a part of a group which by that time was in the
handicrafts the real unit of production; division of labour even at
that period had quite destroyed his individuality, and the worker was
but part of a machine: all through the eighteenth century this
system went on progressing towards perfection, till to most men of
that period, to most of those who were in any way capable of
expressing their thoughts, civilization had already reached a high
stage of perfection, and was certain to go on from better to better.

These hopes were not on the surface of a very revolutionary kind, but
nevertheless the class struggle still went on, and quite openly too;
for the remains of feudality, aided by the mere mask and grimace of
the religion, which was once a real part of the feudal system,
hampered the progress of commerce sorely, and seemed a thousandfold
more powerful than it really was; because in spite of the class
struggle there was really a covert alliance between the powerful
middle classes who were the children of commerce and their old
masters the aristocracy; an unconscious understanding between them
rather, in the midst of their contest, that certain matters were to
be respected even by the advanced party: the contest and civil war
between the king and the commons in England in the seventeenth
century illustrates this well: the caution with which privilege was
attacked in the beginning of the struggle, the unwillingness of all
the leaders save a few enthusiasts to carry matters to their logical
consequences, even when the march of events had developed the
antagonism between aristocratic privilege and middle-class freedom of
contract (so called); finally, the crystallization of the new order
conquered by the sword of Naseby into a mongrel condition of things
between privilege and bourgeois freedom, the defeat and grief of the
purist Republicans, and the horror at and swift extinction of the
Levellers, the pioneers of Socialism in that day, all point to the
fact that the "party of progress," as we should call it now, was
determined after all that privilege should not be abolished further
than its own standpoint.

The seventeenth century ended in the great Whig revolution in
England, and, as I said, commerce throve and grew enormously, and the
power of the middle classes increased proportionately and all things
seemed going smoothly with them, till at last in France the
culminating corruption of a society, still nominally existing for the
benefit of the privileged aristocracy, forced their hand: the old
order of things, backed as it was by the power of the executive, by
that semblance of overwhelming physical force which is the real and
only cement of a society founded on the slavery of the many--the
aristocratic power, seemed strong and almost inexpugnable: and since
any stick will do to beat a dog with, the middle classes in France
were forced to take up the first stick that lay ready to hand if they
were not to give way to the aristocrats, which indeed the whole
evolution of history forbade them to do. Therefore, as in England in
the seventeenth century, the middle classes allied themselves to
religious and republican, and even communistic enthusiasts, with the
intention, firm though unexpressed, to keep them down when they had
mounted to power by their means, so in France they had to ally
themselves with the proletariat; which, shamefully oppressed and
degraded as it had been, now for the first time in history began to
feel its power, the power of numbers: by means of this help they
triumphed over aristocratic privilege, but, on the other hand,
although the proletariat was speedily reduced again to a position not
much better than that it had held before the revolution, the part it
played therein gave a new and terrible character to that revolution,
and from that time forward the class struggle entered on to a new
phase; the middle classes had gained a complete victory, which in
France carried with it all the outward signs of victory, though in
England they chose to consider a certain part of themselves an
aristocracy, who had indeed little signs of aristocracy about them
either for good or for evil, being in very few cases of long descent,
and being in their manners and ideas unmistakably bourgeois.

So was accomplished the second act of the great class struggle with
whose first act began the age of commerce; as to the hopes of this
period of the revolution we all know how extravagant they were; what
a complete regeneration of the world was expected to result from the
abolition of the grossest form of privilege; and I must say that,
before we mock at the extravagance of those hopes, we should try to
put ourselves in the place of those that held them, and try to
conceive how the privilege of the old noblesse must have galled the
respectable well-to-do people of that time. Well, the reasonable
part of those hopes were realized by the revolution; in other words,
it accomplished what it really aimed at, the freeing of commerce from
the fetters of sham feudality; or, in other words, the destruction of
aristocratic privilege. The more extravagant part of the hopes
expressed by the eighteenth century revolution were vague enough, and
tended in the direction of supposing that the working classes would
be benefited by what was to the interest of the middle class in some
way quite unexplained--by a kind of magic, one may say--which welfare
of the workers, as it was never directly aimed at, but only hoped for
by the way, so also did not come about by any such magical means, and
the triumphant middle classes began gradually to find themselves
looked upon no longer as rebellious servants, but as oppressive

The middle class had freed commerce from her fetters of privilege,
and had freed thought from her fetters of theology, at least
partially; but it had not freed, nor attempted to free, labour from
its fetters. The leaders of the French Revolution, even amidst the
fears, suspicions and slaughter of the Terror, upheld the rights of
"property" so called, though a new pioneer or prophet appeared in
France, analogous in some respects to the Levellers of Cromwell's
time, but, as might be expected, far more advanced and reasonable
than they were. Gracchus Babeuf and his fellows were treated as
criminals, and died or suffered the torture of prison for attempting
to put into practice those words which the Republic still carried on
its banners, and Liberty, Fraternity, and Equality were interpreted
in a middle-class, or if you please a Jesuitical, sense, as the
rewards of success for those who could struggle into an exclusive
class; and at last property had to be defended by a military
adventurer, and the Revolution seemed to have ended with Napoleonism.

Nevertheless, the Revolution was not dead, nor was it possible to say
thus far and no further to the rising tide. Commerce, which had
created the propertyless proletariat throughout civilization had
still another part to play, which is not yet played out; she had and
has to teach the workers to know what they are; to educate them, to
consolidate them, and not only to give them aspirations for their
advancement as a class, but to make means for them to realize those
aspirations. All this she did, nor loitered in her work either; from
the beginning of the nineteenth century the history of civilization
is really the history of the last of the class-struggles which was
inaugurated by the French Revolution; and England, who all through
the times of the Revolution and the Caesarism which followed it
appeared to be the steady foe of Revolution, was really as steadily
furthering it; her natural conditions, her store of coal and
minerals, her temperate climate, extensive sea-board and many
harbours, and lastly her position as the outpost of Europe looking
into America across the ocean, doomed her to be for a time at least
the mistress of the commerce of the civilized world, and its agent
with barbarous and semi-barbarous countries. The necessities of this
destiny drove her into the implacable war with France, a war which,
nominally waged on behalf of monarchical principles, was really,
though doubtless unconsciously, carried on for the possession of the
foreign and colonial markets. She came out victorious from that war,
and fully prepared to take advantage of the industrial revolution
which had been going on the while, and which I now ask you to note.

I have said that the eighteenth century perfected the system of
labour which took the place of the mediaeval system, under which a
workman individually carried his piece of work all through its
various stages from the first to the last.

This new system, the first change in industrial production since the
Middle Ages, is known as the system of division of labour, wherein,
as I said, the unit of labour is a group, not a man; the individual
workman in this system is kept life-long at the performance of some
task quite petty in itself, and which he soon masters, and having
mastered it has nothing more to do but to go on increasing his speed
of hand under the spur of competition with his fellows, until he has
become the perfect machine which it is his ultimate duty to become,
since without attaining to that end he must die or become a pauper.
You can well imagine how this glorious invention of division of
labour, this complete destruction of individuality in the workman,
and his apparent hopeless enslavement to his profit-grinding master,
stimulated the hopes of civilization; probably more hymns have been
sung in praise of division of labour, more sermons preached about it,
than have done homage to the precept, "do unto others as ye would
they should do unto you."

To drop all irony, surely this was one of those stages of
civilization at which one might well say that, if it was to stop
there, it was a pity that it had ever got so far. I have had to
study books and methods of work of the eighteenth century a good
deal, French chiefly; and I must say that the impression made on me
by that study is that the eighteenth century artisan must have been a
terrible product of civilization, and quite in a condition to give
rise to HOPES--of the torch, the pike, and the guillotine.

However, civilization was not going to stop there; having turned the
man into a machine, the next stage for commerce to aim at was to
contrive machines which would widely dispense with human labour; nor
was this aim altogether disappointed.

Now, at first sight it would seem that having got the workman into
such a plight as he was, as the slave of division of labour, this new
invention of machines which should free him from a part of his labour
at least, could be nothing to him but an unmixed blessing. Doubtless
it will prove to have been so in the end, when certain institutions
have been swept away which most people now look on as eternal; but a
longish time has passed during which the workman's hopes of
civilization have been disappointed, for those who invented the
machines, or rather who profited by their invention, did not aim at
the saving of labour in the sense of reducing the labour which each
man had to do, but, first taking it for granted that every workman
would have to work as long as he could stand up to it, aimed, under
those conditions of labour, at producing the utmost possible amount
of goods which they could sell at a profit.

Need I dwell on the fact that, under these circumstances, the
invention of the machines has benefited the workman but little even
to this day?

Nay, at first they made his position worse than it had been: for,
being thrust on the world very suddenly, they distinctly brought
about an industrial revolution, changing everything suddenly and
completely; industrial productiveness was increased prodigiously, but
so far from the workers reaping the benefit of this, they were thrown
out of work in enormous numbers, while those who were still employed
were reduced from the position of skilled artisans to that of
unskilled labourers: the aims of their masters being, as I said, to
make a profit, they did not trouble themselves about this as a class,
but took it for granted that it was something that couldn't be helped
and didn't hurt THEM; nor did they think of offering to the workers
that compensation for harassed interests which they have since made a
point of claiming so loudly for themselves.

This was the state of things which followed on the conclusion of
European peace, and even that peace itself rather made matters worse
than better, by the sudden cessation of all war industries, and the
throwing on to the market many thousands of soldiers and sailors: in
short, at no period of English history was the condition of the
workers worse than in the early years of the nineteenth century.

There seem during this period to have been two currents of hope that
had reference to the working classes: the first affected the
masters, the second the men.

In England, and, in what I am saying of this period, I am chiefly
thinking of England, the hopes of the richer classes ran high; and no
wonder; for England had by this time become the mistress of the
markets of the world, and also, as the people of that period were
never weary of boasting, the workshop of the world: the increase in
the riches of the country was enormous, even at the early period I am
thinking of now--prior to '48, I mean--though it increased much more
speedily in times that we have all seen: but part of the jubilant
hopes of this newly rich man concerned his servants, the instruments
of his fortune: it was hoped that the population in general would
grow wiser, better educated, thriftier, more industrious, more
comfortable; for which hope there was surely some foundation, since
man's mastery over the forces of Nature was growing yearly towards
completion; but you see these benevolent gentlemen supposed that
these hopes would be realized perhaps by some unexplained magic as
aforesaid, or perhaps by the working-classes, AT THEIR OWN EXPENSE,
by the exercise of virtues supposed to be specially suited to their
condition, and called, by their masters, "thrift" and "industry."
For this latter supposition there was no foundation: indeed, the
poor wretches who were thrown out of work by the triumphant march of
commerce had perforce worn thrift threadbare, and could hardly better
their exploits in THAT direction; while as to those who worked in the
factories, or who formed the fringe of labour elsewhere, industry was
no new gospel to them, since they already worked as long as they
could work without dying at the loom, the spindle, or the stithy.
They for their part had their hopes, vague enough as to their
ultimate aim, but expressed in the passing day by a very obvious
tendency to revolt: this tendency took various forms, which I cannot
dwell on here, but settled down at last into Chartism: about which I
must speak a few words: but first I must mention, I can scarce do
more, the honoured name of Robert Owen, as representative of the
nobler hopes of his day, just as More was of his, and the lifter of
the torch of Socialism amidst the dark days of the confusion
consequent on the reckless greed of the early period of the great
factory industries.

