Appendix 24: From Production to Consumption: Does the Deskilling of the Craftsman Mean the Degradation of Labor?

Overview: Collective Memory

Following the Johns Hopkins Univerisity historian, Alan Megill, in historical discourse, "memory" has come to mean "knowledge or tradition". For these historians, currently, the notion of "collective" or "public" memory is "a stand-in for cultural knowledge". "Memory is widely assumed to connote something living and authentic". In this sense, "cultural memory" manifests, more or less, "a wish for an authentic, as distinguished from a dead or oppressive, tradition or knowledge". Memory in this sense is said to be "collective." Sometimes "collective memory" refers to the memories that a group of people, such as World War II veterans, have of the historical experience that they underwent.

First, I admit that any question about "Deskilling of the Craftsman Mean the Degradation of Labor" has to mean, at bottom, remembering, that is, "memory", whether personal memory or collective memory. And how much is dependent upon my imagination?

Why? Because any personal remembering about past achievements is based upon what I have experienced. Ex: My grandfather, like a string of his earlier relatives, stretching back into the depths of the 19th century, was a "fine" craftsman, a maker of Queen Anne furniture. My late father spent most of his lifetime as "a worker on a production line" in a furniture factory. And for myself, I -- an amateur woodworker -- sell computers.

Asked by a friend, "When your father worked in a furniture factory, compared to your grandfather, did your father suffer from a "degradation of labor"?

What the answer is to the above rhetorical questions depends upon a multitude of factors, not the least of which is "memory". That is, memory in the sense of what I can remember about my both my grandfather and my father. Memories of my grandfather can be helped greatly by his furniture that I inherited that is sitting in my living room. Even with the furniture, how much of the "memories" built up are dependent on an imagination reconstructing the past?

Do I have a similar set of furniture inherited from my father? Maybe, but will this furniture be distinguished in some memorable way for me? Such questions remain at the "rhetorical-level" only, since no "right" or "correct" answer is possible.

Aside: This "story" is simply that, a story designed to help make a point about a so-called "degradation of labor".

Can Collective Memory, At Sometime, Move Into The Realm Of "Collective Imagination"?

Now, multiply this execise in "personal memory" millions times -- because the population of America is around 300 million -- and, by taking all these "memories" together, the outcome is "collective memory".

Again, such speculation is all very vague, of course. Inevitably, fading of personal memory occurs, and -- as generations change -- so does public (collective) memory. And, naturally, an obvious question arises: where, in this equation, does imagination enter? In the end, attitudes shift about such matters as a so-called "degradation of labor" between my grandfather's and my father's careers.

collective memory can be justified only on a metaphorical level

The employment of "collective memory" can be justified only on a metaphorical level - and this is how historians have always employed it - as a general code name for something that is supposedly behind myths, traditions, customs, cults, all of which represent the "spirit," the "psyche," of a society, a tribe, a nation.

Even with respect to the latter most commonly used terms - "society," "tribe," "nation" - it is not necessarily suggested by historians that these terms have any real, living substance that can actually be 35 experienced separately or independently from the members who comprise such a group.

To Amos Funkenstein:

... consciousness and memory can only be realized by an individual who acts, is aware, and remembers. Just as a nation cannot eat or dance, neither can it speak or remember. Remembering is a mental act, and therefore it is absolutely and completely personal.

Sources:Amos Funkenstein, "Collective Memory and Historical Consciousness", Perceptions of Jewish History Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993, pages 3-27; Noa Gedi and Yigal Elam; "Collective Memory -- What is It?", History and Memory 8 1996; Alan Megill, "Memory", Kelly Boyd, ed., Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing London: Taylor & Francis, 1999, page 797-798.

Origin of Term, "From Production To Consumption"

As a phrase, "from production to consumption" is used (1st usage?) in 1909, by the British economist, S J Chapman, in the Economic Journal v. 19, page 362. Chapman gave the "Presidential Address to the Economic Science and Statistics Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science" in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

"The most insistent root problems currently facing industrial city civilizations," Chapman declares -- including the value of leisure and the satisfaction got directly from the activity of labor -- are those connected with "wages, conditions of work and living, and the hours of labor". If we take the value of leisure into account, that is, an increase "of time from production to consumption", he argues - and I am paraphrasing here -- the increase in leisure time, gained from a shorter working day, would be greater than the good derived from an increase in earnings.

