HIST 202: European Civilization, 1648-1945
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European Civilization, 1648-1945
HIST 202 - Lecture 8 - Industrial Revolutions
Chapter 1. Industrialization as an Intensification of Existing Forms of Production [00:00:00]
Professor John Merriman: Today I want to talk about the Industrial Revolution from a variety of aspects. Everything on the board I put on our website, so don’t worry about copying it down. It’s all pretty obvious. Doing the Industrial Revolution across the century is no easy task, but we will do it and do the reading. Let me just say that the way people look at what used to be called Industrial Revolution, and I guess some people still call it that, has changed dramatically. Through the 1950s and into the 1960s, the idea of the Industrial Revolution was that it was the work of some genius inventors who created machines used primarily in the textile industry — but also in mining — that eliminated blocks to assembly line production. Then everybody was crowded into factories and the new brave world opened up.
In fact, one of the most interesting books and great classics that is still in print was written by an economic historian at Harvard who’s still around called David Landes. It’s a good book called The Unbound Prometheus, which was basically that. Some of the inventions that I briefly describe in your reading, the spinning jenny, etc., refer to that. That kind of analysis led one to concentrate on England, where the Industrial Revolution began, and to view industrialization as being a situation of winners and losers (by not going as fast). In your reading I give you some pretty obvious examples of reasons for the Industrial Revolution first coming to England: the location of resources, particularly coal; a country in which nowhere is more than seventy-five miles away from the sea; precocious canals and roads; banking systems; fluidity between classes and a very large and increasingly larger proletariat; agricultural revolution, etc.
With that kind of analysis, those places that didn’t industrialize as fast, for example, France, one thought they were “retarded”; a word that was used, unfortunately, at that time. Then one tried to see why not. That analysis has been rejected greatly over the past years, because the Industrial Revolution is measured by more than simply large factories with industrial workers and the number of machines. This is the point of the beginning of this. The more that we look at the Industrial Revolution, the more we see that the Industrial Revolution was first and foremost an intensification of forms of production, of kinds of production that were already there.
Thus, we spend more time looking at the intensification of artisanal production, craft production, domestic industry — which we’ve already mentioned, that is, people, mostly women but also men and children, too, working in the countryside. The rapid rise of industrial production was very much tied to traditional forms of production. In Paris, for example, in 1870, the average unit of production had only slightly more than seven people in it. So, if you only look for big factories and lots of machines, you’ll be missing the boat on the Industrial Revolution.
To be sure, when we think of the Industrial Revolution we think of Manchester, which grew from a very small town into this enormous city full of what Engels called “the satanic mills” of industrial production. Or you think of smoky Sheffield, also in Northern England. Or you think of Birmingham in the midlands. If you think of France you’ll think of Lille and its two burgeoning towns around it, Tourcoing and Roubaix. Or you think of Saint Etienne, which was kind of France’s Manchester. In Germany you think of the Rhineland and the Ruhr. In Italy you think of Turin and Milan. In Russia, you think of the Moscow and St. Petersburg region. In Spain, Barcelona.
Indeed, those are classic cases of industrial concentration, where you do have really significant mechanization over a very long period of time. You do have large towns with smoky factories full of workers. But again, and we’ve underestimated — in fact, the second edition has more about this than the first, which you’re reading — the degree of industrial production in the late Russian empire. Yet, to be sure, when I say that the Industrial Revolution is first and foremost an intensification of forms of industries that already existed, if you were a parachutist and you’re somehow floating down over Europe from, say, the middle of the eighteenth century through the middle of the nineteenth century, what you would see is that there were still all sorts of industry, a rapid increase of industrial production that is out in the countryside, that’s not in factories. It’s done in a very traditional way. Or rural handicrafts, people producing all sorts of things still at home.