That the conditions under which man lived could affect his life and
his deeds infinitely, that not selfish greed and ceaseless
contention, but brotherhood and co-operation were the bases of true
society, was the gospel which he preached and also practised with a
single-heartedness, devotion, and fervour of hope which have never
been surpassed: he was the embodied hope of the days when the
advance of knowledge and the sufferings of the people thrust
revolutionary hope upon those thinkers who were not in some form or
other in the pay of the sordid masters of society.

As to the Chartist agitation, there is this to be said of it, that it
was thoroughly a working-class movement, and it was caused by the
simplest and most powerful of all causes--hunger. It is noteworthy
that it was strongest, especially in its earlier days, in the
Northern and Midland manufacturing districts--that is, in the places
which felt the distress caused by the industrial revolution most
sorely and directly; it sprang up with particular vigour in the years
immediately following the great Reform Bill; and it has been remarked
that disappointment of the hopes which that measure had cherished had
something to do with its bitterness. As it went on, obvious causes
for failure were developed in it; self-seeking leadership; futile
discussion of the means of making the change, before organization of
the party was perfected; blind fear of ultimate consequences on the
part of some, blind disregard to immediate consequences on the part
of others; these were the surface reasons for its failure: but it
would have triumphed over all these and accomplished revolution in
England, if it had not been for causes deeper and more vital than
these. Chartism differed from mere Radicalism in being a class
movement; but its aim was after all political rather than social.
The Socialism of Robert Owen fell short of its object because it did
not understand that, as long as there is a privileged class in
possession of the executive power, they will take good care that
their economical position, which enables them to live on the unpaid
labour of the people, is not tampered with: the hopes of the
Chartists were disappointed because they did not understand that true
political freedom is impossible to people who are economically
enslaved: there is no first and second in these matters, the two
must go hand in hand together: we cannot live as we will, and as we
should, as long as we allow people to GOVERN us whose interest it is
that we should live as THEY will, and by no means as we should;
neither is it any use claiming the right to manage our own business
unless we are prepared to have some business of our own: these two
aims united mean the furthering of the class struggle till all
classes are abolished--the divorce of one from the other is fatal to
any hope of social advancement.

Chartism therefore, though a genuine popular movement, was incomplete
in its aims and knowledge; the time was not yet come and it could not
triumph openly; but it would be a mistake to say that it failed
utterly: at least it kept alive the holy flame of discontent; it
made it possible for us to attain to the political goal of democracy,
and thereby to advance the cause of the people by the gain of a stage
from whence could be seen the fresh gain to be aimed at.

I have said that the time for revolution had not then come: the
great wave of commercial success went on swelling, and though the
capitalists would if they had dared have engrossed the whole of the
advantages thereby gained at the expense of their wage slaves, the
Chartist revolt warned them that it was not safe to attempt it. They
were FORCED to try to allay discontent by palliative measures. They
had to allow Factory Acts to be passed regulating the hours and
conditions of labour of women and children, and consequently of men
also in some of the more important and consolidated industries; they
were FORCED to repeal the ferocious laws against combination among
the workmen; so that the Trades Unions won for themselves a legal
position and became a power in the labour question, and were able by
means of strikes and threats of strikes to regulate the wages granted
to the workers, and to raise the standard of livelihood for a certain
part of the skilled workmen and the labourers associated with them:
though the main part of the unskilled, including the agricultural
workmen, were no better off than before.

Thus was damped down the flame of a discontent vague in its aims, and
passionately crying out for what, if granted, it could not have used:
twenty years ago any one hinting at the possibility of serious class
discontent in this country would have been looked upon as a madman;
in fact, the well-to-do and cultivated were quite unconscious (as
many still are) that there was any class distinction in this country
other than what was made by the rags and cast clothes of feudalism,
which in a perfunctory manner they still attacked.

There was no sign of revolutionary feeling in England twenty years
ago: the middle class were so rich that they had no need to hope for
anything--but a heaven which they did not believe in: the well-to-do
working men did not hope, since they were not pinched and had no
means of learning their degraded position: and lastly, the drudges
of the proletariat had such hope as charity, the hospital, the
workhouse, and kind death at last could offer them.

In this stock-jobbers' heaven let us leave our dear countrymen for a
little, while I say a few words about the affairs of the people on
the continent of Europe. Things were not quite so smooth for the
fleecer there: Socialist thinkers and writers had arisen about the
same time as Robert Owen; St. Simon, Proudhon, Fourier and his
followers kept up the traditions of hope in the midst of a bourgeois
world. Amongst these Fourier is the one that calls for most
attention: since his doctrine of the necessity and possibility of
making labour attractive is one which Socialism can by no means do
without. France also kept up the revolutionary and insurrectionary
tradition, the result of something like hope still fermenting amongst
the proletariat: she fell at last into the clutches of a second
Caesarism developed by the basest set of sharpers, swindlers, and
harlots that ever insulted a country, and of whom our own happy
bourgeois at home made heroes and heroines: the hideous open
corruption of Parisian society, to which, I repeat, our respectable
classes accorded heartfelt sympathy, was finally swept away by the
horrors of a race war: the defeats and disgraces of this war
developed, on the one hand, an increase in the wooden implacability
and baseness of the French bourgeois, but on the other made way for
revolutionary hope to spring again, from which resulted the attempt
to establish society on the basis of the freedom of labour, which we
call the Commune of Paris of 1871. Whatever mistakes or imprudences
were made in this attempt, and all wars blossom thick with such
mistakes, I will leave the reactionary enemies of the people's cause
to put forward: the immediate and obvious result was the slaughter
of thousands of brave and honest revolutionists at the hands of the
respectable classes, the loss in fact of an army for the popular
cause: but we may be sure that the results of the Commune will not
stop there: to all Socialists that heroic attempt will give hope and
ardour in the cause as long as it is to be won; we feel as though the
Paris workman had striven to bring the day-dawn for us, and had
lifted us the sun's rim over the horizon, never to set in utter
darkness again: of such attempts one must say, that though those who
perished in them might have been put in a better place in the battle,
yet after all brave men never die for nothing, when they die for

Let us shift from France to Germany before we get back to England
again, and conclude with a few words about our hopes at the present
day. To Germany we owe the school of economists, at whose head
stands the name of Karl Marx, who have made modern Socialism what it
is: the earlier Socialist writers and preachers based their hopes on
man being taught to see the desirableness of co-operation taking the
place of competition, and adopting the change voluntarily and
consciously, and they trusted to schemes more or less artificial
being tried and accepted, although such schemes were necessarily
constructed out of the materials which capitalistic society offered:
but the new school, starting with an historical view of what had
been, and seeing that a law of evolution swayed all events in it, was
able to point out to us that the evolution was still going on, and
that, whether Socialism be desirable or not, it is at least
inevitable. Here then was at last a hope of a different kind to any
that had gone before it; and the German and Austrian workmen were not
slow to learn the lesson founded on this theory; from being one of
the most backward countries in Europe in the movement, before
Lassalle started his German workman's party in 1863, Germany soon
became the leader in it: Bismarck's repressive law has only acted on
opinion there, as the roller does to the growing grass--made it
firmer and stronger; and whatever vicissitudes may be the fate of the
party as a party, there can be no doubt that Socialistic opinion is
firmly established there, and that when the time is ripe for it that
opinion will express itself in action.

Now, in all I have been saying, I have been wanting you to trace the
fact that, ever since the establishment of commercialism on the ruins
of feudality, there has been growing a steady feeling on the part of
the workers that they are a class dealt with as a class, and in like
manner to deal with others; and that as this class feeling has grown,
so also has grown with it a consciousness of the antagonism between
their class and the class which employs it, as the phrase goes; that
is to say, which lives by means of its labour.

Now it is just this growing consciousness of the fact that as long as
there exists in society a propertied class living on the labour of a
propertyless one, there MUST be a struggle always going on between
those two classes--it is just the dawning knowledge of this fact
which should show us what civilization can hope for--namely,
transformation into true society, in which there will no longer be
classes with their necessary struggle for existence and superiority:
for the antagonism of classes which began in all simplicity between
the master and the chattel slave of ancient society, and was
continued between the feudal lord and the serf of mediaeval society,
has gradually become the contention between the capitalist developed
from the workman of the last-named period, and the wage-earner: in
the former struggle the rise of the artisan and villenage tenant
created a new class, the middle class, while the place of the old
serf was filled by the propertyless labourer, with whom the middle
class, which has absorbed the aristocracy, is now face to face: the
struggle between the classes therefore is once again a simple one, as
in the days of the classical peoples; but since there is no longer
any strong race left out of civilization, as in the time of the
disruption of Rome, the whole struggle in all its simplicity between
those who have and those who lack is WITHIN civilization.

Moreover, the capitalist or modern slave-owner has been forced by his
very success, as we have seen, to organize his slaves, the wage-
earners, into a co-operation for production so well arranged that it
requires little but his own elimination to make it a foundation for
communal life: in the teeth also of the experience of past ages, he
has been compelled to allow a modicum of education to the
propertyless, and has not even been able to deprive them wholly of
political rights; his own advance in wealth and power has bred for
him the very enemy who is doomed to make an end of him.

But will there be any new class to take the place of the present
proletariat when that has triumphed, as it must do, over the present
privileged class? We cannot foresee the future, but we may fairly
hope not: at least we cannot see any signs of such a new class
forming. It is impossible to see how destruction of privilege can
stop short of absolute equality of condition; pure Communism is the
logical deduction from the imperfect form of the new society, which
is generally differentiated from it as Socialism.

