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The History and Nature of Capitalism

By Bill Geddes

Revised: 25 October 2014

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Chapter Headings

  1. Introduction
  2. Ideology, The World Economic System and Revitalization Movements
  3. An Explanation and History of the Emergence of Capitalism
  4. How Born Again Christians Rescued Capitalism
  5. The Virtuous Capitalist, The Poor and the Wasteland
  6. Capitalism and Work: the White Man's Burden
  7. Capitalism and its Colonies
  8. Global economic forces, Western realities
  9. Global Capitalism, Third World Development
  10. Epilogue - What Drives Western People to Commoditize their World?
  11. Addendum: We're All Equal! Independence and Exchange
  12. How to Cite a Reference
  13. End Notes
  14. References

End of Chapter

Chapter 1:
Introduction Return to Index of Chapters

It is said that the aphorism 'Know Yourself' was inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. Finding out who we are can be an unsettling experience.

Not only do human beings gild memories of experiences in their own lifetimes, they are extremely adept at reinventing those of their historical past. It can be an educative experience to strip away what the French philosopher Voltaire called the 'fable upon which we are all agreed'.

It's time we, living in capitalist countries, got ourselves into perspective.

Over the past three centuries, people living in Western (capitalist) countries have increasingly imposed their understanding of reality on others. Now, they are becoming aware of a growing antipathy toward 'The West' around the world. Henry Hyde's view of the problems facing Western countries is not isolated,

Let us begin by accepting there is no single enemy to be defeated, no one network to be eliminated. Al-Qa'eda is but our most prominent opponent, but its outlook is shared by many others who are equally committed to our destruction... we know now that we have permanent, mortal enemies who will seize upon our vulnerabilities to bloody us, to murder our citizens, to commit horror for the purpose of forcing horror upon us...
(US House of Representatives Committee on International Relations October 3 2001)

For the past decade the West has confronted what it perceives as a growing 'climate of terror' around the world. While estimates vary, it is reasonable to say that thousands of lives have been lost and billions of dollars have been spent in pursuing, capturing and killing those deemed a threat to the security of Western nations.

It is time to take stock. Before continuing to pursue phantoms and shoot at shadows (and, in the process, alienate thousands caught in the crossfire) we need to understand what is producing this apparently burgeoning antipathy toward Western capitalist countries.

Western capitalist nations, over the past several centuries, have attempted to re-organize the world to reflect their understanding of reality. Although we often fail to recognize it, this requires a far-reaching reorganization of people's lives in non-Western countries. It would be surprising if there was not, sooner or later, a reaction against such activity.

So, what is capitalism? What gives people living by capitalist understandings of the world such a determination to reorganize the rest of the world to their understanding? And, what impact does this attempt to reorganize the world have on people living in non-Western regions?

People living by capitalist understandings of the world have, over the past four centuries, felt driven to compel those who do not think and live as they do, to change. They have committed their lives to a refashioned world, to a capitalist world. So, what is it that has produced in Western people such a deep need to dominate and change the world?

Human beings (including members of Western capitalist nations) believe that they interact with 'objective reality', that is, a reality that exists independently of themselves and is perceived in the same way by all human beings. In every community, models are built from that assumed objective reality which, in the opinion of those who order their lives by them, provide the best ways of organizing life to make the most of the reality in which they live.

Western people hold a peculiar understanding of objective reality and believe they have a duty, a responsibility, to reorganize other people and communities to live by the understandings they hold. When people in other communities are subjected to Western capitalist demands for change, based on very different presumptions about 'objective reality', their understanding of their environment and of themselves in terms of their environment decreasingly 'makes sense'. They lose their sense of identity and self-worth as their indigenous status and prestige systems break down and brutality, despotism and corruption escalate in their communities.

Over time, people begin to realize that the problems they face and the disorientation they experience are connected to Western activity within their regions. Inevitably anti-Western sentiment grows.

We need to understand the nature of this very Western understanding of objective reality. To do so, we need to trace its emergence over the past thousand years of western European history.

Unless we do, not knowing our history, we might well, as Edmund Burke suggested, unwittingly repeat it.

This is the age of Capitalism.

In the following chapters I attempt dispassionately to explore the nature and history of capitalism 1 . I leave it to you to decide whether it heralds a future of blessings or cursings.

The book starts with an examination of the nature of ideology and, more specifically, capitalist ideology. It is essential to start by examining the nature of ideological frameworks in human thought, interaction and action. This will enable us to get capitalism into contextual perspective.

With questions of the nature of primary and secondary ideology dealt with in Chapter 2, in chapter 3 we launch into an explanation and history of the emergence of capitalism in western Europe. We pose and attempt to answer the question:

  • How have the most basic presumptions which underpin Western understandings of life been shaped by history, becoming seen as features of the real world, the unfocused backdrop to secondary ideological disputes?

This exploration takes us from the 10th century to the start of the 18th century; the century when, in western European thought, 'the economy' became clearly differentiated from 'the social', a distinct environment with its own laws and interests.

In chapter 4 we explore the century in Western European history when the turmoil of previous centuries had distilled into a new version of 'objective reality' for those who held the reins of power.

Most importantly, it was the century when capitalism gained its evangelical fervor as millions of people, threatened with economic and social ruin, became 'born-again' Christians, the 'moral majority' of Western communities.

This was the century in which they would take responsibility for transforming the rest of the world to live by the reality they now lived in - starting with their own, home grown 'savages'. It was also the century in which the justification for natural laws shifted from divine decree to the innate characteristics of environments in a self-existent natural world.

In chapter 5 we investigate how capitalism became 'virtuous'. The 18th was the century when the merchant, trader and banker moved to center stage, the period when the newly respectable, and often 'born-again', capitalist became morally and socially respectable. As Adam Ferguson, a Scottish gentleman, explained,

... in the progress and advanced state of his art, his views are enlarged, his maxims are established: he becomes punctual, liberal, faithful, and enterprising; and in the period of general corruption, he alone has every virtue, except the force to defend his acquisitions. He needs no aid from the state, but its protection; and is often in himself its most intelligent and respectable member.
Adam Ferguson (1767 Pt 3, Section 4)

It was also the century in which, as Thomas Jefferson claimed, Western Europe,

...divided their nations into two classes, wolves and sheep. I do not exaggerate. This is a true picture of Europe. ...man is the only animal which devours his own kind; for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich on the poor.
(Thomas Jefferson, 1787)

With the distillation of a new objective reality for Western Europeans - now recognized as 'capitalism', in Chapter 6 we examine the ways in which Western European responsible people set out to ensure that the indolent, the 'lazy poor', pulled their weight and learned to work. As Western Europeans gained control of the rest of the world, it would also be time to teach 'natives' the same lesson.

In the 19th century, it was time for Western Europe, in search of resources to feed its rapidly expanding industries and needs and wants, to invade the rest of the world. By 1914 it controlled more than 80% of the earth's surface.

This was the time of European empire. The time when Western European nation-states would attempt to become global in extent. In Chapter 7 we examine the establishment of 'nation states'. Western Europe's colonies were assumed to be the 'overseas' extension of its nation states. Their acquisition and reorganization enabled Western people to continue and increase their accumulation of material wealth and expand consumption.

Finally, we arrive at the 20th century, the century of electricity, of streamlined industrial production, of capitalist control of the world. In Chapter 8 we examine the experiences of Western communities and nations as they moved from:

  • free markets, patchy welfare capitalism and piecemeal welfare legislation;
  • to protectionism, regulation, and welfare states and then back
  • to neoliberal free markets, scaling back of state welfare provision, and globalization of economic activity.

Following this exploration of Western economic realities in the 20th and 21st centuries, Chapter 9 turns the focus back to non-Western nations and communities and examines their experiences over the past seventy years. In the era of global capitalism, why are there so many 'failing states'?

The final chapter examines the nature of commoditization. It suggests that capitalism is the process of commoditizing reality. The world becomes a global marketplace where commoditized objects take pride of place. Everything can be bought and sold, and the driving force behind this buying and selling is the commoditized value of the objects, rather than their inherent use values.

End of Chapter

Chapter 2:
Ideology, the World Economic System,
and Revitalization Movements Return to Index of Chapters

Introduction Return to Chapter Index

Those who live in capitalist communities have, over the past century, introduced their ways of organizing and interacting with the environment to people throughout the world. In doing so, they have set about re-organizing other communities to conform to the requirements of life in a capitalist world.

Vast amounts of 'aid money' 2 have been spent in other communities assisting them to develop capitalist institutions and practices. Development experts, trained in Western 3 universities, have dedicated their lives to improving the lot of 'under-developed' and 'less-developed' communities 4 . Yet, the consequences of all the dedication, effort and resources committed to 'Third World development' seem to have produced very mixed results around the world.

To understand the process of 'development' and its consequences in non-Western communities, we need to understand the ways in which people organize themselves and their surroundings.

Human Beings organize Life using Historically Constructed Models Return to Chapter Index

Human beings are natural model builders. Before they can begin to interact with their world it must be imbued with meaning and that requires a set of criteria for categorizing and classifying experiences 5 , and for connecting the classified experiences with each other.

If every individual had, from birth, to invent his or her own categorizational criteria, human beings would forever be trapped at the dawning of sentience. Meaningful communication between people would be severely limited. So it should be no surprise that newborn babies are not left to develop their own criteria for categorizing experiences.

Just as human beings teach their young to speak their native language, so they teach them, from birth, the indigenous criteria for categorizing their experiences and interconnecting those categorized experiences.

The criteria used in building a community's categorizational models are historically determined. So, to the extent that the community is isolated from other communities, its categorizational models will be unique to the community (just as a community's language is unique).

This is one of the reasons why anthropologists recognize that they should handle apparent similarities between communities with extreme caution. One should never assume that 'models of kinship' or any other forms of social organization and structure can be applied across communities.

Categorizational Models are Unique to Each Community Return to Chapter Index

Consider, for example, the kinship categorization (or 'definition') of the 'elder brother' and 'younger brother' in Confucian Chinese families. The categorizational criteria that produce these related categories of persons are quite different from those that determine the definitions of older and younger brothers in, say, Anglo-Celtic Australia.

Few people in Anglo-Celtic Australia recognize the kinship elements 'elder brother' and 'younger brother' as categorically distinctive, carrying their own prescribed characteristics and sharing formalized rights and responsibilities (or reciprocal duties) that are distinctive to those two categories of persons.

Both sets of communities recognize the existence of older and younger brothers. After all, brothers, as male siblings of the same parents, exist in all communities. However, the characteristics they recognize and the relationships they presume between them are very different. Kalman Applbaum (1998) sums up the Western understanding of 'horizontal' 6 relationships:

... [Western] individuals may be seen in relation to other individuals as free actors, free choice makers, whose unfailing goal of satisfying primordial needs and achieving the construction of self-identity are not compromised by such interferences as filial duty or custom.
(Applbaum 1998)

The chief characteristics of such persons are that they are autonomous and independent. They recognize rights and responsibilities as incentives and constraints channeling the pursuit of their independent 'needs and wants'.

The focus is on individuals attaining 'needs and wants' and the regulatory structures defining legitimate attainment of them (i.e. in economic terms - or is it Star Trek terminology? - the 'rules of acquisition'). The focus is only secondarily on other persons (whatever their kinship relationships might be) with whom one might or might not interact in achieving one's needs and wants.

The consequences of accepting the centrality of filial and other forms of reciprocal duty, as in Confucian China, may however, (as Confucius 500 BC 7 suggested) require that individuals are not seen as free actors pursuing individual needs and wants. Rather, they should be seen as interdependent members of a community who can only understand themselves and ensure their needs and wants through understanding and accepting their kinship and other communal responsibilities.

Confucius summed up the major formal focuses of reciprocal responsibility (which provide templates for other focuses of reciprocal responsibility) in traditional China like this:

The duties of universal obligation are five and the virtues wherewith they are practiced are three. The duties are those

  • between sovereign and minister,
  • between father and son,
  • between husband and wife,
  • between elder brother and younger,
  • and those belonging to the intercourse of friends.

Those five are the duties of universal obligation.

Knowledge, magnanimity, and energy, these three, are the virtues universally binding. And the means by which they carry the duties into practice is singleness.

Some are born with the knowledge of those duties; some know them by study; and some acquire the knowledge after a painful feeling of their ignorance. But the knowledge being possessed, it comes to the same thing. Some practice them with a natural ease; some from a desire for their advantages; and some by strenuous effort. But the achievement being made, it comes to the same thing.
(Confucius 1893)

If a Western person is not aware of the very different relational presumptions built into Confucian ideas of reciprocal duty, he or she is likely to presume that the independent pursuit of needs and wants is central to involvement in such relationships.

Robert Westwood does this when he sums up the Confucian position from a Western perspective. He assumes that all individuals are 'free actors' who 'lose freedom' when they are required to accept super-ordinate or subordinate hierarchical status. It is this that allows him to speak about relative 'power' in hierarchical, interdependent relationships:

Challenges to authority and the 'natural' order are not countenanced. This is encapsulated in the Confucian precepts of the so-called 'Five Cardinal Relationships' or wu lun, which delineate a hierarchical power structure over key societal relationships. The wu lun are dyadic sets of unequal, mostly hierarchical relationships between emperor - minister, father - son, husband - wife, older brother - younger brother, friend - friend.

Although the power structure is differentiated and unequal (except for the latter), mutual obligations and reciprocities are inherent in the relationships. The person in the dominant position expects and receives obedience, deference and compliance, but in return should respect the dignity of the lower party and provide appropriate care and concern.
(Westwood 1997, p. 459)

Tsui, Farh and Lih, however, sum up the differences in the following way:

... Chinese often view themselves interdependent with the surrounding social context, and it is the 'self in relation to other' that becomes the focal individual experience. This view of an interdependent self is in sharp contrast to the Western view of an independent self.

The latter sees each human being as an independent, self-contained, autonomous entity who (a) comprises a unique configuration of internal attributes (e.g. traits, abilities, motives, and values) and (b) behaves primarily as a consequence of these internal attributes (Markus & Kitayama, 1991).

This divergent view of self has implications for a variety of basic psychological processes (e.g. cognition, emotion and motivation) and may be one of the most fundamental differences between the East and the West in social relations.
(Tsui et al. 1997, p. 59)

Models have Unique Combinations and Qualities of Relationships Return to Chapter Index

The categorizational models held in different communities not only have distinctive sets of categories and idiosyncratic placement of elements within categories, they also have unique combinations and qualities of relationships through which categories and their elements are interconnected.

It is very easy for a researcher or commentator to apply his or her own understandings of the nature of relationships to those observed in other communities. Westwood (1997) does this when he assumes that hierarchical relationships must involve dominance and subservience, relative power and powerlessness.

These are features of relationships between individuals who define themselves as 'free actors'. They see relationships of dependence in terms of costs and benefits and degrees of loss of independence8 .

The independent self is quintessentially Western. The interdependent self, in one guise or another, is found in communities where individuals know who they are through the forms of relationship they recognize between themselves and other members of the community. They perceive rights and responsibilities as qualities of the interactants rather than inhering in the 'objects' of interaction (as rules of acquisition).

In such communities the rights and obligations of individuals in exchange relationships remain with the interactants rather than being attached to the objects of exchange. So, the other party in an exchange is the focus, rather than the needs and wants of the interactants.

In one case, the process of exchange (or interaction) tends to emphasize the separate identities (and, therefore, motivations) of the exchangers (leading to a stress on independence). In the other, it tends to emphasize their relatedness and reciprocal responsibilities (stressing interdependence). The qualities of the relationships invoked in exchange in the two orientations are very different.

Such interactional orientations tend not only to 'flavor' recognized relationships between people but permeate relationships connecting both elements within categories and categories themselves throughout the primary ideological frames (see 'Primary ideology' - below) of the communities. Not only are perceived relationships specific to communities, so too are the perceived qualities that inhere in relationships.

By definition, two individuals living in different communities will, therefore, have quite distinctive 'understandings' from each other. How similar their understandings are will largely depend on the nature of the historical connections that have existed between their communities and the degree to which the hegemonies 9 of their communities have interacted over time 10 .

Throughout their lives, people in communities are constantly corrected and disciplined whenever their interactions or their understandings do not conform to those considered accurate in their community. To quote Confucius, 'some acquire the knowledge after a painful feeling of their ignorance' through a process of 'teaching and learning'.

In order to understand the ways in which communities build their categorizational models and then from them construct models of community organization and individual interaction, we are going to address two related sets of structures. These determine how human beings, in any community, see 'reality' and then organize their communities in the 'best possible ways' to make the most of the reality they live in.

Primary ideology Return to Chapter Index

The first set of structures is the set of categorizational models that all members of a community (or set of related communities) hold in common. If they did not hold these models in common they would find it very difficult to make sense of each other's organization, interaction, behavior and communication. We are going to call these fundamental organizational models primary ideology.

Processes of categorization 11 require frameworks of categories and rules (in language these would be called 'grammars') for both the placement of elements of experience in those categories and the interconnection of the categories and of the elements of experience contained in them. The interconnections are, of course, 'relationships'.

Not only are the categories and the framework of those categories unique to a community (or set of related communities), so are the sets of interactional relations and the 'qualities' that are invested in those relations.

The criteria that produce both the categorizational framework and its internal categories and relations are primary ideological presumptions. These are the most basic understandings people have of their worlds, in terms of which categorization proceeds. Any attempt to alter these understandings attacks the ability of people who hold them to think, and therefore to interact meaningfully with their environments.

Most people, when asked to explain their understanding of primary ideological presumptions, find it very difficult (just as they find it difficult to explain why they place words in a particular order in their sentences or why certain words should always, never or only in certain contexts appear together).

One of the features of the presumptions is that they are taken for granted. Those who hold them often find it difficult to identify their features and usually presume that they are so 'self-evident' that they need no explanation or justification.

This makes it very difficult to research primary presumptions since people, anywhere, will consider questions related to the definition of the assumptions to be inane. One should not question the obvious, particularly when the people being questioned find it difficult to express their understandings or even focus on the issues being raised.

It needs to be remembered, however, that primary ideological presumptions are not universally held understandings of the world. They are the understandings that are required by the most basic categorizational models of the community. So, not only should they not be questioned, they cannot easily be altered. Changes in such assumptions occur over hundreds of years and produce strains and tensions in communities experiencing the changes 12 .

People in any community inherit the primary ideology of their community in the same way that they inherit the language of their community. It is taught to them from birth or as Confucius put it 'some are born with the knowledge...'.

Every time a child makes inappropriate connections between objects, people or experiences, those around the child, who feel responsible for its upbringing, correct the child. They are ensuring that its 'understanding' (i.e. its sets of categories, categorization within those sets and their inter-relationships) of the world approximates the understanding of the world held by the responsible people in the community (members of the hegemony).

All communities develop a range of acculturative processes and structures squarely aimed at ensuring that the primary ideology of the community is learned. People, throughout their lives, live by and conform to the presumptions of the fundamental categorizational models of their community. Even trivial deviations will be subjected to correction, in much the same way as people are corrected when their speech patterns deviate from accepted practice in their community.

Where the models are not held consistently or life is not organized in ways required by the primary ideology of the community, those involved are usually defined as socially or mentally defective in some way. They are, to one extent or another, in need of re-education or 'correction'.

Those who do not readily respond to correction are often considered dangerous - very often isolated from the rest of the community, or even killed (especially when community cognitive models are under attack and people feel a need to reassert the fundamental certainties of life, as in the revitalization movements we will consider shortly).

For some three to four hundred years Western Europeans became increasingly aware and fearful of the effects of madness as the fundamental presumptions of their primary ideologies were challenged and altered13 . As Laura Nader put it:

Foucault (1967) demonstrates how changes in the concept of madness led to changes in diagnosis and treatment of the insane and of social attitudes toward them. He describes how changing perceptions of madness in parts of Western Europe from the medieval times to the end of the 19th century led to the separation of 'mad' persons from the rest of society, their classification as deviants, and finally their subjection to social control. He focuses on the cultural controls that led to the social controls; ideas about madness led to asylums for the mad.
(Nader 1997, p. 719)

In any community, members are certain that their primary ideology is not simply a set of categorizational models but is, in fact, the way the external world is ordered. After all, they have viewed and interacted with their world through that model since birth. Whenever something in the 'real' world seems not to fit their models (i.e. their understanding) they, usually subconsciously, change it so that it does. (This is what Westwood (1997) does in his description of relationships in Confucian Chinese communities.)

There is a continuous, but subliminal ideological management of reality. So, whenever people in a community investigate the 'real world' to see whether it fits their most basic understandings of life, they, inevitably, find that it does. As Nader says of the ways in which people understand 'the body' in different communities:

Images of the body appear natural within their specific cultural milieus.
(Nader 1997, p. 719)

The primary ideology of individuals and communities is fundamental to the way they think and understand themselves and their worlds. They instinctively apply their primary ideological presumptions in classifying new experiences and objects. Human beings, in applying their primary presumptions to new phenomena, inevitably reorganize 'reality' to fit their models rather than reorganizing their models to fit 'reality' (i.e. they act to conserve their understanding of their world and themselves) 14 .

Secondary ideology Return to Chapter Index

The second set of structures is derived from the common primary ideology of members of a community. These structures start from the presumption that the primary ideology is not a subjective set of categorizational models held by members of the community. It is the way the external world is organized, it is 'objective reality'.

The purpose of this second set of structures, which we will call secondary ideology, is to spell out the best possible ways of organizing community life, given the constraints of 'objective reality'.

There can be any number of secondary models in a community. What they all have in common is that they take the primary ideology and its presumptions, from which they are built, for granted. It is the unquestioned, organized, backdrop to life.

This second level of model building, as Claude Levi-Strauss explained, is not only designed to ensure that communities are organized and individuals interact in the 'best possible ways'. It is also designed to reinforce and perpetuate the fundamental features of their primary ideologies. According to Levi-Strauss:

[C]onscious models... are by definition very poor ones since they are not intended to explain the phenomena but to perpetuate them. Therefore structural analysis is confronted with a strange paradox well known to the linguist, that is: the more obvious structural organization is, the more difficult it becomes to reach it because of the inaccurate models lying across the path which leads to it.
(Levi-Strauss 1963, p. 282)

Many of the 'explanatory' models of communities confirm Levi-Strauss' observation. They affirm and reinforce the central presumptions of the primary ideologies of the communities in which they are built 15 .

