HIST 276: France Since 1871
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France Since 1871
HIST 276 - Lecture 6 - Workshop and Factory
Chapter 1. The Specific Nature of French Industrialization: Against the British Example [00:00:00]
Professor John Merriman: Today I want to talk about large-scale industrialization and workers. Let me say a couple of things, a couple of general points that are important, is that — well, two things at the beginning, first of all everywhere, and particularly in the case in France, the Industrial Revolution was first and foremost a continuation of forms of production that were already there; that we’ve over-emphasized the kind of technological advances, the super inventions of the eighteenth century in the textile industry, and that even in Britain — and some of you have heard me say this in the context of another course — traditional ways of producing things, artisanal and domestic industry involving women doing outwork, or domestic industry, was essential to the process. The second Industrial Revolution really depends on when you want start it up, really from the mid-1850s on, is more what — the classical kind of way that we’ve come to consider large-scale industrialization, that is, with electricity and steel, in the other order, and large-scale units of production.
So, that’s really the first point. And the second point is that for a very long time people who did economic history, often whom were economists, tended to see Britain as this sort of classic case of large-scale industrialization, and even used the most unfortunate word, “retarded,” when describing large-scale French industrialization. And the reason they kind of blundered into that kind of analysis that really missed the point is that if you added up the number of factories with x number of workers, or if you added up the number of steam engines, that France lagged behind Britain. But, until the mid-nineteenth century France is the second largest industrial economy in the world, and then gradually overtaken by Germany and then eventually lapped by the United States. But, one of the reasons why these economic historians argue that France couldn’t become the major industrial leader was that capital formation was less easily achieved in France, because the banking and insurance facilities were not that, to be sure, of the equal of Great Britain.
Also, one of the advantages that England had in large-scale industrialization was its geography, that you had — one of the reasons why the first railroad in the world in about 1827 — no, earlier than that, actually about 1819, I guess it is — was in England, north of here, is that it was carrying coal down to the sea, and there’s nowhere in England that’s more than seventy-five miles away from the ocean. In France you had the kinds of mine deposits that are so important. InGerminal, you’ve got them in the Nord, here, you’ve got them in Alsace — of course, that’s disappeared. You have them down in the Aveyron, in the Decazeville, and you have them here and there in other places, particularly around Saint-Étienne. But they are far from — it’s very difficult to transport coal and so that was really kind of the problem.
But, if you look at large-scale industrialization in France it still proceeds rather dramatically, but in the French way, still involving artisanal production, craft production, in Paris and in other cities, and still involving, until quite late in the century, rural industry. As a matter of fact, just take an example that I always use because I love the place, if you take Reims- r-e-i-m-s- here, industrial production, it was a major textile center. You think of it as being an ecclesiastical center because of the coronation of the kings and all that business and the magnificent cathedral rebuilt by the Americans after World War I and the Basilica of Saint Rémi, but in the 1840s and ’50s you still — well, 1830s and 40s — you still had all sorts of rural industry that’s sort of putting out work into the countryside, done largely by women, and then gradually you have the growth of large-scale industrial production, in the context of factories. But, well into the 1870s you still have something like 75,000 embroiderers, mostly women again, living in the hinterland of Nancy. And in 1871 the average unit of production in Paris — and Paris was the region with the biggest industrial center of France — had only seven people working in it.
So, if you’re looking for huge sweatshops, huge factories that you would find in Manchester, and Sheffield and places like that, they were pretty rare in France, and indeed some of the biggest units of production were mines. By the way,Germinal is really about the Anzin mines, and they’re in the north, the north of France, and Anzin is right, a couple of kilometers northwest of Valenciennes, so right near the Belgian border. But, over the long run that — and into this course, the 1850s and ’60s, which is before this course, but — the large-scale industrialization develops more and more in France. And, as in Britain, and as in other places, in order to have investment in industry you have to have capital, you have to have a sort of surplus of capital and you have to have a way of feeding a growing population, only very slowly in the case of France, as you know.
Chapter 2. The Long Depression and Population Migration: The Slow and Steady March of Small-Scale Urbanization [00:06:14]
And, so, there is an increase in production, in rural production that makes this possible, sort of an agricultural revolution that takes place, that certainly has, as we’ll see in a week or so, big problems with the phylloxera epidemic killing off the vineyards of France, which is so important to agricultural production. But you have to eat as well as drink, and so there is an increase in production of agriculture all over the place. And, so, this is very important. And just another point, ten — until ten years ago people still talked about the Long Depression, and it’s a very unfortunate term because it gave the sense that the Depression that gripped Europe between 1873, 1874 and the mid-1890s was in any way comparable to the Great Depression in industrialized countries, and in not so industrialized countries. But the industrial depression from 1929 — and in the case of the US, the US doesn’t really get out of it until the massive arms production following Pearl Harbor in World War II.