Meantime, it is this simplicity and directness of the growing contest
which above all things presents itself as a terror to the
conservative instinct of the present day. Many among the middle
class who are sincerely grieved and shocked at the condition of the
proletariat which civilization has created, and even alarmed by the
frightful inequalities which it fosters, do nevertheless shudder back
from the idea of the class struggle, and strive to shut their eyes to
the fact that it is going on. They try to think that peace is not
only possible, but natural, between the two classes, the very essence
of whose existence is that each can only thrive by what it manages to
force the other to yield to it. They propose to themselves the
impossible problem of raising the inferior or exploited classes into
a position in which they will cease to struggle against the superior
classes, while the latter will not cease to exploit them. This
absurd position drives them into the concoction of schemes for
bettering the condition of the working classes at their own expense,
some of them futile, some merely fantastic; or they may be divided
again into those which point out the advantages and pleasures of
involuntary asceticism, and reactionary plans for importing the
conditions of the production and life of the Middle Ages (wholly
misunderstood by them, by the way) into the present system of the
capitalist farmer, the great industries, and the universal world-
market. Some see a solution of the social problem in sham co-
operation, which is merely an improved form of joint-stockery:
others preach thrift to (precarious) incomes of eighteen shillings a
week, and industry to men killing themselves by inches in working
overtime, or to men whom the labour-market has rejected as not
wanted: others beg the proletarians not to breed so fast; an
injunction the compliance with which might be at first of advantage
to the proletarians themselves in their present condition, but would
certainly undo the capitalists, if it were carried to any lengths,
and would lead through ruin and misery to the violent outbreak of the
very revolution which these timid people are so anxious to forego.

Then there are others who, looking back on the past, and perceiving
that the workmen of the Middle Ages lived in more comfort and self-
respect than ours do, even though they were subjected to the class
rule of men who were looked on as another order of beings than they,
think that if those conditions of life could be reproduced under our
better political conditions the question would be solved for a time
at least. Their schemes may be summed up in attempts, more or less
preposterously futile, to graft a class of independent peasants on
our system of wages and capital. They do not understand that this
system of independent workmen, producing almost entirely for the
consumption of themselves and their neighbours, and exploited by the
upper classes by obvious taxes on their labour, which was not
otherwise organized or interfered with by the exploiters, was what in
past times took the place of our system, in which the workers sell
their labour in the competitive market to masters who have in their
hands the whole organization of the markets, and that these two
systems are mutually destructive.

Others again believe in the possibility of starting from our present
workhouse system, for the raising of the lowest part of the working
population into a better condition, but do not trouble themselves as
to the position of the workers who are fairly above the condition of
pauperism, or consider what part they will play in the contest for a
better livelihood. And, lastly, quite a large number of well-
intentioned persons belonging to the richer classes believe, that in
a society that compels competition for livelihood, and holds out to
the workers as a stimulus to exertion the hope of their rising into a
monopolist class of non-producers, it is yet possible to "moralize"
capital (to use a slang phrase of the Positivists): that is to say,
that a sentiment imported from a religion which looks upon another
world as the true sphere of action for mankind, will override the
necessities of our daily life in this world. This curious hope is
founded on the feeling that a sentiment antagonistic to the full
development of commercialism exists and is gaining ground, and that
this sentiment is an independent growth of the ethics of the present
epoch. As a matter of fact, admitting its existence, as I think we
must do, it is the birth of the sense of insecurity which is the
shadow cast before by the approaching dissolution of modern society
founded on wage-slavery.

The greater part of these schemes aim, though seldom with the
consciousness of their promoters, at the creation of a new middle-
class out of the wage-earning class, and at their expense, just as
the present middle-class was developed out of the serf-population of
the early Middle Ages. It may be possible that such a FURTHER
development of the middle-class lies before us, but it will not be
brought about by any such artificial means as the abovementioned
schemes. If it comes at all, it must be produced by events, which at
present we cannot foresee, acting on our commercial system, and
revivifying for a little time, maybe, that Capitalist Society which
now seems sickening towards its end.

For what is visible before us in these days is the competitive
commercial system killing itself by its own force: profits
lessening, businesses growing bigger and bigger, the small employer
of labour thrust out of his function, and the aggregation of capital
increasing the numbers of the lower middle-class from above rather
than from below, by driving the smaller manufacturer into the
position of a mere servant to the bigger. The productivity of labour
also increasing out of all proportion to the capacity of the
capitalists to manage the market or deal with the labour supply:
lack of employment therefore becoming chronic, and discontent

All this on the one hand. On the other, the workmen claiming
everywhere political equality, which cannot long be denied; and
education spreading, so that what between the improvement in the
education of the working-class and the continued amazing fatuity of
that of the upper classes, there is a distinct tendency to
equalization here; and, as I have hinted above, all history shows us
what a danger to society may be a class at once educated and socially
degraded: though, indeed, no history has yet shown us--what is
swiftly advancing upon us--a class which, though it shall have
attained knowledge, shall lack utterly the refinement and self-
respect which come from the union of knowledge with leisure and ease
of life. The growth of such a class may well make the "cultured"
people of to-day tremble.

Whatever, therefore, of unforeseen and unconceived-of may lie in the
womb of the future, there is nothing visible before us but a decaying
system, with no outlook but ever-increasing entanglement and
blindness, and a new system, Socialism, the hope of which is ever
growing clearer in men's minds--a system which not only sees how
labour can be freed from its present fetters, and organized
unwastefully, so as to produce the greatest possible amount of wealth
for the community and for every member of it, but which bears with it
its own ethics and religion and aesthetics: that is the hope and
promise of a new and higher life in all ways. So that even if those
unforeseen economical events above spoken of were to happen, and put
off for a while the end of our Capitalist system, the latter would
drag itself along as an anomaly cursed by all, a mere clog on the
aspirations of humanity.

It is not likely that it will come to that: in all probability the
logical outcome of the latter days of Capitalism will go step by step
with its actual history: while all men, even its declared enemies,
will be working to bring Socialism about, the aims of those who have
learned to believe in the certainty and beneficence of its advent
will become clearer, their methods for realizing it clearer also, and
at last ready to hand. Then will come that open acknowledgment for
the necessity of the change (an acknowledgment coming from the
intelligence of civilization) which is commonly called Revolution.
It is no use prophesying as to the events which will accompany that
revolution, but to a reasonable man it seems unlikely to the last
degree, or we will say impossible, that a moral sentiment will induce
the proprietary classes--those who live by OWNING the means of
production which the unprivileged classes must needs USE--to yield up
this privilege uncompelled; all one can hope is that they will see
the implicit threat of compulsion in the events of the day, and so
yield with a good grace to the terrible necessity of forming part of
a world in which all, including themselves, will work honestly and
live easily.


In considering the Aims of Art, that is, why men toilsomely cherish
and practise Art, I find myself compelled to generalize from the only
specimen of humanity of which I know anything; to wit, myself. Now,
when I think of what it is that I desire, I find that I can give it
no other name than happiness. I want to be happy while I live; for
as for death, I find that, never having experienced it, I have no
conception of what it means, and so cannot even bring my mind to bear
upon it. I know what it is to live; I cannot even guess what it is
to be dead. Well, then, I want to be happy, and even sometimes, say
generally, to be merry; and I find it difficult to believe that that
is not the universal desire: so that, whatever tends towards that
end I cherish with all my best endeavour. Now, when I consider my
life further, I find out, or seem to, that it is under the influence
of two dominating moods, which for lack of better words I must call
the mood of energy and the mood of idleness: these two moods are now
one, now the other, always crying out in me to be satisfied. When
the mood of energy is upon me, I must be doing something, or I become
mopish and unhappy; when the mood of idleness is on me, I find it
hard indeed if I cannot rest and let my mind wander over the various
pictures, pleasant or terrible, which my own experience or my
communing with the thoughts of other men, dead or alive, have
fashioned in it; and if circumstances will not allow me to cultivate
this mood of idleness, I find I must at the best pass through a
period of pain till I can manage to stimulate my mood of energy to
take its place and make me happy again. And if I have no means
wherewith to rouse up that mood of energy to do its duty in making me
happy, and I have to toil while the idle mood is upon me, then am I
unhappy indeed, and almost wish myself dead, though I do not know
what that means.

Furthermore, I find that while in the mood of idleness memory amuses
me, in the mood of energy hope cheers me; which hope is sometimes big
and serious, and sometimes trivial, but that without it there is no
happy energy. Again, I find that while I can sometimes satisfy this
mood by merely exercising it in work that has no result beyond the
passing hour--in play, in short--yet that it presently wearies of
that and gets languid, the hope therein being too trivial, and
sometimes even scarcely real; and that on the whole, to satisfy my
master the mood, I must either be making something or making believe
to make it.

Well, I believe that all men's lives are compounded of these two
moods in various proportions, and that this explains why they have
always, with more or less of toil, cherished and practised art.

Why should they have touched it else, and so added to the labour
which they could not choose but do in order to live? It must have
been done for their pleasure, since it has only been in very
elaborate civilizations that a man could get other men to keep him
alive merely to produce works of art, whereas all men that have left
any signs of their existence behind them have practised art.

I suppose, indeed, that nobody will be inclined to deny that the end
proposed by a work of art is always to please the person whose senses
are to be made conscious of it. It was done FOR some one who was to
be made happier by it; his idle or restful mood was to be amused by
it, so that the vacancy which is the besetting evil of that mood
might give place to pleased contemplation, dreaming, or what you
will; and by this means he would not so soon be driven into his
workful or energetic mood: he would have more enjoyment, and better.

The restraining of restlessness, therefore, is clearly one of the
essential aims of art, and few things could add to the pleasure of
life more than this. There are, to my knowledge, gifted people now
alive who have no other vice than this of restlessness, and seemingly
no other curse in their lives to make them unhappy: but that is
enough; it is "the little rift within the lute." Restlessness makes
them hapless men and bad citizens.

But granting, as I suppose you all will do, that this is a most
important function for art to fulfil, the question next comes, at
what price do we obtain it? I have admitted that the practice of art
has added to the labour of mankind, though I believe in the long run
it will not do so; but in adding to the labour of man has it added,
so far, to his pain? There always have been people who would at once
say yes to that question; so that there have been and are two sets of
people who dislike and contemn art as an embarrassing folly. Besides
the pious ascetics, who look upon it as a worldly entanglement which
prevents men from keeping their minds fixed on the chances of their
individual happiness or misery in the next world; who, in short, hate
art, because they think that it adds to man's earthly happiness--
besides these, there are also people who, looking on the struggle of
life from the most reasonable point that they know of, contemn the
arts because they think that they add to man's slavery by increasing
the sum of his painful labour: if this were the case, it would
still, to my mind, be a question whether it might not be worth the
while to endure the extra pain of labour for the sake of the extra
pleasure added to rest; assuming, for the present, equality of
condition among men. But it seems to me that it is not the case that
the practice of art adds to painful labour; nay more, I believe that,
if it did, art would never have arisen at all, would certainly not be
discernible, as it is, among peoples in whom only the germs of
civilization exist. In other words, I believe that art cannot be the
result of external compulsion; the labour which goes to produce it is
voluntary, and partly undertaken for the sake of the labour itself,
partly for the sake of the hope of producing something which, when
done, shall give pleasure to the user of it. Or, again, this extra
labour, when it is extra, is undertaken with the aim of satisfying
that mood of energy by employing it to produce something worth doing,
and which, therefore, will keep before the worker a lively hope while
he is working; and also by giving it work to do in which there is
absolute immediate pleasure. Perhaps it is difficult to explain to
the non-artistic capacity that this definite sensuous pleasure is
always present in the handiwork of the deft workman when he is
working successfully, and that it increases in proportion to the
freedom and individuality of the work. Also you must understand that
this production of art, and consequent pleasure in work, is not
confined to the production of matters which are works of art only,
like pictures, statues, and so forth, but has been and should be a
part of all labour in some form or other: so only will the claims of
the mood of energy be satisfied.

