Thursday, 7 July 2011


If you've read The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, you'll know that one of the themes concerns the purpose of work.

`If you go down town, you will see half a dozen drapers' shops within
a stone's-throw of each other - often even next door to each other -
all selling the same things.  You can't possibly think that all those
shops are really necessary?  You know that one of them would serve the
purpose for which they are all intended - to store and serve as a
centre for the distribution of the things that are made by work.  If
you will admit that five out of the six shops are not really
necessary, you must also admit that the men who built them, and the
salesmen and women or other assistants engaged in them, and the men
who design and write and print their advertisements are all doing
unnecessary work; all really wasting their time and labour, time and
labour that might be employed in helping to produce these things that
we are at present short of.  You must admit that none of these people
are engaged in producing either the necessaries of life or the
benefits of civilization.  They buy them, and sell them, and handle
them, and haggle over, them, and display them, in the plate glass
windows of "Stores" and "Emporiums" and make profit out of them, and
use them, but these people themselves produce nothing that is
necessary to life or happiness, and the things that some of them do
produce are only necessary to the present imbecile system.'

`What the 'ell sort of a bloody system do you think we ought to 'ave,
then?' interrupted the man on the pail.

`Yes: you're very good at finding fault,' sneered Slyme, `but why
don't you tell us 'ow it's all going to be put right?'

`Well, that's not what we're talking about now, is it?' replied Owen.
`At present we're only trying to find out how it is that there is not
sufficient produced for everyone to have enough of the things that are
made by work.  Although most of the people in number three work very
hard, they produce Nothing.'

`This is a lot of bloody rot!' exclaimed Crass, impatiently.

`Even if there is more shops than what's actually necessary,' cried
Harlow, `it all helps people to get a livin'!  If half of 'em was shut
up, it would just mean that all them what works there would be out of
a job.  Live and let live, I say: all these things makes work.'

`'Ear, 'ear,' shouted the man behind the moat.

`Yes, I know it makes "work",' replied Owen, `but we can't live on
mere "work", you know.  To live in comfort we need a sufficiency of
the things that can be made by work.  A man might work very hard and
yet be wasting his time if he were not producing something necessary
or useful.

`Why are there so many shops and stores and emporiums?  Do you imagine
they exist for the purpose of giving those who build them, or work in
them, a chance to earn a living? Nothing of the sort.  They are
carried on, and exorbitant prices are charged for the articles they
sell, to enable the proprietors to amass fortunes, and to pay
extortionate rents to the landlords.  That is why the wages and
salaries of nearly all those who do the work created by these
businesses are cut down to the lowest possible point.'

`We knows all about that,' said Crass, `but you can't get away from it
that all these things makes Work; and that's what we wants - Plenty of

Cries of `'Ear, 'ear,' and expressions of dissent from the views
expressed by the lecturer resounded through the room, nearly everyone
speaking at the same time.  After a while, when the row had in some
measure subsided, Owen resumed:

`Nature has not provided ready-made all the things necessary for the
life and happiness of mankind.  In order to obtain these things we
have to Work.  The only rational labour is that which is directed to
the creation of those things.  Any kind of work which does not help us
to attain this object is a ridiculous, idiotic, criminal, imbecile,
waste of time.

`That is what the great army of people represented by division number
three are doing at present: they are all very busy - working very
hard - but to all useful intents and purposes they are doing Nothing.'
So shed not a tear for the hacks who's job it was to turn trees into opinionated right wing shit.Especially since it seems likely that they will be re-employed in a few weeks, on a completely new sunday tabloid that has nothing whatsoever to do with the naughty NOTW.

No comments: