Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Robert Owen had an idea for a World Union called "the Association of All Classes of All Nations". I thought that was interesting because although he ascribed to and espouted the labor theory of value, he was very much a Capitalist businessman, although a very noble community and Parliamentary reformer for his time.

No doubt the gap between theory (labour theory of value) and practice (he always took a return to capital in his business operations) was by necessity. We do have to function in the real world and we do have to compromise our ideals to make available improvements in the conditions of the poor and working poor. That would be the line of the reformer. Some of Owen's motivation for reform was that he was scared for all about the prospects of revolution.

William Morris was pure Utopian. Read his book, "News from Nowhere" (1890), and that will be plain to see...

The two me were from different eras Owen (1771-1858) was a leading reformer and preceeded Marx and the blossoming of Socialism (the Communist Manifesto was published in 1848. Morris was born in 1834. He was an artist and "declared for "Socialism" in 1883, as socialism was beginning to steamroll as a popular belief set and was becoming increasingly viewed as a viable and desirable alternative to Capitalism.

Both Owen and Morris longed for a return to simpler times that preceeded the harsh working and living conditions that accompanied the industrial revolution.

Owen, being a businessman and proprieter seeked to actively promote and install more humane conditions in the factories and factory towns. Morris, being an artist from the upper middle class seeked to revive and spread (humane) craftsmanship in an era when it was being lost.

The relevance of the work of these two men, as the relevance of the work of all men, is hard to see among the ruins of industrial Capitalism and consumerism fundamentally and terribly over-fueled by the advent, overshoot, and decline of the fossil fuel age.

If we have hope for the children and their progeny, then these two men are important teachers. I, for one, have resigned myself to the conceptualization that we are in the beginning of what is often referred to as a post-modern age. That is, as a matter of understatement, we are in the decline phase of "civilization", if not human life. One can hope (as one can hope for anything), that whatever, if anything, rises from the ashes and despoilation of modern man, that it be enlightened. News from Nowhere and the basic tenets of the WSM are good places to start.


Mike Morin

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