Therefore the Aim of Art is to increase the happiness of men, by
giving them beauty and interest of incident to amuse their leisure,
and prevent them wearying even of rest, and by giving them hope and
bodily pleasure in their work; or, shortly, to make man's work happy
and his rest fruitful. Consequently, genuine art is an unmixed
blessing to the race of man.

But as the word "genuine" is a large qualification, I must ask leave
to attempt to draw some practical conclusions from this assertion of
the Aims of Art, which will, I suppose, or indeed hope, lead us into
some controversy on the subject; because it is futile indeed to
expect any one to speak about art, except in the most superficial
way, without encountering those social problems which all serious men
are thinking of; since art is and must be, either in its abundance or
its barrenness, in its sincerity or its hollowness, the expression of
the society amongst which it exists.

First, then, it is clear to me that, at the present time, those who
look widest at things and deepest into them are quite dissatisfied
with the present state of the arts, as they are also with the present
condition of society. This I say in the teeth of the supposed
revivification of art which has taken place of late years: in fact,
that very excitement about the arts amongst a part of the cultivated
people of to-day does but show on how firm a basis the
dissatisfaction above mentioned rests. Forty years ago there was
much less talk about art, much less practice of it, than there is
now; and that is specially true of the architectural arts, which I
shall mostly have to speak about now. People have consciously
striven to raise the dead in art since that time, and with some
superficial success. Nevertheless, in spite of this conscious
effort, I must tell you that England, to a person who can feel and
understand beauty, was a less grievous place to live in then than it
is now; and we who feel what art means know well, though we do not
often dare to say so, that forty years hence it will be a more
grievous place to us than it is now if we still follow up the road we
are on. Less than forty years ago--about thirty--I first saw the
city of Rouen, then still in its outward aspect a piece of the Middle
Ages: no words can tell you how its mingled beauty, history, and
romance took hold on me; I can only say that, looking back on my past
life, I find it was the greatest pleasure I have ever had: and now
it is a pleasure which no one can ever have again: it is lost to the
world for ever. At that time I was an undergraduate of Oxford.
Though not so astounding, so romantic, or at first sight so mediaeval
as the Norman city, Oxford in those days still kept a great deal of
its earlier loveliness: and the memory of its grey streets as they
then were has been an abiding influence and pleasure in my life, and
would be greater still if I could only forget what they are now--a
matter of far more importance than the so-called learning of the
place could have been to me in any case, but which, as it was, no one
tried to teach me, and I did not try to learn. Since then the
guardians of this beauty and romance so fertile of education, though
professedly engaged in "the higher education" (as the futile system
of compromises which they follow is nick-named), have ignored it
utterly, have made its preservation give way to the pressure of
commercial exigencies, and are determined apparently to destroy it
altogether. There is another pleasure for the world gone down the
wind; here, again, the beauty and romance have been uselessly,
causelessly, most foolishly thrown away.

These two cases are given simply because they have been fixed in my
mind; they are but types of what is going on everywhere throughout
civilization: the world is everywhere growing uglier and more
commonplace, in spite of the conscious and very strenuous efforts of
a small group of people towards the revival of art, which are so
obviously out of joint with the tendency of the age that, while the
uncultivated have not even heard of them, the mass of the cultivated
look upon them as a joke, and even that they are now beginning to get
tired of.

Now, if it be true, as I have asserted, that genuine art is an
unmixed blessing to the world, this is a serious matter; for at first
sight it seems to show that there will soon be no art at all in the
world, which will thus lose an unmixed blessing; it can ill afford to
do that, I think.

For art, if it has to die, has worn itself out, and its aim will be a
thing forgotten; and its aim was to make work happy and rest
fruitful. Is all work to be unhappy, all rest unfruitful, then?
Indeed, if art is to perish, that will be the case, unless something
is to take its place--something at present unnamed, undreamed of.

I do not think that anything will take the place of art; not that I
doubt the ingenuity of man, which seems to be boundless in the
direction of making himself unhappy, but because I believe the
springs of art in the human mind to be deathless, and also because it
seems to me easy to see the causes of the present obliteration of the

For we civilized people have not given them up consciously, or of our
free will; we have been FORCED to give them up. Perhaps I can
illustrate that by the detail of the application of machinery to the
production of things in which artistic form of some sort is possible.
Why does a reasonable man use a machine? Surely to save his labour.
There are some things which a machine can do as well as a man's hand,
PLUS a tool, can do them. He need not, for instance, grind his corn
in a hand-quern; a little trickle of water, a wheel, and a few simple
contrivances will do it all perfectly well, and leave him free to
smoke his pipe and think, or to carve the handle of his knife. That,
so far, is unmixed gain in the use of a machine--always, mind you,
supposing equality of condition among men; no art is lost, leisure or
time for more pleasurable work is gained. Perhaps a perfectly
reasonable and free man would stop there in his dealings with
machinery; but such reason and freedom are too much to expect, so let
us follow our machine-inventor a step farther. He has to weave plain
cloth, and finds doing so dullish on the one hand, and on the other
that a power-loom will weave the cloth nearly as well as a hand-loom:
so, in order to gain more leisure or time for more pleasurable work,
he uses a power-loom, and foregoes the small advantage of the little
extra art in the cloth. But so doing, as far as the art is
concerned, he has not got a pure gain; he has made a bargain between
art and labour, and got a makeshift as a consequence. I do not say
that he may not be right in so doing, but that he has lost as well as
gained. Now, this is as far as a man who values art and is
reasonable would go in the matter of machinery AS LONG AS HE WAS
FREE--that is, was not FORCED to work for another man's profit; so
long as he was living in a society THAT HAD ACCEPTED EQUALITY OF
CONDITION. Carry the machine used for art a step farther, and he
becomes an unreasonable man, if he values art and is free. To avoid
misunderstanding, I must say that I am thinking of the modern
machine, which is as it were alive, and to which the man is
auxiliary, and not of the old machine, the improved tool, which is
auxiliary to the man, and only works as long as his hand is thinking;
though I will remark, that even this elementary form of machine has
to be dropped when we come to the higher and more intricate forms of
art. Well, as to the machine proper used for art, when it gets to
the stage above dealing with a necessary production that has
accidentally some beauty about it, a reasonable man with a feeling
for art will only use it when he is forced to. If he thinks he would
like ornament, for instance, and knows that the machine cannot do it
properly, and does not care to spend the time to do it properly, why
should he do it at all? He will not diminish his leisure for the
sake of making something he does not want unless some man or band of
men force him to it; so he will either go without the ornament, or
sacrifice some of his leisure to have it genuine. That will be a
sign that he wants it very much, and that it will be worth his
trouble: in which case, again, his labour on it will not be mere
trouble, but will interest and please him by satisfying the needs of
his mood of energy.

This, I say, is how a reasonable man would act if he were free from
man's compulsion; not being free, he acts very differently. He has
long passed the stage at which machines are only used for doing work
repulsive to an average man, or for doing what could be as well done
by a machine as a man, and he instinctively expects a machine to be
invented whenever any product of industry becomes sought after. He
is the slave to machinery; the new machine MUST be invented, and when
invented he MUST--I will not say use it, but be used by it, whether
he likes it or not.

But why is he the slave to machinery? Because he is the slave to the
system for whose existence the invention of machinery was necessary.

And now I must drop, or rather have dropped, the assumption of the
equality of condition, and remind you that, though in a sense we are
all the slaves of machinery, yet that some men are so directly
without any metaphor at all, and that these are just those on whom
the great body of the arts depends--the workmen. It is necessary for
the system which keeps them in their position as an inferior class
that they should either be themselves machines or be the servants to
machines, in no case having any interest in the work which they turn
out. To their employers they are, so far as they are workmen, a part
of the machinery of the workshop or the factory; to themselves they
are proletarians, human beings working to live that they may live to
work: their part of craftsmen, of makers of things by their own free
will, is played out.

At the risk of being accused of sentimentality, I will say that since
this is so, since the work which produces the things that should be
matters of art is but a burden and a slavery, I exult in this at
least, that it cannot produce art; that all it can do lies between
stark utilitarianism and idiotic sham.

Or indeed is that merely sentimental? Rather, I think, we who have
learned to see the connection between industrial slavery and the
degradation of the arts have learned also to hope for a future for
those arts; since the day will certainly come when men will shake off
the yoke, and refuse to accept the mere artificial compulsion of the
gambling market to waste their lives in ceaseless and hopeless toil;
and when it does come, their instincts for beauty and imagination set
free along with them, will produce such art as they need; and who can
say that it will not as far surpass the art of past ages as that does
the poor relics of it left us by the age of commerce?

A word or two on an objection which has often been made to me when I
have been talking on this subject. It may be said, and is often, You
regret the art of the Middle Ages (as indeed I do), but those who
produced it were not free; they were serfs, or gild-craftsmen
surrounded by brazen walls of trade restrictions; they had no
political rights, and were exploited by their masters, the noble
caste, most grievously. Well, I quite admit that the oppression and
violence of the Middle Ages had its effect on the art of those days,
its shortcomings are traceable to them; they repressed art in certain
directions, I do not doubt that; and for that reason I say, that when
we shake off the present oppression as we shook off the old, we may
expect the art of the days of real freedom to rise above that of
those old violent days. But I do say that it was possible then to
have social, organic, hopeful progressive art; whereas now such poor
scraps of it as are left are the result of individual and wasteful
struggle, are retrospective and pessimistic. And this hopeful art
was possible amidst all the oppression of those days, because the
instruments of that oppression were grossly obvious, and were
external to the work of the craftsman. They were laws and customs
obviously intended to rob him, and open violence of the highway-
robbery kind. In short, industrial production was not the instrument
used for robbing the "lower classes;" it is now the main instrument
used in that honourable profession. The mediaeval craftsman was free
in his work, therefore he made it as amusing to himself as he could;
and it was his pleasure and not his pain that made all things
beautiful that were made, and lavished treasures of human hope and
thought on everything that man made, from a cathedral to a porridge-
pot. Come, let us put it in the way least respectful to the
mediaeval craftsman, most polite to the modern "hand:" the poor devil
of the fourteenth century, his work was of so little value that he
was allowed to waste it by the hour in pleasing himself--and others;
but our highly-strung mechanic, his minutes are too rich with the
burden of perpetual profit for him to be allowed to waste one of them
on art; the present system will not allow him--cannot allow him--to
produce works of art.