(As a concept - in the sense that I use it here -- "from production to consumption" is easier to understand if the term "mass production" is injected into it, so that the revised phrase reads something like "From Production To Mass Production To Mass Consumption".)

In my view, for the context of this online book, the interjection of "mass production" into the original phrase desirably changes the meaning of the phrase in several ways, especially where, for cabinet makers and furniture makers, we're speaking about the major shift, of producing objects for human use using handicraft techniques vs manufacturing techniques. Tension created between the conflict between handicraft skills of workers vs manufacturing processes is examined in more detail in chapter 1:4.)

Definite Shift in Work Conditions

From "production to consumption", then, signifies a definite shift in work conditions, from decrease in hours of work to an increase in leisure time, shifts that are accompanied increases in income. Space, Time and Money, all related to Leisure For Woodworking I discuss in Appendix 27: Home-Ownership's Central Role for Amateur Woodworking. Another consideration -- potentially confusing -- is the distinction between consumption and commodification, as discussed in Chapter 1:1:-- Background Information


Moreover, this is a modern conundrum, where the analogy, "Is the glass half full, or is the glass half-empty?"

As the 19th century blended into the 20th, a major development in consumer behavior was the change from being "users of things" to "consumers of commodities". In other words, the emphasis in the process of goods exchange shifted from buying for use to packaging for selling: as though the buyer's active role is substituted for the seller's active role, giving credence to the notion, "From Production to Consumption". Read more

Modern education and technology have played a crucial role in broadening the base of the crafts. Formal school instruction and published or recorded training manuals led to a dissemination of craft practice. The advent of basement shops with electric tools and the development of such equipment as ceramic kilns and glass furnaces for personal use also made possible its expansion.

Source: Edward S. Cooke, "Modern Craft and the American Experience", American Art 21, No 1 Spring 2007, pages 2-8

Other, related concepts are "deskilling" and "degradation of labor", in that the shift from production to consumption impacted the lives of men and families psychologically as well as sociologically.

Both "deskilling" and/or "degradation of labor" are terms coined to help characterize the effects upon society taking place as a result of technological advances in manufacturing processes. Moreover, both terms focus more directly upon the immediate impact on the lives of individuals and families.

Deskilling, for example, heralds the decline, or passing, of the revered traditions of artisans passing their skills from generation to generation.

Beginning around 1850, mass production, as it developed in America the United States in the early years of the twentieth century, evolved into a economic system -- the sweating system -- of maximum production at the least expense to the producer. The productivity and profitability of a manufacturing operation depended on a high rate of production. Following the lead of automobile maker, Henry Ford, manufacturers discovered that profitably, modern factories could employ unskilled workers in jobs that had previously required highly skilled craftsmen.

In the labor history literature, the adoption of the American system is often called deskilling. Coined ca. 1940, the etymology of "deskilled" suggests that it is the construct of civil servants. The meaning given by the Oxford English Dictionary is

To convert (a workplace, employment) from one that requires a skilled worker or workers to one that does not; to reduce the number of skilled workers in (an industry); of new technology, etc.: to render (a skilled worker) unskilled. )

Defining The Degradation of Labor

The phrase, "degradation of labor", is first used in 1887, by one of the pioneers of American sociology, Franklin H Giddings. While Giddings confined himself to wages - debating different factors that influenced wages in the latter part of the 19th century -- the sense that the age of the great tradition of craftsman was declining was very evident at that time. Voiced most often was the lament about the passing of the craftsman who was master of all processes, not just one or a few.

Soon the phrase was picked up by others.

In 1900, George S. Boutwell (1818-1905), the first president of the Anti-Imperialist League (1898-1905), in an Address at Masonic Hall, Washington, D.C., January 11, used the phrase in the title of his address: "The President's Policy: War and Conquest Abroad, Degradation of Labor at Home"

According to skill degradation theory, Taylor's (1911) "scientific management" movement was the decisive social invention that deskilled workers and gave management imperative control over all work.

In 1933, Dr. Dexter S. Kimball is famous for declaring:

"craftsman displaced by the machine ... [in] the most lavish use of power the world has ever witnessed."

(An engineer, Kimball, Dean of the College of Engineering, Cornell University, also served as President of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.) Kimball also observed that,

Division of labor is as old as humanity; it is an essential feature of civilization and was used in some detail by the old craftsman. The new methods have enabled us to utilize more fully the advantages of congregated labor and division of labor ... Handicraft ... carr[ies] with it the idea of a limited output because of the primitive nature of the tools employed, while manufacturing is essentially synonymous with production in quantity. Handicraft, moreover, carries with it the idea of a permanent state of tools and production, and a consequent permanent social structure. Manufacturing, on the other hand, is synonymous with rapid change in productive methods and consequent change in the social and economical conditions.

By the term factory system we refer particularly to the modern method by which men organize labor and tools for the production of commodities. There have been other forms of industrial organization, however, which have varied greatly with changing time and place. Previous to about one hundred and fifty years ago, all productive organization of which we have any record was based on handicraft. In most instances the organization was extremely simple, because handicraft is essentially individual. The Egyptians, however, had factories such as that at Canopus where pottery was manufactured, and the Romans had a well-organized system of factories for the making of armor.

Factories of considerable size also existed in England and on the continent during the Middle Ages. These factories, while possessing the characteristics of congregated labor and perhaps in many instances including machines, were, after all, simple collections of handicraft processes with some division of labor. They were not comparable with modern factories so far as the systematic organization of labor or of processes is concerned.

Source: Dexter S. Kimball, Principles of Industrial Organization New York: McGraw-Hill, 1919, second edition, page 3

Conjuring up visions of the chaos depicted in the Charlie Chaplin movie, "Hard Times," a quarter century later, during the Great Depression, Kimball opines on "The Social Effects Of Mass Production," Science 77 No. 1984, Friday, January 6, 1933 :

"The greatest and most immediate menace to the worker" -- because of industrial progress -- is his "displacement in favor of more highly developed machines in the hands of less skilled workers or 'degradation of labor,' as it has been called."

For Kimball,

Everywhere one finds the craftsman displaced by the machine and the semi-skilled operators, backed by the most lavish use of power the world has ever witnessed.

In many instances the product is equal to or better than the work of the artisan. In all cases, the volume of product per worker is vastly greater than can be achieved by handicraft.

Of course, there is nothing new in principle in these developments, which began with the first stone axe and culminated in the Industrial Revolution. Until that event, the tool had always been an adjunct to the skill of the worker; but the developments of the industrial revolution made the worker an adjunct to the machine.

Since 1900 the mechanization of industry has proceeded at a rapid and apparently at an accelerated pace. As long as industry was prosperous and displaced workers, in some measure, could find work elsewhere, little attention was given to this tendency, though thoughtful writers have from time to time called attention to the problem. But the present depression [i.e., the 1930s] has aroused more interest in the basic reasons for unemployment than any other in modern times, and for the first time technological unemployment, as this displacement of labor is called, appears as a vital issue and as a possible factor, in a large way, in the general problem of unemployment The most natural reaction on first observing productive processes such as have been described is one of concern for the skilled workers who may have been displaced by the new invention and a consequent belief that such advanced methods cannot be conducive to the welfare of the workers.

As manufacturing operations evolved further, the knowledge required to run a factory, especially the production processes, was taken out of the hands of skilled craftsmen and put into the hands of the managers and the machine makers. Generally, this series of events is labeled scientific management, or, Taylorism.

Impact of the Degradation of Labor

For our purposes, we will concentrate on the work of the Hungarian teacher, J. E. Vojka, the American industrial designer, Walter Dorwin Teague, the historian of technology, Siegfried Giedion, the American architect and philosopher, Lewis Mumford, and the English industrial designer, David Pye.