There’s a marvelous book written by a scholar called Maxine Berg, who teaches at Warwick in England. The book is called The Age of Manufacture. She reexamined the Industrial Revolution and discovered that, for example, the town of Birmingham, which produced all sorts of toys, big toy manufacturers, that even though you had a lot of factories, you still had a lot of the toys being finished or even produced by women working in the hinterland, that is, the arrière pays, or the environs of Birmingham. If you take smoky Sheffield, a grim kind of place in the nineteenth century, where they produced knives and cutlery. You still had a lot of these products being finished by people out in the countryside.
If you take the North of France, if you think of a town like Reims, famous for champagne, it was a big industrial center but it wasn’t the center of mechanized production until after about 1850. What you had is you had all these people out in the countryside, mostly women, who are doing spinning and weaving and carding and that kind of thing. Or around Nancy in the east of France. By 1875 you still had something like 75,000 women who were embroiderers working in the countryside. Rural industry intensifies.
Finally, at the end — not at the end, but it depends on where you are — you have this implosion of work into factories. So, by the end of the century the kind of traditional view that one would have of the Industrial Revolution has really arrived, where factory production and above all, in the textile industry. The textile industry is the leading edge of the Industrial Revolution. You have women who used to work at home that are now working in factories as what the British call textile operatives. Or Switzerland, you think of Switzerland as being the famous mercenaries in the early modern period or the very wealthy bankers in our own day. But if you think of a town like Zurich, on the lake, there was all sorts of industry in the uplands of Zurich, up into the hills and even into the mountains around Zurich, of handicraft production. Or Austria, in the Austria-Hungarian empire, there’s hundreds of thousands of people working in the textile industry.
The details aren’t as important as the fact that, to be sure, the mines that you read about in Germinal, which is a great, great read, and the factories that I will describe in a while are described by Engels — and I couldn’t do better than that — are a reality and they become the industrial experience. When you think of Detroit, Michigan, in the 1930s, or Flint, Michigan, in the 1930s, or you think about now the rust belt of Connecticut of Torrington and these places that were once booming industrial towns. That’s the kind of classic model. The American model really is closer to what people used to think the Industrial Revolution meant in the case of Europe. But that’s not a subject for now.
Chapter 2. The English Catalysts: The Agricultural Revolution and Increasing Urban Populations [00:09:45]
A couple points — by the way, I don’t think I’ll ever get to my notes, but it doesn’t really matter. First of all, and this is another reason why the Industrial Revolution starts in England. You can’t have an industrial revolution without an agricultural revolution. What the Agricultural Revolution does is increases the amount of food produced that’s going to feed your burgeoning proletariat, your labor force. This is a place, all of Europe increases in population. The French population is unique; it stops growing in 1846 and 1847. In simply stops, skids to a halt. But everywhere else, the population grows. There are regional differences in France, as there are regional differences everywhere.
But the Industrial Revolution depends on the Agricultural Revolution for an increase in food supply. This makes possible the increase in urban population, thus also increasing the demand for food. Also, the Agricultural Revolution particularly, but not just in the case of England, increases capital formation. You’ve got this sort of surplus of money, bucks, pounds,fric, cash that can be invested in industry. This is precisely what happens. That’s why the Agricultural Revolution is absolutely important. These three things, Industrial Revolution, Agricultural Revolution, and the growth of cities, are very much tied together.
Let me give you an example, which you certainly don’t have to remember. Think of Manchester. I describe the statistics in there, that the growth of Manchester is a prodigious, scary thing. I’ll talk more about how rural and urban elites are frightened by the growth of cities, particularly in Germany, but in France, England, and in the United States, later. What the growth of Manchester does is it really changes the countryside around and helps bring the Agricultural Revolution. What do I mean by that? You find the same thing around Paris, around Berlin, or around Warsaw, almost any big city that I can think of. In response to this urban growth, this big octopus of people and money, of rich people and poor people, I’ll talk about some of the rich people next time on Wednesday.
You’ve got an expanded demand for food. In that ring immediately around a city like Manchester, you’ve got a dramatic expansion of people doing what they call truck farming. They’re specializing in crops for the urban market — fruit, vegetables, things like that. They specialize because there are people there that are going to pay for and eat what they produce. Take the example of Paris, which I’ll come back and talk about with great relish someday. The suburbs of Paris, a place called Montreuil, which is kind of a grim part of eastern Paris. It used to be famous for its cherries, and fruits, and that kind of thing that they were producing for the urban market. Or wine, if you can imagine wine being produced, what a horrible idea, in the region of Paris. It’s Asnières, on the Seine. They used to produce wine for Paris’s vast market.
Then the next big ring around Manchester, you’ve got the big fish eating the little fish. They are more productive. As this commercial agriculture develops and more productive production — that’s a terrible sentence, there’s a greater productivity in response to this urban demand. On the far, distant places you have people specializing in the production of cattle, that is, milk and meat for the market. Of course, the other thing which goes without saying is that in the course of the nineteenth century you’ve got this amazing development in shipping. Pretty soon with steel, and with refrigeration — and just like now you’ve got lamb arriving from New Zealand and things like that. This is largely in response to the increase of these large urban conurbations.
We use the term “conurbation” to describe cities that grow up so much that they actually merge together. The American Northeast became sort of a conurbation. It’s very hard when going to New Jersey to ever see where there aren’t cities. One ends and then the other starts. That becomes the case in parts of Northern England as well. The term “protoindustrialization” there is what we mean by the expansion of industrial production along very traditional lines. What I put in parentheses there, domestic or rural industry, we’ve already talked about. So, first you’ve got this expansion of industry in the countryside.
I’ll give you one example. Again, I hate to keep taking examples occasionally from France, but I know that best. The city of Lyons, which is a big soap producing city, what you have in the first half of the nineteenth century is you’ve got an implosion of work into Lyons, into this working class suburb called the Croix-Rousse — it doesn’t matter, although it’s a neat place. It’s a really neat place. Then in the 1850s the people that owned the silk begin to put work back out into the countryside. Why would they do that? Because the women working there or the men working there worked for less than people living in the city.
Again, if you’re parachuting down starting about 1750, you have to imagine hundreds of thousands of little dots out in the countryside. And even more of them as the Industrial Revolution gets kicking along before you finally have this implosion or movement in and around cities. More about that when I talk about cities. I’ll help explain why European cities are so different than American cities, with the poor living on the outside and the rich living within. Large-scale industrialization has a lot to do with that. Having said all of that, let me talk a little bit about — I’ll never get to my notes, but this is fun anyway — women’s work.
Chapter 3. Women’s Work in the Industrial Revolution [00:16:29]
Did the Industrial Revolution change women’s work? There are continuities in women’s work which are extremely important, and ultimately there will be changes as factory production comes to dominate in many places in industrial Europe. Yet, there are certain things that don’t change about women’s work and women’s roles in the household. Women remain the head of the family economy. Women, whether they’re married or simply living with people that they’ve been living with for a short or long time, run the family economy and it’s true whether they are in rural Switzerland in the uplands of Zurich, working in the textile industry, or whether they are textile operatives in Manchester or someplace like that.
The Industrial Revolution does not change other aspects of women’s work in that at least well into the nineteenth century in most parts of industrial Europe, women are still working in the countryside but also major employers of women don’t change at all with industrialization. The classic case hereto is England, and that is domestic service. If you were going to take England in, say, 1850, the largest three categories of people doing anything are not in this order, but just about all the same number would be women working as domestics. Some men worked as domestics, too. Say, domestic service, textile operatives, and an important category that I’m going to talk about later in my theme of “it’s bitter hard to write the history of remainders,” rural agricultural laborers, rural proletarians.