So that there has arisen this strange phenomenon, that there is now a
class of ladies and gentlemen, very refined indeed, though not
perhaps as well informed as is generally supposed, and of this
refined class there are many who do really love beauty and incident--
i.e., art, and would make sacrifices to get it; and these are led by
artists of great manual skill and high intellect, forming altogether
a large body of demand for the article. And yet the supply does not
come. Yes, and moreover, this great body of enthusiastic demanders
are no mere poor and helpless people, ignorant fisher-peasants, half-
mad monks, scatter-brained sansculottes--none of those, in short, the
expression of whose needs has shaken the world so often before, and
will do yet again. No, they are of the ruling classes, the masters
of men, who can live without labour, and have abundant leisure to
scheme out the fulfilment of their desires; and yet I say they cannot
have the art which they so much long for, though they hunt it about
the world so hard, sentimentalizing the sordid lives of the miserable
peasants of Italy and the starving proletarians of her towns, now
that all the picturesqueness has departed from the poor devils of our
own country-side, and of our own slums. Indeed, there is little of
reality left them anywhere, and that little is fast fading away
before the needs of the manufacturer and his ragged regiment of
workers, and before the enthusiasm of the archaeological restorer of
the dead past. Soon there will be nothing left except the lying
dreams of history, the miserable wreckage of our museums and picture-
galleries, and the carefully guarded interiors of our aesthetic
drawing-rooms, unreal and foolish, fitting witnesses of the life of
corruption that goes on there, so pinched and meagre and cowardly,
with its concealment and ignoring, rather than restraint of, natural
longings; which does not forbid the greedy indulgence in them if it
can but be decently hidden.

The art then is gone, and can no more be "restored" on its old lines
than a mediaeval building can be. The rich and refined cannot have
it though they would, and though we will believe many of them would.
And why? Because those who could give it to the rich are not allowed
by the rich to do so. In one word, slavery lies between us and art.

I have said as much as that the aim of art was to destroy the curse
of labour by making work the pleasurable satisfaction of our impulse
towards energy, and giving to that energy hope of producing something
worth its exercise.

Now, therefore, I say, that since we cannot have art by striving
after its mere superficial manifestation, since we can have nothing
but its sham by so doing, there yet remains for us to see how it
would be if we let the shadow take care of itself and try, if we can,
to lay hold of the substance. For my part I believe, that if we try
to realize the aims of art without much troubling ourselves what the
aspect of the art itself shall be, we shall find we shall have what
we want at last: whether it is to be called art or not, it will at
least be LIFE; and, after all, that is what we want. It may lead us
into new splendours and beauties of visible art; to architecture with
manifolded magnificence free from the curious incompleteness and
failings of that which the older times have produced--to painting,
uniting to the beauty which mediaeval art attained the realism which
modern art aims at; to sculpture, uniting the beauty of the Greek and
the expression of the Renaissance with some third quality yet
undiscovered, so as to give us the images of men and women splendidly
alive, yet not disqualified from making, as all true sculpture
should, architectural ornament. All this it may do; or, on the other
hand, it may lead us into the desert, and art may seem to be dead
amidst us; or feebly and uncertainly to be struggling in a world
which has utterly forgotten its old glories.

For my part, with art as it now is, I cannot bring myself to think
that it much matters which of these dooms awaits it, so long as each
bears with it some hope of what is to come; since here, as in other
matters, there is no hope save in Revolution. The old art is no
longer fertile, no longer yields us anything save elegantly poetical
regrets; being barren, it has but to die, and the matter of moment
now is, as to how it shall die, whether WITH hope or WITHOUT it.

What is it, for instance, that has destroyed the Rouen, the Oxford of
MY elegant poetic regret? Has it perished for the benefit of the
people, either slowly yielding to the growth of intelligent change
and new happiness? or has it been, as it were, thunderstricken by the
tragedy which mostly accompanies some great new birth? Not so.
Neither phalangstere nor dynamite has swept its beauty away, its
destroyers have not been either the philanthropist or the Socialist,
the co-operator or the anarchist. It has been sold, and at a cheap
price indeed: muddled away by the greed and incompetence of fools
who do not know what life and pleasure mean, who will neither take
them themselves nor let others have them. That is why the death of
that beauty wounds us so: no man of sense or feeling would dare to
regret such losses if they had been paid for by new life and
happiness for the people. But there is the people still as it was
before, still facing for its part the monster who destroyed all that
beauty, and whose name is Commercial Profit.

I repeat, that every scrap of genuine art will fall by the same hands
if the matter only goes on long enough, although a sham art may be
left in its place, which may very well be carried on by dilettanti
fine gentlemen and ladies without any help from below; and, to speak
plainly, I fear that this gibbering ghost of the real thing would
satisfy a great many of those who now think themselves lovers of art;
though it is not difficult to see a long vista of its degradation
till it shall become at last a mere laughing-stock; that is to say,
if the thing were to go on: I mean, if art were to be for ever the
amusement of those whom we now call ladies and gentlemen.

But for my part I do not think it will go on long enough to reach
such depths as that; and yet I should be hypocritical if I were to
say that I thought that the change in the basis of society, which
would enfranchise labour and make men practically equal in condition,
would lead us by a short road to the splendid new birth of art which
I have mentioned, though I feel quite certain that it would not leave
what we now call art untouched, since the aims of that revolution do
include the aims of art--viz., abolishing the curse of labour.

I suppose that this is what is likely to happen; that machinery will
go on developing, with the purpose of saving men labour, till the
mass of the people attain real leisure enough to be able to
appreciate the pleasure of life; till, in fact, they have attained
such mastery over Nature that they no longer fear starvation as a
penalty for not working more than enough. When they get to that
point they will doubtless turn themselves and begin to find out what
it is that they really want to do. They would soon find out that the
less work they did (the less work unaccompanied by art, I mean), the
more desirable a dwelling-place the earth would be; they would
accordingly do less and less work, till the mood of energy, of which
I began by speaking, urged them on afresh: but by that time Nature,
relieved by the relaxation of man's work, would be recovering her
ancient beauty, and be teaching men the old story of art. And as the
Artificial Famine, caused by men working for the profit of a master,
and which we now look upon as a matter of course, would have long
disappeared, they would be free to do as they chose, and they would
set aside their machines in all cases where the work seemed pleasant
or desirable for handiwork; till in all crafts where production of
beauty was required, the most direct communication between a man's
hand and his brain would be sought for. And there would be many
occupations also, as the processes of agriculture, in which the
voluntary exercise of energy would be thought so delightful, that
people would not dream of handing over its pleasure to the jaws of a

In short, men will find out that the men of our days were wrong in
first multiplying their needs, and then trying, each man of them, to
evade all participation in the means and processes whereby those
needs are satisfied; that this kind of division of labour is really
only a new and wilful form of arrogant and slothful ignorance, far
more injurious to the happiness and contentment of life than the
ignorance of the processes of Nature, of what we sometimes call
SCIENCE, which men of the earlier days unwittingly lived in.

They will discover, or rediscover rather, that the true secret of
happiness lies in the taking a genuine interest in all the details of
daily life, in elevating them by art instead of handing the
performance of them over to unregarded drudges, and ignoring them;
and that in cases where it was impossible either so to elevate them
and make them interesting, or to lighten them by the use of
machinery, so as to make the labour of them trifling, that should be
taken as a token that the supposed advantages gained by them were not
worth the trouble and had better be given up. All this to my mind
would be the outcome of men throwing off the burden of Artificial
Famine, supposing, as I cannot help supposing, that the impulses
which have from the first glimmerings of history urged men on to the
practice of Art were still at work in them.

Thus and thus only CAN come about the new birth of Art, and I think
it WILL come about thus. You may say it is a long process, and so it
is; but I can conceive of a longer. I have given you the Socialist
or Optimist view of the matter. Now for the Pessimist view.

I can conceive that the revolt against Artificial Famine or
Capitalism, which is now on foot, may be vanquished. The result will
be that the working class--the slaves of society--will become more
and more degraded; that they will not strive against overwhelming
force, but, stimulated by that love of life which Nature, always
anxious about the perpetuation of the race, has implanted in us, will
learn to bear everything--starvation, overwork, dirt, ignorance,
brutality. All these things they will bear, as, alas! they bear them
too well even now; all this rather than risk sweet life and bitter
livelihood, and all sparks of hope and manliness will die out of

Nor will their masters be much better off: the earth's surface will
be hideous everywhere, save in the uninhabitable desert; Art will
utterly perish, as in the manual arts so in literature, which will
become, as it is indeed speedily becoming, a mere string of orderly
and calculated ineptitudes and passionless ingenuities; Science will
grow more and more one-sided, more incomplete, more wordy and
useless, till at last she will pile herself up into such a mass of
superstition, that beside it the theologies of old time will seem
mere reason and enlightenment. All will get lower and lower, till
the heroic struggles of the past to realize hope from year to year,
from century to century, will be utterly forgotten, and man will be
an indescribable being--hopeless, desireless, lifeless.

And will there be deliverance from this even? Maybe: man may, after
some terrible cataclysm, learn to strive towards a healthy animalism,
may grow from a tolerable animal into a savage, from a savage into a
barbarian, and so on; and some thousands of years hence he may be
beginning once more those arts which we have now lost, and be carving
interlacements like the New Zealanders, or scratching forms of
animals on their cleaned blade-bones, like the pre-historic men of
the drift.

But in any case, according to the pessimist view, which looks upon
revolt against Artificial Famine as impossible to succeed, we shall
wearily trudge the circle again, until some accident, some unforeseen
consequence of arrangement, makes an end of us altogether.

That pessimism I do not believe in, nor, on the other hand, do I
suppose that it is altogether a matter of our wills as to whether we
shall further human progress or human degradation; yet, since there
are those who are impelled towards the Socialist or Optimistic side
of things, I must conclude that there is some hope of its prevailing,
that the strenuous efforts of many individuals imply a force which is
thrusting them on. So that I believe that the "Aims of Art" will be
realized, though I know that they cannot be, so long as we groan
under the tyranny of Artificial Famine. Once again I warn you
against supposing, you who may specially love art, that you will do
any good by attempting to revivify art by dealing with its dead
exterior. I say it is the AIMS OF ART that you must seek rather than
the ART ITSELF; and in that search we may find ourselves in a world
blank and bare, as the result of our caring at least this much for
art, that we will not endure the shams of it.