Community members 'instinctively' understand, and are cognitively committed to the basic presumptions upon which the secondary models in their community are built. They can readily weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of the secondary models available to them and so choose which of the models they will support and which they will oppose.

This, in Western communities, is known as 'political', 'social', 'economic' or 'religious' (or any mixture of these) deliberation, debate or activity. These are the models of which community members are conscious and about which they enter into dispute with and support one another.

It is taken for granted by those who espouse a model and organize life by it that their model is all about organizing the real world to maximize benefits to community members and protect the most important basic principles of life in their communities (the fundamental presumptions of their primary ideology). It is the other models, those they do not endorse, which are defined by them as 'ideology'. As Philip Williamson explains of the British conservative movement of the late 20th century:

Conservative politicians, intellectuals and publicists confused matters by denying they had any such thing, whether ideology, creed or doctrine; their concern was the real and the practical, 'ideology' being an infection among their opponents which it was their task to resist.
(Williamson 2003, p. 270)

In Western communities, since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there is one dominant secondary ideology - capitalism, with a variety of derived models that offer variations on the major themes of capitalism 16 .

People in Western communities, convinced that their dominant secondary ideologies are not ideologies but are the best ways of organizing objective reality, have imposed and continue to impose them, often with considerable force, on the rest of the world. This set of imposed Western secondary ideological models underpins and constitutes the world economy, perpetuated and reinforced by the almost irresistible hegemonic forces of globalization.

This imposition of Western secondary ideological models on non-Western communities (which have very different primary ideologies) leads almost inevitably to their disruption. Since human beings require a primary ideology in order to think and interact with their worlds, the imposition of secondary models which do not fit their primary ideological understandings, leads to mental and social confusion.

However, both those imposing the new models and those on whom they are being imposed do not recognize the existence of primary ideological models. Both assume that the dominant and apparently 'successful' Western secondary models are the most efficient and 'practical' ways of organizing a shared objective reality.

So, it is assumed, the problem for the victims of this hegemonic imposition is one of lack of 'education' and/or lack of 'discipline'. They, therefore, sponsor and accept educational and restructuring programs (which are based on the primary ideological understandings of the hegemonic powers) to tackle the burgeoning chaos. This exacerbates the problems of social and mental confusion in the receiving communities.

Many communities around the world, suffering the consequences of enforced reorganization of their worlds to fit the requirements of capitalism, are in various stages of disintegration - victims of the globalizing forces of international capitalism. As Wallerstein (1991) claimed, the imposition of economic organization and activity on the rest of the world by Western nations is not new.

Since the 16th century Western Europeans (and those First World countries that have their hegemonic roots in Western Europe) have become increasingly militarily dominant around the world. They have required the rest of the world to accept reorganization of their models and understandings. In doing so they have established and maintained a 'world economic system'.

World economic system Return to Chapter Index

To understand the ways in which people live and organize their lives in the early 21st century we need to understand the nature of this world economic system. Unless we do, many of the most important influences on the lives of people in communities will be missed or misinterpreted.

Over the past fifty years there have been many attempts to explain the presence of this system. As Immanuel Wallerstein (1991) has said:

its peculiar feature is that it has shown itself strong enough to destroy all other [world-systems] contemporaneous to it.

In this article, Wallerstein provides a brief discussion of the nature of the 'world-system' as he understands it. His article is a response to an earlier article by Andre Gunder Frank, which was, itself, a critical response to a 1990 article by Wallerstein.

Wallerstein says that his 1990 article 'L'Occident, le capitalisme, et le systeme-monde moderne' was written as a rebuttal of the belief that the world-system is an 'economic miracle' of Western industrialism. He says, those who claim this:

believe two things simultaneously: (a) something distinctive occurred in (western) Europe which was radically new somewhere in early modern times; (b) this 'something' was a highly positive or 'progressive' happening in world history. My position is that (a) was true but that (b) was distinctly not true.
(Wallerstein 1991)

Capitalism is based on an individualized, status-driven, open-ended accumulation and consumption of goods and services, requiring open-ended production. The basis for social status and self-definition in Western communities is peculiar. Systems of status and self-definition in other communities are equally peculiar to them.

Imposition of Western secondary models: The breakdown and revitalization of communities Return to Chapter Index

Feudalism, while unique to medieval Europe, shares many of the characteristics of patron - client forms of communal organization and interaction around the world. It was a territory-based, patron - client system in which those higher in the hierarchy took responsibility for those below them. They 'parented' those who depended on them.

Feudal communities presumed an 'interdependent self' rather than an 'independent self'. The political organization directly mirrored the social system, and councils of people of similar hierarchical position met to determine affairs of their dependents 17 .

On the other hand, capitalism is based on individual independence; the acquisition of an ever-expanding set of needs and wants and promotion of the individual rather than his or her responsibility for dependents. Its political frame, therefore, is democracy.

If one insisted on a feudally organized community accepting democracy as its political frame, this would directly undermine the 'parenting' responsibilities of hierarchically superior members of the community.

Democracy requires communities to be organized in terms of an 'independent self', not an 'interdependent self'. It is no more a universally applicable model of governance than is feudalism, and when communities are compelled to reorganize in 'democratic' ways, all their other understandings of life are automatically challenged.

If, in patron - client organized communities, those in superior hierarchical positions were freed from their parenting responsibilities, those who depend on them would find the world a very insecure and inhospitable place. Far from improving the lot of the poor, the imposition of democracy can disenfranchise them and strip them of those supports that have protected them in the past. Interdependent relationships are disrupted, redistributive processes dismantled, and poverty, anomie and violence escalate in their communities.

Thomas More (1516), in his book Utopia , described the consequences of such disenfranchising of the peasantry of England in the early 16th century, during the shift from feudalism to capitalism. The hero of his book, Raphael, was the guest of the 'Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal, and Chancellor of England':

One day when I was dining with him there happened to be at table one of the English lawyers, who took occasion to run out in a high commendation of the severe execution of justice upon thieves, who, as he said, were then hanged so fast that there were sometimes twenty on one gibbet; and upon that he said he could not wonder enough how it came to pass, that since so few escaped, there were yet so many thieves left who were still robbing in all places.

Upon this, I who took the boldness to speak freely before the cardinal, said there was no reason to wonder at the matter since... 'The increase of pasture,' said I, 'by which your sheep, which are naturally mild, and easily kept in order, may be said now to devour men, and unpeople, not only villages, but towns; for wherever it is found that the sheep of any soil yield a softer and richer wool than ordinary, there the nobility and gentry, and even those holy men the abbots, not contented with the old rents which their farms yielded, nor thinking it enough that they, living at their ease, do no good to the public, resolve to do it hurt instead of good.

They stop the course of agriculture, destroying houses and towns, reserving only the churches, and enclose grounds that they may lodge their sheep in them. As if forests and parks had swallowed up too little of the land, those worthy countrymen turn the best inhabited places into solitudes, for when an insatiable wretch, who is a plague to his country, resolves to enclose many thousand acres of ground, the owners as well as tenants are turned out of their possessions, by tricks, or by main force, or being wearied out with ill-usage, they are forced to sell them.

By which means those miserable people, both men and women, married and unmarried, old and young, with their poor but numerous families (since country business requires many hands), are all forced to change their seats, not knowing whither to go; and they must sell almost for nothing their household stuff, which could not bring them much money, even though they might stay for a buyer.

When that little money is at an end, for it will be soon spent, what is left for them to do, but either to steal and so to be hanged (God knows how justly), or to go about and beg? And if they do this, they are put in prison as idle vagabonds; while they would willingly work, but can find none that will hire them; for there is no more occasion for country labor, to which they have been bred, when there is no arable ground left.

One shepherd can look after a flock which will stock an extent of ground that would require many hands if it were to be ploughed and reaped. This likewise in many places raises the price of corn.'
(More 1516)

A major problem in Third World countries is now not simply the grinding poverty of the poor, but the continuing costs of the conspicuous consumption of the rich. The imposition of forms of democracy (based on presumed independence rather than interdependence) and economic organization required by the world economic system have reduced increasing numbers of people in Third World countries to penury, with diminishing political, economic and social protection.

The imposition of democracy has been responsible for dismantling traditional forms of land tenure and utilization. It has eroded and disrupted social organization and communal support mechanisms.

In patron - client systems of governance it has disrupted the parenting responsibilities of hierarchically superior members of the community. This, in turn, has allowed those in positions of responsibility to accumulate wealth with less and less acceptance of patron - client responsibilities for former dependents (i.e. for redistribution of goods and services). 18

There has been a considerable inflation of expectations and a very great increase in conspicuous consumption amongst some groupings in non-Western communities. This inflation of the material requirements of status positions is in many ways, though not all, similar to that which occurred in Western Europe from the late 15th century with the denial of hierarchical feudal responsibilities by those who controlled resources 19 .

The effects of the 'trickle down' development policies of the 1960s and 1970s show how readily the requirements of status positions can be inflated. Particularly those which are primarily determined through non-economic criteria but reinforced by the acquisition and/or consumption of material goods and services.

One of the unfortunate consequences of the 'trickle down' policies of Third World Development projects and programs and the 'globalization' activities of the past 50 years has been that high-status people in many Third World communities have had the material requirements of their positions greatly inflated by the massive injection of capital into their countries.

Since they were not primarily geared to Western forms of open-ended production 20 , the injected capital was diverted into existing social template activity and those of high status found themselves able to buy Mercedes Benz cars, live in mansions, have overseas assets, and engage in many other forms of excessive conspicuous consumption. Over the past half century the ownership and consumption of these luxury goods has become institutionalized.

As the injection of outside funds dried up with the failure of 'trickle down' policies, those who require these possessions to underscore status have had to find other sources of funds to obtain them. This has resulted in a 'trickle up' effect. Those of low status, dependent on high-status people in a variety of ways, have, through lowered wages, decreased returns on produce, decreased welfare support, and increased pressure on land and other income generating possessions, borne the brunt of the inflated expectations of elites.

In many non-Western communities and countries, as a result of the 'development' activities of the past half century, the relationships between lower and higher ranks of hierarchically ordered systems of status and community organization have become severely distorted. By insisting on the 'democratization' of communities run by 'dictators', the lowest ranks of hierarchical systems have effectively been disenfranchised 21 .

In almost all traditional patron - client systems wealth initially flows from the base (the peasantry in feudal Europe) upward through the hierarchy, creating concentrations of wealth in the higher reaches of the pyramid. Patrons, having accumulated wealth, take responsibility for the well-being of those below them, redistributing goods and services as needed and, in doing so, ensuring the continued and strengthened interdependence of patrons and clients in the hierarchy.

When such communities are 'emancipated' by Western development enthusiasts, the land and resources, having been vested in the upper reaches of the hierarchy, become their possessions and clients find themselves no longer entitled to the land and resources on which they have always relied. The lowest rankings of status hierarchies therefore find themselves facing very similar problems to those faced by the peasantry of Western Europe during the transition from feudalism to capitalism 22 .

Revitalization movements and fundamentalism Return to Chapter Index

The consequences of this impoverishing distortion of status requirements and erosion of communities have been profound. The primary ideological presumptions of many non-Western communities have been challenged and organizational features of their secondary models dismantled.

Increasing numbers of people see the growing problems of their communities and uncertainties of their individual lives as stemming from Western-based activities in their countries and involvement of national leaders in Western forms of organization, activity and consumption. Eqbal Ahmad, in 1996, gave vent to his opinion of Western involvement in Muslim regions:

Our first encounter with democracy was oppressive. Democracy came to us as oppressors, as colonizers, as violators. As violators, they spoke in the language of the Enlightenment and engaged in the activities of barbarians ....

Historically the United States has spoken of democracy and has supported Somozas, Trujillos, Mobutu Sese Seko, Suharto of Indonesia, the Shah of Iran, Zia ul Haq of Pakistan ....

Therefore, our first experience with democracy was one of outright oppression, and our second experience with democracy was one in which [the West] promoted fascism, global fascism in some cases 23 .

They perceive the breakdown of law and order and the escalating violence that surrounds them largely as a consequence of Western intrusion and influence in their countries and communities.

Inevitably, as the perceptions crystallize, resentment of and resistance to Western forms of organization and activity mount. This, in turn, is reflected in Western attitudes and Western peoples become increasingly aware of a world of:

mortal enemies who will seize upon our vulnerabilities to bloody us, to murder our citizens...
(Hyde 2001).

Having lived through the second half of the 20th century in Western countries, with their increasingly hedonistic biases, I am impressed by the mounting fundamentalism of both Western and many non-Western communities. When life becomes increasingly difficult and apparently dangerous, then communities and individuals search for the reasons and for ways of reasserting order and security in their worlds.

People in the later medieval period in Western Europe became aware of, and increasingly vociferously denounced corruption and simony in their communities 24 , leading to the 16th century reformation wars. Similarly, very commonly, the problem in non-Western communities is seen as 'corruption': the loss of morality and/or commitment to the central principles of life in their communities.

The answer is seen to lie in determination to 'reform' their communities, to reaffirm and recommit themselves to the most important fundamental understandings of life, the central presumptions that underpin and give coherence to their primary ideologies, spelt out in one or more sets of secondary ideological models.

When those presumptions that are central to people's lives are perceived as being threatened, people everywhere reaffirm their commitment to the values which they know are necessary to ensure that life remains secure and ordered. They very readily become involved in activity aimed at reinforcing the forms of organization, interaction and understanding that are required by the fundamental presumptions of their primary ideologies.

They attempt to revitalize both communal and individual life. Inevitably, they do so through commitment to and enforcement of secondary ideological models derived from their primary ideological presumptions. These models are usually developed and promoted by a charismatic leadership, which demands and obtains from the bulk of the population unswerving loyalty to the principles of the espoused secondary ideology.

In writings on the late medieval world of Western Europe, the revitalization models and the movements associated with them have been referred to as 'The Reformation'. Their leaders were, almost without exception, identified with religious causes.

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, examples of such movements abound in both Western and non-Western communities and countries: from the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Taliban (identified as religiously motivated); to George Bush in the United States in its early 21st century commitment to rooting out terrorism around the world and reaffirming and reasserting Western values wherever they appear to be under challenge.

Revitalization and dissident groups Return to Chapter Index

The fact that the revitalization leadership promotes a particular secondary ideological model means that, however committed the bulk of the population might be to that leadership and the requirements of the model it promotes and protects, there will always be opposition from community members holding alternative secondary ideological frames.

Outside forces can, and do, exploit those minority groups in attacking the legitimacy of the movement. This, in turn, can result in the oppositional groups being considered in league with immoral, corrupting external forces.

Khomeini (1979) provided an excellent illustration of this when he described the emergence of factions within Iran, promoted and supported, he claimed, by foreigners:

[U]nfortunately we see that some differences are created within the opposition, that is between the secular and the Islamic factions. I must point out that the origin of these parties which have appeared in Iran since the beginning of the constitutional revolution, as one understands it, is that they were, without themselves knowing it, founded by foreigners, and some of them have served the foreigners...

When the foreigners see that there are people who are useful (for the country), people who, it is hoped, will be able to reform the country, they use all their energies to set them against each other; consequently, these people quarrel with one another, each one's writings oppose the other's, and they reject one another's ideas.

Some of them have done such things knowingly and were the primary agents of the foreigners, while others were not aware of what was happening, were not aware that they were being dragged down a road which went against the interests of their own country.
(Khomeini 1979 - accessed 26th July, 2010)

The 'Coalition of the Willing', comprising the United States, Great Britain and sundry camp followers, in its war against the Taliban in Afghanistan and the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq (2003 - 2010>), and in its fomenting of opposition to the fundamentalist leadership in Iran, has exploited such dissident groups.

However, to conclude that these dissenting groups are committed to Western secondary ideological principles, as many commentators in both the United States and other Western countries have, leads to unrealistic presumptions about the consequences of backing their overthrow of fundamentalist regimes 25 .

They also build their secondary ideological models from the basic presumptions of the common primary ideological frame which informs the models of the revitalization movement they oppose. They might, in order to win and maintain support from outside forces, speak the language of those forces from which they want support. However, it is foolish and naive to believe that the rhetoric employed for this purpose is indicative of the principles and models they are committed to promoting.

This failure to realize that the motivations of opposed factions within a country are derived from their particular understandings of themselves and the world is not recent in Western engagements with the rest of the world. It underlies most Western support of particular warring factions against others since the dissolution of Western empires following World War II.

A great deal of the Western literature on the Western invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrates this continued presumption by commentators. They assume the commitment of dissident groups within those countries to the fundamental capitalist principles of the countries they are courting for support.

Non-Western revitalization movements Return to Chapter Index

Among the many non-Western revitalization movements of the past fifty years one must include both the fundamentalist movement led by Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran from 1979 and the Taliban movement of Afghanistan in the 1990s. In one of his 1979 speeches Khomeini described those who supported the Shah and would try to reintroduce Western ideas to Iran:

Xenomaniacs, people infatuated with the West, empty people, people with no content! Come to your senses; do not try to Westernize everything you have!

Look at the West, and see who the people are in the West that present themselves as champions of human rights and what their aims are. Is it human rights they really care about, or the rights of the superpowers?

What they really want to secure are the rights of the superpowers.
(Khomeini 1979 - accessed 26th July, 2010)

Revolutionary Iran became an enemy of nations and communities that have their hegemonic roots in Western European history.

The United States, with Western European and Soviet support, fomented a war between Iran and Iraq, and supplied both weaponry and military training to Iraqi forces. For ten years revolutionary Iran endured a prolonged and savage war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq in which deaths, on both sides, numbered more than a million people.

It is the nature of revitalization movements that they often go to extremes. Those involved feel deeply threatened by 'corruption' within and by outside forces that promote immoral values and threaten their security and well-being.

They root out immorality among their own people and introduce often draconian measures to ensure compliance with the central presumptions of their moral code. They look for traitors - the enemy inside the walls - and attempt to weed them out. In the process there is, all too often, great human suffering.

So long as the threat of outside intervention continues to be perceived as real, hard-line fundamentalists gain a ready audience and strong support from the populations they lead.

Western leaders are as driven by their understandings of reality as are the leaders of non-Western revitalization movements. They are just as committed to protecting and reinforcing what they see as the most important fundamental principles of life. These Western understandings are often identified by non-Western revitalization leaders as forms of corruption against which they must fight.

All-too-often, Western leaders react to the resulting extremes and make the perceived threat a reality - as happened to Iran from 1980 to 1989 (and is now happening again) and as happened to the Taliban in Afghanistan in the first decade (and more) of the 21st century.

When they do so they ensure that the fundamental extremism they oppose is prolonged and strengthened. As the perceived threat from outside forces diminishes and the revitalization leaders become increasingly secure in their leadership, fundamentalist movements tend toward moderation 26 . Max Weber (1947) described this process as the routinization of charisma.

Western commentators all-too-often misread that moderation as Westernization and trumpet the downfall of 'extremist leaders'. The ultimate democratization of Iran is an almost universal theme in Western literature dealing with the liberalizing tendencies in Iranian society (i.e. the processes of routinization) 27 .

Western revitalization movements Return to Chapter Index

The Western preoccupation with terrorism in the early 21st century is a fundamentalist reassertion of basic Western values. So is the declared determination to stamp out terrorism and reimpose democratic principles of social and political life on those countries and communities that display or encourage anti-Western sentiments.

As with all such movements, the leadership demands loyalty not only from its followers but from all within the boundaries of its control. Alisa Solomon described the domestic climate of the 'war on terror' in the United States:

Like any avalanche, this one started at the top, and likely dates back to the moment after 9/11 when President Bush warned the world's nations, 'Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists'. From Bush on down, in the months that followed, government officials drew limits around acceptable speech.

White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer told Americans to 'watch what they say'. Such words gained force when the Patriot Act gave the government extensive new powers to spy, interrogate and detain. When civil libertarians began to protest the curbing of constitutional rights, Attorney General John Ashcroft offered a forbidding rejoinder:

To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists.

These kinds of remarks from our government's top leaders, says Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, have granted ordinary people license 'to shut down alternative views'. The Administration has fashioned a domestic arm of its new doctrine of pre-emption.
(Solomon 2003 - accessed 27 July 2010)

An editorial in The Economist (2003) described the mindset of the neo-conservatives who wielded considerable clout in the second George Bush presidency,

They see the world in terms of good and evil. They think America should be willing to use military power to defeat the forces of chaos.

Martin Sieff, in a United Press International (2003) commentary on the aftermath of the Iraq invasion of 2003, explained the ambition of those who championed the 'war on terror',

[S]o confident were Office of the Secretary of Defense planners and their neo-conservative allies of the coming oil bonanza from Iraq that they openly advocated using it, as Judis wrote in The New Republic 'to remake the Middle East in our democratic, capitalist image...'
(Sieff, United Press International 2003)

John Judis explained their ambitions clearly:

...the neoconservatives inside and outside the administration take a radical, even revolutionary, view of what is possible and desirable in the region; they see turmoil as inevitable and desirable. Says one senior administration official, "Upheaval is on its way. We might as well get in front of it." They see Saddam's ouster not just as a means of preventing a future nuclear threat but of remaking the entire region along democratic, free-market lines....

The neoconservatives don't worry about offending potential critics in Iran, Saudi Arabia, or Syria because they think of them as enemies who should eventually be swept aside by the installation of a democratic, free-market Iraq on their borders. They reject U.N. or multilateral participation in a post- Saddam transition.

Says one senior official,

This is the moment where our ideas will be vindicated, or we can walk away. You can't count on the international community to establish a new democratic or political order.

The way it would work is that the reigning power would distribute power and businesses, and which people it chooses to deal with are automatically made into kings. Do we want to be the kingmaker, or do we want to default that over to the U.N.? I am not sure we want to cede it.