Another category of women’s work, again which one hesitates to evoke, is of course prostitution. The Industrial Revolution doesn’t change that sad aspect of women’s work. It increases with urban growth the number of people working as prostitutes in even very small towns. The number of prostitutes in Paris or London is simply incalculable. The estimates in Paris go from 20,000 to 100,000. Lots of women who are married become prostitutes pour faire sa fin de mois, to pay off the bills at the end of the month. This sad aspect of women’s work, people forced into prostitution by want, doesn’t really change with industrialization. The numbers simply get bigger and bigger. Of course, one of the results of this, this isn’t the time to discuss this, but there’s a sort of panic at the end of the nineteenth century about syphilis and about venereal disease and all that. Also which ironically helps further condemn ordinary people in elite minds, which is a coincidence, since many of the patrons or many of the clients of prostitutes were middle-class males no matter what country you’re talking about.
Chapter 4. The Rise of Class Consciousness [00:20:12]
More about women’s work in a while in the context of factories. Here again, history has its history, too. When I grew up, to the extent I ever did, as a student when I was thinking about doing a dissertation, and becoming an historian, and all that stuff, what people studied was — the reason I put it in quotes — “working class consciousness.” We were sort of children of the very late or the 1960s or 1970s and everybody wanted to follow the great English historian E. P. Thompson, who wrote a monumental book called The Making of the English Working Class. Everybody wanted to find the making of class-conscious workers in various places. Everybody wanted to study the crowd, as in The Crowd in the French Revolution, my late friend, George Rudé’s famous book, the crowd here or the crowd there.
The first article I ever published was called “The Crowd in the Affair du Limoges, April 27, 1848.” Now I look back sometimes and I think, “Who cares?” But anyway, in the 1980s the move kind of turned away from that and more people started studying the middle class. More about the middle class folk in the nineteenth century and what my friend, Peter Gay, called the bourgeois century next time around. Nonetheless, you can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, and class remains a fundamental concept. If you’re going to understand nineteenth and twentieth century Europe, you have to understand social class, because there’s a reality. We live in a country now where people like to think there are no classes. Well, don’t get me going on the current economic crisis.
I can remember people going down to the Ford plant in Ypsilanti and Detroit and trying to get people who work in those places interested in the war, against the war in Vietnam, and getting absolutely nowhere and hearing arguments that in America we don’t have classes. That simply isn’t true. Anyway, in the nineteenth century social class was a real thing. Nobody had a stronger class identity than the middle class. That’s what I’m going to talk about next time. I can hardly wait. There was a working class, but not everybody saw themselves as workers, as a form of identity as opposed to something else. People can have multiple identities. When we talk about nationalism, that’s an obvious point to make.
If you ask people who they are, they might say they’re Protestant or they’re Jewish or they’re Catholic or they’re Muslim or they might say they’re from this extended family or they’re from this region. They’re Bavarian or whatever. In the nineteenth century-class identity, the sense of being workers as a class apart was a reality. That’s just the way it is. That was worth studying and people did some very good work on it. It’s kind of come back, too. It’s kind of come back. Anyone who’s been in Britain, where class identity is so revealed by language, there isn’t anyplace, including France or any place else that I know where a difference in accent is so revealing as to not only where you are from, but who you are in terms of social class. It’s really just amazing. It remains true in France and some other places.
There was a strangler. There are always these stranglers around in Britain. There was one guy was this hardcore killer, a bad guy killing a bunch of people about fifteen years ago. Finally, they get all these experts on language and he called up I guess a radio station and sort of “Here I am. Come and get me” kind of thing. They had him pegged where he was within something like ten miles of where they ended up arresting him, which is in Bradford in the north of England. Language is one of the ways that people reveal their class. In the nineteenth century we’re talking about workers and how some workers, but not all, began to see themselves as proletarians. That seems like one of those trendy words, but it meant something to people.