Anyhow, I ask you to think with me that the worst which can happen to
us is to endure tamely the evils that we see; that no trouble or
turmoil is so bad as that; that the necessary destruction which
reconstruction bears with it must be taken calmly; that everywhere--
in State, in Church, in the household--we must be resolute to endure
no tyranny, accept no lie, quail before no fear, although they may
come before us disguised as piety, duty, or affection, as useful
opportunity and good-nature, as prudence or kindness. The world's
roughness, falseness, and injustice will bring about their natural
consequences, and we and our lives are part of those consequences;
but since we inherit also the consequences of old resistance to those
curses, let us each look to it to have our fair share of that
inheritance also, which, if nothing else come of it, will at least
bring to us courage and hope; that is, eager life while we live,
which is above all things the Aim of Art.


The above title may strike some of my readers as strange. It is
assumed by most people nowadays that all work is useful, and by most
well-to-to people that all work is desirable. Most people, well-to-
do or not, believe that, even when a man is doing work which appears
to be useless, he is earning his livelihood by it--he is "employed,"
as the phrase goes; and most of those who are well-to-do cheer on the
happy worker with congratulations and praises, if he is only
"industrious" enough and deprives himself of all pleasure and
holidays in the sacred cause of labour. In short, it has become an
article of the creed of modern morality that all labour is good in
itself--a convenient belief to those who live on the labour of
others. But as to those on whom they live, I recommend them not to
take it on trust, but to look into the matter a little deeper.

Let us grant, first, that the race of man must either labour or
perish. Nature does not give us our livelihood gratis; we must win
it by toil of some sort or degree. Let us see, then, if she does not
give us some compensation for this compulsion to labour, since
certainly in other matters she takes care to make the acts necessary
to the continuance of life in the individual and the race not only
endurable, but even pleasurable.

You may be sure that she does so, that it is of the nature of man,
when he is not diseased, to take pleasure in his work under certain
conditions. And, yet, we must say in the teeth of the hypocritical
praise of all labour, whatsoever it may be, of which I have made
mention, that there is some labour which is so far from being a
blessing that it is a curse; that it would be better for the
community and for the worker if the latter were to fold his hands and
refuse to work, and either die or let us pack him off to the
workhouse or prison--which you will.

Here, you see, are two kinds of work--one good, the other bad; one
not far removed from a blessing, a lightening of life; the other a
mere curse, a burden to life.

What is the difference between them, then? This: one has hope in
it, the other has not. It is manly to do the one kind of work, and
manly also to refuse to do the other.

What is the nature of the hope which, when it is present in work,
makes it worth doing?

It is threefold, I think--hope of rest, hope of product, hope of
pleasure in the work itself; and hope of these also in some abundance
and of good quality; rest enough and good enough to be worth having;
product worth having by one who is neither a fool nor an ascetic;
pleasure enough for all for us to be conscious of it while we are at
work; not a mere habit, the loss of which we shall feel as a fidgety
man feels the loss of the bit of string he fidgets with.

I have put the hope of rest first because it is the simplest and most
natural part of our hope. Whatever pleasure there is in some work,
there is certainly some pain in all work, the beast-like pain of
stirring up our slumbering energies to action, the beast-like dread
of change when things are pretty well with us; and the compensation
for this animal pain is animal rest. We must feel while we are
working that the time will come when we shall not have to work. Also
the rest, when it comes, must be long enough to allow us to enjoy it;
it must be longer than is merely necessary for us to recover the
strength we have expended in working, and it must be animal rest also
in this, that it must not be disturbed by anxiety, else we shall not
be able to enjoy it. If we have this amount and kind of rest we
shall, so far, be no worse off than the beasts.

As to the hope of product, I have said that Nature compels us to work
for that. It remains for US to look to it that we DO really produce
something, and not nothing, or at least nothing that we want or are
allowed to use. If we look to this and use our wills we shall, so
far, be better than machines.

The hope of pleasure in the work itself: how strange that hope must
seem to some of my readers--to most of them! Yet I think that to all
living things there is a pleasure in the exercise of their energies,
and that even beasts rejoice in being lithe and swift and strong.
But a man at work, making something which he feels will exist because
he is working at it and wills it, is exercising the energies of his
mind and soul as well as of his body. Memory and imagination help
him as he works. Not only his own thoughts, but the thoughts of the
men of past ages guide his hands; and, as a part of the human race,
he creates. If we work thus we shall be men, and our days will be
happy and eventful.

Thus worthy work carries with it the hope of pleasure in rest, the
hope of the pleasure in our using what it makes, and the hope of
pleasure in our daily creative skill.

All other work but this is worthless; it is slaves' work--mere
toiling to live, that we may live to toil.

Therefore, since we have, as it were, a pair of scales in which to
weigh the work now done in the world, let us use them. Let us
estimate the worthiness of the work we do, after so many thousand
years of toil, so many promises of hope deferred, such boundless
exultation over the progress of civilization and the gain of liberty.

Now, the first thing as to the work done in civilization and the
easiest to notice is that it is portioned out very unequally amongst
the different classes of society. First, there are people--not a
few--who do no work, and make no pretence of doing any. Next, there
are people, and very many of them, who work fairly hard, though with
abundant easements and holidays, claimed and allowed; and lastly,
there are people who work so hard that they may be said to do nothing
else than work, and are accordingly called "the working classes," as
distinguished from the middle classes and the rich, or aristocracy,
whom I have mentioned above.

It is clear that this inequality presses heavily upon the "working"
class, and must visibly tend to destroy their hope of rest at least,
and so, in that particular, make them worse off than mere beasts of
the field; but that is not the sum and end of our folly of turning
useful work into useless toil, but only the beginning of it.

For first, as to the class of rich people doing no work, we all know
that they consume a great deal while they produce nothing.
Therefore, clearly, they have to be kept at the expense of those who
do work, just as paupers have, and are a mere burden on the
community. In these days there are many who have learned to see
this, though they can see no further into the evils of our present
system, and have formed no idea of any scheme for getting rid of this
burden; though perhaps they have a vague hope that changes in the
system of voting for members of the House of Commons may, as if by
magic, tend in that direction. With such hopes or superstitions we
need not trouble ourselves. Moreover, this class, the aristocracy,
once thought most necessary to the State, is scant of numbers, and
has now no power of its own, but depends on the support of the class
next below it--the middle class. In fact, it is really composed
either of the most successful men of that class, or of their
immediate descendants.

As to the middle class, including the trading, manufacturing, and
professional people of our society, they do, as a rule, seem to work
quite hard enough, and so at first sight might be thought to help the
community, and not burden it. But by far the greater part of them,
though they work, do not produce, and even when they do produce, as
in the case of those engaged (wastefully indeed) in the distribution
of goods, or doctors, or (genuine) artists and literary men, they
consume out of all proportion to their due share. The commercial and
manufacturing part of them, the most powerful part, spend their lives
and energies in fighting amongst themselves for their respective
shares of the wealth which they FORCE the genuine workers to provide
for them; the others are almost wholly the hangers-on of these; they
do not work for the public, but a privileged class: they are the
parasites of property, sometimes, as in the case of lawyers,
undisguisedly so; sometimes, as the doctors and others above
mentioned, professing to be useful, but too often of no use save as
supporters of the system of folly, fraud, and tyranny of which they
form a part. And all these we must remember have, as a rule, one aim
in view; not the production of utilities, but the gaining of a
position either for themselves or their children in which they will
not have to work at all. It is their ambition and the end of their
whole lives to gain, if not for themselves yet at least for their
children, the proud position of being obvious burdens on the
community. For their work itself in spite of the sham dignity with
which they surround it, they care nothing: save a few enthusiasts,
men of science, art or letters, who, if they are not the salt of the
earth, are at least (and oh, the pity of it!) the salt of the
miserable system of which they are the slaves, which hinders and
thwarts them at every turn, and even sometimes corrupts them.

Here then is another class, this time very numerous and all-powerful,
which produces very little and consumes enormously, and is therefore
in the main supported, as paupers are, by the real producers. The
class that remains to be considered produces all that is produced,
and supports both itself and the other classes, though it is placed
in a position of inferiority to them; real inferiority, mind you,
involving a degradation both of mind and body. But it is a necessary
consequence of this tyranny and folly that again many of these
workers are not producers. A vast number of them once more are
merely parasites of property, some of them openly so, as the soldiers
by land and sea who are kept on foot for the perpetuating of national
rivalries and enmities, and for the purposes of the national struggle
for the share of the product of unpaid labour. But besides this
obvious burden on the producers and the scarcely less obvious one of
domestic servants, there is first the army of clerks, shop-
assistants, and so forth, who are engaged in the service of the
private war for wealth, which, as above said, is the real occupation
of the well-to-do middle class. This is a larger body of workers
than might be supposed, for it includes amongst others all those
engaged in what I should call competitive salesmanship, or, to use a
less dignified word, the puffery of wares, which has now got to such
a pitch that there are many things which cost far more to sell than
they do to make.

Next there is the mass of people employed in making all those
articles of folly and luxury, the demand for which is the outcome of
the existence of the rich non-producing classes; things which people
leading a manly and uncorrupted life would not ask for or dream of.
These things, whoever may gainsay me, I will for ever refuse to call
wealth: they are not wealth, but waste. Wealth is what Nature gives
us and what a reasonable man can make out of the gifts of Nature for
his reasonable use. The sunlight, the fresh air, the unspoiled face
of the earth, food, raiment and housing necessary and decent; the
storing up of knowledge of all kinds, and the power of disseminating
it; means of free communication between man and man; works of art,
the beauty which man creates when he is most a man, most aspiring and
thoughtful--all things which serve the pleasure of people, free,
manly and uncorrupted. This is wealth. Nor can I think of anything
worth having which does not come under one or other of these heads.
But think, I beseech you, of the product of England, the workshop of
the world, and will you not be bewildered, as I am, at the thought of
the mass of things which no sane man could desire, but which our
useless toil makes--and sells?

Now, further, there is even a sadder industry yet, which is forced on
many, very many, of our workers--the making of wares which are
necessary to them and their brethren, BECAUSE THEY ARE AN INFERIOR
CLASS. For if many men live without producing, nay, must live lives
so empty and foolish that they FORCE a great part of the workers to
produce wares which no one needs, not even the rich, it follows that
most men must be poor; and, living as they do on wages from those
whom they support, cannot get for their use the GOODS which men
naturally desire, but must put up with miserable makeshifts for them,
with coarse food that does not nourish, with rotten raiment which
does not shelter, with wretched houses which may well make a town-
dweller in civilization look back with regret to the tent of the
nomad tribe, or the cave of the pre-historic savage. Nay, the
workers must even lend a hand to the great industrial invention of
the age--adulteration, and by its help produce for their own use
shams and mockeries of the luxury of the rich; for the wage-earners
must always live as the wage-payers bid them, and their very habits
of life are FORCED on them by their masters.

But it is waste of time to try to express in words due contempt of
the productions of the much-praised cheapness of our epoch. It must
be enough to say that this cheapness is necessary to the system of
exploiting on which modern manufacture rests. In other words, our
society includes a great mass of slaves, who must be fed, clothed,
housed and amused as slaves, and that their daily necessity compels
them to make the slave-wares whose use is the perpetuation of their

To sum up, then, concerning the manner of work in civilized States,
these States are composed of three classes--a class which does not
even pretend to work, a class which pretends to work but which
produces nothing, and a class which works, but is compelled by the
other two classes to do work which is often unproductive.

Civilization therefore wastes its own resources, and will do so as
long as the present system lasts. These are cold words with which to
describe the tyranny under which we suffer; try then to consider what
they mean.

There is a certain amount of natural material and of natural forces
in the world, and a certain amount of labour-power inherent in the
persons of the men that inhabit it. Men urged by their necessities
and desires have laboured for many thousands of years at the task of
subjugating the forces of Nature and of making the natural material
useful to them. To our eyes, since we cannot see into the future,
that struggle with Nature seems nearly over, and the victory of the
human race over her nearly complete. And, looking backwards to the
time when history first began, we note that the progress of that
victory has been far swifter and more startling within the last two
hundred years than ever before. Surely, therefore, we moderns ought
to be in all ways vastly better off than any who have gone before us.
Surely we ought, one and all of us, to be wealthy, to be well
furnished with the good things which our victory over Nature has won
for us.

But what is the real fact? Who will dare to deny that the great mass
of civilized men are poor? So poor are they that it is mere
childishness troubling ourselves to discuss whether perhaps they are
in some ways a little better off than their forefathers. They are
poor; nor can their poverty be measured by the poverty of a
resourceless savage, for he knows of nothing else than his poverty;
that he should be cold, hungry, houseless, dirty, ignorant, all that
is to him as natural as that he should have a skin. But for us, for
the most of us, civilization has bred desires which she forbids us to
satisfy, and so is not merely a niggard but a torturer also.

Thus then have the fruits of our victory over Nature been stolen from
us, thus has compulsion by Nature to labour in hope of rest, gain,
and pleasure been turned into compulsion by man to labour in hope--of
living to labour!

What shall we do then, can we mend it?

Well, remember once more that it is not our remote ancestors who
achieved the victory over Nature, but our fathers, nay, our very
selves. For us to sit hopeless and helpless then would be a strange
folly indeed: be sure that we can amend it. What, then, is the
first thing to be done?

We have seen that modern society is divided into two classes, one of
which is PRIVILEGED to be kept by the labour of the other--that is,
it forces the other to work for it and takes from this inferior class
everything that it CAN take from it, and uses the wealth so taken to
keep its own members in a superior position, to make them beings of a
higher order than the others: longer lived, more beautiful, more
honoured, more refined than those of the other class. I do not say
that it troubles itself about its members being positively long
lived, beautiful or refined, but merely insists that they shall be so
relatively to the inferior class. As also it cannot use the labour-
power of the inferior class fairly in producing real wealth, it
wastes it wholesale in the production of rubbish.

It is this robbery and waste on the part of the minority which keeps
the majority poor; if it could be shown that it is necessary for the
preservation of society that this should be submitted to, little more
could be said on the matter, save that the despair of the oppressed
majority would probably at some time or other destroy Society. But
it has been shown, on the contrary, even by such incomplete
experiments, for instance, as Co-operation (so called), that the
existence of a privileged class is by no means necessary for the
production of wealth, but rather for the "government" of the
producers of wealth, or, in other words, for the upholding of

The first step to be taken then is to abolish a class of men
privileged to shirk their duties as men, thus forcing others to do
the work which they refuse to do. All must work according to their
ability, and so produce what they consume--that is, each man should
work as well as he can for his own livelihood, and his livelihood
should be assured to him; that is to say, all the advantages which
society would provide for each and all of its members.

Thus, at last, would true Society be founded. It would rest on
equality of condition. No man would be tormented for the benefit of
another--nay, no one man would be tormented for the benefit of
Society. Nor, indeed, can that order be called Society which is not
upheld for the benefit of every one of its members.

But since men live now, badly as they live, when so many people do
not produce at all, and when so much work is wasted, it is clear
that, under conditions where all produced and no work was wasted, not
only would every one work with the certain hope of gaining a due
share of wealth by his work, but also he could not miss his due share
of rest. Here, then, are two out of the three kinds of hope
mentioned above as an essential part of worthy work assured to the
worker. When class robbery is abolished, every man will reap the
fruits of his labour, every man will have due rest--leisure, that is.
Some Socialists might say we need not go any further than this; it is
enough that the worker should get the full produce of his work, and
that his rest should be abundant. But though the compulsion of man's
tyranny is thus abolished, I yet demand compensation for the
compulsion of Nature's necessity. As long as the work is repulsive
it will still be a burden which must be taken up daily, and even so
would mar our life, even though the hours of labour were short. What
we want to do is to add to our wealth without diminishing our
pleasure. Nature will not be finally conquered till our work becomes
a part of the pleasure of our lives.

That first step of freeing people from the compulsion to labour
needlessly will at least put us on the way towards this happy end;
for we shall then have time and opportunities for bringing it about.
As things are now, between the waste of labour-power in mere idleness
and its waste in unproductive work, it is clear that the world of
civilization is supported by a small part of its people; when all
were working usefully for its support, the share of work which each
would have to do would be but small, if our standard of life were
about on the footing of what well-to-do and refined people now think
desirable. We shall have labour-power to spare, and shall, in short,
be as wealthy as we please. It will be easy to live. If we were to
wake up some morning now, under our present system, and find it "easy
to live," that system would force us to set to work at once and make
it hard to live; we should call that "developing our resources," or
some such fine name. The multiplication of labour has become a
necessity for us, and as long as that goes on no ingenuity in the
invention of machines will be of any real use to us. Each new
machine will cause a certain amount of misery among the workers whose
special industry it may disturb; so many of them will be reduced from
skilled to unskilled workmen, and then gradually matters will slip
into their due grooves, and all will work apparently smoothly again;
and if it were not that all this is preparing revolution, things
would be, for the greater part of men, just as they were before the
new wonderful invention.

But when revolution has made it "easy to live," when all are working
harmoniously together and there is no one to rob the worker of his
time, that is to say, his life; in those coming days there will be no
compulsion on us to go on producing things we do not want, no
compulsion on us to labour for nothing; we shall be able calmly and
thoughtfully to consider what we shall do with our wealth of labour-
power. Now, for my part, I think the first use we ought to make of
that wealth, of that freedom, should be to make all our labour, even
the commonest and most necessary, pleasant to everybody; for thinking
over the matter carefully I can see that the one course which will
certainly make life happy in the face of all accidents and troubles
is to take a pleasurable interest in all the details of life. And
lest perchance you think that an assertion too universally accepted
to be worth making, let me remind you how entirely modern
civilization forbids it; with what sordid, and even terrible, details
it surrounds the life of the poor, what a mechanical and empty life
she forces on the rich; and how rare a holiday it is for any of us to
feel ourselves a part of Nature, and unhurriedly, thoughtfully, and
happily to note the course of our lives amidst all the little links
of events which connect them with the lives of others, and build up
the great whole of humanity.

But such a holiday our whole lives might be, if we were resolute to
make all our labour reasonable and pleasant. But we must be resolute
indeed; for no half measures will help us here. It has been said
already that our present joyless labour, and our lives scared and
anxious as the life of a hunted beast, are forced upon us by the
present system of producing for the profit of the privileged classes.
It is necessary to state what this means. Under the present system
of wages and capital the "manufacturer" (most absurdly so called,
since a manufacturer means a person who makes with his hands) having
a monopoly of the means whereby the power to labour inherent in every
man's body can be used for production, is the master of those who are
not so privileged; he, and he alone, is able to make use of this
labour-power, which, on the other hand, is the only commodity by
means of which his "capital," that is to say, the accumulated product
of past labour, can be made productive to him. He therefore buys the
labour-power of those who are bare of capital and can only live by
selling it to him; his purpose in this transaction is to increase his
capital, to make it breed. It is clear that if he paid those with
whom he makes his bargain the full value of their labour, that is to
say, all that they produced, he would fail in his purpose. But since
he is the monopolist of the means of productive labour, he can COMPEL
them to make a bargain better for him and worse for them than that;
which bargain is that after they have earned their livelihood,
estimated according to a standard high enough to ensure their
peaceable submission to his mastership, the rest (and by far the
larger part as a matter of fact) of what they produce shall belong to
him, shall be his PROPERTY to do as he likes with, to use or abuse at
his pleasure; which property is, as we all know, jealously guarded by
army and navy, police and prison; in short, by that huge mass of
physical force which superstition, habit, fear of death by
starvation--IGNORANCE, in one word, among the propertyless masses
enables the propertied classes to use for the subjection of--their

Now, at other times, other evils resulting from this system may be
put forward. What I want to point out now is the impossibility of
our attaining to attractive labour under this system, and to repeat
that it is this robbery (there is no other word for it) which wastes
the available labour-power of the civilized world, forcing many men
to do nothing, and many, very many more to do nothing useful; and
forcing those who carry on really useful labour to most burdensome
over-work. For understand once for all that the "manufacturer" aims
primarily at producing, by means of the labour he has stolen from
others, not goods but profits, that is, the "wealth" that is produced
over and above the livelihood of his workmen, and the wear and tear
of his machinery. Whether that "wealth" is real or sham matters
nothing to him. If it sells and yields him a "profit" it is all
right. I have said that, owing to there being rich people who have
more money than they can spend reasonably, and who therefore buy sham
wealth, there is waste on that side; and also that, owing to there
being poor people who cannot afford to buy things which are worth
making, there is waste on that side. So that the "demand" which the
capitalist "supplies" is a false demand. The market in which he
sells is "rigged" by the miserable inequalities produced by the
robbery of the system of Capital and Wages.

It is this system, therefore, which we must be resolute in getting
rid of, if we are to attain to happy and useful work for all. The
first step towards making labour attractive is to get the means of
making labour fruitful, the Capital, including the land, machinery,
factories, &c., into the hands of the community, to be used for the
good of all alike, so that we might all work at "supplying" the real
"demands" of each and all--that is to say, work for livelihood,
instead of working to supply the demand of the profit market--instead
of working for profit--i.e., the power of compelling other men to
work against their will.