I would bet the U.N. would seek the acquiescence of Iraq's neighbors-all of which have vested interests. There are three that would be problematic: Riyadh, Tehran, and Damascus. And the U.N. would work through them.

(Judis 2003 - accessed 27 July 2010)

Neo-conservative leaders of the United States of America, and their allies in other Western countries, know that capitalism and democracy are not ideological models, but the way the objective world is (or must be) organized. They have a duty to ensure that wherever dark, dangerous and irrational forces are at work, attacking democracy and capitalism, those forces are challenged, their supporters eliminated 28 .

As Western communities feel themselves threatened by the growing influence of what the United States' President George W Bush called 'the axis of evil' they know that, at all costs, the evils of anti-capitalism and anti-democracy must be challenged and beaten back.

Henry Hyde, Chairman of the US House of Representatives Committee on International Relations spelt it out, on October 3 2001, weeks after the destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York:

Let us begin by accepting there is no single enemy to be defeated, no one network to be eliminated. Al-Qa'eda is but our most prominent opponent, but its outlook is shared by many others who are equally committed to our destruction.

If we believe that our safety can be secured by destroying any one organization or any single person, we will only ensure that we will remain unsafe and unprepared once again. For we know now that we have permanent, mortal enemies who will seize upon our vulnerabilities to bloody us, to murder our citizens, to commit horror for the purpose of forcing horror upon us....

Our strategy, plans, and actions must be comprehensive, deliberate and formulated for the long-term. We must be prepared not only to protect ourselves from new assaults, not only to intercept and frustrate them, but to eliminate new threats at their source. This must be a permanent campaign, similar to the ancient one humanity has waged against disease and its never-ending assault upon our defenses.
(Hyde, October 3 2001 - accessed 27 July 2010)

In such times, human beings feel the need to reassert and reinforce those principles that they instinctively know to be central to a properly ordered and secure world. Equally, they know, beyond any doubt, that unless they resolutely and uncompromisingly confront the enemy, intent on destroying it, it will destroy them.

As Henry Hyde (2001) claimed, one of the major terrorist threats against Western nations at the start of the 21st century has been perceived as coming from Al-Qa'eda 29 . For Hyde and most other Western leaders the organization is a network of terror and evil, master-minded by a Saudi Arabian, Sheikh Usamah Bin-Muhammad Bin-Ladin.

Bin-Ladin spelt out his reasons for seeing the activities of the United States (and Western countries in general) as a plague, destructively consuming the resources of his country, undermining the most important central understandings of life, and threatening the unity, security and well-being of his people and his world:

The Arabian Peninsula has never - since God made it flat, created its desert, and encircled it with seas - been stormed by any forces like the crusader armies now spreading in it like locusts, consuming its riches and destroying its plantations. All this is happening at a time when nations are attacking Muslims like people fighting over a plate of food.
(Bin-Ladin 1998 - accessed 27 July 2010)

Just as Henry Hyde insisted that the enemies of democracy and capitalism must be eliminated, so Bin-Ladin insists that those who threaten the existence of his world must be eliminated.

The more threatened people feel, the more strongly they recommit themselves to those fundamental primary ideological principles, which they know will reassert order and security within their communities and lives.

In the West, people during the threatening years of the 1970s and 1980s recommitted themselves to fundamental economic doctrines. In the early years of the 21st century, under the fundamentalist leadership of the second George Bush and his coterie of 'born again' believers in the efficacy of 'Western democratic principles', Western communities remained committed to globalization, privatization, economic growth; reducing public expenditure; re-imposing democracy (the political frame of Western capitalism) wherever it has been weakened or displaced and to eliminating those who most vociferously oppose their activities.

Because Western people organize their lives through economically focused social templates, the forms they re-emphasize in times of stress and threat focus on economic issues and are aimed at rectifying economic processes and bolstering economic performance on the presumption that this will alleviate the perceived problems.

In the last decades of the 20th century Western countries and communities recommitted themselves to the fundamental principles underpinning free-market capitalism. Since that time they have also recommitted themselves to ensuring that the fundamental principles of capitalism and its political frame - democracy - are enforced and reinforced wherever 'anti-Western' sentiments seem to be mounting and capitalism seems to be losing its influence.

The first Western leader in the second half of the 20th century to steer her country determinedly toward a Western fundamentalist future as a means of arresting and reversing the moral decline of the nation was the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

As a prime minister representing the newly energetic right wing of the Conservative Party (the 'Dries', as they later called themselves, as opposed to the old-style moderate Tories, or 'Wets'), Thatcher advocated greater independence of the individual from the state; an end to allegedly excessive government interference in the economy, including privatization of state-owned enterprises and the sale of public housing to tenants; reductions in expenditures on social services such as health care, education, and housing; limitations on the printing of money in accord with the economic doctrine of monetarism; and legal restrictions on trade unions.

The term Thatcherism came to refer not just to these policies but also to certain aspects of her ethical outlook and personal style, including moral absolutism, fierce nationalism, a zealous regard for the interests of the individual, and a combative, uncompromising approach to achieving political goals.
(Encyclopedia Britannica)

The following readings provide an insight into the kinds of social reorganization that Western people felt they had to undertake in order to ensure that life was secure and that the world remained 'sane' in the latter part of the 20th century.

Milton Friedman (with Rose Friedman) (1980), the theoretical mind behind a great many of Margaret Thatcher's policies in the early years of her British government (1979 - 1990), provided an explanation of the essential requirements for:

... building a society that relies primarily on voluntary cooperation to organize both economic and other activity, a society that preserves and expands human freedom, that keeps government in its place, keeping it our servant and not letting it become our master.
(Friedman & Friedman 1980)

Stelzer (1992) described the 'decline' of Britain between 1945 and 1979 and gives a very positive summing up of the achievements of the Thatcher Government in reversing that decline. As Irwin Stelzer says:

It was individual responsibility, rather than reliance on government, that now became the accepted standard against which to measure policy initiatives.... Thatcher restored to the UK a sense that appropriate policies and driving entrepreneurialism can produce steady increases in material well-being.
(Stelzer 1992)

Stuart Hall's (1988) analysis of Thatcherism provided a Marxist perspective on the precursors and consequences of Margaret Thatcher's privatization policies.

As we suggested earlier, within any community of people who share a common primary ideology, there will be a range of secondary ideological models. Friedman and Stelzer provide explanation of how the world should be organized and people interact with each other from the perspective of one set of Western secondary ideological models. Hall presents an alternative, dissident way of organizing the world.

Both perspectives share a common set of primary ideological understandings. Underlying both neo-conservative (right) and Marxist (left) emphases and perspectives is a level of common understanding:

  • All share similar understandings of the nature of time and of the ways in which it should or should not be 'used'.
  • All accept that there is an economic sphere or domain or environment within which people interact in order to achieve greater personal well-being.
  • All accept that the aim of government is to organize the 'public arena' to ensure improved economic organization and performance.
  • All assume that there is a 'private' realm or environment within which individuals interact. The disagreements concern the relative duties and responsibilities of private and public spheres.
  • All assume that human beings are 'free actors' and that human relationships are based on independence not interdependence.
  • All assume that prime aims in life include earning a cash income; improving one's material position; 'developing' oneself.
  • All assume that there is a 'formal' economy and that, necessarily, people will interact in terms of that economy in the ways which are spelt out as 'legitimate' and 'appropriate'.
  • All presume the 'rule of law'.

Conclusion Return to Chapter Index

Commentators on life in non-Western communities and countries always have, and always will, be faced with the problem of disentangling themselves from their own primary and secondary ideological commitments in order better to understand the primary and secondary ideological presumptions and commitments of the people amongst whom they are undertaking research.

This has never been more important than it is in the early 21st century. Despite (or, more likely, because of) the driving commitment of Western communities to globalization and democratization in countries and communities around the world, increasing numbers of people in non-Western communities are seeing people of the West not as harbingers of good, but as exploitative, immoral, and intent on destroying the most important fundamental understandings of life in their communities.

People in the West are certain that their understandings and forms of organization and interaction are derived from the nature of objective reality and provide the most efficient, equitable means of ensuring individual (and therefore communal) development and well-being. Forces that oppose Western forms and understandings are therefore irrational and dangerous to the well-being of human beings everywhere.

So, they are determined, wherever they find 'fundamentalism' and its associated 'terrorist' activity to oppose them and finally displace these evils by those forms of organization and interaction to which they are committed. That Western determination to impose their own fundamentalist agenda on the rest of the world, if the reasoning contained within this chapter is valid, ensures the perpetuation and deepening of the forces they oppose.

Like it or not, Western people live in a world of diverse primary and secondary ideologies (which only make sense in terms of the primary ideologies from which they are derived). Every attempt to impose Western secondary ideological models on people who do not share Western primary ideological understandings guarantees the disruption of their communities and ultimately the emergence of revitalization movements aimed at reasserting and reinforcing their own understandings of life.

End of Chapter

Chapter 3:
An Explanation and History of the Emergence of Capitalism Return to Index of Chapters

In a way which is common to people in all societies, people in Western communities, when considering the fundamental rights and responsibilities of community members towards one another, speak in ideological terms.30

While each Western secondary ideological frame spells out a particular version of 'reality', they all presume certain fundamental understandings about the nature of individuals, communities, the environment, and the metaphysical realm, and about the forms of relationship found in and between them.31

It is from these less than consciously held basic presumptions that individuals and communities construct their own particular variants of 'ideal realities' (or secondary ideologies) 32 .

To communities which do not share Western primary ideological presumptions, the confrontations among competing Western secondary ideologies will appear less than rational. Because their own forms of secondary ideology are based on their own primary ideological presumptions about life, which are likely to be very different from the basic presumptions contained within Western primary ideology, it is very difficult for them to enter into a dialogue with Western people.

Rather, as has happened during the last half century, people become opposed on the basis of subconsciously held basic presumptions about life, rather than on the basis of variant secondary ideologies. So, we speak of the confrontation between 'Islam and the West', rather than about a confrontation between Shiites and capitalists. What we have is a confrontation between primary rather than secondary ideologies.

Through this century, as non-Western communities become increasingly self-assertive, we are likely to find that confrontations will occur between communities holding variant primary ideologies - variant sets of basic presumptions about the meaning, purpose and organization of life 33 . These presumptions, being reflections of the basic cognitive frames of communities, will be poorly expressed. Those who attempt dialogue based upon such confrontations will find the explanations and basic positions of their adversaries rationally and logically unconvincing.

Before we can grapple with the confrontations which are already occurring and will repeatedly re-occur throughout this century, we need to comprehend the basic presumptions underpinning Western capitalist understandings of life. In this discussion we will attempt to do this through exploring the historical experiences which shaped and molded Western European communities over the past thousand years as they moved from feudalism to capitalism.

How have some of the most basic presumptions which underpin Western understandings of life been shaped by history, becoming seen as features of the real world, the unfocused backdrop to secondary ideological disputes? 34

Here I will examine:

  • the ways in which 'the economy' became separated from other 'environments' in Western thinking 35 ;
  • the emergence of an emphasis on 'market exchange' as the 'correct' form of exchange between individuals and groups;
  • the reasons why formal economies are so strongly bound by legal frames and supported by both legal and fiscal bureaucracies;
  • the nature of 'consumerism' and its historical underpinnings;
  • and why those who became committed to Western ideologies became so missionary-oriented, focused on the material world and convinced of the need for the whole world to be organized according to their ideological understanding 36 .

In the examination of these issues I am going to look at some of the historical experiences of Western Europeans which have, over more than eight hundred years, produced the consumer culture of today. To understand the present we have to know the experiences of the past which shaped and molded Western European thinking and action and produced the primary ideological presumptions which underpin interaction, meaning and organization in Western communities.

People and recognized 'environments' Return to Chapter Index

Fundamental to understanding Western primary ideological presumptions is an understanding of the ways in which people conceive of and interact with their environments. In order to grapple with the ways in which Western Europeans conceive of themselves in relation to their environments, we need to understand several important fundamental assumptions 37 from which they operate.

  • First, all human beings are individuals who independently interact with the various environments within which they live, and develop their own unique personas through that interaction.
  • Second, these independent individuals are autonomous fashioners of their environments, which are passive, being molded by, and reflecting, human activity.
  • Third, individuals interact with a number of quite distinct environments:
  • There is the physical or material environment, bound by natural laws. For Western people, the 'natural world' can be controlled and directed by mastering sets of laws which relate to its various aspects - those of physics, chemistry, geology, botany, and so on.
  • There is the social environment bound by social laws, again controlled and directed through understanding and applying sets of laws - the economic, political and social. The search for, and outlining of, such sets of laws has produced a reification of these aspects of social life, so that most Western people think of each area as a self-existent whole, as an environment with its own raison d'ętre, and, its own logic.
  • And there is, for many Western people, approximately eighty per cent of the population in most Western national censuses, a spiritual, or religious, or metaphysical environment bound by its own quite distinctive sets of laws.

The set of laws ordering each environment is self-contained. The rules for interaction with, and in, each environment can be spelt out, providing people with all the necessary information for interacting in the best possible ways with each of those environments.

This belief has led Western people to assume that the sets of laws can be 'discovered', understood and mastered through research and education. Through mastering the principles and rule requirements for interaction with each environment, the best possible forms of behavior, attitude, organization and interaction for individuals and groups can be determined. Once those best possibilities have been outlined and people commit themselves to living in accord with those possibilities, both individuals and communities become 'developed'.

Once Western researchers have determined the fundamental laws for interaction with each recognized environment, they are able to prescribe the best forms of activity and organization for any community. They are therefore able to evaluate the performance of any community in terms of their prescriptions.

The sets of prescriptions reflect, of course, the secondary ideologies of Western communities. The presumption of the existence of a range of separate environments with which people interact is, however, a primary ideological presumption, one which is basic to the ways in which Western people think and organize their lives, no matter what secondary ideology they might subscribe to.

So, the keys to development 38 are:

  • research to ascertain the principles underlying human interaction with each Western environment, together with the ways in which the environments might be reorganized for individual and community advantage;
  • establishment of the bureaucratic frameworks through which the activities of individuals can be focused and channeled to the requirements of those prescriptions; 39
  • and education of people to live by those principles, so ensuring physical, social, political, economic and spiritual well-being.

Rathbone Gregg, in the 1870s, put the need for education very clearly:

The lot of man ... is in his own hands, from his being surrounded by fixed laws, on knowledge of which, and conformity to which, his wellbeing depends. The study of these and obedience to them form, therefore, the great aim of public instruction. Men must be taught:

  • The physical laws on which health depends.
  • The moral laws on which happiness depends.
  • The intellectual laws on which knowledge depends.
  • The social and political laws on which national prosperity and advancement depend.
  • The economic laws on which wealth depends.

(quoted in Holyoake 1896, p. 85)

Western people find it natural 40 that all activity should be circumscribed by rules and regulations. Rarely, if ever, has there been such an acceptance of and compliance with systems of rules and regulations as exists in Western communities 41 . But, because those rules are applied by impersonal bureaucracies, they are not seen as intrusive.

Western people regard rules and regulations as necessary for the protection of their individuality and a guarantee of their right to interact with their environments for their private ends 42 . Since the 12th century, Western Europeans have increasingly committed themselves to uncovering systems of law governing the various environments, and to educating people to live in accordance with them once they have been uncovered.

Among the reasons for the phenomenal success of Western Europeans in imposing their world views on others throughout the 19th and 20th centuries is their absolute certainty of the superiority of their 'knowledge' of how the physical, social and spiritual worlds 'really work', and their ability to impose on others well-organized systems of law and government, centered not on individual personalities but on impersonal bureaucracies.

Western people have come to believe that, whereas all other people live in the mists of superstition and dubious rationality, governed by the whim of their rulers, they have discovered the 'laws' of the physical, social and spiritual worlds. So, they can act 'rationally', ensuring that all their behavior, interaction and organization conform to those principles which underpin the rule-bound systems they are in the process of uncovering.

When Europeans imposed themselves upon the rest of the world during the 19th and 20th centuries they took with them the 'best' ways of using the physical environment, of organizing communities, and of ensuring individual 'development' and a successful life in the next world. They therefore set about changing the worlds they encountered in terms of their understandings.

The physical environment could (and should) be dominated, managed and organized to 'realize its potential', that is ensure high yields, whether of minerals, crops or anything else which Western people might consider a 'potential' for that environment (e.g. 'tourism').

The social environment could (and should) be managed and organized to 'realize its potential', to ensure individual development (defined, of course, in terms of the particular secondary ideology of those holding the power).

And the spiritual environment could (and should) be managed and reorganized to ensure high rates of conversion and commitment to the religious forms and beliefs of Europe (which would not only ensure life in the next world, but also orient people to be responsible citizens in this 43 ).

Not only were Western Europeans committed to systems of laws, rules and regulations, they also strongly emphasized the use of mathematics to measure success by quantifying results. This emphasis on quantification coincided with yet another emphasis, that on material possessions, on the accumulation of goods and the generation of material wealth.

Industry and frugality would inevitably produce riches. The demonstration of these virtues, in turn, would inevitably bring respect and status. So, in order to attain and maintain status and respect, one needed to demonstrate that one had gained wealth by one's own efforts - that one had realized one's own potential and the potential of the environments within which one lived.

One's material worth is most easily ascertained by giving cash values to possessions so that a total value can readily be calculated by interested others. This led 'naturally' to conspicuous consumption and ownership, demonstrating the wealth of the person. And so there emerged, in Western Europe, apparently paradoxical emphases on hard work and frugality on the one hand, and increasing conspicuous ownership and consumption on the other.

Of course, Western Europeans are convinced that these emphases are 'logical', and necessary for the 'rational' direction and control of the environments within which they live.

Whereas almost all other people are bound by 'tradition', by forms of organization, interaction and behavior which have their roots in the historical experiences of their forebears, Western people believe that they organize life in terms of rational constructs, derived not from tradition but from scientific investigation of their environments. As they uncover the principles governing their natural and social environments, they gain control of them and are able to manage them to produce the best possible returns for people.

We need to confront this belief.

Do the constructs and understandings of Western Europeans come from their scientific investigation of substantive environments, or is the nature and form of those 'environments' the result of reification of aspects of the natural and social worlds, required by the historical experiences of Western people?

Are the environments with which Western people interact objective features of the world which are recognized as such by all people everywhere, or are they only real to Western Europeans?

In the following historical sketches I suggest that the environments which are recognized are consequences of the historical tensions and confrontations of Western Europe. They are, in fact, understandings which are derived from, and required by, Western historical experience. They are as shaped and determined by 'tradition' as any other system of knowledge and understanding in other communities. The presumption that there are sets of laws waiting to be uncovered for the control of each environment is, equally, a consequence of particular historical experience.

The Western European conviction that they have 'got it right', while others have not, is based in their certainty of the validity of their view of the world, and the effectiveness with which it allows them to manipulate their environments in engaging in forms of activity and organization which are required by Western industrial social templates.

Western communities, no less than any other communities, have inherited their understanding of how their world is organized and the ways in which they relate to the environments in which they live.

A key and fundamental difference between Western communities and most other communities lies in the Western presumption of the existence of separate environments, each of which operates in terms of its own logic and its own set of operational principles or laws. Before any such sets of laws can even be anticipated, one must recognize the existence of the separate environments to which they relate.

For people not brought up in Western communities, and therefore not thinking in terms of Western presumptions, the existence of the identified environments, let alone the rules for interaction with them, is unlikely to be recognized.

In the same way that Western people take the existence of separate environments as a subconscious given, something which needs no justification, other people take their own understanding of the environment within which they live for granted, together with their understanding of their interaction with it.

When they are required to organize life in terms of Western European understandings, they inevitably warp the organized environments within which they are required to operate towards their own, quite different presumptions about their environment. This effect is most clearly seen in what, for Western people, is the dominant social environment, the economy.

Before I begin an examination of the historical emergence of this Western view of environments governed by systems of law, a few qualifiers are necessary. When investigating historical trends one has to start somewhere. The important primary understandings of any community do not suddenly appear. They are shaped over hundreds of years and through a multitude of interacting variables and circumstances. So, one has somewhat arbitrarily to decide on a starting point in time and on the variables which one will investigate. What is described in one century will have its roots in preceding centuries.

The influences on community understanding which I highlight are, themselves, modified and focused through a wide range of other variables and circumstances on which I have chosen not to dwell. However, for our purposes here, those issues I investigate do seem to be central to understanding how Western Europeans came to conceive of life as being lived in a number of distinct environments, governed by systems of law, and subject to quantification and evaluation in terms of material returns for individual endeavor.

The 'economic' environment Return to Chapter Index

Elsewhere I have suggested that many people in non-Western communities make no clear distinction between their 'economic' and their 'social' (or any other) environments 44 . So, when they engage in 'economic' activity, they, quite naturally, without needing to think about it, integrate their activity with social responsibilities and concerns. This integration produces a very different form of activity from that presumed to be 'economic' by Western people.

Because of this 'confusion' (in Western terms) of environments, the presumptions in terms of which they organize activity are also very different (and they are highly unlikely to have developed detailed sets of economic rules and regulations defining and governing activity and impartially applied across communities 45 ).

Their economic activity does not match that anticipated and required by Western people. They seem to be indulging in 'informal', or even 'illegal', economic activity, that is, activity which falls outside the scope of 'legitimate' economic activity for Western people.

Even when they have attended the West's best teaching institutions, through which the 'necessary' forms of legislation, organization and activity are inculcated, all too often, once back in their home countries, they seem to 'warp' and 'distort' the forms they have learned.

In order to sketch the emergence of primary ideological presumptions underpinning economic organization and activity in Western communities I am going to have to examine the ways in which those presumptions became established in late medieval Europe. As will become clear, the understandings and organizational forms of the period were very different from those of Western communities in the 20th century.

Unfortunately, given the constraints of this discussion, the sketches must necessarily be brief and therefore inadequate. The focus will also have to be limited, bypassing the emergence of particular metaphysical understandings, and the emergence and establishment of the various 'disciplines' for uncovering systems of law operating within the recognized environments.