J E Vojka

Evidently, the impact of the machine age on humans, especially in relation to leisure time, was substantial. The ineffective use of spare time was viewed as a major international problem, because in 1935, in Budapest, Hungary, a conference, International Conference on Workers' Spare Time, was convened. In his conference paper, J. E. Vojka, [J. E. Vojkai; translator, SOPHIE W. DOWNS, The Young Worker and His Spare Time, Lange Library, University of California, Berkeley, California, VOLUME 38 November 1936, pp 236-238 ] of the Workshop School at Budapest, looked at such "psychogolical reactions", as the human requirement that "LIFE MUST HAVE A MEANING", with the obvious meaning that "leisure interests" are significant. Vojka cites a decade and a half study on use of spare time by young factory workers.

One of the essential points was found to be the harmful effects of mechanized work, requiring the continuous repetition of a single movement at a speed demand¬ing intense concentration. Such work pro¬duces nervous tension and a dulling, if not an actual paralysis of mental processes. ..due to lack of organic completeness of his work, regulated, as it is, merely by the hour, leading to no definite final result.. longing for some kind of "active" effort, as a relief from the mechanized ("passive") routine occupation.. his existence seems of such little importance, the part he plays, so very insignificant, a situation very different from that of the apprentice of other days. The latter felt himself an important factor, his craft a valuable art, his guild a powerful influence. Young people demand that life should have some meaning.. obstacles to the de¬velopment of recreation interests is the lack of any preparatory training in the utilization of spare time. " . .. In the case of the young indus¬trial workers, some attempt should be made in the later years of education to prepare them for the wise use of leisure, so as to compensate for the physical and mental effect of mechanized work and to develop by practical methods of civic in¬struction 'a realization of their obligations toward the community."

Walter Dorwin Teague

In 1936, under the rubric, the "demands of mass production," Walter Dorwin Teague distinguished handicrafts from manufacturing, ["Art of the Machine Age," Industrial Education Magazine November 1936, 228] using the following distinctions:

Because beauty in a machine age must be achieved by methods quite different from those which served the craftsmen of old: handicrafts progressed by trial and error, experimentation; machine production by meticulous planning and precision. The chief characteristic of hand craftsmanship is endless variation; of machine production, precision and exactitude. In the simple past a craftsman could shape his work literally under his own hands; ours are put together by hundreds of workmen the designer may never see, operating intricate machines with which he has only a nodding acquaintance, by processes he only theoretically understands. And while the old-timer could alter his second job if the first one did not suit him, the modern designer must accept the appalling responsibility for ten or a hundred thousand identical units in which no revision is possible!

Siegfrid Giedion

Mechanization Takes Control Lewis Mumford

Lewis Mumford's famous 1951 Bampton Lectures were published as Art And Technics in 1952. In a chapter entitled "From Handicraft to Machine Art," he says this about craftsmanship: [source: Richard D Lakes quotes this fragment]

He [craftsman] took his own time about his work, he obeyed the rhythms of his own body, resting when he was tired, reflecting and planning as he went along, lingering over the parts that interested him most, so that, though his work pro¬ceeded slowly, the time that he spent on it was truly life time. The craftsman, like the artist, lived in his work, for his work, by his work; and the effect of art was merely to heighten and intensify these natural organic processes-not to serve as mere compensation or escape (p. 62).]

David Pye

A decade later, in chapter 2, David Pye's 1968 The Nature of Art and Workmanship distinguishes between manufacturing and craftsmanship by defining

manufacturing as the workmanship-of-certainty and

craftsmanship as the workmanship-of-risk


Put simply, something can be manufactured, even if made by hand (possibly with the aid of jigs, etc) if the risks involved in its creation are minimal. On the other hand, something is "crafted" if there are ever-present risks involved in its creation; if "the quality of the result is not pre-determined, but depends on the judgment, dexterity and care the maker exercises as he works".