It is a depression, it’s characterized by low prices, so you don’t have these big sort of catastrophic dips, but it’s a depression which undercuts the economy in some way, and particularly hurts rural people because the prices of agricultural goods are so low. But nonetheless if you just — this is not an economics course but it’s good to have a few figures nonetheless — if you look here, the percentage of the population working in industry in France in 1876 is 27.6 percent of the population, and in 1896, twenty years later, it’s 29.2 percent. So, it’s quite clear, France is still a peasant society, even though many people have foots in both worlds. Miners, for example, working in, oh, in mines in the south of France in a place called Camot, which I’ll come back to in awhile, a small town in the town, they were both miners and agricultural — they’re farmers and day laborers. And it’s the same thing in other mines of the Decazeville. But, still, the number of people whose principle activity is industry increases. And France also urbanizes at the same time.
Now, the percentage of the population in 1872 that are urban is twenty percent, 21.1 percent, or something like that. In 1901 it’s 40.9 percent. Now, you’re going to think boy, France is really urbanized, but that’s completely misleading because to be urban in France, as of the census of 1841, you had to have 2,000 people, and that’s all. An example I always give is there are 2,000 people outside the Meriden Mall when it opens sometimes, or the Boston Post Road Mall. I mean, 2,000 people does not seem like a major urban agglomeration. So, France still is — the level of urbanization is not comparable to that of the Prussian Rhineland before 1871, or Germany afterward, or the United States. If you go to the Naugatuck Valley and the sort of rustbelt there — the United States urbanizes, the eastern United States urbanizes very rapidly. France, and we’ll come back to this when I talk about cities, France does have large cities, above all Paris, but it is primarily an urbanization of very small places of what in French — and in English, the same word — you’d call bourgs, b-o-u-r-g-s, which are market towns essentially, so small towns.
So, we’re still dealing with a society in which production is overwhelmingly rural, but in which France is becoming a major kind of industrial producing — a producing country. And one of the things that increases the number of people, the rate of urbanization — urbanization really is a growth in the proportional number of people living in whatever you define as cities — is le grand départ, or the big departure, as rural people leave the countryside and move into cities. And this is one of the great social happenings of this entire period. And I’ve probably used this statistic before; if I didn’t, I should’ve; and I’ll use it again, that in 1851, two-thirds of all the departments or départements in France had a larger population in 1851 than they did in 1939. So, that’s really incredible.
So, you have really huge growth in the industrial north, and that’s what you’ve been reading about, the Nord, that department, n-o-r-d, and in other areas with a big major center, for example Toulouse, which is the fourth or fifth largest city at that time, way in the south, one of France’s most wonderful cities. So, you have departments like that that are growing in population because of people leaving the mountains, people leaving areas of central France that simply aren’t rentable, you can’t make enough money to survive, particularly during an agricultural depression. And the wine disease, talk about a catastrophe, the wine disease knocks out much production, knocks out the way people live. And down in this part of France you already had a huge blow to the rural economy with another disease that comes along and wipes out, or at least severely constrains the silk industry, the raw silk industry.
So, people get up and leave and they go — they enter these new jobs like teaching, or clerking, or working in railroad stations, and that transforms the way people live. And, so, you have to sort of see all these things, the kind of flow of people back and forth, and even some flows that end. There was, since the sixteenth century, this pattern of seasonal migration, of men, only men, walking, walking every year all the way from this part of Central France to Paris, to Rouen, to other northern cities to work in the construction industry. They started that in the sixteenth century and they walked every March, and then they’d come back every November, and so most babies, if all goes normally, are born within a three months period. But a huge percentage of the male workforce walks in lines of two all the way to Paris.
You also have these patterns from the Pyrenees down to Barcelona, and from the Alps down to Milan, or down to Lyon and those regions too. And one of the things that happens in this course is that seasonal migration stops and those people basically become seasonal migrants, and the areas from which they came are de-populated; depopulation is one of the most amazing things about rural France, and that’s what — it still — it has been going — well the last ten years there’s been a rediscovery of the countryside, and a lot of people retire there and you have the phenomenon, what you call villages-dortoirs, that are sort of dormitory villages where people live when they’re working in the city. But one of the astonishing things about seeing all the people killed, you go and you see the war monuments, particularly in the Massif Central or places like that, is that when you see all these dead people, you see the — you can imagine their faces, and you see all their names on these huge plaques, eighty, ninety, one-hundred, and they’re just in these little teeny towns in which the countryside has been sort of abandoned and now may be bought up by the British but — as in many places.