The development of systems of law Return to Chapter Index

In the feudal period of the 10th to the 12th centuries, western Europeans saw the world as divided into two domains: a spiritual domain and a secular one, which included political, economic, social and material environments as now understood in Western communities. These were hierarchically interrelated, with the spiritual domain dominant and the secular domain subject to spiritual oversight and direction.

The spiritual domain was dominated by the Roman Church, with the pope at its head and bishops as representatives of the pope within territorial districts. In their own districts, in all normal matters, bishops took final responsibility, only referring to Rome when something out of the ordinary needed definition, or when they needed support in the face of challenges to their authority.

The Feudal 'Secular Domain' Return to Chapter Index

The secular domain was the arena within which the Church exercised authority. In the secular domain, feudal princes held political power within hierarchically organized territories. As Maitland has described, feudalism was:

... a state of society in which the main bond is the relation between lord and man, a relation implying on the lord's part protection and defence; on the man's part protection, service and reverence ...

The national organization is a system of these relationships: at the head there stands the king as lord of all, below him are his immediate vassals, or tenants in chief, who again are lords of tenants, who again may be lords of tenants, and so on, down to the lowest possessor of land.

Lastly, as every other court consists of the lord's tenants, so the king's court consists of his tenants in chief, and so far as there is any constitutional control over the king it is exercised by the body of these tenants.
(quoted in Macfarlane 1987, pp. 182-3)

Although Western capitalism depends on a division of the world into private and public arenas, feudal Europe did not require such a division. As Macfarlane, quoting Maitland, says:

The English lawyer Bracton [in the mid-13th century] knew of the distinction of 'private' and 'public', yet 'he makes little use of it. This was because

feudalism ... is a denial of this distinction. Just in so far as the ideal of feudalism is perfectly realized, all that we call public law is merged in private law: jurisdiction is property, office is property, the kingship itself is property; the same word dominium has to stand now for ownership and now for lordship.

(Macfarlane 1987, p. 182)

While the distinction between public and private made little sense in the feudal world, it was during the feudal period that the Western European emphasis on the importance of publicly formulated law, governing private interactions, developed. As Tay and Kamenka explain:

The feudal compact, in keeping with Germanic tradition, was not an act of authority but a voluntary agreement between independent legal persons - one agreeing to serve, the other to provide and protect. It was an enforceable contract which bound the king or lord as much as it bound the subject or leigeman.

In a very important sense, it brought the whole basis of political authority and obedience into the area of private law, of relations between individuals capable, for the purposes of law, of abstract equality and of rationally and freely seeking their individual well-being and subordinating themselves voluntarily. Those not capable of such freedom, e.g. serfs, were not fully legal persons.
(Tay & Kamenka 1983, p. 69)

Although feudal relationships did not require a distinction between public and private realms, the concept of 'free' legally defined individuals entering into contracts with one another was born in the feudal period. It became greatly expanded and provided a basis for understanding the nature of the relationship between the individual and society during the 17th century, but it underpinned the development of feudal law.

It also provided one of the rationales for the emergence of a wide range of common-interest groupings during the medieval period. During this period numerous 'associations', 'unions', 'guilds', 'fraternities', 'communities', 'colleges', 'leagues', 'nations' 46 and other forms of common-interest grouping developed, managed by those who constituted the group and designed for mutual protection and self-help 47 . Interaction among individuals within these groups was fraternal, with most exchanges being based on cooperation rather than competition.

This form of egalitarian, common-interest grouping is usual in hierarchically organized communities. It allows those who see themselves as being in a similar relationship within a hierarchy to join with others of like mind in promoting and protecting their interests.

As feudal organization became increasingly distorted during the medieval centuries 48 , these groups became increasingly important. Amongst the most important were those which brought educated people together to protect their interests against others, and those which emerged amongst the 'money-making' people of western Europe.

Together, these two groups were to challenge and finally displace feudal leaders, and, with their displacement, introduce an entirely different rationale for the organization of society, new forms of interpersonal relationship, and new understandings of the meaning and purpose of life. And, for a variety of reasons, some of which will be sketched here, these forms of reorganization required a very different set of primary ideological presumptions.

Western Europe, over a period of eight hundred years, with enormous difficulty, learned to think in ways which were foreign to people who lived in the feudal communities of the 10th to 13th centuries.

While the sense of legitimate, approved feudal hierarchy within the society was strong, the dominance of hierarchically determined social position over membership of such groupings ensured the subordination of group interests to those of the wider society. Whenever, for whatever reason, the cohesion of the wider society was suspect, these common-interest groupings became more demanding, leading to strikes, riots and other forms of social challenge.

So, in the period when we begin our story, people lived in hierarchically organized communities, with their primary social and political status defined by their relationship to land. Those of similar status within the society recognized egalitarian bonds of common interest, and tended to support one another and make demands of each other on the basis of their shared identity. But, equally, they recognized those who were hierarchically superior as leaders who both required and deserved their allegiance. In fact, they recognized common-interest association only in terms of these hierarchical responsibilities.

At the base of the hierarchical pyramid of feudal communities were the peasants who, though they held some land, usually held too little to ensure their livelihood. Few peasants could have lived off the land they held within an estate alone. As Ganshof has described for the later medieval period:

... However great its contribution to livelihood, agriculture had by no means altogether displaced the very ancient practices of pastoral life, hunting, and food collecting. By his fields alone the peasant literally could not have lived. All about the area more or less permanently cultivated and, when under crops, held in strict individual or family possession, he required access to immense stretches of common waste left in its natural condition.

These moors and marshes and forests did not merely furnish necessary food for his cattle. His own nourishment depended on them; for wild vegetables and fruits were even more important in his dietary than wild game ...

In villages where there was no lord, or where the lord's power was a late growth, the village community sometimes retained absolute control of these common lands; it owned them, in feudal phrase, en alleux ... But throughout the greater part of Europe, where common was essential but still only a sort of annexe to the arable, the lord almost always extended his power over commons as well as over fields ...

[However] it is no doubt vain to look for the true medieval 'owner' of the commons.
(Ganshof 1971, pp. 281, 282)49

Land was held by families who owed allegiance to those above them who provided not only access to land but also political and other forms of protection and a sense of community to those under their jurisdiction. And a great deal of the land in an area was 'common'; that is, it had no legal owner.

European feudal organization was not based on the need to ascribe individual ownership to all existing land. In this feature, it has a lot in common with many non-Western communities before the imposition of Western forms of organization in the 19th and 20th centuries. When land is not primarily seen as a wealth-creating resource, and people are not primarily geared to the 'wealth-creating' use of their environment, there is no strong compulsion to claim ownership of 'un-owned' land.

The West, as a result of experiences to be sketched here, came strongly to believe in the necessity for all land to be legally and exclusively held by identifiable 'real' or 'artificial' individuals, and used to generate increasing cash income for its owners.50

The Feudal 'Spiritual Domain' Return to Chapter Index

The communities in which medieval people lived were serviced by clergy who belonged to a hierarchically organized Church and claimed very important rights and responsibilities within the communities they serviced.

The metaphor which emerged to describe the relation between pope and emperor, between clergy and laity, was that of the soul and the body. The body without the soul is of no consequence. It is the soul which animates the body. Equally, the Church ensured the spiritual life of the secular world. The Church was, therefore, central to life in the medieval world. It therefore claimed authority over the secular world and reinforced its claims with legal statutes based upon written, historical evidence accumulated over the centuries 51 .

This assumption of the superiority of the soul over the body, of that which is life over that which is a 'container' for that life, was to become significant in the emerging belief in the independence of self-contained, pre-social individuals from the 17th century onwards.

Then, with the material and the spiritual thoroughly separated, a similar separation was to be assumed between human beings and the material environments they controlled. Individuals were to be perceived as separate from and superior to the material world, over which they rightfully exercised dominion. Just as the Church believed it had a mandate from God to direct the medieval world, so Western individuals came to believe that they had a mandate to 'realize the potential' of the resources of the material world wherever they might be found.

The Church's power came from two sources. It held large tracts of land controlled by bishops and abbots who, as feudal lords, had authority in the secular domain, and it was also perceived to hold a very real power to condemn people to hell.

If one could, as the Roman Church after Augustine (354 - 430 AD) claimed (cf. Warfield 1970, p. 122ff), be saved only by belonging to the Church, then to be excommunicated was to be consigned to eternal damnation. In an age when people were convinced of the existence and potency of a spiritual realm, one placed the destiny of one's soul at risk by challenging the Church.

However, there were long periods, particularly following the disintegration of the ninth-century Carolingian empire, when the papacy was politically weak, dominated by local Roman families, and unable to assert its claimed authority.

During the 10th and 11th centuries increasing numbers of secular rulers extended their authority over bishops within their territories. This situation came to a head with the accession of the Duke of Saxony, Otto the Great (912-973), to the German throne in 936. Otto, ostensibly to rescue Pope John XII, conquered Italy and received an imperial coronation from the pope.

As part of his strategy for securing his reign, Otto had made an alliance with the German Church. Bishops and archbishops were given lands and immunity from some of the royal claims on landlords in return for full support of Otto's reign. With the papacy very weak, another way of ensuring support from the ecclesiastical hierarchy was to appoint it (cf. Hayes, Baldwin & Cole 1962, p. 142ff).

The Investiture Conflict Return to Chapter Index

The situation was similar throughout northern and western Europe during the 10th and 11th centuries. It was brought to a head by Pope Gregory VII in 1075 when he prohibited any form of lay investiture of the clergy. Gregory, calling on legal precedent as established within the Church canons (laws), denied the right of secular leaders to appoint ecclesiastical office holders. He argued that, on the contrary, the pope had the right both to anoint and to depose secular leaders.

Henry IV (1050-1106), King of Germany from 1056 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1084, opposed the decree and called on the pope,

...now not pope, but false monk, [to]... relinquish the Apostolic See which you have arrogated.
(Koenigsberger 1987, p. 166)

The pope responded by excommunicating him, and, faced with resultant challenges to his authority, Henry was forced personally to petition the pope for absolution and reinstatement to his position as emperor.

The pope had demonstrated that he held very real political power within western European territories. Secular leaders, very aware of the way in which Henry had been humiliated, felt a need to counter this power in some way. This confrontation marked the start of growing conflict between the papacy and secular rulers throughout western Europe, a confrontation which has come to be known as the Investiture Conflict, which finally climaxed in the 16th century Reformation.

The Roman Church argued that, since kings were established in their kingdoms through the Church's administration of the ritual of Unction 52 , religious authority was superior to secular authority. As Ullman (1965, p. 86) says, 'It was that act alone which made the king'. The stage was set in the 10th and 11th centuries for mounting conflict between secular and religious leaders. The political history of this period is that of fluctuating but constantly increasing papal fortunes and claims to ascendancy and authority over secular rulers.

The Roman Church underwrote its political dominance through appeals to canon law, established over the centuries, and taking its form from Roman law, defined by the legal works of Justinian, compiled in the sixth century. Such appeals depended on the maintenance of a strong legal framework and of people schooled in interpreting both the canons and the legal prescriptions of Roman law as defined by Justinian.

From the 11th century onwards, as Murray points out,

popes, legates and councils saw the evils of their age as "contempt for the canons". They sought to revive the Church's ancient legal framework, with a few surreptitious accretions
(Murray 1978, p. 214).

This revival of the Church's legal framework, coupled with its use as a justification for political claims, led to legal expertise, and the development of legal frameworks, being widely perceived as of great practical importance within both secular and religious spheres. For the Church,53

Mankind is ruled by two laws: Natural Law and Custom. Natural Law is that which is contained in the Scriptures and the Gospel.
(d'Entreves 1965, p. 33)

Natural law was canonical law; all other law was of suspect quality and should be altered to conform to the canons of the Church. Secular leaders, ruling by custom, should, themselves, be subject to the natural law of the Church. All legal statutes of states and nations should conform to canonical law.

The clash between Henry II, King of England, and Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury (1163 - 1170 AD), resulting in Thomas's death, was a product of this conflict:

... when the king had drawn up sixteen "Constitutions", which he said embodied the "Customs of the Realm", the archbishop denounced them as contrary to canon law, and refused to seal them.
(Ward 1905, p. 47)

With the Church's legal framework revived and a new stress placed on legal training within the Church, increasing numbers of legally trained scholars passed out of the schools and universities of medieval Europe.

One paradoxical result of the canonical revival and the burst of education which followed it, was that kings could now lay their hands on learned officials.
(Murray 1978, p. 217)

What followed, with many slips for kings who were initially forced to rely on scholars who had been dedicated to and trained for the Church, was a burgeoning emphasis on the study of Roman law throughout the late 12th century.

The Need for Written, Centralized, Secular Systems of Law Return to Chapter Index

The Investiture Conflict underscored a need for secular rulers to have alternative legal frameworks to those employed by the Church. One way to do this was to develop alternative interpretations of Roman law, based on scholarship, countering the interpretations of the Church.

However, if they were to break the shackles of the Church by challenging canonical law, they had, first, to give the concept of 'natural law' a new meaning. It had to be something other than simply 'the laws of the Church'. The study of law had begun in earnest.

During the following three centuries secular bureaucracies were developed which were firmly anchored in written legal decrees and statutes. If anything was not legally defined, it was suspect. The basis for legitimacy was to be found in written statutes.

The Investiture Conflict convinced the people of western Europe of the need for the independent development of centralized, secular legal systems, maintained, refined and applied by state bureaucrats and bureaucracies, with all documentation stored within state archives, to protect and assert the interests of rulers. They needed to be able to beat The Church at its own game.

As such legal systems became elaborated, they inevitably affected the lives of people throughout Europe. Génicot described some of the effects:

... the local and traditional tribunals were more and more replaced by superior courts run by doctores who were not known and whose integrity (not without reason) was suspect, and who practised a new, the Roman, law, rather than the ancient customary one.

The state now advanced a claim, mainly under cover of this jus, to the entire ownership of waste, forest and water, and to their exclusive use, or at any rate the right to regulate arbitrarily their utilization. The villages also had to submit to orders from above and from distant places, and to officials sent from outside ...
(Génicot 1971, p. 701)

As states developed legal systems to protect the interests of rulers against the claims of the Church, those involved in developing statutes extended the legal rights of rulers over more and more of the activities and properties of their subjects.54 So, in succeeding centuries, conflict was to develop not only between Church and state, but also between the state and its people. As a result, emphasis was to be placed on the legal rights of individuals within the state against the state itself.

Increasingly, people and state were to become defined in oppositional terms.55 This change in emphasis was brought to a head in the 17th century in the writings of the Protestant jurist-theologians, chiefly by Hugo Grotius, whose principal work, The Law of War and Peace, appeared in 1625. As Roscoe Pound (1921, pp. 89, 90) put it:

Grotius and those who followed him made reason the measure of all obligation. They conceived that the end for which law exists is to produce conformity to the nature of rational creatures

... at the very time that a victory of the courts in the contests between the common law courts and the Stuart kings had established that there were fundamental common-law rights of Englishmen which Englishmen must maintain in courts and in which courts would secure them even against the king, a juristic theory of fundamental human rights, independent of and running back of all states, which states might secure and ought to secure, but could not alter or abridge, had sprung up independently and was at hand to furnish a scientific explanation when the next century called for one.

By a natural transition, the common-law limitations upon royal authority became natural limitations upon all authority; the common-law rights of Englishmen became the natural rights of man.
(quoted in Grotius 1957, p. xiv)

Increasingly, during the medieval centuries, customary obligations and rights between people, not supported by written, legally acceptable documentation, could successfully be challenged by appeal to this developing system of legal statutes.

Of course, the experiences of various western European regions differed. In England there was no 'violent breach between folk-law and jurist law' (Cam 1957, p. 13) as experienced in some other areas of Europe with the establishment of Roman law as the law of the land and the supervention of customary law.

There seems to have been a stronger sense of independence amongst English law makers and practitioners, with the result that, by the reign of Henry VIII, common law had become separated from both Roman law and the canons. As Maitland observes,

Roman law was by this time an unintelligible, outlandish thing, perhaps a good enough law for half-starved Frenchmen. Legal education was no longer academic - the universities had nothing to do with it.
(see Cam 1957, p. 125)

English law had accommodated the 'customs of the realm'. In doing so, it provided rulers with a centralized, bureaucratically developed legal system which differed widely from the Roman law upon which Church authority and canons were established.

Henry II had set England on a legal course which resulted in an alternative base for legal authority to that used by the pope and by many of the monarchs of Europe. By the reign of Henry VIII, the king was able to appeal to this body of law as legal justification for independence from the Church. Common law had incorporated customary law, and in doing so had become immediately relevant to people at all levels of society.

For the English, to a degree found in few other regions of western Europe, both formal and informal mechanisms of dispute settlement involved attorneys and recourse to courts of law. Justices of the Peace were accessible to all or most members of society, and

...the total impression is that the multitude of overlapping courts and laws penetrated right down to the level of the lowest inhabitants, and that ordinary people had a good working knowledge of the national system of criminal law...
(Macfarlane 1987, p. 74)

and their own legal rights. Macfarlane claims that in Westmoreland, between 1550 and 1720, large numbers of villagers personally initiated complex legal actions against their fellows, which were heard in the central courts of England. 'English society was based on, and integrated by, two principal mechanisms - money and the law'.

The continuing conflict between Church and state in western Europe produced:

  • strong emphasis on the development of centralized legal systems spelling out the rights and responsibilities of individuals towards each other and to the state, and greatly expanding the state's powers over its members;
  • a growing sense of the need to separate Church and state: each with its own independent set of laws and regulations governing life within the secular and spiritual domains; its own bureaucracy to promulgate and administer legal statutes; and its own set of archives to preserve the documentation upon which the developing systems of law were predicated;
  • an expansion of the concept of law to cover an ever-increasing spectrum of daily life;
  • a recognized need to separate the rights of the state over its members, and the separate rights of those members, independent of the state;
  • and a burgeoning emphasis upon the importance of education.

Education became an alternative avenue to status attainment. Feudal lords became increasingly dependent on educated people to run their bureaucratic machinery, and citizens increasingly needed access to legal expertise to protect themselves from the claims of both the state and fellow citizens.56 And with this emerging means of status attainment came an increasing emphasis on money income.

Since western Europe in this period was feudally organized, it was inevitable that key positions in the emerging bureaucracies were filled in the feudal manner, through the patronage of the royal household, rather than on the basis of educational training or legal expertise. So, within bureaucracies one had 'political' appointments to key positions, and people employed for their expertise and training under them.

Over succeeding centuries this arrangement was to produce increasing tension between educated 'experts' and feudally appointed principals. By the 17th century this tension had hardened into a strong conviction on the part of the educated (who, by allying themselves with various other protesters of the period, gained increasing power) that principal positions within state bureaucracies and private enterprise should be filled on the basis of educational achievement and demonstrated 'expertise', not on the basis of patronage.

In later years placement on the basis of education was to be regarded as achieved; placement on the basis of patronage was to be considered ascribed. Of course, feudal appointments were just as 'achieved' as those of the modern period within the capitalist framework; only the kind of activity through which one achieved was very different.57

The Aquinas Solution: Natural Law Distilled from Secular Experience Return to Chapter Index

As seems common at crisis points in western European history, at the time when Church and state confronted each other most directly, a person emerged who provided a philosophical construct from which both Church and state could argue.

Thomas of Aquinas (1225?-1274) was able to focus the debate and provide a logical construct which appeared to sum up and resolve the problem of the relationship between Church and state in the Church's favor. However, it was not long before princes, and those who worked for them, found in Aquinas's construct a justification for a separation of Church and state, each with its own set of laws, and each with its own independent rationale for existence.

Western Europe experienced a growing fascination with the work of Aristotle from the mid-12th century onwards. Aristotle's focus upon categorization of the particular within the sensible world was to result in the re-emergence of a focus on human beings as part of the natural world. As Ullman has suggested:

It was as if a new continent had been discovered - the discovery of man's real nature - and a new subject-matter was revealed. With every justification has it been said that there was a Renaissance, a rebirth of the long-forgotten natural man.
(Ullman 1965, p. 167)

This was a natural man firmly placed in his supernatural context. The medieval fascination with Aristotle received impetus when scholars recognized that he offered a means of defining a new kind of law - natural law - law which God had established as the principles through which the natural world was organized and sustained.

This new definition of natural law directly challenged the traditional understanding of natural law as canonical law. It seemed that a confrontation was brewing between Church and state. If Aristotle could be seen as inspired, as spelling out the natural laws of God in the natural world, then people who sought bases for secular law which were different from those underpinning Church, or supernatural, law could appeal to him.

Aquinas's new model and definition of natural law would provide a way of resolving the looming confrontation. Both were legitimate. The emerging definition of natural law referred to a subset of God's laws, those relating to material existence.

The term 'supernatural' was coined in the 13th century, at the time when there arose a strong need to differentiate clearly between two separate realms (cf. Murray 1978, p. 12). The spiritual realm was governed by spiritual laws, and the natural realm, and people, as creatures within that realm, were governed by natural laws. Human beings within society were governed, or ought to be governed, by laws which reflected those laws of nature.

God makes everything perfect. He had established laws for the governance of the spiritual realm, canonical law. He had also established laws for the governance of the secular world, natural law. Each set of laws would be found to be self-contained and perfect in its organization and functioning 58 .

So, it was the responsibility of people in the secular realm to uncover the laws of nature, established by God for the smooth running of the secular realm, just as it was the responsibility of the Church to uncover and apply the laws God had established for the running of the Church and the spiritual realm. So Aquinas argued:

Now in human affairs a thing is said to be just from being right according to the rule of reason. But the first rule of reason is the law of nature ...

Consequently every human law has just so much of the character of law as it is derived from the law of nature. But if in any point it differs from the law of nature, it is no longer a law but a corruption of law.
(Aquinas 1952, Pt 1: 2, Q. 95:2)[59 ]

Whereas the Church had defined 'natural law' as a set of rules spelt out in Scripture and Church canons, Aquinas affirmed the validity of the emerging definition of natural law which came from Roman jurisprudence 60 and Greek philosophy. To develop legal systems which reflected natural law, it was necessary to understand the 'nature' of human beings.