A proletarian is somebody dependent on their own labor, usually unskilled or semi-skilled, in order to survive. There are two aspects to the term “proletarianization.” One is kind of the objective sense that you are a laborer. You may be a harvester. You may pick grapes for the wine harvest. You may be carrying around large boxes, which is what I did at Alice Love’s Jams and Jellies in Portland, Oregon, or at Kellogg’s of Battle Creek, where I also worked, totally unskilled, but again that was not going to be my lifelong identity, because I was able to go on to do something else. But in Europe you were born into the proletariat in most cases. If you grew up as a Catholic, in this part of France, you still would have been a practicing Catholic, a Catholic guy, a young boy or young woman in and around Saint Etienne or in Lille, the chances were overwhelming that you were going to follow your parents into the mines. You were going to go in the mines.
As a matter of fact, again I hate giving these French examples, but there’s an expression that’s really only used there that I’ve ever heard when a kid screws up, does something he’s not supposed to. What they say is deux semaines dessous une benne, which is if you spend two weeks ducking down like this and having to help guide this cart full of coal up and down the railroad tracks, you won’t screw up like that again, little boy. The sense of you were born into the world of work. In America there were all these kinds of literature, the equivalent of Boys Life about remarkable assents into the social stratosphere, that America was the land of opportunity. Well, America was the land of opportunity, to be sure, with availability of land. But cases of social mobility were actually fairly limited. This was certainly the case in almost all of Europe. You were essentially born into, for most people, this status.
The other thing that happened, and this explains the rise of class consciousness, is that people who — suddenly the bottom drops out of their economic life — that’s a fairly appropriate analogy for today — who were artisans, who were craftsmen, become really the first, depending on where we’re talking about. It begins really about the turn of the century, that is, 1800 or slightly before, but mostly afterward, by 1830 in England and then follows in other countries in many, many places. Artisans and craftsmen are really the first to see themselves as a class apart. Not unskilled workers. Why? This is pretty obvious.
Artisans and craftsmen are educated up to a point. They have a sense of dignity about their trades. They have organizations. They have mutual aid societies, for example. There’s a craft guild organization in France called thecompagnonnage. This came from the medieval times when they built the big cathedrals and all of that. They have organization. They have a sense of pride in craft dignity. Karl Marx, who was a pretty smart guy, he got a lot of things wrong, but he got a lot of things right. Karl Marx wrote in the 1830s and 1940s about how workers’ wages were declining. He was right for artisans. There’s no question about it. Artisans are at the forefront of every single social and political movement that you can think of in the French Revolution. There we go.
Who stormed the Bastille? It was artisans, 1830 in France, 1848 in Austria, in Berlin, in Paris. It was artisans. Why all of a sudden do they get mad? There’s really two reasons, two things that happened to artisans that caused their economic situation to go downhill. First of all, the French Revolution or the effects of the French Revolution destroy the guilds. Anybody can be a tailor or a shoemaker or whatever, a glassmaker. If you learn the skills, there’s no one who’s going to say no, you can’t get in this union. You might be able to get in this mutual aid society or friendly society, but you can’t do the work because the guilds are gone.
The French Revolution banishes the guilds, laissez faire, Adam Smith, et cetera, et cetera. There are laws against unions. Strikes are not legal in France until 1864. The corporation acts are reinforced by the fear in Britain of the French Revolution. But what happens is you’ve got what can be called, Bill Sewell has called it that, a friend of mine in Chicago, the crisis of expansion. You’ve got all these people now who say, “Hey, I’m going to be a tailor, too.” If you lived in Berlin or someplace in the 1840s, you would hear tailors walking along the street pushing carts full of clothes that they had made from the beginning to the end, of suits being sold for practically nothing. Why? Because there’s so many other people making suits as well.
Also, mechanized production means that you can buy suits off the rack, and they’re getting very little for their suits. They didn’t wake up and think, “Gee, I can’t remember how to make a suit.” They got these suits. They can make them and they can’t sell them. Their wages are declining. Are they mad? They’re furious. Who do they blame? They blame the state and they blame the bourgeoisie, the middle class, the middlemen. For example, in the case of tailors, there are a lot of middlemen who’ve got capital. What do you do? You say, “Look, I’m going to get a bunch of suits made. Here are all these tailors, they don’t have enough to work.” I’m not giving you a very good example, because I don’t know a damn thing about being a tailor. But they say, “Okay, you guys do the sleeves. You guys do the pants, because you can do them all one after another and you don’t have to worry about doing the rest of it. Then I’ll pick up everything that you make.” This is a continuation of rural industry. “Then I will sell it in the markets.”
Into World War I you still had single women in Paris now chained to their sewing machine, not literally, but they’ve got to pay off their sewing machine. The sewing machine starts before electricity, but after electricity comes along. They’re working by themselves. Their day isn’t cut short anymore by the end of daylight. It’s cut short by sheer fatigue and producing these goods for this market. These tailors, and shoemakers, and all of that, they’re in every single movement. They are the ones who first say, “Hey, you know what? All we workers, we’ve got some stuff in common. This is amplified by residential patterns, people living in and around where they work, et cetera, et cetera. Mechanization also, I’ll give you an example that I do know something about which is porcelain.
Porcelain is one of these products that’s a luxury good. Renoir, the great painter, started out — he was born in Limoges, France in 1841 — Renoir starts out decorating plates. He painted plates. Along comes this new technological innovation. If you did, and I only did very briefly, make those model airplanes and stuff like that, there were little decals that you’d stick on the plane to represent the Spitfire, or whatever American fighters or boats. I’m not such a war guy, so I stopped that pretty quickly. So, somebody invents one of these decals that can be baked on to high quality plates between the first and second baking. Porcelain remains a luxury good. The people that used to paint them are sent to the warehouse where they work for about a third of what they would make as skilled painters. They didn’t wake up one day and say, “Geez, I can’t remember how you paint a plate anymore.” No one’s going to pay them to paint plates except for very special orders.
Glassmaking is the same thing. People that formed bottles used to be very well paid. Then a machine is invented that comes along and does the same thing. It turns out bottles by the zillions to be filled with wine and whatever. They’re out of luck. Are they mad? They’re furious. Pretty soon they start thinking, “You know these unskilled people, we have some of the same grievances.” They begin seeing themselves as a class apart. Class consciousness isn’t sort of an invention of lefties from the 1970s like yours truly. It’s not at all. It was a reality. It wasn’t for everybody, but if you read a lot of literature, especially from London or from anywhere about the kinds of solidarities that people had because of their social class, and the sense that they formed a class apart and were relegated to sort of a permanent proletarian status by forces that they can’t control — the state and big money and big capital. People would be a little better off if they were thinking about that now. Anyway, that’s that.
Chapter 5. Industrial Discipline and the Rise of the Foreman [00:34:34]
Having said that, I want to turn in the last ten minutes to — did I get all that in? Yes! I want to turn to something that complements that. That is a discussion of industrial discipline. One thing as workers learn to strike, going on to strike for better working conditions, for more money, for better hours, shorter hours, et cetera, et cetera, one has to imagine what the world looked like for them. What did they think about things that were happening to them? One of the things that had happened to them was this sort of nineteenth-century end stage of the Industrial Revolution, that is, factory production.
If you were an artisan, if you were a tailor — I keep using these examples, but they’re so stuck in my mind — or shoemaker, you basically worked when you wanted. You worked in response to demand for your product. Many of these people were on the move, going from one place to the next. But you worked kind of when you wanted to, or when there was a demand for your product. If you were in domestic industry, and you were a woman working in the hinterland of Zurich, you worked when there was demand for your work. Then you took time off to nurse your child or to take account of the family to see how we were doing, if there was enough to tie through until the next week. You more or less worked on your own.
A pottery baron called Josiah Wedgwood, you’ve probably heard of Wedgwood pottery, just before 1800 he’s trying to think about how you make all these workers that he had — how do you make them respond in the very same way, so they don’t just kind of get up and wander off or spend time talking or enjoying themselves? How do you get them all to work at his single command? His dream, his fantasy was that he wanted a set of workers that responded as fingers on two hands in response to his command. That’s what he wants. He and his successors create strategies of doing just that. In doing so they launch this sort of protracted struggle, which is very revealing about the bigger processes at play in the nineteenth century. Factories have a lot to do with that. Hereto, I say that with such intensity for my bad experiences working in factories.
I once was working in Alice Love’s Jams and Jellies. I was supposed to be to work about 6:00 in the morning after a night I probably shouldn’t have had. The last thing I remember was the guy. He didn’t like me because I was a college guy. I always had my mighty maize and blue Michigan shirt on. He said, “Listen, idiot” — I was on jams and jelly duty. There was a huge machine. You have to imagine an enormous accordion. They’d put all these berries in there. Then the press would squeeze them into jelly, which we would drink or eat and make ourselves sick. It would build up a lot of pressure and the last thing I remember him saying was, “Listen, idiot,” that was me, “don’t leave your finger on that button very long.”
As I was trying to figure out who had beaten whom the night before in the American League, the thing blew up. This enormous tidal wave of boysenberry juice engulfed me and I was burned. Actually, I was out on sick leave for two weeks or I was just down playing basketball and getting paid to do that. This tidal wave of boysenberries, a forklift with about something like 2,000 jars of apple butter spun out of control. It was a terrible, terrible mess. But the point of this is that I hated the foreman. As I left, I said, “Too bad for you, foreman.” I take that back. I didn’t say that. Anyway, the point of this is that factories become first of all a way of maintaining industrial discipline.
In the first factories in Britain they were not there because you had these machines that were there immediately. James Watts’ steam engine was not used really for about fifteen years after it was made, because there weren’t many things it could do. The first factories were there putting together artisans, semi-skilled workers, and unskilled workers as a form of industrial discipline. When you think, if you see postcards — at the end of the nineteenth century, really about 1900, the craze for postcards begins in Europe and in the United States, too. Now, these postcards are extremely expensive if they have people in them, particularly people at work. They’re really, really — and I have all sorts of them from Limoges and the porcelain industry and from the strikes. But if you see these pictures, when workers had their pictures taken together, they’re always in front of the door. Why? You had to enter the door or leave the door. The signal was given by the clock and by the bell that called you to work. If you were late, too bad for you. You could be docked or fired, and there are lots more people out there who would like to have those jobs.
What happens in the nineteenth century is that the factory, before really its role as a houser of big thundering machines, in many places the factory was first and foremost a way of putting discipline on workers. There’s a terrible case in Brooklyn, I think in 1912 or something, where 150 or 200 women were burned to death because the bosses or the foreman had locked the doors, so they couldn’t go out and “chatter.” What they begin to do in the middle of the nineteenth century is have rules, regulations for work, what you can do, what you can’t do, and what you must do. You can’t talk.
If you were a porcelain worker and something blew up in the oven, that was docked from your salary. In order to watch over these workers, they bring in the foreman, fore-people. There was a strike in Limoges because the fore-person, a woman, was very religious and she made the workers kneel down on the ground and pray with their knees on the stone before work started. No separation of church and work there. They bring in foremen who are going to enforce these — to see if you’re a good worker or if you’re a bad worker. Now, workers resent this very much.
How did workers view the bosses, for example? In the 1820s and 1830s, you’re still working in smaller units of production in most places in Europe if you’re in a factory. You’ve got an issue with the boss. The boss is somebody who might give you a little extra on Christmas, or something like that. The boss is somebody you knew. There was a sense of, “Well, you’re not doing me right now. This isn’t right and I’m going to leave until you get it together and do better by me.” The boss is a presence. He’s there all the time, as my boss at Dennis Uniform Manufacturing Company, also in Portland, Oregon. He was there all the time. By the time the foremen start coming in, the foreman is representing the boss.