Chapter 3. The Development of Local Industrial Centers [00:14:11]
But, so, the grand départ, the big departure for urban areas and new jobs, is part of this entire scene as well. So, where is industrial production in the time we’re talking about in France? Well where’s my little jiffy statistic? But in the north, that is certainly the case. 62.1 percent of the population of people in the Nord, that you’re reading about, or maybe even have already finished this wonderful novel, are workers. So, it’s the Nord or the proletarian département, along with the Pas-de-Calais next to it. And the first sort of conurbation — a conurbation is cities that grow so rapidly they all come together, like become one city — is Lille, which had been there for centuries and centuries, and then Roubaix and Tourcoing, which just grow up, they’re little Manchesters in France. You find the same thing around Saint-Étienne. So, big, heavy mining and textile industry in this part of France, for sure. And the other big industrial region, of course, the biggest, is the Paris region. But the Paris region you’re still producing these articles of Paris, that’s what they call them, these articles de Paris, which are things like wallets and shoes and fine quality goods that are part of the industrial pride of France.
When they had these big expositions in Victorian England, these mass produced things in England that William Morris, the sort of sponsor of arts and crafts movement, said it was the age of the shoddy. And the French would always proudly say, “we don’t turn out this Victorian kind of junk, we make products of quality.” So, you had these fine clothes still being made by — put together by single women or single men, I don’t know if they’re married or not, but working by themselves at home, that are part of the artisanal structure of Paris; where, if you went into the hinterland of Paris or into the industrial suburbs there you have the dirty industries, soap production, chemical production, that people don’t want in the city and the city values are so high that if you want space you’re going to build them outside — more about that when I talk about Paris.
And, then you have Lyon, and Lyon was the soap workers’ capital of — really of the world, in terms of production. And if you want to find one — if you’re going to go to one city and see where every layer of architecture, every layer of architecture representing the past is there, Lyon is the place to go, because there you’ve got Gallo-Roman ruins, you’ve got medieval — a fabulous medieval neighborhood on the right bank of the Sâone River, you have renaissance quarters that are fabulous. You have the best seventeenth-century apartment buildings that are left anywhere in France, you have this eighteenth-century sort of classic, the Place Bellecour, and you have this nineteenth century industrial suburb, right on the hill, called the Croix-Rousse, where all the — literally all the buildings have real tall roofs in order to accommodate these big silk looms, which are called jacquards, but you obviously don’t have to remember that.
The point is that this becomes a big industrial center, and that even as late as the 1860s you still had merchant capitalists putting work back out into the countryside in order to take advantage of what? Of cheap female labor. Women make one half of what men do in any trade in Europe, any occupation, throughout the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth century. You have other artisanal kind of producing towns. You have — Toulouse is a big artisanal center; Marseilles produces soap, I could go through the whole map, but I’m not going to do that. You have old textile towns that are still producing and turning out lots of things, like Rouen, which is one of my favorite towns in Normandie, where I teach every year a course that we jam into two weeks; and Troyes and places like that. So but these places are rather spread apart. You’ve got your basic shipbuilding, places like Saint-Nazaire, et cetera, et cetera.
So, though not gifted by having primary resources near major waterways, with the exception of the Loire River, you still have this transformation of the economy. But there was industrial production of some kind almost anywhere that you could go. And, then, you have very specialized cases like Limoges which is famous for its porcelain, maybe more about that later. Why is it famous for its porcelain? Because there’s a clay that you make porcelain out of called kaolin, which was a Chinese term, that is available there. And, so, that’s why Havilland porcelain, which no longer exists, incredibly enough — Havilland, it was American, I said that before — but it doesn’t exist, they’re closing their doors and there’s one really major producer left. But, these were part of the Industrial Revolution in La Belle France.
And, because it has now been annexed by Germany — that is, not now but in the 1870s, I mean in 1871 — I didn’t talk about all the textile production in Alsace, but there was lots of textile production there. And, as everywhere it’s the textile production that is the cutting edge, the leading edge of the Industrial Revolution, followed by metallurgical production. And, as in the case of Britain, that is, the trains help encourage investment because people can see trains, they can ride trains, and they look like something that’s going to lead France into this new, brand new industrial world, and so that helps accentuate the number of people who have something to invest, investing in railroads. As a matter of fact, one of the things that probably hurts French industry during exactly the period we’re talking about, that is the 1870s, ’80s and the early 1890s, is the fact that French capitalists begin investing in railroads, but in other places, in Italy, in Russia, and in Spain, where the railroads are to a great extent built by French capital. So then you’ve got people who are from — English economists saying, “oh well, they’ll never catch up with us because the peasants all hide their money under their beds or bury them in the gardens,” or people that have capital to invest are investing the money in these other railroads.
Chapter 4. Lives of Industrial Women: Domestic and Factory Production [00:20:34]
Now, what about women in all of this? The role of women in the Industrial Revolution is obviously crucial. In the case of France and in the case of Sheffield, around Sheffield, or Birmingham in England, the role of women in domestic industry or finishing products was extremely important and extremely persistent. The Industrial Revolution, even the second Industrial Revolution, does not — the story has more continuities than dramatic changes in the role of women in the Industrial Revolution. Women had always worked in textile production, but they’d worked by themselves in the Vendée, or anywhere and in Lorraine or almost anywhere, back for centuries. And they still do.
We’ve exaggerated the separation of work and home in the role of women in the Industrial Revolution, because if you look at Paris in the 1890s — I have a former graduate student, Judy Coffin, who has a wonderful book on the sewing machine and its role in all of this. If you look at industrial production of these fine garments and handbags that are made in Paris, many of them in the garment industry, the Garment District of Paris, which is right in the center of Paris on the right bank, around a street called Sentier, are done by single women working on the very top floors by themselves, and working for a merchant capitalist, just as their predecessors had done two centuries before that.
And, so, those continuities are still very important. But to be sure, in the more sort of classic, or the usual kind of thing you hear, I’ll make in awhile, to be sure they gradually move into factory production. But, what does not change is — another thing that does not change is the role of women in the managing of the household economy, because women have to somehow piece together enough work, enough income from their children and from their husbands or partners in order to keep the family going, and women’s role in the household economy is still extraordinarily important.
Also, some aspects of women and work that is not industrial does not change. In England — in Great Britain, but let’s say England, in 1850 and again in 1880, the largest two female occupations are textile operatives, factory workers, and domestics, and in France that’s the same case too. And one of the things that single women do who come into Paris, or Lyon, or Strasbourg or whatever, to try to get a job, is they place themselves in domestic service. And, of course, their conditions of work are lamentable, and there’s all the — and often, often — and there’s a whole range of literature about what happens to them. And, of course, some of the most spectacular cases of things going wrong are the ones that you hear about from social commentators at that time, which is the single domestic service gets impregnated by the aggressive older son, or younger son of the boss, and then, the minute she’s pregnant she is out of there, and then that is a fairly quick road, in many cases, of many rural people to — if you’re pregnant you’re not going to get hired, who’s going to hire you? So, then what happens to the baby, in France, anywhere? Infanticide or abandonment, in the foundling homes.
And what they did — and, so, in order to cut down the infanticide rate they create this thing — and it still was debated again about three months ago in Rome — they create these things called tours — I don’t what you’d — tours, they’retours, these things that turn, and they’re like the machines that they used to have in the ill-fated machine city, which some of you don’t remember, where you’d put in your money and, if you get lucky, the product will actually come back toward you, and what happens there is you ring the little bell and this little thing turns and you put the baby in there, and then some nice person keeps the baby, because otherwise you just abandon the baby and the baby dies. And the number of infanticides every day was tragic. And once you got into it, if you were a baby and you get into one of these foundling homes, your chances of survival are very thin. And every large foundling home really into the — through the 1870s the number of people — of babies who die is one-third every year.
So, that’s another reason, by the way, why French cities, more people die in French cities than are born in French cities, through much of the century, because of the huge rates of child abandonment and infanticides. So it’s a most unfortunate scene. And then what happens after x, this mother x has her baby, abandons her baby, and sadly, maybe in ten percent of the cases, kills her baby, is that the road to prostitution is a rather quick one, coming along; or try to get back into domestic service. So, but, for most women things go better than that, but they never go splendidly because they’re never going to earn what males earn, and they’re the last hired and the first fired right along.
And, then you had this other thing that happens, is that the Socialists are quite concerned with what happens to women’s wages, and the unions are quite concerned what happens to women’s wages, but they’re not very concerned about whether they have the right to vote. Why? Because the socialists are afraid that because women, as I said before, are more apt to go to church than men, by far, then and now, that they will vote the way the priest tells them in the confessional. So, the socialists do not support the right of women to vote. And women don’t vote in France, they don’t get the right to vote after World War I, despite all the sacrifices — they get the right to vote in Britain — they don’t get the right to vote in France until after World War II. So, again, so what changes?
So, keep your eye on the big picture, is that domestic industry gradually implodes into these cities, into factories, on the edge of French cities, big and small, but that what women do doesn’t change, they’re still doing domestic industry, they’re still doing — I mean, they’re still doing textile work, they’re not doing domestic industry; take that back, I take that back. They are doing textile industry work, but increasingly in factories, which is the classic portrayal of the Industrial Revolution. And, so, the classic portrayal ends up being right, but only rather gradually in France, over a very long period of time. Or take Catherine, one of the more engaging figures in modern French literature, I think it’s fair to say. Her experience is perfectly normal. It’s sad, it’s pathetic, but it’s very normal.
I’ll give you an example. This is — we live about two and a half hours from Saint-Étienne, and I hardly ever go to Saint-Étienne, I go there to work once in awhile, in the archives, but not that often, nor do I follow Les Verts, which is their famous soccer team. But there’s still an expression that people use there. If a child screws up, does something — you’re nine, eight or nine years old, and do something your parents tell you not to do, and you do it anyway, they’ll say something like, deux semaines sous une benne, two weeks under — -a benne is a kind of a wagon that’s used to haul coal, and what children did in factories, and in mines, is — because they’re small you can put them under one of these wagons, and they help move it along the tracks — that’d be a lot of fun wouldn’t it? Because they have little shoulders, but strong shoulders. Or fixing machines in factories with their little fingers which would get chopped off. “They’re so careless,” said a British manufacturer when a couple of them kept getting their fingers chopped off.
And, so, a way of correcting a child would be to say, “two weeks pushing that thing around and you won’t screw up, you’ll do what I tell you to do. You won’t skip school, you’ll go to school,” and this sort of thing. So, these expressions still linger. So, child labor too, again there is opposition to schooling from families who need that extra income, or that extra labor of children in the farmyard, or watching the sheep in the transhumance, moving the sheep into the mountain and all that. So, again these continuities and changes are extremely important. Now, I didn’t, and I don’t think I have time to do this now but I’ll do it sometime, talk about the decline of the French population, why France simply stops having children. I’ve talked a little bit about that but I have to come back and do that again. I think I’ll wait till we’re talking about the origins of World War I, because that’s when it really frightened people, because it didn’t look like there’d be enough French to survive, to maybe fight a war against all those rapidly breeding Germans, and things weren’t working there.
Chapter 5. From Craftsman to Worker: The Roots of French Socialism [00:30:13]
So, what I want to talk to you about now is how workers viewed what was happening to them. And, so, there’s really oh kind of three things I want to say. The first is quick, is that proletarianization is both — and this was a word that people used — is both an objective and a subjective concept. And the third is to talk about how workers viewed the factory and viewed their bosses, because the period, particularly 1895 to 1907 has been called the heroic age of syndicalism, or union organization, and strikes in France. Now, proletarianization. We live in a country in which part of the canon has always been that in America if you work hard you’ll always be rewarded at the end, and that the descriptions of the late nineteenth century is people working very hard, and doing very well, and moving into the middle and indeed upper classes and becoming very wealthy.
Obviously, that’s not the case, that the great exceptions were the one that people paid attention to. There is social mobility in France. There used to be all sorts of studies — that’s what people did, not me — but in the 1970s about social mobility. Social mobility was extremely limited for people who were born into the working class. And in 1968, 1968, the riots, la revolution manquée — in 1968, one of the big issues that students your age had, and professors my age had, though I was your age then, or a little younger, I guess, was that you could work your ass off and your chances of getting into a university weren’t very good because once you were born into the lower classes — schools were schools of elites, that’s what they were — and once you got through there, there was no guarantee you were going to get a job anywhere, and people were extremely mad and upset, and they viewed — they blamed capitalism, they blamed the State, as their predecessors had in the 1890s.
And, so, people who were born into a life of work, a life of hard, difficult work, that was one — you ended — you were born into the jobs that you would get. And if — I’ll give you another Saint-Étienne example because that’s so important, Saint-Étienne, that there were lots of people who moved to Saint-Étienne — don’t have to remember this — come from a very religious part of France called the Haute-Loire, which the capital is Le Puy, and a lot of these people emptying out that department moved to Saint-Étienne. And they don’t move. Some of them become teachers, some of them are going to get clerks jobs, if they’re educated. But they don’t do very well and they live — there are periods where they’re doing all right, and then they’re let go, and then they’re doing all right and then they’re let go, and it’s just — the more you read about the 1880s and ’90s and sort of memoirs of working people, was just the difficulty of making things work from day to day, week to week, month to month, just getting by. And they learned to hate.
I’m writing a book about a guy whom I’ll tell you about some day, who really — he said that love can make you hate. And he viewed all of this, and then he set out to destroy the state that he thought had made capitalism possible; but, that’s another story for another day. So, there’s this objective status of being — you’re a worker, that’s what you do, and you’re proud of it, and you wore blue as a color, you wore your blue frock or smock, whatever you call it, and you spoke a language in argot, read — if you read L’Assommoir in French, it’s a language that’s extremely difficult to read because a lot of the expressions have disappeared, but it’s a way of protecting your identity. It’s like the way people talked in the suburbs, particularly in the 1980s, 1990s, en verlan. It’s a kind of language, kind of a slang, of an argot that helps protect your identity, that you’re proud of your identity. And they were proud of being workers, as well they should.
But the subjective aspect is what people studied in the 1960s and ’70s, and the term is class-consciousness. And, certainly, there was an attempt to prove that all workers all over the place were class conscious. But that wasn’t the case. People have other identities, collective identities. You could have multiple identities — family, religion, region, we’ve talked about this, village, et cetera, et cetera. But the fact remains that one of the reasons why there’s so many strikes in France, as in other countries too, it has to do on the one hand with unionization, and the sympathetic role of leftwing politicians in supporting working class organization, but it has — it also has much to do with people coming to a sense that they are workers and are conscious of themselves as a class and they view the State and the wealthy people as being contrary to their interests.
Now, this starts in France — starts earlier among artisans in Britain, arguably in the 1790s, in France it really starts in the 1830s, and the word socialism is first used by a socialist in 1834, a guy called Pierre Leroux who was a utopian socialist — forget him, but he’s an interesting guy. But it’s at this point where artisans, not ordinary workers, see themselves as a class apart. So, at the beginning they don’t want to have anything to do with these unskilled workers, that they may work with in a factory. But they’re dressed nicely, they wore corduroy suits, and these other workers, they don’t dress like that; and they’re educated, that’s why artisans are at the forefront, they create the strike really, in the early modern period. It’s artisans, it’s skilled craftsmen.
And just in two minutes, why does this happen, why do artisans suddenly start seeing themselves as a class apart? Why do they start targeting capitalism as a structure and the State as doing them injustice. Why? Well, there are really two reasons that one can give. One is that what happens because of the French Revolution, to craftsmen in Germany, in parts of Italy and in France, is that it opens the doors and the guild protections are gone. Anybody can be any trade you want. Laissez-faire capitalism, you want to be a plumber, you can be a plumber; you want to be a tailor, you can be a tailor. And, so, all of a sudden in Paris in the 1830s, ’40s and ’50s there’s all sorts of wagons being pushed through the street with beautifully made clothes on them, going for practically nothing, because there’s so many other tailors making suits, and the price, the wages these guys get — Marx was right about, only about that, insofar as his assessment of wages — artisans are making less money, their world is falling apart. They have the dignity, they have the skill, they have the knowledge, they have the organization, in friendly societies, which at a minimum give you a decent burial so you’re not dumped into some pauper’s grave, and they’re mad because who let all these other people do the trades that the guilds had protected?
And the other thing that happens is — goes back to where we started — industrialization and mechanized production, that if you go to a market in Reims, since I used that example before, or anywhere you want, in Aubigne or Privas, and inn’importe où, you can go there and you can buy a suit off a rack, you can just go and buy a suit, and you don’t have to pay somebody a lot of money to make your suit from beginning to the end, because it’s cheaper. So, who does that hurt? It hurts the artisans, the craftsmen. And, so, what happens then? “Ah-ha,” somebody with money says, “hey, you guys are all tailors, you’re not doing so well are you? Things aren’t real good. Well, I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what. I will pay you to make pants cuffs.” I don’t know much about suits, as you’ll probably gather. “I will tell you to make pants cuffs” — do you make pants cuffs? I guess you have to. Or to make sleeves on a jacket, “and all I want you to do is make one-hundred sleeves on a jacket. You make the left ones, you make the right ones, and I’ll pay you.” It’s just like domestic industry, before. Are they mad? Of course, they’re furious. And they go out on strike but they always lose. And you can strike in France after 1864.
So, that’s what happens to them. Or, let me give you another example from good old Limoges, in Limoges. Plates, you got plates, and plates had always been — beautiful plates had been hand painted. Renoir, the painter, he started life as a porcelain painter, and then — and that’s what made it a quality item. If you find painted Limoges plates from the 1880s, you hang onto those babies, and don’t put them in the microwave. So, then what happens? So, somebody invents a process where you can put, like a decal on a child’s toy, onto the plate and bake the decal onto the plate between the first and second baking. So, what happens to these people who are very talented, who made all this money, and didn’t hang around with these other guys who make less money? They are screwed, no one’s going to hire them. They’ll keep one or two.
I once saw a special order that had been done for the Shah of Iran — this was a long time ago — hand painted because he wanted it hand painted. But, that’s the end of that. And they ended up in the warehouse, or ended up doing whatever they could. Or glass workers, the same thing. The people that made bottles, were very skilled and they were calledmessieur l’ouvrier en bouteille, they were called “mister glassworker.” And suddenly somebody in the United States invents a machine that can make glasses, bottles, turn out thousands of them, to be filled with wine and other things. Who needs these guys anymore? And they go on the road to Belgium or anywhere they can — nobody needs them anymore, a machine has eliminated them. Are they mad? Oh, and shoemakers, the same thing, these machines made in St. Louis, Missouri, I think, come along and wipe out certain aspects of shoemaking.
Chapter 6. The Development of Industrial Discipline [00:40:42]
So, this leads people to think there is something that we can’t control out there that is affecting our lives in a very ruinous way. So, these people are at the forefront of labor militancy. And in the course of the 1880s and 1890s they start thinking about, “hey, you know those people that we don’t drink with, the ones who load things, carry things around, ordinary workers, maybe, you know, maybe they got the same, maybe the same enemy.” And, then they start supporting their hesitant organizational movements, and strikes and they get together. Now, how did this look from the point of view of workers? How do they view what was happening to them? Again, we can romanticize class-consciousness, we can romanticize this idea of a moral economy, that people ought to be paid a good wage for a good day’s work. And it didn’t happen all over the place, but still it’s rather impressive, and depressing; impressive the organization, and depressing the view of capitalism and the factory as these units of production get larger and larger.
Let me give you two examples how this looked. One, during strikes what was the image that workers had of their bosses, and what does this tell us? And my friend and cherished colleague, one of the greatest historians I’ve ever known, one of the great people I’ve ever know, Michelle Perrot, in France, did work on this among other of her genius’s works, the view of the other. In the 1820s and 1830s, when artisans went on strike, they knew the boss, the master. The boss was somebody who they’d see and all that, and they’d see him around but they’re kind of mad at him, so we’re going to withdraw our labor for awhile, we don’t — you got to pay us more, you ought to be the guy you can be, you ought to be the guy you can be and pay us a just wage. Well, the master, he has pretty good relations with them, he may like the noble in Toulouse, he may — or around Toulouse — he may give them a chicken on Easter, or something like that. But he’s somebody recognizable, and he’s paternalistic but this time he’s gone wrong. So, we’re going to go out on him, we’ll blacklist him and all that.
What about the 1850s and 1860s? Why, that is very different indeed. The 1850s and 1860s, if you look at the vocabulary of the people on strike, that they still know the boss, they say to the boss, but they call him a letch, he’s a letch because he hits on his female workers, often with some success. He’s gross, or he eats too much, or he drinks too much, or he beats his wife. They’re personal characteristics in the kind of language, the gesture, the gestures and la parole, the discourse of strikes. Now, what about the 1890s, and the first decade of the twentieth century? It’s transformed completely, particularly in big factories, because something has come along to change the way people view their own work experience.
And this is called industrial discipline, industrial discipline. And the strikes — then the boss is often in Paris sending telegrams to Limoges saying how they should deal — they being the foremen, deal with the workers. He has become a symbol of capitalism, defended by the army of the State, in the view of militant syndicalists, militant union people who had the right after 1881 to organize. He is a symbol of this structure of a large-scale industrialization that they can’t control. And he is off in his chateau, on his boat in Normandie, or something like that, but he has been — the voice of him is now the foreman. And the foreman enters the game, enters — not the game, but enters the workshop, and he represents the attempts to impose industrial discipline on people whose parents or even them had always worked at home, and you worked when it was light, or you worked — when you had done nursing your baby then you’d work. And when you wanted to go for a stroll to have a smoke or have a drink you did that. But the foreman puts up regulations that you will be fined if a plate is broken, you’ll be fined for chattering.
There was a horrible fire in Brooklyn that killed 140 women who’d been sort of locked in, in about 1910 or 1911, because they were chattering, they were going out in the back, instead of working and talking, and so they all burned to death. And the regulations told them that you will be fined if you do this, you’ll be fired if you do this. And the person that enforces them is the foreman. The foreman is promoted from within or, increasingly, brought from the outside to impose industrial discipline on these workers. The Wedgwood Pottery manufacturer, some of you’ve heard of that, he once said, very prophetically, in 1807 or 1808 he said, “what I want to do is I want my workers to be like hands who move, and who act, and who react to the commands of my brain, and they will do what I want them to do.”
So, the factory — and this is in England, too, is — if you can think of assembly lines, I used to work at Kellogg’s of Battle Creek. I did the raisin bran, I put the raisins into snack pack, I did that. And I worked at Alice Love’s Jams and Jellies in Portland, Oregon, and all this, and we hated the foreman, I’ll tell you that, we just hated him; so, at least I could hate them — I don’t hate them, but I did hate them, sure I hated them, of course we hated them. But the foremen are the people who put the regulations up, who punish you for trying to be yourself, who — trying to leave to see your friends. And then the foremen, they create these factories as a way of imposing industrial discipline. When you see — and that’s not the only reason, because you need factories for big machines; these machines I can never — I’d forget how to work them.
I worked in a canning plant, I could never — I was supposed to work this machine, I could never — I’d forget how to work it. It would get jammed all the time and I’d always get in trouble. So that’s maybe — it’s all coming out now. But, what they do is they create — when you have workers wanting to have their pictures taken, when you have cameras; and when they’re taking their pictures together, like a football team or like a baseball team, they’re always in front of the door, of the factory. Why? Because there are very few doors, and there’s a clock over the door. It is now the clock, it’s the siren that tells you when you can come and go; not when you’re hungry, not when your baby needs to be nursed, not when you’ve just had it up to here with breathing dust and know you’re going to get TB and croak, from that, in lots of places. And that’s what imposes this, industrial discipline comes from these foremen.
And, so, strikes are often against foremen. There was a strike in Limoges of women workers who were forced to kneel down and pray before the workday, and they strike against women foremen too. Now, not all of them were egregious but nonetheless this was a way of them — a way of viewing — their experience was shaped by the necessity of being at one place at one time, and if you’re not there, “see ya’,” that’s the end of that, you better be there, and imposed industrial discipline inside the workplace. I did a film for — a documentary for FR3 on Limoges, on the strikes in 1905, and we did part of it — it was one-hundred degrees, literally, it was forty-one, and we did it in the ruins of the Havilland factory, with dead pigeons, and plates and the door wasn’t there anymore; but, I’d seen it before, you could feel what it meant to these people, that they had their pictures and they said goodbye to comrades who had been fired, who had been let go because there wasn’t enough money; it was pretty bad.
So, the industrial discipline, in an attempt to create this kind of perfect workforce, what it does is it creates resentment and it helps explain — there are other reasons too — but this kind of mobilization of ordinary people. Now, let me just finish with the following story, because this is an amazing thing and a few of you in other courses have heard this, but I tell it because it’s just so — it was prophetic. It was again this wonderful historian Michelle Perrot, and she wrote an article I published in a collection of essays a long time ago called “The Three Ages of Industrial Discipline.” And it parallels the view of the other, where you’re against — the guy is trying to, the patron is trying to get you — the patron was trying to get you to produce this plate, and this stuff, and these shoes and all of that, and then pretty soon there’s the foreman that tells you how many things you’re going to do.
But, what happens in the 1900s at a time when the Olympics start, and you’re counting how far — or restart, how quickly you can run the one-hundred meters, or whatever? And an engineer called Taylor — Taylorism — an American comes up with a way of measuring productivity by counting the units that you can produce, how many little God-awful bags of — boxes of raisin bran I produce in so many hours, and they count them, and if you don’t count enough you’re out of there, if you don’t have enough — we weren’t unionized, we couldn’t be unionized then — you’re out of there. And what happens then — and Taylorism becomes very important, Ford loves Taylorism — and the car producers, Renault embraces Taylorism, it’s just an unbelievable thing.
And there’s an old story when a tailor, or some French engineer, comes to an American company and says, “well, all the workers are young here” — this was a Taylorism place — “all the workers are young, where are the old ones?” He says, “Come on along, we’ll have a smoke in the cemetery and you’ll see.” And Michelle Perrot said, predicted in 1978 that the kind of surveillance, or the kind of counting of the assembly line production would give way to what she called, in an amazing thing — think about our post-Industrial world of the cubicles of people answering phone calls, and doing computer line work will give way — the way you measure performance and create industrial discipline — will give way to what she called, beautifully, the quiet violence of the computer. And it did. See you on Wednesday.
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