The claim by Aristotle, that civilization is based on people ordering their lives by instincts implanted in each individual,61 resurfaced in the high Middle Ages. But the definition of those instincts reflected the recognized needs of medieval society.62

In Aquinas's model we have a melding of the concepts of Roman jurisprudence and orthodox theology. The laws of nature should be sought, but, when found, would be discovered to be a coherent, immutable whole. If natural laws could be uncovered by examining the material world, the material world, in turn, would be found to be governed by sets of immutable laws established by God. By conforming to the laws established by God for the optimal performance of his creation, people could reasonably expect burgeoning prosperity.63

Human beings bridged the natural and spiritual realms. Spiritually, they were governed by laws of the spirit, and, naturally, they were governed by laws of nature. As Aquinas put it,

To the natural law belongs everything to which a man is inclined according to his nature.
(Aquinas 1952, Pt 1: 2, Q. 94:4)

An understanding of natural law required comprehension of the nature of human beings, and the nature of human beings could be determined by observing them within their social setting.

Aquinas's construct made Church law 'supernatural law' and laws of the state 'natural law'. According to Aquinas, there were natural laws to which all creation conformed, which were implanted in human beings and in a subservient relationship to divine law. Those who conformed to natural law conformed also to the will of God, as expressed in the natural order.

Natural and divine law were hierarchically related, not opposed to each other. And it was possible for people to live according to the dictates of natural law, with a this-worldly, secular focus to their lives, and yet be living in tune with the will and purpose of God. For the natural world was a law-directed whole, composed of parts which were perfectly placed within the whole through the operation of that law.64 So, Aquinas observed:

... natural processes develop from simple to compound things, so much so that the highly developed organism is the completion, integration, and purpose of the elements. Such indeed is the case with any whole in comparison with its parts.
(Gilby 1960, p. 369)

The natural and supernatural wholes were logically prior to their elements, which only existed as parts of the whole. Without the whole, there is no point or purpose in the existence of its elements. The parts were created because they were necessary to the whole. Individuals did not exist in or for themselves. They only existed as members of a society.

A perfect creation required perfect parts. It was, therefore, the responsibility of all people to live as God had intended they should. Otherwise, they could be held accountable for the trials and troubles visited upon people in this life. And the perfect society was that which, in all its forms and functions, conformed most closely to natural and spiritual law.

Aquinas set western Europe on the search for natural laws governing every area of life in this world. From this time onwards, western Europeans increasingly accepted that if a natural law was discovered, people had a moral and spiritual duty to live by it.

It was this quest which set western Europeans on a path which led to the eventual change from natural laws legitimized by God, to natural laws legitimized by rational logic 65 , a move already prefigured in Aquinas's model. And, finally, as the secularism of the 18th and 19th centuries unfolded, to natural laws legitimized statistically 66 . This made the elements primary and the characteristics of the wholes constructed from them determined by the characteristics of the elements67 .

By the 17th century, although it was still accepted that natural law had been established by God, it was increasingly accepted that any phenomenon in the sensible world could be explained by reference to natural laws. The natural realm was a self-contained, self defining whole. So, one could 'explain' phenomena in the natural world without recourse to the divine. There were no exceptions.

Understanding of natural laws, coupled with rational extrapolation from those laws would provide a full understanding of the possibilities and potential of the natural realm. One could also, by rationally extrapolating from known laws, determine the likely existence and character of associated natural laws.

And all the while, western Europeans became increasingly aware that individuals had a moral duty to 'make the most' of themselves, to fulfill their lives, to 'develop their potential'.

With devout people proving their sincerity and morality through a life focused within this world, the responsibility of each person to strive for perfection through self-development became the prime obligation of life. They had to 'fulfill their potential' - as defined by 17th century 'responsible people'.

It was, equally, and for the same reason, their responsibility to ensure that they realized the potential of the resources placed in their hands. People who misused the 'talents' given to them by God could expect the fate of the indolent servant in Jesus' parable of the talents 68 . Richard Baxter, in 1678, spelt this out very clearly:

If God show you a way in which you may lawfully get more than in another way (without wrong to your soul or to any other), if you refuse this and choose the less gainful way, you cross one of the ends of your Calling, and you refuse to be God's steward, and to accept his gifts, and use them for him when he requireth it; you may labor to be rich for God, though not for the flesh and sin.
(1838, p. 377)

Then the greatest of all sins became, as Foucault has eloquently described, the sin of Sloth. To waste the life which God had given, or the resources he had placed in your hands, was not only a sin against oneself; it was a sin against society.

Initially, given the concerns of the age, the focus on natural law was a focus on social organization and activity. Natural was social, and the focus of intellectual inquiry, strongly influenced by the Investiture Conflict, was political.

Within a generation of Aquinas's teaching, those who had been seeking legal and philosophical foundations for the independent rights of kings from popes succeeded in separating natural law from canonical law and arguing for their entirely independent legitimacy and efficacy.

God had created separate, self-consistent, natural and supernatural worlds, each with its own set of laws defining the correct interrelations among the parts. It was in the interests of civil powers to insist on, and to provide philosophical justification for, the entirely separate development and efficacy of civil law.69

Over succeeding centuries this process was to produce recognition of a whole range of separately existing bodies of law relating to specific areas of the natural realm. Western Europe became convinced of the importance of written law as sets of basic principles through which elements in any whole could be perfected and combined and through which the whole gained its identity. To control the natural world, one needed to discover the sets of laws for such control. Knowledge of laws was power.

The search for systems of laws defining the correct interrelations among parts of logically constructed wholes had begun in earnest. And, because in the medieval world all law was enshrined within a guardian bureaucracy, the search for laws assumed such bureaucratic underpinning. Where a body of laws was uncovered there should be a bureaucratic body to safeguard, preserve and apply those laws.70

By the end of the 12th century western Europeans were already becoming aware of the potential political value of an understanding of the natural world. Alexander Neckham (1157-1217) claimed that when

the subtle truths that lurk in the very bosom of nature' had been uncovered, 'what enemies could withstand the kingdom that was able to triumph over [i.e. master] the sciences?'
(quoted in Murray 1978, p. 124).

With Aquinas's new interpretation of 'natural law', Western Europe quickly came to believe that, by uncovering the laws for the organization of the material environment, people could gain power to manipulate it in their own interests.

From the outset the recognized importance of establishing secular law as an independent, self-contained system was based on a pragmatic determination to use it in establishing secular independence, empowering the state. Knowledge of laws, and the ability to manipulate them, was power. The search for natural laws was, from the outset, accompanied by a belief that those who found them and learned to master them empowered people to exploit to the full the domains or environments governed by them.

During the later medieval period people became increasingly aware of both religious and secular corruption, as those with access to legal expertise used their power to disinherit those who had no access to it.

People felt less constrained by social obligation as hierarchical relationships became challenged with the growing abuse of power and authority in the medieval world. They therefore felt free to pursue private gain without the need for social justification. In fact, if one could gain an advantage through appeal to law, one could claim 'legitimacy' in making the most of that advantage.

Over succeeding centuries people increasingly learned to manipulate legal statutes to increase their private wealth, accepting fewer and fewer social responsibilities which were not required by written law. By the 17th century, people were able to challenge many of the customary responsibilities of earlier centuries in this way. Joseph Lee, a succinct spokesman for the cause of enclosure and independence espoused by new landowners in that century, could say:

Let it be granted that our land and businesse lying nearer together fewer servants will be kept; are any bound to keep more servants than are needful for their businesse; or may they not cast how to do the same businesse with least labor ... Is a man bound to keep servants to pill strawes or labor in vain? By what law? ...
(quoted in Appleby 1978, p. 61)71

'Money-making' patron-client networks and an emerging emphasis on quantification Return to Chapter Index

Prior to the 13th century, merchants were constantly on the move in an unending pursuit of profit. They were fringe dwellers, outside normal society, who challenged many of the central moral presumptions of the feudal period and were regarded with suspicion by upright citizens 72 . In an endeavor to contain them and yet, at the same time, attract them to establish their bases in their territories, states established rules and regulations both governing their activities and defining the necessary obligations of people who interacted with them.

They formed a common-interest group who regulated their affairs amongst themselves on the basis of cooperative rather than competitive exchange. Because of their exclusion from feudal society, they formed parallel, informal networks of patron-client relationships among themselves. Over time, there emerged an informal ranking of the 'money makers' of western Europe and an intermeshing of their interests. They then used their wealth and collective power increasingly to subvert the feudal system.

By the 13th century the relationship between feudal leaders and the wealth holders of western Europe was increasingly based on transfers of wealth in return for feudal position.73 Those who gained wealth were able, from the outset, to use it to purchase position and recognition within feudal society. As they increasingly gained the upper hand, they were finally, in many regions of western Europe, to displace the feudal hierarchies with their own, alternative networks based on patron-client relationships.

Of course, as they gained political power, they increasingly influenced the exercise of government and the formation and implementation of law. By the 17th century, the foundations had been laid for the transformation of feudal structures into those which we now realize are required by capitalism.

The intermeshed patron-client networks of those engaged in wealth-accumulating activities remained important throughout Western Europe during the succeeding seven hundred years. Muldrew (1993: 163) has shown that during the early modern period, those who identified each other as engaged in similar activity within the marketplace 'stressed credit relations, trust, obligation and contracts' amongst themselves rather than unbridled individualistic profit making. They acted as common-interest groupings within patron-client networks.

Western European merchants travelled throughout the Mediterranean, into Egypt, through central Asia, and throughout western and northern Europe. They were not scholars. They were morally suspect adventurers, willing to incorporate any ideas or practices which might increase the profitability of their ventures.

Above all, what they needed was a clear, simple method of accounting and calculation. During their travels they encountered Muslim traders, who had gained a new form of calculation from northern India, based on the abacus. The abacus required a base-ten number calculation system which employed the zero to retain all place columns throughout calculation. Traders who accepted this new system gained great advantages in bargaining and exchange.

The ponderous Roman numbering system, enshrined in the literary, legal and political worlds, was cumbersome, made any attempts at either multiplication or division extremely complex, and was inappropriate to the use of the abacus. It was, however, for a variety of reasons, strongly supported by scholars.

Scholars, remaining wedded to the Roman system, had great difficulty in mastering the principles of the new mathematics - principles which required the use of the zero as a place holder. This produced a clear divergence between money makers and scholars, with the money makers of Europe gaining increasingly independent control over financial matters as their expertise outstripped that of people tied to the use of the Roman numbering system.

The new mathematics of the late medieval period was important in driving a wedge between scholarship and practical bookkeeping which has been reflected in the Western separation of the humanities from the sciences and commerce, ever since. It was also to mark the beginning of a developing interest in numeracy as a prime means of expressing the quantitative evaluation of individuals and groups (required by the emerging 'modern' social template which needed means for comparing the material worth of individuals).

While scholars depended on the existence of feudal society for their success, since scholarship was a means of upward mobility, merchants gained greater freedom of activity as feudal society weakened.

These developments occurred at the time when secular rulers were seeking increased independence from religious domination and were looking for people with the necessary skills to help them to become truly independent. High on the list of those who were most valued were those who had developed successful mercantile ventures. They were able to support secular rulers financially and to provide the kinds of skills necessary for the more efficient development of taxation and other forms of revenue earning and accounting. As Murray claims,

Authorities needed arithmetic because they, like merchants, had counting houses.
(Murray 1978, p. 195)

In western European capitals the expansion of legal bureaucracy was paralleled by the expansion of fiscal bureaucracies, and an area of law emerged, focusing on commercial activity.

By the reign of Henry II the English administration of finances was already being formally systematized, with its own sets of laws and regulations. This organization was spelt out in a descriptive handbook entitled the Dialogue of the Exchequer.

Similar developments occurred in both France and Germany, while in Italy a range of very sophisticated commercial techniques were developed, supported by handbooks of commercial practice. Those from the rest of Europe who wished to master the intricacies of double entry bookkeeping or buying and selling on credit travelled to Italy, where they were able either to enter employment in established business firms or to study the new methods of accounting and banking at schools and universities.

Regionally based administrations became stronger as the hierarchical interrelationships of feudalism weakened. They also became more formally organized and economically viable as the political structures supported by the administrations increased in stability.

The development of legal and fiscal institutions provided a base for bureaucratic government which had not existed in medieval feudal Europe. Over time, a rationale for government emerged which was different from that of feudalism, based on control of legal and fiscal bureaucracies and systems of law rather than on the personal allegiances of land holders.74

Autonomy and systems of law Return to Chapter Index

Through the later medieval period, towns arose as centers of commerce and trade. Europe was being reorganized to serve the patron-client interests of increasingly politically dominant 'money-makers'. This provided people (who were being displaced by the subversion of feudalism to serve money-making interests) with new means of livelihood. Merchants needed bases, markets, merchandise and security. They were to find all these in the newly forming urban areas.

As trade increased, the need for artisans grew to provide the merchandise for trading. Towns, gaining their prosperity from trading, consciously provided support to their traders and encouragement to merchants to relocate to their districts. Rural dwellers from estates near towns gravitated to them and became involved in the production of goods or in the provision of various services to other urban dwellers.

Most larger towns managed to distance themselves from feudal lords and laws, developing their own sets of laws and bureaucracies to administer them. The legal statutes of towns spelt out the rights and responsibilities of citizens, the legal relationships between towns and rural land holders, and the 'freedom' of citizens from the claims of rural lords and statutes.

In most towns there was a gradual evolution towards equality before the law and this equality came to be extended to unfree persons who settled in towns. "Town air makes free" became an important principle in medieval law.
(Koenigsberger 1987, p. 146)

In most towns of western Europe it became accepted that residence for a year and a day set serfs free from their obligations to the estate owners under whom they formerly served. In the minds of the inhabitants of western European towns, freedom and 'progress' became closely associated. Equally, rural laboring, servitude and domination by 'tradition' became conflated. For a laborer to better himself, he should do what the fabled Dick Whittington did in the folktale - go to town to seek his fortune75 .

Since urban areas became identified with freedom from servitude and increased material wealth, and towns emphasized the importance of merchant activity, the merchant, from the mid-13th century onwards, slowly emerged as more of a hero than a rogue. In the minds of western Europeans, country life became equated with serfdom and tradition, town life with freedom and self-improvement.76

As Hertz observed,

the feudal disintegration of the central government .. , gave many towns the opportunity of winning an almost republican independence.
(Hertz 1972, p. 57)

Where any region, however small in territorial extent, could successfully establish and maintain autonomous legal and fiscal bureaucracies for the government of the people, it could claim autonomy on the basis of the existence of these structures. The state became identified with control of bureaucracies which applied systems of laws and regulations. Those who controlled the bureaucracies controlled the state. Any territory which could successfully establish such bureaucracies and legal systems could claim autonomy.

The weakening of feudal institutions resulted in a range of demands on kings as pressures for self-government of regions within their territories mounted. Not only were regions within kingdoms claiming limited autonomy, they were also insistently demanding the limitation of legal prerogatives of the Crown.

While the Magna Carta was an unusually sweeping charter, similar limitations on the rights of rulers were being negotiated throughout western Europe.

Nearly everywhere in Europe kings acceded to such demands for the sake of peace at home and support for their foreign wars ... Everywhere rulers granted charters to cities in their territories, allowing them varying degrees of self-government.
(Koenigsberger 1987, p. 233)

The separation of states and commerce Return to Chapter Index

During the 13th and 14th centuries there arose, in western Europe, as in England, groups of well-to-do merchants, wealthy professionals and rural property holders. Either through direct purchase or through the judicious use of credit, they were able to gain control over increasing areas of land. Over time they developed into a country gentry with resources of their own on which they might call.

Landlords, where they claimed power over common lands, could see in them sources of revenue through sale which would in no way diminish the size of their domains. They increasingly claimed title to these lands and sold them to the highest bidders. Rural small holders, who required access to common land in order to supplement the inadequate returns from their holdings, found their access being denied, and increasing numbers were forced from their lands.

From personalized, cooperative hierarchical relationships to object-oriented, competitive oppositional relationships Return to Chapter Index

One could no longer, in the later medieval centuries, speak of any simplistic division of rural society into lords and peasants. Rather, there were some large landlords who controlled estates of considerable extent, with large numbers of resident villeins, and there were landowners with very small holdings, working for themselves and eking out a living which was little different from that of the feudal villein.

Between these extremes there was a large group of landlords who controlled estates of varying size, with varying numbers of dependent land holders, and with varying degrees of acceptability by those tenants.

Not only were there large and small property holders, there was also a growing number of property holders whose wealth came from commercial activity and who had strong links with towns. These land holders were 'owners' rather than holders. They had not acquired rights to property through feudal favor but through purchase.77 They therefore felt under less obligation to accept feudal responsibilities, either towards those who were hierarchically superior or towards those inferior to themselves.

Most lived in the country but conducted their business activities in towns. Gaining status from their rural addresses and wealth from their town pursuits, they were in a position to play one off against the other to their own advantage. In the process they became defined as separate from both town and country, an independent group who became increasingly aware that they could, by manipulating various systems of law, gain an advantage for themselves.

This group, in succeeding centuries, became identified as a common-interest group, an incipient 'class' with interests of their own which they should pursue.78 Their success in manipulating legal statutes to their own advantage made them a major force in western Europe and provided a class of 'owners', 'employers' and 'directors' as the emerging economic concerns of Europe became increasingly dominant.

Acting as the 'unions' and 'nations' of medieval Europe had acted, those who identified with the 'country gentry' saw themselves as having common interests, as sharing cooperative relationships with each other against opposing groups - the workers, the poor, the Crown, the 'idle rich'.

There was also a constantly expanding population of itinerant laborers who had lost access to land, or whose lands, without access to common land, were inadequate to meet their needs 79 . They moved with the crops and seasons, employed, as needed, by land holders. They were coming to understand the world in terms which directly reflect the experience of those employed by others. As Thompson argues:

Those who are employed experience a distinction between their employer's time and their 'own' time. And the employer must use the time of his labor, and see that it is not wasted: not the task but the value of time when reduced to money is dominant. Time is now currency: it is not passed but spent.
(Thompson 1967, p. 61)

The relationship between the growing population of employed people and those who employed them was being transformed from one of hierarchical responsibility into one based on wage labor, with employers and employed, landowners and tenants being increasingly seen as opposed groups.

With decreasing populations in the later 14th and early 15th centuries, and opportunities abounding for material advancement for those who wished it, the emphasis on material returns for labor input greatly increased:

The Black Death ... brought a sense of urgency, especially in urban areas. The work day was extended and night work became common as merchants sought greater profits and workers, higher wages ...

Clocks and the rhythmic chimes of bells became more important than ever ...

By the end of the century, 'merchant's time', rather than 'the traditional conception of time in Christian theology', became the rule.
(Gottfried 1983, p. 81)80

In the process, there developed a need for the determination of starting and finishing times in work.81 It became a common practice, perpetuated over several hundred years, for early morning and curfew bells to be sounded to alert people to the start and end of the working day.

As one, by-lined P.Q., wrote in an item in the February 17th, 1838 edition of The Mirror: in 1644, Richard Palmer of Workingham had left a bequest to the town ensuring that in future the great bell of the Workingham Church was to be rung for half an hour daily at 4am and again at 8pm:

... that as many as might live within the sound might be thereby induced to a timely going to rest in the evening, and early arising in the morning to the labors and duties of their several callings, (things ordinarily attended and rewarded with thrift and proficiency)
... the same being done in most of the cities and market towns, and many other places in the kingdom.
(The Mirror No. 879, 17th February, 1838, p. 98)

During this period of feudal decay the peasants of Europe, in the words of Blum, threw off:

... the bonds that held them in serfdom. Nonetheless, they still owed servile obligations to seigniors, and they were still subject, to a greater or lesser extent depending on the locality, to the jurisdiction and punitive authority of seigniors.

Some historians have made much of the fact that the dependence or servility of these peasants was not attached to their persons (as it was to the person of a serf). Rather, they argue that the dependence adhered to the land. It became part of the price the peasant paid for the use of his holding to the seignior who had the superior ownership of the land.
(Blum 1978, p. 33)

This progressive transference of rights and responsibilities from person - person hierarchical relationships 82 to person - property - person oppositional relationships, often confused and ambiguous during the 14th to 16th centuries in western Europe (and during the 17th to 19th centuries in much of eastern Europe), removed direct responsibility for the welfare of tenants from landlords and resulted in an increasing sense of alienation.

Landlords were increasingly able to demand servility as a cost to the tenant, and the land holder or rural laborer increasingly objectified such costs as the price of the land or of employment. This social distancing of rural poor and landlord distorted recognized social relationships, emphasizing the differences and decreasing the recognized commonalities between them. Cooperative, interdependent relationships were being displaced by oppositional, independent relationships, mediated through legal statutes governing the ownership and use of property.

During the 19th century Marx was to comment on these developments, arguing that, over time, the dependence of the serf on the lord of the manor became increasingly transformed into apparent independence with the individual 'hemmed in on all sides by material relations' (Fischer & Marek 1973, p. 57). Increasingly, the rights and responsibilities of individuals to each other became legally spelt out and materially measurable, objectified. These obligations could then be traded in the same way as other objects.

That is, the rights and responsibilities implicit in social relations could be treated as rewards and costs and the potential labor input of the obligation could be evaluated against labor inputs into commodities. One could calculate the money worth of social obligations. This development did not do away with the obligations; it only made the individual who owed them appear to be independent of those to whom the obligations were owed. As Marx perceptively observed of the production of commodities:

... it is a definite social relation between men, that assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things ...

This I call the Fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labor, so soon as they are produced as commodities, and which is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities.
(Marx 1887, p. 43)

Since the obligations were costs attached to the land worked by the tenant, the tenant could be seen as independent of the landlord to whom the obligations were owed. Previously hierarchical obligations and responsibilities were transformed into 'terms of rent' and attached to the property rather than to the people involved.