The foreman is somebody who’s brought in from the outside or promoted, often unjustly, from within. The foreman replaces the boss as the one who’s hitting on the young female workers. They call it in French the droit de cuissage — that’s rather crude — the right of hitting on and scoring, putting oneself in a power relationship with a female employee. The foreman begins to represent the boss. The boss now during strikes, the language of workers during strikes is, “The boss, he’s a letch. He’s a drunk. He eats too much.” He doesn’t care whether you live or die. He’s still somebody you see kind of walking through and all that. You don’t like him that much, but he’s still a presence.
The strikes at the end of the nineteenth century are very, very different. The boss often is a very distant person. He’s sending telegrams from London or sending telegrams from Frankfurt to his foreman demanding this or that. In the case of a strike in Limoges, France, the owner of the factory was an American called David Haviland, as in Haviland porcelain, at one point actually demands that the U.S. Embassy send in the U.S. Marines, as if that was possible in order to put an end to this disturbance, this disorder in his factory. He or she has become a symbol of capitalism, protected by the state and protected by the army. This is how workers, not all workers, but in many cases, view the boss.
Industrial discipline has been imposed by these rules, these regulations, and these foreman. If you don’t like it, too bad. Women workers are no longer allowed to nurse their children, to bring their children or to go out and nurse them. They are forced to eat inside the factory. That’s why tuberculosis rates are enormous, particularly in mining and in factories. You’ll see this in Germinal. It’s really kind of an amazing book. This view of workers of their bosses tells you something about this long process, it’s very uneven and not everywhere, but still there — that explain this massive kind of movements of strikes that you found in all sorts of countries — Northern Italy, Barcelona, Moscow in 1917.
Huge strikes would be terribly important in 1917 in Moscow. Then something else happens, and I’m going to end with this, because it’s in a minor way an amazing tale about a colleague, a brilliant woman I know called Michelle Perrot, something she wrote in the late 1970s. It tells you so much about our time. In the beginning of the twentieth century an American engineer called Taylor comes up. Remember, this is the time when the Olympics have started up again. You measure how fast people can run the 100 or how far they can throw the shot-put. You’re measuring things. Car races have begun. Bicycle race, which was a bloody spectacle with bikes careening out of control all the time. You see working class heroes getting just mangled, in part through each other’s manipulations of trying to knock them off. But you’re measuring things.
Taylor comes up with this way of measuring units of production, the ultimate in industrial discipline. You were on the assembly line. They will count the number of units you can do of jars of apple butter that you can turn out. If you’re not turning out enough, “See ya’, we’ll get somebody else. A lot of people want that job. We’ll see ya’.” That’s why the wages stay down, because there are a lot of people who want those jobs because of the growth. He becomes the darling of the French car manufacturers. He becomes the darling. He is a hot item. He would be on People magazine, if they did have one, because he comes and tells them how they can get more effort out of their tired, fatigued workers by counting them. It’s just like that all the way.
Michelle Perrot, when she wrote a brilliant article and edited a book I did a long time ago, her article was called “The Three Ages of Industrial Discipline.” She had an amazing phrase for the late 1970s. This was before, thank god, cell phones. It was before personal computers and all of that. There were computers, but they weren’t personal computers. She said that in this post-industrial age, where you’ve got the rust belt, and you’ve got factories being torn down outside Detroit, and in Flint, and in Torrington, and Waterbury, and places like that, in Pittsburgh, and almost anywhere you can name that was the heart of the American industrial experience. She predicted in 1978 that what would replace Taylorism would be the computer. The computer will measure in your cubicles your performance. She said in the end, the foreman would be replaced by “the quiet violence of the computer.” Kind of amazing. See you on Wednesday.
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