Also tied in with Pye's concept, "workmanship of risk" is the argument that "execution" is more important than "expression", where amateur woodworkers "view the outcome of their labors as subordinate to the immediate pleasures that they gain from creation", [adapted from Richard Lakes, "'Doing' Craft", Journal of Technology Education 2 (fall 1990), p. 68 - where does this come from? Context of discovery vs context of justification, also Kuhn's external history of science vs internal history of science]

What is Scientific Management?

This question elicits different answers:

Writing in 1914, contemporary to the period, the Harvard university economist, C. Bertrand Thompson, declares that the term "scientific management" was the body of principles developed by the Philadelphian engineer, Frederick W. Taylor.

"Because its aim was to correlate and systematize all the best of modern developments in factory administration, and to push development further in accordance with the principles discovered, it was considered distinctively scientific."

Also noted by Thompson -- in the 1914 paper cited below -- is that Taylor himself did not coin "scientific management". Instead, this term was first used by Chief Justice Louis Brandeis, in his treatise, Scientific Management and the Railroads, Engineering Magazine, 1911.

Sources: Both readable and informative is C. Bertrand Thompson, "The Literature of Scientific Management," Quarterly Journal of Economics 28, No. 3 May, 1914; also see this online source, Horace Bookwalter Drury: Theory and Practice of Scientific Management, 3d edition, 1922

Simultaneous with the claims about "scientific management", however, another literature developed: William Form's "Skill Degradation Theory".

According to "skill degradation theory", Form writes --in "On the Degradation of Skills," Annual Review of Sociology 13 1987, pp. 29-47 -- Frederick W. Taylor's (1911) scientific management movement was the decisive social invention that deskilled workers and gave management imperative control over all work.

Source: Frederick W. Taylor Principles of Scientific Management New York: Harper, 1911.

Form reviews 89 studies. One of the studies that Form cites is by the social historian, David Montgomery, Workers' Control in America, 1979: -- link below is to 1992 second edition. According to Montgomery:

Scientific management, in fact, fundamentally disrupted the craftsmen's styles of work, their union rules and standard rates, and their mutualistic ethic, as it transformed American industrial practice between 1900 and 1930. Its basic effect, as Roethlisberger and Dickson discovered in their 1930s experiments at Western Electric's Hawthorne Works, was to place the worker

"at the bottom level of a highly stratified organization,"

leaving his "established routines of work,

his cultural traditions of craftsmanship, [and]

his personal interrelations"

all "at the mercy of technical specialists."

Sources: F. J. Roethlisberger and W. J. Dickson, Management and the Worker: Technical vs. Social Organization in an Industrial Plant Cambridge: Harvard University Business Research Studies, No. 9, 1934, pages 16-17; David Montgomery, Workers' Control in America, 1979.

Two Centuries of Social Scientific Analyses

For over two centuries social scientists believed that the mechanization of labor and the factory system speeded up the division of labor, diluted workers' skills, and increased their unhappiness:

In 1776 the Scottish economist, Adam Smith, in his famous An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of the Nations, described the stultifying effects of specialization.

In 1850, in terms not unlike those of Smith, Karl Marx, most famously in Das Kapital, condemned capitalism's mechanization of labor.

In 1893 the French sociologist, Emile Durkheim, in Division of Labor in Society, condemned as immoral the process whereby mechanization was turning workers into appendages of machines.

In his essays on workmanship, absentee ownership, and the engineers, the American social critic, Thorstein Veblen traced the history of capitalism's avaricious drive to mechanize, to destroy workers' skill, and to subjugate science and government to its purposes:

1914 The Instinct of Workmanship;

1921 The Engineers and the Price System;

1923 Absentee Ownership

In post-WW II, the Columbia University sociologist, C Wright Mills, White Collar, 1951, built on Veblen's analysis.

And from C. R. Walker and R. H. Guest's 1952 Man on the Assembly Line to Stanley Aronowitz's 1973 False Promises, 1973, a steady stream of case studies documented Mills's scenario.

Therefore, sociologists who knew this literature were surprised at the enthusiastic reception given to the Marxist sociologist, H Braverman's Labor and Monopoly Capital, 1974, thesis of the degradation of work in the twentieth century.

But Braverman was merely riding a wave of public concern about the crisis of work in America.

According to skill degradation theory, Taylor's (1911) scientific management movement was the decisive social invention that deskilled workers and gave management imperative control over all work.

As we'll see below, jobs became more specialized but required less skill (hence the "deskilling"), but also more boring and more alienating. (As noted above, the classic parody of this phenomenon is Charlie Chaplin's movie, Modern Times.)

And wages fell, because higher productivity leads to lower product prices -- massively expanding options on the consumption side as well, which leads to the flip side of mass production, mass consumption: the creation in America of a "middle-class", a society composed of people living in detached urban or suburban homes, and commuting and shopping using automobiles.

But this shift from the skilled craftsman to the unskilled worker had its price, especially upon the worker. Not unexpectedly, people labeled this era the "machine age." And society have reacted to the phenomenon in different ways.

The Industrial Revolution in the Kitchen

For social historian Ruth Schwartz Cowan, kitchens are as much a locus for industrialized work as factories and coal mines are, and washing machines and microwave ovens are as much a product of industrialization as are automobiles and pocket calculators. A woman who is placing a frozen prepared dinner into a microwave oven is involved in a work process that is as different from her grandmother's methods of cooking as building a carriage from scratch difers from turning bolts on an automobile assembly line; an electric range is as different from a hearth as a pneumatic drill is from a pick and shovel...

Source: Ruth Schwartz Cowan, "The Industrial Revolution in the Home," in The Social Shaping of Technology, Donald MacKenzie and Judy Wajcman, eds., 2d ed., Buckingham, England: Open University Press, 1999, pages 283-284.

In 1907, eight percent of America's households were wired for electricity; by 1920, 35 percent were wired; by the beginning of World War II, 80 percent were wired. Source: Harry Jerome, "mechanization in industry", ny: national bureau of economic research, 1934, pp 174-175; warren devine, " From Shafts to Wires: Historical Perspective on Electrification", The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 43, No. 2 (Jun., 1983), 347-372.)

The rapidness in which mass-produced products permeated throughout the nation still amazes us: not just automobiles but washing machines, refrigerators, electric irons, electric and gas stoves, and --relevant to this paper -- mass-produced furniture and related woodworking operations. In other words, while the maids disappeared, a major consequence of mass production was the build-up of capital goods for single-use for within-the-home production.

The 1920s, in particular, is the decade of consumer appliances: electric sewing machines, electric washing machines, eclectic vacuum cleaners, electric dishwashers, electric mixers, electric stoves, electric toasters, electric irons, electric hot-water heaters, electric space heaters, and electric refrigerators. (More details about the impact of these technological developments are in the chapter on the 1920s decade.)

By the start of World War II, 79 percent of households had electric irons; and 50 percent had washing machines, refrigerators, and vacuum cleaners. None of this would have been possible without mass production operations.

Domestically, of course, the need by house-holders for maids in homes was eliminated or reduced by the availability of appliances that did the same household chores: clothes washing machines, dishwashers, and the like .

take up john claude's is woodworking on the way out? Asks a good question, but does he give the correct answer? Do his figures reflect skilled or unskilled workers?

also see R M Collins, " David potter's people of plenty," pdf; David Shi, "The morality of consumption", ]

The hour-glass figure above serves as an almost perfect analogy for the slowly diminishing numbers of skilled woodworkers. The pivotal date centers around the middle of the 20th century, when skilled woodworkers almost disappeared. The bottom half of the hour glass reflects the mirror opposite, with an increasing number of amateur woodworkers, as "consumers", gradually growing in numbers that, in effect, replace the function of the army of skilled woodworkers of the "production" era..

[pick up on angularity too]

William Morris's anti-machine attitude: That year Cobden-Sanderson published his brief history of the Arts and Crafts Movement. In the following passage from that history Cobden-Sanderson pulls the rug out from two of Morris' most basic ideas.

" `As a condition of life,' Mr. Morris says, `production by machinery is wholly an evil.' . . . I find it necessary to differ from Mr. Morris . . . machinery may be re-deemed by imagination, and made to enter into his restored world, adding to the potency of good, and to its power of evil. which itself, in my view, it is not: and ... the age upon which mankind entered, at the close of the fifteenth century, was one of decay of an old world indeed, but at the same time was an age in which a new and a greater world came to the birth, as in this age it is coming to maturity, and that it is with this new world, and not with the old world, that the movement and ourselves have now to do.

David Shi The Morality of Consumption reviews in American history 1986

Horowitz contends that most commentators during the nineteenth century echoed Wayland's censorious moralism. Even an ostensibly "empirical" observer such as Carroll D. Wright (1840-1909), head of the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor, shared Wayland's perspective. In 1875 Wright published the first comprehensive study of working-class household expen¬ditures. Based on interviews with 397 families, the report noted that the "typical" family spent 90 percent of its income on necessities - food, clothing, and shelter (today the figure is about 50 percent). Wright therefore found it difficult to imagine "that the families [we] visited copied costly fashions or are liable to a general charge of unthrift" (p. 17). Yet he nevertheless continued to stress the virtues of frugality and temperance for the workers. Like that of Wayland and other conservative moralists, Wright's ideal remained the "sober, industrious, and thrifty" worker who disdained "riotous living," "the display of enervating luxury," and "the insane attempt to keep up appearances which are not legitimate" (p. 25). His "elitist" fear of working-class immorality led him to ignore completely the report's evidence of widespread suffering and hardship among the families interviewed. Thus, as Horowitz concludes, Wright "was never able to understand the lives, values, and aspirations of most industrial workers in America" (p. 25).

But the traditional moralism of Wayland, Wright, and others was rapidly being challenged by dramatic social and economic changes during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The original Protestant work ethic was becoming outdated. New technological advances shifted the focus of moral commentary from work to leisure, from production to consumption. Shorter work weeks, new advertising and retailing strategies, and new recreational opportunities led social scientists such as Simon N. Patten, Thorstein Veblen, and George Gunton to revise the perspective of pious New England moralism.

Patten insisted that the new affluence, instead of ensuring societal degeneration, offered the possibility of a new type of civilization in which morality and materialism would reinforce one another. Social workers, he stressed, should quit trying to "suppress vices" and instead help nurture individual virtues. And he was among the first social scientists to shift the focus of study from the work ethic to a leisure ethic. Veblen, meanwhile, was at-tacking the extravagances of the wealthy as well as the assumptions of conservative moralists. Although admitting that he found "a substantial ground of truth in the indictment" of workers as "improvident and apparently incompetent to take care of the pecuniary details of their own life," Veblen concluded that this was a blessing rather than a sign of flawed character. Workers engaged in industrial rather than pecuniary employment were not driven by "the intellectual discipline of pecuniary management" (p. 38). The nature of their work, not the flaws of their character, primarily influenced their way of living and spending. In addition, the conspicuous consumption of the wealthy provided an alluring model of intemperate living for the working class. It also contradicted the assumption of many conservative moralists that as their incomes rose people would tend to spend their money more conscientiously. Where Patten thought that affluence would lead to greater social cohesion, Veblen suggested the opposite. The rich would become more "exclusive" as time passed.

David Potter's People of Plenty

David Potter's People of Plentyand the Recycling of Consensus History, Robert M. Collins, Reviews in American History 16, No. 2 June, 1988, pages 321-335.

All too briefly, Potter tantalizes the reader with a discussion of the "vital" transformation wherein "the most critical point in the functioning of society shifts from production to consumption . . . and . . . the culture must be reoriented to convert the producer's culture into a consumer's culture." "In a so¬ciety of abundance," Potter writes:

the productive capacity can supply new kinds of goods faster than society in the mass learns to crave these goods or to regard them as necessities. If this new capacity is to be used, the imperative must fall upon consumption, and the society must be adjusted to a new set of drives and values in which consumption is paramount. 40 [40. Potter, People of Plenty, p. 173.]

It is here, in his sketch of a fundamental reorientation of our culture, that Potter speaks most instructively to a generation of historians attempting to find large patterns of meaning in the nation's past.