A social relation between individuals had assumed 'in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things'. The focus of Europeans was being fixed on the legal obligations and quantifiable costs of social interaction, attached to or incorporated into the object of any exchange, rather than the persons involved in the interaction.83

Increasingly, over succeeding centuries, people were to see all social relationships in terms of costs and rewards within a legalized framework of obligations and rights. What was gained and what was lost through social interaction became the determinants of social exchange.

The focus of interaction was on the products rather than the participants. One could now aim to minimize costs and maximize personal gains with less and less consideration of social responsibilities not spelt out in legislation. Social relationships were being reduced in form to commercial transactions.84

The alienation of property and stress on legally bounded confrontation Return to Chapter Index

The focus of life was increasingly on the gains and losses of interactions. This competitive calculation of costs and rewards was coupled with an emerging belief in the morality of 'realizing the potential' of one's resources; and with burgeoning possibilities of both attaining and enhancing status by accumulating wealth with which to purchase estates.

Business people and country gentry therefore saw it as more and more important to use their assets to generate increased wealth. In order for landlords to increase their personal incomes from their holdings it was necessary to rationalize land holding and land use practices.

This focus on reducing costs and increasing profits resulted in permanent reductions in the number of people living off the land, the consolidation of land holdings, and increasing farm size, together with alterations in land use practices. In turn, these developments could only lead to increasing tension between landlords and tenants and increasing alienation (see 16th Century Land Alienation for a contemporary account of this alienation).

During the 15th century, as population increased again, increasing numbers of rural dwellers were displaced from their holdings. The number of itinerant laborers moving with the seasons, crops and availability of work escalated, and towns' populations rapidly expanded.

Increasingly, it became a fact of life that the person without an inalienable legally recognized right to property was at the mercy of those who controlled the means of livelihood. Any person who was materially or socially dependent on another gave that person material power over him or her. One needed to own property (that is, have written, legal entitlement to exclusive possession) in order to maintain social and material independence.

The small holders and laborers of western Europe were forced, by bitter experience, to re-evaluate their relationship to feudal hierarchies and find alternative bases for social and economic security. The natural direction in which this took them was towards the personal legal ownership of land and other means of livelihood, with all the rights and responsibilities of ownership spelt out in legislation and attached to the property.

Using Law to Rob the Poor and Dispossess the Weak Return to Chapter Index

Europe was passing through a period of profound political, social, religious and intellectual change. And, as with all such fundamental change, affecting and being affected by alterations in the primary presumptions of thought and organization, people became less and less sure of themselves and those around them.

From the 15th century onwards, as Foucault so graphically describes,

...the face of madness has haunted the imagination of Western man.
(Foucault 1971, pp. 15) 85

Nothing made any sense.

A contemporary comment from the 1350s paints a graphic picture:

justice and pity were powerless, so soon as it appeared advantageous to murder or poison rivals in power at the hospitable board. The science of finance was reduced to robbery, politics to perjury ... .
(quoted in Nohl 1961, p. 96)

The miracle play of Theophil included sentiments which summed up the mood of the age:

O Thou thoroughly wicked God, if I could but lay hands on Thee! Truly I would tear Thee to pieces. I deny Thee, deny Thy faith and Thy power. I will go to the Orient, turn Mussulman, and live according to the law of Mahomet. He is a fool who puts his trust in Thee!
(quoted in Nohl 1961, p. 97)

People seemed able to apply the laws, established by God for the more perfect organization and functioning of society, to personal gain, to robbing the poor, to dispossessing the weak, to denying long-established social responsibilities. And the justifications they gave for their actions did not make sense in terms of the understandings of the feudal world.

While their actions could be justified by law, they contravened all the sensibilities of medieval people. They had long assumed that society was organized in terms of complementary, cooperative hierarchies, with the hierarchically superior taking responsibility for the welfare of those under their protection.

With the fundamental assumptions of communities in a state of change and disarray, people found it difficult to keep control of reality. There were too many conflicting and contradictory understandings of life, and it was increasingly difficult to know who or what to believe. Europeans became increasingly aware, and fearful, of the effects of madness, of people whose view of the world did not 'make sense', who flirted with 'forbidden wisdom'. As Foucault says:

What does it presage, this wisdom of fools? Doubtless, since it is a forbidden wisdom, it presages both the reign of Satan and the end of the world ...

Apocalyptic dreams are not new, it is true, in the 15th century; they are, however, very different in nature from what they had been earlier. The delicately fantastic iconography of the 14th century ... where the order of God and its imminent victory are always apparent, gives way to a vision of the world where all wisdom is annihilated ...

Victory is neither God's nor the Devil's: it belongs to Madness ... On all sides, madness fascinates man.
(Foucault 1971, pp. 22,23)

During this period the movement towards the enclosure of common land and the rationalization of land holding and land use produced severe social distortions. As Polanyi has described:

Enclosures have appropriately been called a revolution of the rich against the poor. The lords and nobles were upsetting the social order, breaking down ancient law and custom, sometimes by means of violence, often by pressure and intimidation. They were literally robbing the poor of their share in the common, tearing down the houses which by the hitherto unbreakable force of custom, the poor had long regarded as theirs and their heirs'.

The fabric of society was being disrupted, desolate villages and the ruins of human dwellings testified to the fierceness with which the revolution raged, endangering the defences of the country, wasting its towns, decimating its population, turning its overburdened soil into dust, harassing its people and turning them from decent husbandmen into a mob of beggars and thieves.
(Polanyi 1957, p. 35)

Monarchies of the Reformation period, increasingly despotic, looked for support from the common population against an increasingly independent rural gentry who were challenging feudal responsibilities and insisting on the logic of what we now call 'economic rationality'. As Polanyi claims, the Tudors and Stuarts of England used the power of central government to relieve the victims of this transformation in property rights and, in the process, gained the increasingly vociferous opposition of those who stood to benefit from enclosure, the rural gentry.

The monarchies of western Europe and their bureaucracies were essentially feudal, not business-oriented. Political power in the 16th century still rested with hierarchies whose positions were legitimized by their relationship to the Crown, not by their control of material resources.

The 'money-making' gentry and the feudally oriented political hierarchies of Europe were increasingly seeing their interests in oppositional rather than hierarchical terms. This confrontation produced an expansion and elaboration of the centralized legal system, developed through preceding centuries, to incorporate rules and regulations governing relationships between state and rural gentry and commercial interests. Another elaboration spelt out the relationships between landowners and tenants and between employers and employees.

The state, through its legal bureaucracies, became an intermediary between tenant and landowner, between employer and employee. Legal systems therefore became more detailed, spelling out the rights and obligations between subjects as well as those between subjects and princes.

Blum (1978, p. 60ff) has succinctly spelled out the consequences of this movement for peasants and seigniors on the European continent. Over time the obligations of tenant and landowner, employer and employee, became standardized, with labor commitment, tithe of produce, and cash payments becoming increasingly objectified by statute. Peasants or workers - who dared - could appeal to the courts if they considered themselves unfairly treated.

In England the scene was a little different. During the 15th century legal developments resulted in the spelling out of a comprehensive law of contract. According to Maitland, the bonds of family settlements through which land had been tied up within kin groups were loosened, so that each inheritor gained alienable title, and villein tenure was converted into the secure copyhold tenure of modern times (see Cam 1957, p. 126).

This removal of responsibility for the tenant's welfare from landlord to state, from the feudal person - person hierarchical relationship of the lord and tenant, to a person - state bureaucracy - person oppositional relationship profoundly affected medieval understandings of the world. It was part of a general movement towards the interpolation of a non-personal, apparently objective legal framework in terms of which interpersonal relationships (increasingly being identified as a body of interactions relating to a particular 'environment' - the economic) could be assessed and limited.

As the rights and responsibilities of interactants were legally objectified, knowledge of the law became a means of maximizing profits. One needed to know the statutes. Prest explained it well:

the Elizabethan and early Stuart gentry learnt their law ... from the various manuals and texts designed specifically to meet the needs of landlords and J. P.s.
(Prest 1967, p. 21)

Strong emphasis was placed on legal knowledge as a means of protecting one's interests against opposing groups.

Inns of Court, the principal legal schools of the period in England,

attracted two classes of students: those who sought to become lawyers, and those whose parents "do not desire them to be trained in the science of the laws, or to live by its practice, but only by their patrimonies".
(Prest 1967, p. 22)

Those who owned estates needed to know the law in relation to estate ownership. The Inns of Court had become 'the nurserie of the greater part of the gentrie of the realme' (Prest 1967, p. 22).

While the poor had to hire the services of lawyers - whose fees, as we have already seen, were considered exorbitant - the gentry were being trained to defend their legal rights to property. Legal power was on the side of landlords and employers. And they were being trained to view relationships as based on legal definition and confrontation.

The 'modern' world would be one in which people identified themselves in terms of classes, hierarchically ranked through their former statuses within feudal society, with the 'higher' having access to legal expertise not available to the 'lower', and considering themselves the 'natural' directors of 'lower' classes. Society was becoming divided into competing common-interest groups, into embryonic classes, whose confrontations would be framed by state legislation.86

Private ownership, consumption and accumulation Return to Chapter Index

As previously feudal relationships became legally objectified, the possibility of making demands of tenants and rural laborers without considering them as people became increasingly conceivable. With landlords and employers decreasingly needing to confront tenants and employees as persons with whom they shared direct social relationships, it became possible to whittle away the rights of the poor.

Jurists steadily reduced the tenants' right of freedom and movement; allowed landlords to raise their demands for labor service beyond long-accepted norms; and steadily weakened the security that attached to customary rural tenures. And employers successfully argued for state legislation compelling the poor to work.

This attenuation of recognized social obligation deepened the emphasis on freeholding and private enterprise so that, by the 16th century, as Christopher Hill observed,

when the business man of ... Geneva, Amsterdam or London looked into his inmost heart, he found that God had planted there a deep respect for the principle of private property.
(Hill 1966, p. 46)

Increasingly, to ensure social and physical well-being, people had to own what they needed. This requirement placed mounting demands on production, fuelling a growth in commodity output.

Demonstrating to others that one was materially independent or self-sufficient gave one increased status and prestige. It became increasingly 'obvious' that property should be privately owned, and that such ownership was ownership of the thing itself, not merely of socially approved rights to its use. The principle of private property was undeniably a natural law principle. Those who could demonstrate such ownership, demonstrated their moral and therefore social worth.

During the 16th century in much of western Europe (and a century or two later in most eastern areas), as Blum argues:

... monarchs had managed to divest the nobility of much of its political power as a corporate entity. Yet the nobles not only continued but were strengthened in their social position and in their claim to special privilege, and they retained and broadened their claim to the land, labor, dues, and subservience of the peasantry.
(Blum 1978, p. 197)

Monarchies managed to secure their own political positions and emasculate the political authority of the nobility and powerful landowners by granting legally sanctioned privilege to them at the expense of the poor.

The reduction of political responsibilities and the reaffirmation of legal and economic entitlements led in turn to the development of absentee landlords. They left their estates in the hands of managers and lived in an increasingly profligate manner. This required excessive borrowing, often against either the future production of estates or the value of the estate itself. As McCracken described:

In the last quarter of the 16th century, a spectacular consumer boom occurred. The noblemen of Elizabethan England began to spend with a new enthusiasm, on a new scale. In the process they dramatically transformed their world of goods and the nature of Western consumption ...

They changed their patterns of hospitality as well, vastly inflating its ceremonial character and costs. Elizabethan noblemen entertained one another, their subordinates, and, occasionally, their monarch at ruinous expense.
(McCracken 1988, p.11)

This situation was tailor-made for the mercantile capitalists of the 15th and 16th centuries. Having inherited the entrepreneurial skills and the structures of medieval capitalism and mobile capital, they were able to relocate their enterprises and take advantage of the profligacy of nobility to accumulate sizeable fortunes. Yet, once having accumulated their fortunes and having purchased the rundown estates of those whose profligacy had been their undoing, they found themselves expected to live in the same extravagant manner.

There developed a tension between increasing consumption and conserving one's gains for further expansion of one's holding which required increased stress on the material productivity of estates. As Mukerji says:

... the hedonistic culture of mass consumption was probably as crucial in shaping early patterns of capital development in Europe as the asceticism usually associated with this era. Hedonism was to consumers what asceticism was to entrepreneurs: it provided the cultural rationale for increased interest and participation in economic activities.
(Mukerji 1983, p. 2)

The new emphasis on conspicuous consumption coincided with a strong expansion in commodity output, which provided burgeoning incomes to those who controlled commerce. In a period of rapid economic expansion, entrepreneurs could both indulge in the hedonistic consumerism of the age and greatly expand their mercantile interests, funded by the new wealth.

The rise of Antwerp as the financial capital of Europe in the late 15th and early 16th century coincided with the opening up of the Portuguese spice trade and the conquest of the Americas by Spain. These developments stimulated entrepreneurial activities throughout most of western Europe and further fuelled the growth of commercial activity. Western Europe entered into a prolonged economic boom which coincided with the growing emphases on conspicuous consumption, material independence, and the use of holdings to generate increasing surpluses.

This was an age of merchant houses, acting across territorial boundaries and developing their own sense of identity as semi-independent political, as well as economic, enterprises.87 Princes, seeing in the granting of monopolies to merchant houses another way of raising revenue and of tying merchant houses into the political structure, granted to them exclusive rights to trade in certain goods. Joyce Appleby described the process:

... the king had long had the power to grant monopolies, which took the form of issuing licenses for the exclusive public control of a product, a trade, or even a government service like the inspection of tobacco. James found the granting of monopolies a particularly facile way of increasing his income.

A typical Englishman, as Christopher Hill noted, lived 'in a house built with monopoly bricks ... heated by monopoly coal ... His clothes were held up by monopoly belts, monopoly buttons, monopoly pins ... he ate monopoly butter, monopoly currants, monopoly red herrings, monopoly salmon, monopoly lobsters' ...

With the growth of both the internal and external markets, monopolies distorted the whole pattern of trade.
(Appleby 1978, p. 33)

What started out as being to the advantage of mercantile entrepreneurs became another means of revenue collection, a further drain on business houses which already saw themselves as separate from, and using, the state in which they operated. As Appleby pointed out, increasing numbers of traders, who found their activities severely curtailed by monopolies, began insisting that the right to free trade (that is, the abolition of state controls on production and sale) was a basic human right, a natural law right which, since Aquinas, made it a legally required right.

Over a period of more than a century the money makers of western Europe came to oppose the granting of monopolies. They argued increasingly forcefully for the separation of political and economic activity and increased autonomy for merchant houses to act on their own, in their own interests without government prohibitions.

Free trade was to imply not only the right of traders to trade, but also the reduction of government restrictions on trade. Traders should not be subject to political or social restrictions on their activities. Rather, laws and regulations should be passed which guaranteed individuals and businesses freedom to pursue their own independent interests without interference from the state.

Increasingly, what we now unhesitatingly define as economic concerns became distinguished from the political and social concerns of the period, the province of a common-interest grouping which included country gentry, traders, merchants, financiers and manufacturers. They demanded greater autonomy, and government interests demanded greater control of this newly emerging environment.

The role of government was being redefined by this common-interest group as the provision of a secure fiscal, legal and social background to commercial activity, not the regulation of business. Business should operate under its own laws and regulations, those which applied to the economic world.

By arguing for the existence of a separate environment, a realm which was governed by its own internal principles and logic, those who saw themselves as operating within that environment could advocate its independence from state control. It should conform to its own laws. And such laws would necessarily facilitate business activity, providing a dependable set of rules governing business transactions which would ensure the consistency of economic decisions and planning. Inevitably, those rules and regulations reflected the emerging relationships of the period.

Many members of this business-oriented group looked with some contempt on those whose self-indulgence led to the dissipation of their inherited wealth.88 It was clearly not in their interests to support monarchical regimes of similar temper which saw them as sources of ready income through taxation. Most either applied pressure on regimes for reform of business regulation and control or moved their centers of operation to areas where such reform was already occurring.

The Renaissance state of the 16th century supported bureaucracies which, from the 20th century perspective, would be considered very corrupt. No clear distinction was made between the office and the office holder, and the expenses of office were not clearly distinguished from those unconnected with the office.

The rulers of western Europe were not business people; they were traditional rulers, supported by a nobility which was feudally justified. While the emerging nations of Europe supported bureaucracies, those bureaucracies were organized in ways which facilitated patron-client access to the wealth, information and influence which they focused. The personalized bureaucracies of patron-client states are organized and operate on very different principles from those of Western industrialized states.

Bureaucratic posts were tied into the traditional systems of leadership and patronage. Those who identified with the business and new property interests of the period found themselves in conflict with the traditional, non-business-oriented claims and requirements of the bureaucracies with which they were forced to deal. It became increasingly 'obvious' to money makers that those appointed to bureaucratic offices were a drain on their resources, not there to facilitate their activities but to put obstacles in their way.

This belief led to an increasing insistence that the roles of bureaucratic offices should be clearly defined and limited, and that a clear distinction should be made between the bureaucratic office and the office holder. Holders of offices should be trained for their posts and paid stipends, and should not assume that they could use their offices as means of generating income.89 As Trevor-Roper claimed:

To cut down the oppressive, costly sinecures of Church and State, and to revert, mutatis mutandis, to the mercantilist policy of the cities, based on the economic interest of society - such were the two essential methods of avoiding revolution in the 17th century.
(Trevor-Roper 1972, p. 77)

During the 16th century religious demands for reform of the Roman Church changed into demands for independence and for the removal of Church authority. By the 17th century there was a strong belief amongst Protestants, property holders and business people that 'responsible' people, primarily those who belonged to the educated and business communities, should be freed from state and Church interference. They should be able to 'develop' themselves, both spiritually and materially, unhindered by state and Church bureaucratic demands.

Entrepreneurs favored the decentralization of political control for business reasons and found themselves in accord with Protestant groups advocating decentralization for other reasons. Inevitably, the arguments of the various groupings became intermixed, with Protestants making claims which could more easily be understood from a mercantile position, and mercantile entrepreneurs supporting arguments which seemed primarily religious in character.

The growth of mercantile power coincided with the decay of feudal structures and a decreasing acceptance of responsibility for the welfare of their tenants by landowners. By the turn of the 17th century increasing wealth, flowing from imperial expansion, coupled with expanded trade between regions of western Europe, provided a buffer against the unfolding effects of land enclosure and the appropriation of peasant holdings by landowners.

As rural people became displaced, many of them drifted into towns where they could obtain some form of employment. Movement into towns was traditionally linked with the freedom of the individual from obligation to landowners. A presumption of independence accompanied this movement, which naturally allied these displaced rural-urban migrants with a pragmatic Puritanism which emphasized the independent, private rights of individuals against both Church and state.

This sense of independence was coupled with a strong sense of injustice at being displaced from rural holdings which had long been their means of livelihood and identity. Those who should have provided feudal protection had failed them. Traditional authorities could no longer be trusted to protect the rights of the poor and, increasingly, they would be prepared to align themselves with those who opposed such authority.90

From the subversion of tradition to plotting the future Return to Chapter Index

By the turn of the 17th century there was a growing sense among business people, Puritans and the dispossessed that those who claimed authority on the basis of tradition, whether prelates, princes or bureaucrats, should be displaced by those better fitted to govern, who complied with the natural law requirements of the age.

They too should have the law applied to them, and people should be protected by law from the excesses of a leadership which seemed out of step with the pragmatic business concerns of the age. The 'property-owning, money-making' people of western Europe became increasingly aware that their interests did not coincide with the interests of those who controlled the state bureaucracies of Europe.

There was a feeling in western Europe that life was improving. The terrible uncertainties of the 15th and 16th centuries were being replaced by a dawning sense that the future would be better than the past. The awareness of an uncontrolled madness in the air, which Foucault described, was being displaced by a sense that Europeans, by devoting themselves to the reform of society, could take control of their own destinies.

But, as we have seen, the reform of society required, first, the reform of the person. Those who wanted to reform society recognized that such a change required the reformation of individuals. Individuals should apply themselves to self-development, to self-improvement. Then society would indeed be reformed.

While the world was still in turmoil, the primary ideological assumptions of the emerging dominant groups in western Europe were becoming more certain. Amongst 'responsible' people 91 , those who were demanding increasing freedom and control in western Europe, the feudal thinking of the past was being displaced by what we now term 'modern' ways of understanding the world. Now, if western Europeans could ensure that people lived by the laws being uncovered in the natural and social worlds they would surely usher in a golden age of prosperity.

Thinkers of the 17th century applied themselves to utopian schemes and dreams. Whether in the writings of Bacon or Campanella, Comenius or Dury, of Hartlib or Hobbes, social philosophy became the discernment of necessary alterations in the present to ensure the realization of a better future. And, it was assumed, the necessary alterations could be ascertained through reasoned consideration of the natural laws which underwrote all valid human activity and organization. The protesters of western Europe became increasingly sure of themselves, aware that they had a destiny to fulfill.

Samuel Hartlib (or possibly Gabriel Plattes), in a treatise on the requirements of the 'perfect society', A Description of the Famous Kingdome of Macaria (1641), claimed that the 'whole world should be reformed'. Such reformation could only happen, however, if those who were determined to ensure it had the political authority to set the necessary changes in place.

There was indeed a tide in the affairs of men which taken at its flood would lead to the millennium. The future would be better than the present - provided that society was reorganized to allow people to fulfill their own private destinies and, in the process, bring into being a perfect society based upon the natural laws established by God and being spelt out by Hugo Grotius and other jurists.

If Aquinas was correct, and each person had a place and purpose in society, then society could only be reformed if individual people were reformed, 'realizing their potential' by living their lives in accordance with the natural laws which God had established. 92 'Responsible' Western Europeans (those who were becoming recognized as the 'middle ranks') were becoming conscious of the goal-oriented nature of life in this world. The individual life should demonstrate progress. An individual should aim at self-improvement, and self-improvement could only be judged through increasing mastery over the material world around one.

