The Factory System’s Design

Mr Ferral regarded the factory system which had been introduced as subversive of liberty — as calculated to change the character of a people from that of a bold and free, to one enervated, dependent, and slavish.”

Trade Union, 1820

This is from an old trade union history. I was turned on to it from this Art of Manliness article.

You can imagine how the need for affordable, efficient stuff required a shift from artisans to factories. And how curmudgeonly the artisans must have been about it.

It’s pretty clear to me we’re currently reversing this trend, moving back to small and good. From safeway to the local farmer’s market. From Macy’s to a small shirt maker that feels like it stands for that heroic artisan kind of thing (and thus, by wearing it, I do as well).

I like the moving back to small; it’s good. What’s worrisome is how much control “the market” has over us. It almost seems like in one swoop the American’s need for stuff crushed a few thousand years of individual artisan style work and identity.

I’m sure there was plenty of idealism in there too; some of those “this is a new era, boys. Never before has humanity been able to rise to such heights” kind of things.

I like where we’re heading now. It feels more naturally human, more Good™. It’s a bit unsettling, though, to think that some market force could wipe the whole thing out. Here’s to hoping humanity is getting better.