A substantial body of scholarship has emerged that harkens back to the concepts of abundance, growth, and a consumer culture limned by Potter a generation ago. 41 [41. A superb bibliographic essay on the consumer culture is found in Daniel Horowitz's perceptive monograph, The Morality of Spending: Attitudes toward the Consumer Society in America, 1875-1940 (1985), pp. 187-201. Three pioneering historical efforts, sometimes overlooked, are Daniel M. Fox, The Discovery of Abundance: Simon N. Patten and the Transformation of Social Theory (1967); Daniel Boorstin, The Americans: The Democratic Experience (1973); and William Leuchtenburg, A Troubled Feast: American Society Since 1945 (1973). ]

There exists some uncertainty about the precise timing of the cultural reorientation involved in a shift of emphasis from production to consumption, but it seems clear nonetheless that the shift was underway dur¬ing the crucial period from 1880-1920, that its distinctive features came clearly into view in the 1920s, and that the transformation blossomed unmistakably in the years after World War II.

Of course, such a listing does no more than sketch the bare outlines of what has become the dominant way of life in American society-in the words of its chroniclers, a culture of abundance or a culture of consumption, whose emergence represents a historical watershed. 42 [42. A general introduction to the topic of a consumer culture is found in Richard Wightman Fox and T. J. Jackson Lears, eds., The Culture of Consumption: Critical Essays in American History (1983); and Warren I. Susman, Culture as History: The Transformation of American Society in the Twentieth Century (1984).]

The shift was a process, not an event, and it unfolded on a variety of fronts, often in an untidy fashion. It entailed:

  1. the attainment of a high level of production, especially of durable and sophisticated consumers' goods
  2. a distribution of wealth beyond the upper class, notably the expansion of middle-class purchasing power
  3. the commodification of life, i.e., translating ever-increasing portions of human activities into salable commodities;
  4. the development of institutions/practices in product design, advertising, mass merchandising, and credit
  5. the emergence of exemplars/models of consumption provided increasingly by the media
  6. a change in the culture's modal personality type
  7. changes in behavior involving patterns of consumption, saving, and investment
  8. the development of a "consumer ethic", that is, values and expectations that validate consumption and leisure

Of course, such a listing does no more than sketch the bare outlines of what has become the dominant way of life in American society-in the words of its chroniclers, a culture of abundance or a culture of consumption, whose emergence represents a historical watershed. 42 [42. A general introduction to the topic of a consumer culture is found in Richard Wightman Fox and T. J. Jackson Lears, eds., The Culture of Consumption: Critical Essays in American History (1983); and Warren I. Susman, Culture as History: The Transformation of American Society in the Twentieth Century (1984).]

[p. 44 John Freeman Crosby's ch 5 on the craftsman movement: on tickley is a reference to his embrace of machines for woodworking and the "square lines of a and c" design. I.e., "angularity" announcing the work of the table saw, i.e., makes "straight" lines, definitely integral features of a and c design. GUSTAV STICKLEY's "The Structural Style in Cabinet-Making" makes this notion implicitly.-also Crosby claims that the connection between the manual training movement and a and c is intimate.]

another take on this matter of machine woodworking vs manual woodworking emerges when we look at definitions of "craftsman" taken from the Dover copy of of "craftsman homes" comes, copy several chs toward the end of the book, with particular concern for "vulgarity" on p 152, "untrammeled individualism" on p 153, "primitivism" on p 158, "home craftsman" on p 160, "revolutionized manual training" on p 170, and "cabinet-making at home", on p 170.

construct decoration, don't decorate construction - pugin-mercer -- Stickley, Wright, and many others returned again and again to this passage in defense of their work.

The point is that several factors, outside the purview of amateur woodworking, needed to be in place, before amateur woodworking became an matter, psychological and social, issue of interest. Leisure time, sufficient disposable income to purchase hand and power tools, electrification, the development of an economic fractional horsepower motor, space for a workshop, all of these things needed to be in place before amateur woodworking could take off.

Concluding Remarks