Over a period of more than three hundred years, economically oriented western Europeans moved to a focus on the future, a condemnation of tradition as a validation of action or organization, and an assumption that progress in this world was inevitable for those who obeyed the laws of God. Therefore, those who did not progress could be assumed to have not been obedient to the laws of God. As Gellner put it:

The consequence of a belief in progress ... is that time ceases to be morally neutral ... there is, at the very least, some predisposition to tie up past with bad (in one word: backward), and future with good (progressive).
(Gellner 1978, p. 3)

From the late 15th century onwards, with the writing of Erasmus and More, the responsibility of western Europeans for securing the future had become a preoccupation of western Europe. Europe was alive with millenarian speculation and interpretations of the apocalypse. This time of turmoil and madness was surely the time preceding the return of Christ, and that would herald the arrival of the perfect age.

Before that day, the events spelt out in the Revelation of John 93 would be fulfillled. The Anti-Christ would be bound and cast into a pit which would be shut and sealed over him for a thousand years. The Beast would be captured and cast into the 'lake of fire that burns with brimstone'. And those who had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands would reign with Christ in a perfect society of the blest for a thousand years.

For the subsequent four hundred years the social philosophers of western Europe were to focus on the required precursors of the millennial age which was surely almost upon the world. So institutionalized did this focus become that philosophers were to forget its origins, were to accept its societal assumptions, with their implicit religious underpinnings, without acknowledging them. Europe engaged in a quest for utopia - assumed to be attainable - and in a discovery of the necessary social alterations which must occur to ensure its arrival.

Europe became focused on the future - a real and yet, at the same time, an ideal future towards which the present should be molded. And, because people were now becoming recognized as self-developing, independent and opposed to one another, the attainment of the ideal depended on the diligence with which individuals ensured that they fulfillled the potential of their separate lives.

In the political arena, no less than the philosophical, there was an air of expectancy and of duty. As Trevor-Roper has eloquently put it:

[Oliver Cromwell] believed that a new heaven and a new earth were coming ... and that Christian men had a duty, while reforming the society around them, and gathering up their strength to beat back the temporarily triumphant Anti-Christ, to seek the key to the Scriptures, which were now being fulfillled: the vials that were being poured out, the trumps that were being sounded, and the inscrutable number of the Beast.
(Trevor-Roper 1972, p. 282)

As Hartlib claimed, Europeans were in the process of uncovering 'that model by which the whole world should be reformed' and of ensuring its practical outworking in this world.

Since the millennium was within reach of western Europeans, people had a duty to apply themselves to ensuring its arrival. For the next three hundred years the 'responsible' people of western Europe undertook to organize those who were 'not responsible', ensuring that they lived moral, productive lives. As Polanyi explained,

under Elizabethan law the poor were forced to work at whatever wages they could get and only those who could [demonstrably] obtain no work were entitled to relief.
(Polanyi 1957, p. 79)

The view that the able-bodied poor should be put to work reinforced an emerging belief in the need for employment as both an obligation and a duty. Those who were gaining political and economic control of western Europe were becoming convinced that the promised utopia would be realized only if people diligently applied themselves to whatever work was available. The state should ensure that employment was available for those without work, and there should be no charity in the form of unearned hand-outs.

Yet, in the early 17th century, this was more easily said than done. As Foucault described:

Despite all the measures taken to avoid unemployment and the reduction of wages, poverty continued to spread in the nation. In 1622 appeared a pamphlet, Grievous Groan for the Poor, attributed to Thomas Dekker, which ... condemns the general negligence:

Though the number of the poor do daily increase, all things yet worketh for the worst in their behalf; ... many of these parishes turneth forth their poor, yea, and their lusty laborers that will not work ... to beg, filch, and steal for their maintenance, so that the country is pitifully pestered with them.

It was feared that they would overrun the country, and since they could not, as on the Continent, cross the border into another nation, it was proposed that they be 'banished and conveyed to the New-found Land, the East and West Indies'.

In 1630, the King established a commission to assure the rigorous observance of the Poor Laws ... it recommended prosecuting beggars and vagabonds, as well as 'all those who live in idleness and will not work for reasonable wages or who spend what they have in taverns'. They must be punished according to law and placed in houses of correction.
(Foucault 1971, pp. 49-50)

The necessity to work had become recognized either as a requirement of natural law which, of course, made it an inescapable obligation, or as a requirement of sanctification. As Foucault put it:

If it is true that labor is not inscribed among the laws of nature, it is enveloped in the order of the fallen world. This is why idleness is rebellion - the worst form of all ... the sin of idleness is the supreme pride of man once he has fallen, the absurd pride of poverty ...

In the Middle Ages, the great sin ... was pride ... All the 17th century texts, on the contrary, announced the infernal triumph of Sloth: it was sloth which led the round of vices and swept them on.
(Foucault 1971, pp. 56-7)

Joyce Appleby claimed that

laws were not seen as coming down from authority; rather they worked up from the propensities of people. Policy makers could best realize their aims by working with the known nature of man.
(1978, p. 96)

All people were ruled by the same natural tendencies and biases, so it was possible to formulate legislation which could be applied to everyone, no matter what their status or position. Good law was universally applicable.

Of course, since, as Roscoe Pound (1921) observed, the natural laws sprang from the common law rights of 17th century society, in fact they closely reflected the social circumstances in which they were formulated. Louis Dumont has said of this focus on the propensities of human beings as the basis for law that:

For the moderns, under the influence of Christian and Stoic individualizm, natural law, as opposed to positive law, does not involve social beings but individuals, i.e. men each of whom is self-sufficient, as made in the image of God and as the repository of reason.

This is to say that, in the idea of jurists in the first place, first principles regarding the constitution of the state (and of society) have to be extracted, or deduced, from the inherent qualities of man taken as an autonomous being independently of any social or political attachment.

... in short, the hierarchical Christian Commonwealth was atomised at two levels: it was replaced by a number of individual states, themselves made up of individual men.
(Dumont 1965, pp. 29-30)

Those who were morally upright disciplined themselves, living by the natural laws which underwrote all reasonable human endeavor.

This emerging focus on independent individuals was strongly supported by Puritanical insistence on the independent rights of individuals to approach their God directly without relying on mediation by a professional hierarchy. However, the apparent consequences of this insistence on separate rights seemed to be social chaos.

Many people became disturbed by the apparent civil consequences of Puritanical insistence on the rights of independent individuals. Bertrand Russell has neatly summed up the fears of the mid-17th century:

Every community is faced with two dangers, anarchy and despotism.

The Puritans, especially the Independents, were most impressed by the danger of despotism.

Hobbes, on the contrary having experienced the conflict of rival fanaticisms, was obsessed by the fear of anarchy.
(Russell 1979, p. 539)

If one emphasized independent individual rights, one had, simultaneously, to spell out independent individual responsibilities.

Moral people abided by the terms of the social contract. Their lives conformed to the natural law requirements of all members of society. And those natural laws could not be challenged. They had been established by God. If, as Newton was to demonstrate and Galileo had already described, the planets obeyed natural laws when orbiting the sun, equally, members of society obeyed natural laws when they conformed to the moral rules of society.

By the mid-17th century, with the English revolution, political power in England passed into the hands of property owners. For almost two hundred years they had been arguing for the curtailment of power derived from tradition. Laws which stemmed from 'traditional' authority were increasingly regarded as suspect.

The legal systems of western Europe, but particularly of Britain, were being refashioned to reflect the basic assumptions underpinning what we now call 'democracy'. Protestant jurist-theologians provided the theoretical charter based upon the natural rights of human beings. This gave legitimacy to the individualism of Protestant and merchant groups and to an increasingly insistent demand for economic and political freedom to pursue one's own interests.

In the Europe of decaying feudalism, land ownership had become increasingly seen as ownership of the thing itself, with particular social and material costs and prices attaching to it. Not only was there an emerging recognition of the differences between government and people, there was a parallel recognition of the difference between people and their physical environments.

It was becoming increasingly certain to most western European landowners that people used land rather than being identified with and defined in terms of locality. It was becoming equally clear that the poor were potential labor and that, just as property owners had a duty to use their land resources productively, so government should ensure that this labor resource was prepared and able to be employed productively.

Sir William Coventry, somewhere round 1670, put it most clearly when he argued for the repeal of the Poor Laws and the development of workhouses 'where such as will not work for themselves may be compelled to work for others'.

'Public' V 'Private': Oppositional Couplets; Categories of Likeness Return to Chapter Index

...there is, at the very least, some predisposition to tie up past with bad (in one word: backward), and future with good (progressive). (Gellner 1978, p. 3)

Appleby has summed up the new mood well:

The emancipation of property owners from most forms of political control over the use of their land and money had shifted the source of economic planning from regulations shaped by the past to private decisions oriented toward the future.

Where earlier the disposal of a harvest or the pursuit of a trade had been conditional upon the likely social impact, the acceptance of near-absolute property rights had driven a wedge between society and the economy.

With the curtailment of political oversight over economic life, the formal link between the material resources of the country and the people to be sustained by them had been cut. The commonwealth had become an aggregation of private wealth.
(Appleby 1978, p. 151)

In western Europe, decentralization of political authority, reassertion of individual rights and responsibilities, and demand for deregulation of economic activity became interfused. These became increasingly seen in terms of oppositional couplets:

  • Government versus People;
  • Public versus Private;
  • Political versus Economic;
  • Regulation versus Enterprise;
  • Tradition versus Progress.

And, as perceptions matured, demands for clear separation between the social expressions of those oppositions became more forceful.

This separation was not simply a matter of recognizing and spelling out social oppositions. Not only were there oppositional pairs, there were also conceptual categories of likeness:

  • Government
  • Public
  • Political
  • Regulation
  • Tradition

-AND-

  • People
  • Private
  • Economic
  • Enterprise
  • Progress

It became difficult to assert the need for the clear separation of one oppositional pair without, by implication, asserting the need for the rest.

Entrepreneurs became religiously and socially respectable. But they did not, for these reasons, become any less earthly-minded. It was their individualistic pragmatism which had brought them into alignment with religious protest groups. Each party in the alignment simply assumed their own orientation in those with whom they associated.

They should Become "Habituated to Labor and Fatigue" Return to Chapter Index

The consequences of this new-found respectability and assumption of religious morality were not to the advantage of less fortunate members of society. Yet, as Wilson argues in focusing on the 18th century poor law,

The social legislators of the Restoration aimed at nothing less than making the poor a source of profit to the state by forcing them to work for reduced wages [but]

...what came to be regarded by later critics as a system of calculated brutality and repression arose in the first place not from unconcern or harshness, but out of a desire to protect the efforts of those local authorities who were trying hardest to improvise remedies.
(Wilson 1969, pp. 119, 134)

As property owners and their allies took control of government, they became increasingly insistent that the 'natural laws' which underwrote their activities should be applied to all people. So important did it appear to be to ensure that the poor became involved in productive activity that otherwise moral and upright people could entertain extreme measures to ensure that this happened.

A major problem among the poor was that there appeared little desire on their part to increase their material possessions or to indulge in work for work's sake. There was therefore little incentive to engage in continued labor beyond that which was required to supply their perceived needs 94 . This attitude made labor inefficient and the laboring poor unreliable workers. They needed external stimulus to labor. In 1700, in setting out labor laws for the Crawley Iron Works, Crawley spells out his problem:

Some have pretended a sort of right to loyter, thinking by their readiness and ability to do sufficient in less time than others. Others have been so foolish to think bare attendance without being imployed in business is sufficient ... Others so impudent as to glory in their villany and upbrade others for their diligence.
(quoted in Thompson 1967, p. 81)

The poor felt that they were being employed for a particular set of tasks. Crawley felt that he had hired their potential to labor, and that they should 'put in a good day's work'. His solution was to provide external checks on the punctuality and performance of laborers:

Every morning at 5 a clock the Warden is to ring the bell for the beginning to work, at eight a clock for breakfast, at half an hour after for work again, at twelve a clock for dinner, at one to work and at eight to ring for leaving work and all to be lock'd up.
(quoted in Thompson 1967, p. 82)

Since there was no internalized discipline in these laborers, they had to be regimented and checked by those who could supply such discipline.

Over succeeding decades this problem of ensuring greater reliability and effort from the laboring poor was a perennial concern of those who wanted to harness the productive possibilities of the century. In order to ensure consistency, those in charge seemed to need to be constantly vigilant against a population apparently determined to impair their constitutions by laziness and dull their spirits by indolence (Thompson 1967, p.83).

Employers were looking for ways in which consistent effort could be guaranteed. One of the best seemed, initially, to compel laborers to conform to clock time. Factories had clocks built into their facades, which chimed the time so that laborers would know when to start work.

Schooling was quickly seen as one of the prime means by which people could be taught the importance of punctuality and sustained labor so that,

by the time the child reached six or seven it should become "habituated, not to say naturalized to labor and fatigue".
(Thompson 1965, p. 84)

Inevitably, over time, less scrupulous employers started to manipulate their clocks, starting early and finishing late by altering the time shown:

... in reality there were no regular hours; masters and managers did with us as they like. The clocks at the factories were often put forward in the morning and back at night, and instead of being instruments for the measurement of time, they were used as cloaks for cheatery and oppression.
(quoted in Thompson 1965, p. 86)

This practice, far from undermining people's reliance on measured time, made people increasingly conscious of 'correct' clock time, of working 'to the clock'.

However, all the measures adopted during the 18th century to retrain people to 'use their time productively' were of mixed success, and on into the 19th century employers and reformers continued to lament the indolence of the laboring poor 95 .

In the second half of the 18th century, Townsend provided one of the more extreme solutions to the problem of compelling people to diligent work, which was to be taken up in the early 19th century:

...hunger is not only a peaceable, silent, unremitted pressure, but, as the most natural motive to industry and labor, it calls forth the most powerful exertions; and, when satisfied by the free bounty of another, lays a lasting and sure foundation for good will and gratitude ...
(Joseph Townsend 1786 )

To the bridle of time discipline was to be added the spur of necessity. If people's needs could be kept at a high level, then their efforts to supply their needs would ensure consistent long-term 'habits of industry'. The silent, unremitting pressure of a constant threat of starvation, which could only be countered by engaging in wage labor, could be relied on to channel people into 'adopting those habits of industry, which always tend to steadiness and sobriety of conduct, and to consequent material wealth and prosperity' (Codere 1950, p. 24).

These means were to be reinforced by developing education for the poor. From John Bellers who, in 1696, suggested the establishment of 'colleges of industry' in which the 'involuntary leisure of the poor could be turned to good account' (quoted in Polanyi 1957, p. 105), to increasingly frequent attempts at the social education of the poor during the 18th and early 19th centuries. It became a recognized social responsibility of mature people to re-educate the morally suspect poor and to ensure, in the meantime, that they were gainfully employed.

By the middle of the 18th century, the primary ideological assumptions of modernity had become well established. Now, it seemed, to most well-educated, well-enculturated western Europeans that people were (or should be) undeniably separate, private, self-developing, acquisitive individuals whose moral and social worth could be calculated by observing the extent and nature of their private property.

It seemed equally certain that economic enterprise should be undertaken by private individuals and corporations, not by the state, but that the state had responsibility to ensure that the workforce was properly trained and that those who would not work were put to work.

Perhaps the most successful of the 18th century social philosophers was Adam Smith 96 - not because he had anything particularly new or revolutionary to say - but precisely because what he had to say expressed the emerging primary ideological assumptions of western European industrialism when increasing numbers of British people were already organizing their lives and thinking in terms of them.

He made explicit, in an organized form, what people already unconsciously 'knew'. And, of course, he is recognized as the father of economics. He also, in a way which may now be difficult to understand if one reads his writings, became an immensely popular author. His work, particularly The Wealth of Nations (Smith 1974), which was first published in 1776, became the topic of drawing room discussion. People easily identified with his description of how the world was, or should be, organized, but that description was novel in the literature of the time.

Western Europeans did not become economically oriented because Adam Smith provided a systematized account of rational economic behavior. Those in control were already economically oriented. Adam Smith systematically described what was happening around him. The primary assumptions of those in control in the mid-18th century already assumed the existence of independent, self-interested, competitive, acquisitive, rational beings, focused on life within an economic environment.

Adam Smith made the inevitable, moral, by spelling out the system of laws which underwrote economic behavior. Since economic behavior was governed by rational conformity to natural laws it could scarcely be otherwise than morally acceptable.

By the late 18th century, at the outset of what we now refer to as the industrial revolution, prosperous western Europeans knew that life should be lived in an economic environment, that they were private, self-promoting individuals whose lives were oriented to use of the material world, with the correct forms of relationship and organization spelt out in the 'economy'.

Moral people worked hard. The evidence of their morality was their increasing prosperity. Their increasing prosperity could best be demonstrated by increased accumulation of possessions and by increased consumption. The ways in which they should engage in economic activity were all spelt out by the 'principles' through which they could guarantee both individual prosperity and the wealth of the nation. Those principles had been distilled through five hundred years of history.

Moral western Europeans 'knew' that there were natural laws, and that, whether they had been established by God or not, conformity to them would lead to a better world. On the other hand, failure to live by them would bring chaos and poverty. Western Europeans had a moral duty to transform the world by reorganizing it to conform to the rules and regulations which guaranteed successful economic endeavor and burgeoning material prosperity.

Conclusion Return to Chapter Index

The past two hundred years have seen the primary ideological presumptions of Western Europe become those of more and more of her people, whether in Europe or in colonized lands. And, as Western Europeans have become increasingly convinced that these presumptions are features of the real world, they have increasingly devoted their time to defining and particularizing the rules and principles of economic activity and organization.

The past fifty have been years in which Western 'experts' have increasingly insisted on reorganizing the rest of the world to engage in 'correct' economic activity and organization. This reorganization requires:

  • the establishment of institutions and bureaucracies to govern economic enterprise;
  • the reorientation of government to guarantee a secure fiscal, legal and social background appropriate to the self-interested, contractual activities of private individuals in pursuit of wealth and independence;
  • and the establishment of the statutes and regulations governing 'formal economic activity'.

One of the continuing problems for Western Europeans, who are as convinced of the need to transform the world as their forebears were, is that so little of the economic activity in Third World countries conforms to the prescriptions of formal economics. People seem, all too easily, to engage in forms of activity and develop forms of organization which are clearly 'informal' and 'illegitimate'.

As was said at the start of this discussion, the primary ideological assumptions of any community change through time. They both reflect experiences of the past and modify those of the future. The primary ideological assumptions of Western Europeans have given birth to a number of competing secondary ideologies, and to a felt compulsion on the part of Europeans to refashion the rest of the world to participate in 'economic development'.

Both the Western assumption of the independent existence of an 'economic environment' and the equally accepted belief that there is an objective set of laws governing behavior in that environment come from, and reflect, the particular historical experiences of Western Europeans over a thousand years.

Every community has such a history, whether written or not. And all communities think and act on the basis of primary ideological presumptions which stem from their own unique history. It is as difficult to change the forms of organization and behavior of other communities which are based on their primary ideological assumptions as it would be for Western Europeans to live their lives in terms of the understandings of another society.

To the extent that Western 'experts' demand that other communities deny those basic features of their world which they 'know' to be true, and that they, instead, live by Western presumptions, they bring confusion and disorientation to individual lives and to communities. If these communities need to 'develop', that development must be on their own terms, based upon their own primary assumptions and filtered through their own secondary ideologies. Otherwise, advisers bring not 'development' but confusion to the lives of other people.

If there are increasing numbers of people who are becoming marginalized in non-Western communities, they are being marginalized by forms of organization, interaction and understanding which come from Western Europe's historical experiences. Only by allowing them to reorganize the world from their own perspectives can that marginalization be countered. Then, of course, Western Europeans will find themselves marginalized, unable to come to grips with the forms of organization and interaction which they experience when living in those communities.

If other communities, organizing life in terms of their own primary assumptions, become industrially organized, it may well be that some will prove to be better at the game of competitive profit making than the West. But the West is likely to find it difficult to understand what gives them their edge 97 . They are also likely to argue that the competitive advantage of those communities comes from their engaging in illegitimate forms of economic organization and activity.

End of Chapter

Chapter 4:
How Born Again Christians Rescued Capitalism Return to Index of Chapters

...they have divided their nations into two classes, wolves and sheep. I do not exaggerate. This is a true picture of Europe. ...man is the only animal which devours his own kind; for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich on the poor. (Thomas Jefferson, 1787) 98

The 18th century saw the crystallization of what, in later centuries, would be considered 'modern' forms of understanding and action 99 . This was the century of 'the enlightenment':

  • the time when western European educated and wealthy 'middle sorts' 100 became increasingly convinced of the material nature of life in this world;
  • the time when they began to live life by truly 'rational' principles as independent, autonomous, self-interested individuals whose activities would inexorably produce both individual and social well-being;
  • the time when they took increasing responsibility for mastering and profitably 'using' the natural world;
  • the time when most of the remaining rural laborers and small farmers were dispossessed of their livelihoods and robbed of their access to land;
  • the time when the activities of Protestant evangelists, coupled with the catastrophic failure of small businesses and impoverishment of trades people (the 'little gentry'), dependent on the patronage of the 'poor', kick-started capitalism into an industrial revolution;
  • and the time when the 'middle sorts' finally took full responsibility for re-educating the 'indolent poor' 101 .

This was the century in Western European history when the turmoil of previous centuries had distilled into a new version of 'objective reality' for those who held the reins of power. It was the century in which they would take responsibility for transforming the rest of the world to live by the reality they now lived in - starting with their own, home grown 'savages'. It was also the century in which the justification for natural laws shifted from divine decree to the innate characteristics of environments in a self-existent natural world 102 .

In social thought, independent, autonomous individuals became the 'atoms' of human interaction and society. As Louis Dumont put it,

the hierarchical Christian Commonwealth was atomised at two levels: it was replaced by a number of individual states, themselves made up of individual men.
(1965, pp. 30)

The material realm, also, would be found to be comprised of independent 'atoms' - the building blocks of a new reality resulting from the new understanding of the world. And a new 'environment' would be conceived, to contain and explain the newly apprehended natural laws found to be driving human ambition and the wealth of nations.