When this first step has been taken and men begin to understand that
Nature wills all men either to work or starve, and when they are no
longer such fools as to allow some the alternative of stealing, when
this happy day is come, we shall then be relieved from the tax of
waste, and consequently shall find that we have, as aforesaid, a mass
of labour-power available, which will enable us to live as we please
within reasonable limits. We shall no longer be hurried and driven
by the fear of starvation, which at present presses no less on the
greater part of men in civilized communities than it does on mere
savages. The first and most obvious necessities will be so easily
provided for in a community in which there is no waste of labour,
that we shall have time to look round and consider what we really do
want, that can be obtained without over-taxing our energies; for the
often-expressed fear of mere idleness falling upon us when the force
supplied by the present hierarchy of compulsion is withdrawn, is a
fear which is but generated by the burden of excessive and repulsive
labour, which we most of us have to bear at present.

I say once more that, in my belief, the first thing which we shall
think so necessary as to be worth sacrificing some idle time for,
will be the attractiveness of labour. No very heavy sacrifice will
be required for attaining this object, but some WILL be required.
For we may hope that men who have just waded through a period of
strife and revolution will be the last to put up long with a life of
mere utilitarianism, though Socialists are sometimes accused by
ignorant persons of aiming at such a life. On the other hand, the
ornamental part of modern life is already rotten to the core, and
must be utterly swept away before the new order of things is
realized. There is nothing of it--there is nothing which could come
of it that could satisfy the aspirations of men set free from the
tyranny of commercialism.

We must begin to build up the ornamental part of life--its pleasures,
bodily and mental, scientific and artistic, social and individual--on
the basis of work undertaken willingly and cheerfully, with the
consciousness of benefiting ourselves and our neighbours by it. Such
absolutely necessary work as we should have to do would in the first
place take up but a small part of each day, and so far would not be
burdensome; but it would be a task of daily recurrence, and therefore
would spoil our day's pleasure unless it were made at least endurable
while it lasted. In other words, all labour, even the commonest,
must be made attractive.

How can this be done?--is the question the answer to which will take
up the rest of this paper. In giving some hints on this question, I
know that, while all Socialists will agree with many of the
suggestions made, some of them may seem to some strange and
venturesome. These must be considered as being given without any
intention of dogmatizing, and as merely expressing my own personal

From all that has been said already it follows that labour, to be
attractive, must be directed towards some obviously useful end,
unless in cases where it is undertaken voluntarily by each individual
as a pastime. This element of obvious usefulness is all the more to
be counted on in sweetening tasks otherwise irksome, since social
morality, the responsibility of man towards the life of man, will, in
the new order of things, take the place of theological morality, or
the responsibility of man to some abstract idea. Next, the day's
work will be short. This need not be insisted on. It is clear that
with work unwasted it CAN be short. It is clear also that much work
which is now a torment, would be easily endurable if it were much

Variety of work is the next point, and a most important one. To
compel a man to do day after day the same task, without any hope of
escape or change, means nothing short of turning his life into a
prison-torment. Nothing but the tyranny of profit-grinding makes
this necessary. A man might easily learn and practise at least three
crafts, varying sedentary occupation with outdoor--occupation calling
for the exercise of strong bodily energy for work in which the mind
had more to do. There are few men, for instance, who would not wish
to spend part of their lives in the most necessary and pleasantest of
all work--cultivating the earth. One thing which will make this
variety of employment possible will be the form that education will
take in a socially ordered community. At present all education is
directed towards the end of fitting people to take their places in
the hierarchy of commerce--these as masters, those as workmen. The
education of the masters is more ornamental than that of the workmen,
but it is commercial still; and even at the ancient universities
learning is but little regarded, unless it can in the long run be
made TO PAY. Due education is a totally different thing from this,
and concerns itself in finding out what different people are fit for,
and helping them along the road which they are inclined to take. In
a duly ordered society, therefore, young people would be taught such
handicrafts as they had a turn for as a part of their education, the
discipline of their minds and bodies; and adults would also have
opportunities of learning in the same schools, for the development of
individual capacities would be of all things chiefly aimed at by
education, instead, as now, the subordination of all capacities to
the great end of "money-making" for oneself--or one's master. The
amount of talent, and even genius, which the present system crushes,
and which would be drawn out by such a system, would make our daily
work easy and interesting.

Under this head of variety I will note one product of industry which
has suffered so much from commercialism that it can scarcely be said
to exist, and is, indeed, so foreign from our epoch that I fear there
are some who will find it difficult to understand what I have to say
on the subject, which I nevertheless must say, since it is really a
most important one. I mean that side of art which is, or ought to
be, done by the ordinary workman while he is about his ordinary work,
and which has got to be called, very properly, Popular Art. This
art, I repeat, no longer exists now, having been killed by
commercialism. But from the beginning of man's contest with Nature
till the rise of the present capitalistic system, it was alive, and
generally flourished. While it lasted, everything that was made by
man was adorned by man, just as everything made by Nature is adorned
by her. The craftsman, as he fashioned the thing he had under his
hand, ornamented it so naturally and so entirely without conscious
effort, that it is often difficult to distinguish where the mere
utilitarian part of his work ended and the ornamental began. Now the
origin of this art was the necessity that the workman felt for
variety in his work, and though the beauty produced by this desire
was a great gift to the world, yet the obtaining variety and pleasure
in the work by the workman was a matter of more importance still, for
it stamped all labour with the impress of pleasure. All this has now
quite disappeared from the work of civilization. If you wish to have
ornament, you must pay specially for it, and the workman is compelled
to produce ornament, as he is to produce other wares. He is
compelled to pretend happiness in his work, so that the beauty
produced by man's hand, which was once a solace to his labour, has
now become an extra burden to him, and ornament is now but one of the
follies of useless toil, and perhaps not the least irksome of its

Besides the short duration of labour, its conscious usefulness, and
the variety which should go with it, there is another thing needed to
make it attractive, and that is pleasant surroundings. The misery
and squalor which we people of civilization bear with so much
complacency as a necessary part of the manufacturing system, is just
as necessary to the community at large as a proportionate amount of
filth would be in the house of a private rich man. If such a man
were to allow the cinders to be raked all over his drawing-room, and
a privy to be established in each corner of his dining-room, if he
habitually made a dust and refuse heap of his once beautiful garden,
never washed his sheets or changed his tablecloth, and made his
family sleep five in a bed, he would surely find himself in the claws
of a commission de lunatico. But such acts of miserly folly are just
what our present society is doing daily under the compulsion of a
supposed necessity, which is nothing short of madness. I beg you to
bring your commission of lunacy against civilization without more

For all our crowded towns and bewildering factories are simply the
outcome of the profit system. Capitalistic manufacture, capitalistic
land-owning, and capitalistic exchange force men into big cities in
order to manipulate them in the interests of capital; the same
tyranny contracts the due space of the factory so much that (for
instance) the interior of a great weaving-shed is almost as
ridiculous a spectacle as it is a horrible one. There is no other
necessity for all this, save the necessity for grinding profits out
of men's lives, and of producing cheap goods for the use (and
subjection) of the slaves who grind. All labour is not yet driven
into factories; often where it is there is no necessity for it, save
again the profit-tyranny. People engaged in all such labour need by
no means be compelled to pig together in close city quarters. There
is no reason why they should not follow their occupations in quiet
country homes, in industrial colleges, in small towns, or, in short,
where they find it happiest for them to live.

As to that part of labour which must be associated on a large scale,
this very factory system, under a reasonable order of things (though
to my mind there might still be drawbacks to it), would at least
offer opportunities for a full and eager social life surrounded by
many pleasures. The factories might be centres of intellectual
activity also, and work in them might well be varied very much: the
tending of the necessary machinery might to each individual be but a
short part of the day's work. The other work might vary from raising
food from the surrounding country to the study and practice of art
and science. It is a matter of course that people engaged in such
work, and being the masters of their own lives, would not allow any
hurry or want of foresight to force them into enduring dirt,
disorder, or want of room. Science duly applied would enable them to
get rid of refuse, to minimize, if not wholly to destroy, all the
inconveniences which at present attend the use of elaborate
machinery, such as smoke, stench and noise; nor would they endure
that the buildings in which they worked or lived should be ugly blots
on the fair face of the earth. Beginning by making their factories,
buildings, and sheds decent and convenient like their homes, they
would infallibly go on to make them not merely negatively good,
inoffensive merely, but even beautiful, so that the glorious art of
architecture, now for some time slain by commercial greed, would be
born again and flourish.

So, you see, I claim that work in a duly ordered community should be
made attractive by the consciousness of usefulness, by its being
carried on with intelligent interest, by variety, and by its being
exercised amidst pleasurable surroundings. But I have also claimed,
as we all do, that the day's work should not be wearisomely long. It
may be said, "How can you make this last claim square with the
others? If the work is to be so refined, will not the goods made be
very expensive?"

I do admit, as I have said before, that some sacrifice will be
necessary in order to make labour attractive. I mean that, if we
COULD be contented in a free community to work in the same hurried,
dirty, disorderly, heartless way as we do now, we might shorten our
day's labour very much more than I suppose we shall do, taking all
kinds of labour into account. But if we did, it would mean that our
new-won freedom of condition would leave us listless and wretched, if
not anxious, as we are now, which I hold is simply impossible. We
should be contented to make the sacrifices necessary for raising our
condition to the standard called out for as desirable by the whole
community. Nor only so. We should, individually, be emulous to
sacrifice quite freely still more of our time and our ease towards
the raising of the standard of life. Persons, either by themselves
or associated for such purposes, would freely, and for the love of
the work and for its results--stimulated by the hope of the pleasure
of creation--produce those ornaments of life for the service of all,
which they are now bribed to produce (or pretend to produce) for the
service of a few rich men. The experiment of a civilized community
living wholly without art or literature has not yet been tried. The
past degradation and corruption of civilization may force this denial
of pleasure upon the society which will arise from its ashes. If
that must be, we will accept the passing phase of utilitarianism as a
foundation for the art which is to be. If the cripple and the
starveling disappear from our streets, if the earth nourish us all
alike, if the sun shine for all of us alike, if to one and all of us
the glorious drama of the earth--day and night, summer and winter--
can be presented as a thing to understand and love, we can afford to
wait awhile till we are purified from the shame of the past
corruption, and till art arises again amongst people freed from the
terror of the slave and the shame of the robber.

Meantime, in any case, the refinement, thoughtfulness, and
deliberation of labour must indeed be paid for, but not by compulsion
to labour long hours. Our epoch has invented machines which would
have appeared wild dreams to the men of past ages, and of those
machines we have as yet MADE NO USE.

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