In Search of the 'Greatest Good' - The Summum Bonum Return to Chapter Index

All the presumptions of the past concerning the nature and purpose of natural laws remained intact. It seemed absurd to question the Summum Bonum consequences of employing them in furthering human control of the material world 103 . By conforming to and employing the principles being uncovered in daily life, human beings could look forward to living in the best of all possible worlds.

Immanuel Kant would explain this at the end of the century,

The realization of the Summum Bonum in the world is the necessary object of a will determinable by the moral law. But in this will the perfect accordance of the mind with the moral law is the supreme condition of the Summum Bonum.
(1788 Bk 2, Ch. 2, pt. 4)

For increasing numbers of the 'middle sorts' in the 18th century, individuals were self-existent, self-developing beings. The presumption of previous centuries, that "the state is by nature clearly prior to the family and to the individual, since the whole is of necessity prior to the part" (Aristotle, Politics Bk 1, Part 2) 104 now seemed under attack.

To the intellectual protagonists of the century, the controversy between atomism and holism was a real one, perceived as a confrontation between materialism and spirituality, between atheism and godliness. It was, however, the logical outcome of Aquinas's model in an age when life within this world became the dominant focus, with religion secondary in importance to material prosperity for those who held the reins of power.

Now, one did not start from a presumption of perfect wholes and distill the laws which enabled them and determined the nature of their parts. One started with the 'atoms' from which the wholes were extrapolated and determined the innate characteristics of those atoms. One then extrapolated from that information to ways in which the atoms could best be 'developed' and combined to yield their potential 105 .

For those 'on the side of God', human beings reaped the rewards of their morality. And that morality was summed up in obedience to the 'will of God' spelt out in the natural laws he had established to ensure the perfection of the natural world.

For those 'on the side of nature', human beings exercised their innate talents, pursued their own 'natural' interests, and reaped the rewards of successfully doing so. Conformity to the 'real' nature of human beings, it was assumed, must necessarily result in the Summum Bonum.

It is this implicit presumption of collective good being a necessary outcome of individual self-interest 106 which is the inconsistent heart of utilitarian philosophies of the period and of the gamut of utilitarian and economic models which have flowed from them.

Bernard Mandeville's acerbic verse on the ways in which the private vices of the bees of a hive produced prosperity for the whole, set the scene for confrontation between the two perspectives,

... every Part was full of Vice,
Yet the whole Mass a Paradice;
Flatter'd in Peace, and fear'd in Wars
They were th'Esteem of Foreigners,
And lavish of their Wealth and Lives,
The Ballance of all other Hives.

Such were the Blessings of that State;
Their Crimes conspired to make 'em Great;
And Vertue, who from Politicks
Had learn'd a Thousand cunning Tricks,
Was, by their happy Influence,
Made Friends with Vice: And ever since
The worst of all the Multitude
Did something for the common Good.
(1705, lines 155-168)

By the 1720s Mandeville's verses, together with a range of similar writings, were provoking a storm of protest from those who knew that the material gains of prudence and industry came not from self-interested greed but from correct application of and adherence to the laws of God which underwrote the natural world.

It seemed that the very basis for morality was being undermined. If Mandeville's assertions were right, then morality was a chain about the neck of society, and immorality was virtue well disguised. The fundamental principles underpinning the natural rights of human beings seemed to be under challenge as these thinkers pointed to greed and self-interest as the fundamental motivational factors leading to material success and the consequent Summum Bonum.

By the 18th century, there were a number of fundamental presumptions which 'responsible' western Europeans subconsciously employed in 'making sense' of their world 107 :

  • order was built into the 'structure' of the universe;
  • the material and sensible world was separate from and independent of the supernatural, governed by its own ordering principles;
  • human beings were separate from, and should control and 'develop' their material environments which, when developed, would yield their 'potential';
  • entities within any environment could be separated into their constituents which could then be recombined in a range of ways, limited only by human ingenuity and the laws governing form and process in each environment.
  • the principles upon which 'natural order' rested were not only explicable and immutable, but also, in their correct utilization, would inexorably produce social and individual well-being. Even if, in the short term, this did not appear to be the case.
  • there could be 'no gain without pain' 108 . Not only did the responsible people of western Europe believe in the existence, and positive consequences of employing natural laws, they also firmly believed that short term hardship is usually necessary in order to secure long term well being 109 .

The Economy: a new 'Environment' Return to Chapter Index

The search for natural laws, and determination to live by them, had been a preoccupation of western Europeans over several centuries. That search focused on phenomena which were identified as belonging within recognized 'environments' of the natural world. Sets of natural laws were derived from and legitimate within the domains within which they had been distilled.

By the 18th century, a number of distinct environments had been identified in the non-human material realm 110 . However, in the realm of human existence in the natural world, no distinct environments had been identified. All human activity was considered contained within the 'social' domain, interconnected and subject to the same set of 'moral' laws.

At the start of the 18th century, the money-makers moved to center stage. Their behaviors became accepted as important to the well-being of all members of society and the nature of their activities became the focus of serious deliberation. Mandeville's observations might have been delivered with sardonic humor, but he meant what he said.

Natural laws were not merely important in explaining the operation of the natural world, they also justified what they explained. They provided legitimate, indeed, necessary means for successfully manipulating (for the common good) those areas of the natural world which western Europeans recognized as having objective existence. Now, however, it seemed as though the area of natural law which applied to human behavior was flawed. How could it be that the self-interested 'unsocial' behavior of those engaged in trade could contribute to the Summum Bonum?

Attempts to explain this, were to produce recognition of the first social 'environment', anticipated in the 17th, but formally outlined in the 18th century - The Economy. Since its 'discovery', this new environment, through the laws and associated structures formulated and reformulated within it, has increasingly dominated and controlled life in Western European communities.

In the first half of the 18th century, the money-makers of Europe were in relatively secure political control. Their activities were accepted as fundamental to social and individual wellbeing by those who now dominated political life in Britain and Western Europe.

However, it became increasingly obvious that there were certain fundamental human behaviors which seemed to underwrite economic success, which were not in harmony with the moral laws which western European jurists had identified and spelt out in the 17th century 111 . These behaviors had not been incorporated within the moral law structures developed in the 17th century and seemed, once they were identified, to challenge and often invalidate them.

Bernard Mandeville (1718) directly focused on this problem in his Fable of the Bees. As Harold Cook explained,

The book seemed to argue that what most people recognized as human vices were the main engines of the collective good.

Mandeville's critics,

correctly detected a view of reason that made it largely into a device for calculating ends rather than for developing inner moral wisdom. The essay began with a meditation on whether people really did act out of charity, defined as

that sincere Love we have for our selves ... transferr'd pure and unmix'd to others, not tied to us by Bonds of Friendship or Consanguinity.

Acts on behalf of friends and family, or to gain honor and public respect, were not counted as truly charitable by this definition. Nor were any actions arising from the passions of pity or compassion, which make us feel better when we indulge them.

Pride and Vanity have built more Hospitals than all the Virtues together,

Mandeville declared, referring sarcastically to the recent munificent gifts in the will of Dr. John Radcliffe.

Mandeville went on to declare that

Charity, where it is too extensive, seldom fails of promoting Sloth and Idleness, and is good for little in the Commonwealth but to breed Drones and destroy Industry.

He urged that while the helpless needed relief, most seeking charity should be put to work.
(1999, pp. 101, 104)

For the next fifty years controversy was to rage in gentry circles as to whether the recognized virtues of a social conscience did undermine sound economic management and promote sloth, or whether the apparent logic of Mandeville's assertions was nothing more than well phrased sophistry.

For those who believed that the moral virtues were primary and that life should conform to them, it was necessary to actively address the social problems of the age through education and a variety of forms of welfare. For those who saw the virtues of the age as undermining sound economic management, well-meaning people simply compounded the difficulties they sought to ameliorate. This was to be a theme which grew louder as the century passed, producing a range of policies aimed at ensuring that the gentry were freed to disciplined self-interest. 112

In the intellectual climate of the 18th century, it is scarcely surprising that someone should finally conclude that such behavior related to a particular realm of social life, an environment with its own internal logic and operational principles or laws. The necessary behaviors which underpinned success in this environment really did seem to conflict with the recognized moral virtues which applied to the rest of life.

Of course, if an environment was discovered, it would be found to be governed by its own set of natural laws, essential to successful endeavor in that environment, but illegitimate in other environmental contexts. Behaviors and attitudes which seemed to threaten the moral values of social and spiritual life, could be contained, insulated within the bounds of this new environment.

Appropriately, the nature of this new environment was to be distilled and explained by someone who had trained for the Anglican clergy and could be considered a morally responsible gentleman. As Adam Smith (1723-1790) explained, in a hugely popular text entitled An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), the apparent contradiction between moral virtue and the requirements of successful economic activity was due to a confusion of environments.

It could be traced to a failure to recognize that all economic activity conformed to sets of principles which were appropriate to economic behavior. There was a confusion of environments implicit in the observed contradiction.

Just as all other environments in the world were governed by natural laws which determined their characteristics, so was 'the economy' governed by a set of natural laws. These laws determined not only its characteristics, but also the kinds of behavior appropriate for individuals and groups when engaged in economic activity.

So, behavior which was highly appropriate in economic activity could still be regarded as entirely inappropriate in other spheres of life. On the other hand, to apply those values which related to non-economic activity within an economic setting would produce economic malaise.

'The economy' was a self-existent, self-sustaining environment, with its own peculiar characteristics and principles of organization and behavior. And, of course, if natural laws were found within this newly described environment, human beings had a moral responsibility to live by them. 113

The movement of the money-makers of western Europe from the demonized periphery of the 10th and 11th century medieval world 114 to the sanctified center of the new modern world was complete. They not only could be considered moral by association with religious reformers, now they were moral because of the very behaviors and attitudes in which they engaged in making money.

Indeed, a new kind of immorality was to emerge, that demonstrated by people who, when engaging in economic activity, did not conform to the necessary behaviors and attitudes and so jeopardized not only their own activity, but the activity of all those with whom they associated. What Kant was to assert concerning moral law could be asserted with equal certainty of economic law, 'the perfect accordance of the mind with the [economic] law is the supreme condition of the Summum Bonum.' As Adam Smith explained, considering the activities of merchants,

... he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, ... led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.

I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. It is an affectation, indeed, not very common among merchants, and very few words need be employed in dissuading them from it.
(1776, Book 4 Ch. 2)

Here was a solution which rescued moral virtue, while establishing the appropriateness, indeed, the necessity of self-interested behavior in economic activity.

In keeping with the times, Smith claimed to have distilled the laws of economics through an examination of the actual economic behavior of people 115 . In doing so he seemed to satisfy both sides of the controversy. He had distilled his laws from the 'real' world, but he had, at the same time, rescued moral virtue from the materialist assault. Both camps could accept the laws he presented without seeming to betray their own positions 116 .

The capitalist could, quite reasonably, be a self-interested individual intent on his own gain on Friday and a public spirited philanthropist on Sunday (or even at the same time in different contexts!) and remain a truly moral, consistent person throughout.

Inevitably, Adam Smith became the 'father of economics', the person who first spelt out the natural laws which underwrote economic organization and activity. At the same time, his writing reaffirmed, for Western European 'responsible' people, the correctness of both their understandings of the world and their preoccupation with economic activity.

Of course, when one distills the fundamental attributes of human beings from the current behaviors of oneself and one's compatriots, inevitably, those behaviors which stem from the primary ideological presumptions of one's own community become accepted as the fundamental attributes of all people.

{§} Adam Smith did for economics what Pound (1921) claimed Grotius did for the "natural rights" of human beings 117 . Just as the common law rights of the English became the natural rights of all people in the 17th century, so the economic predilections of 18th century British gentry became the instinctive behaviors and economic motivations of human beings 118 .

From that time to the present, western Europeans, whether in their homelands or in their colonized worlds, have assiduously applied themselves to refining and expanding the natural laws which underwrite economic activity and organization. And the task is not yet, and, of course, never will be, complete. As we've already seen, the primary ideological presumptions upon which human understanding is founded are in long-term flux through a Heraclitean dialectical interaction with the environments which human beings define and within which they live.

Over the last two hundred years western Europeans have attempted to reach a consistent and coherent explanation of the positive consequences of the exercise of both economic self-interest and moral virtue.

  • Could it be that the apparently contradictory requirements of economic and moral law might, in some less than obvious way, or at some 'deeper' level of congruence, work together for good?
  • Might human beings achieve much more in life through holding the requirements of moral and economic law in tension?

If this could be shown then, indeed, economic activity would receive its final validation 119 .

It was, perhaps, inevitable, that it would be the foremost Western European philosophical thinker of the late 18th century who would first convincingly draw the threads together. John Locke's philosophical validation and justification of modern primary ideological presumptions had established the early credentials of modern business 120 . Immanuel Kant, a century later, would explain why the apparently contradictory sets of economic and moral laws were both essential in reaching toward the Summum Bonum.

There is an innate antagonism between opposed human capacities which is mediated in human nature. Through a dialectical tension, or 'antagonism', between self-interest and sociability, all the finest qualities of human society and achievement are generated.

By antagonism, I here mean the unsocial sociability of mankind - that is, the combination in them of an impulse to enter into society, with a thorough spirit of opposition which constantly threatens to break up this society.

The ground of this lies in human nature. Man has an inclination to enter into society, because in that state he feels that he becomes more a man, or, in other words, that his natural faculties develop. But he has also a great tendency to isolate himself, because he is, at the same time, aware of the unsocial peculiarity of desiring to have everything his own way; and thus, being conscious of an inclination to oppose others, he is naturally led to expect opposition from them...

All the culture and art which adorn humanity, the most refined social order, are produced by that unsociability which is compelled by its own existence to discipline itself, and so by enforced art to bring the seeds implanted by Nature into full flower.
(Kant 1784 p. 147)

Human beings are 'compelled' by their unsociability to discipline themselves and from that discipline flow the enhancements and benefits of 'all the culture and art which adorn humanity' 121 . The corollary, of course, is that lack of self-discipline threatens the 'refined social order'.

Human beings who wished 'to bring the seeds implanted by Nature into full flower' had a responsibility not only to be self-disciplined, but also to discipline those who seemed unable or unwilling to discipline themselves. Stifle that urge to unsociability, and one stifles human progress. At the heart of human progress lies disciplined independent individualism. The manure of competitive self-interest grows beautiful flowers! 122

By the middle of the 19th century Kant's explanation had grown into a belief 123 in the innate propensity of human beings, allowed to indulge in unfettered self-interest and self-promotion, to produce the common good. The moral virtues of an earlier age were to be displaced, for many western Europeans, by a belief that all things work together for good - provided self-disciplined individuals are freed to pursue their own self-interested ends.

Life was to be considered an evolutionary adaptation of individuals to their environments. Provided it was not distorted and choked by government regulation and direction, this would result in the best possible adaptation of not only individuals but of human societies to their environments 124 .

The Need to separate Government and Commerce Return to Chapter Index

Increasingly, as the 19th century unfolded, it was to be argued that social and political controls, regulations, and 'interference' in individual lives produced only social ill. The only role for government was that of ensuring that no-one and nothing interfered with the right of each self-disciplined individual to pursue his or her own self-interest uninhibited by social and political rules and regulations. The role of government would become seen as that of a 'watchdog' of private liberty and a stern school-master to those who threatened disciplined self-interest.

For those who took the new doctrine to extreme, and there were many very influential people in this camp by the latter half of the 19th century, governments should not get involved in trying to 'improve' society. Such attempts were doomed to long-term failure. The role of the state was the protection of those who, through their disciplined self-interest, had acquired the wealth which was its sure reward 125 . The 'free market' would sort out everything else!

Thomas Huxley (1871) described the position of those who opposed legislative attempts at improving the lot of the poor in the second-half of the 19th century:

... the Education Act is only one of a number of pieces of legislation to which they object on principle;

and they include under like condemnation:

  • the Vaccination Act, the Contagious Diseases Act, and all other sanitary Acts;
  • all attempts on the part of the State to prevent adulteration, or to regulate injurious trades;
  • all legislative interference with anything that bears directly or indirectly on commerce, such as shipping, harbours, railways, roads, cab-fares, and the carriage of letters;
  • and all attempts to promote the spread of knowledge by the establishment of teaching bodies, examining bodies, libraries, or museums, or by the sending out of scientific expeditions;
  • all endeavors to advance art by the establishment of schools of design, or picture galleries;
  • or by spending money upon an architectural public building when a brick box would answer the purpose.

According to their views, not a shilling of public money must be bestowed upon a public park or pleasure ground;

not sixpence upon the relief of starvation, or the cure of disease.

Those who hold these views support them by two lines of argument.

They enforce them deductively by arguing from an assumed axiom, that the State has no right to do anything but protect its subjects from aggression. ...

These views are supported a posteriori, by an induction from observation, which professes to show that whatever is done by a Government beyond these negative limits, is not only sure to be done badly, but to be done much worse than private enterprise would have done the same thing.
(Administrative Nihilism (1871) in Collected Essays, 1893, p. 258-9) 126

In order to understand how these views could become so dominant one needs to understand the social and political tensions of the preceding century. The 18th century saw the flowering of the assertion of near-absolute property rights and the private aggregation of wealth, which had matured in the previous century. Self-interested pursuit of wealth and accumulation of property had become socially approved.

Over the next 150 years, the gentry pursued their own interests at the expense of all those who lacked the political or economic power to resist them. They dispossessed most of the small holders of Britain and completed the alienation of the commons 127 from those who had for centuries relied on access to it for survival.

In the process, millions lost access to rural resources and were forced into relying on parish welfare support 128. Then, because the burden became too great for the parishes to sustain in the long-term, the dispossessed were compelled to move to the emerging industrial towns of Britain. As the process compounded the problems of the poor, many were compelled to move to the 'New Found' lands which were rapidly becoming a destination for people who felt or found themselves disenfranchised by developments in the 'Home Country' 129 .

By the start of the 18th century, Britain, with most of the rest of western Europe to one extent or another, had in place all the necessary primary ideological understandings, motivations and organizational processes and practices which would produce both the discipline of economics and the 'industrial revolution'. What it lacked, was a deep religious commitment to capitalism.

The 'middle sorts' now thought and organized life as capitalists. However, their earthly-minded materialism, self-satisfied complacency and self-interested stripping of the livelihoods and entitlements from more than half the population could very easily have produced not an industrial revolution but a 'revolution of the proletariat'. Without the continued religious dedication and commitment to 17th century morality of a small minority of the gentry, the self-interested greed of the 'middle sorts' in the early 18th century might well have reduced capitalism to a footnote in European history.

A Deeply Religious Capitalist Revival Return to Chapter Index

But for the peculiar consequences of the dispossession of small landholders and the consequent undermining of small business through much of Britain, capitalism might well have faltered in the 18th century, another 'blind alley' of history 130 . Those who held the purse-strings of Britain, in their self-interested drive to accumulate property and wealth, not only dispossessed 'the poor', they threatened the livelihoods and wellbeing of less affluent members of the middle ranks. Less wealthy households and individuals, who held to the same understandings and were motivated by much the same impulses as the financiers, stock-holders and large property owners, were being threatened by their activities with both social ruin and material destitution. 131

These 'little-gentry' found themselves victims of policies and practices geared to enhancing the wealth and increasing the property of those with political clout. And, as they either lost their livelihoods or became fearfully aware of the possibility of becoming destitute, they found themselves being treated as though they were members of those 'lower ranks' who 'ought' to be subjected to the disciplines of the century.132

It would be easy to see battle lines drawn in 18th century Western Europe between the reforming 'middle ranks' and the oppressed 'lower ranks' of the century. But this would be a distortion of reality. Those consigned to the lower ranks of society had lived through the same centuries as the middle rank reformers. The growing influence and authority of the money makers of western Europe had not left them untouched.

While the broad rankings of society included the aristocracy, gentry and 'the poor', there were, between each ranking, large numbers of people who did not quite fit the stereotypes of the age:

  • There were aristocracy who more properly seemed to be middle ranking in their behavior and in their fortunes, and middle ranking people who moved easily in the ranks of the nobility.
  • There were middle ranking people who, in their behavior and fortunes could easily be ranked with the poor, and people who might be considered peasants or yeomen but who moved easily in the ranks of the gentry.
  • In particular, there was a substantial grouping which comprised small landholders, artisans, tradespeople and other small business people who certainly considered themselves separate from 'the poor', and, in their own minds, were ranked as 'almost gentry'.

The 'almost gentry' and those who identified with them as employees and neighbors - in England, who had fought with the forces of Oliver Cromwell - very often held the opinions of the gentry toward the 'idle poor' as strongly, or more strongly than those whose lifestyles seldom brought them into direct contact with such people. They had long ceased to consider themselves members of 'the poor'. They were, in their own minds, closely allied with the gentry and, through their networks of associates and friends this perception was continuously reinforced.

As is all-too-often true in such situations, those who subconsciously sensed that they could easily be lumped together with people they considered hierarchically inferior to themselves, strongly emphasized the differences, emphasizing the negative stereotypes of those from whom they wished to be separated 133 .

The 'little gentry' of the 18th century were strong in their denunciations of people who seemed to expect the parish to support them. Why should the parishes, and therefore, people who provided the parishes with their income, support the lazy poor who were, in growing numbers, relying on parish support for their subsistence?

Paradoxically, as these people found their own livelihoods under threat they more strongly resented the costs of supporting the indigent. They were not presuming that some day they also might need parish help - the specter of being forced into the ranks of the poor was, for these people, one they could scarcely contemplate. Rather, their own difficulties were best addressed through minimizing the demands of the parish on their own incomes.

As the reformers set about rationalizing land ownership and use, these people found themselves caught up in the consequences of the policies. Rural laborers and small holders were dispossessed and driven from the land and the infrastructural supports sustained by them collapsed.

As is true in the present in countries all around the world, as rural communities disintegrated, both those directly affected by the reformist policies of the century and all those who depended on them for their subsistence, found their livelihoods collapsing and found themselves no longer able to subsist in the countryside. As they lost their means of livelihood they found themselves defined with the poor by the authorities, rather than recognized as members of a disenfranchised 'lower middle' ranking in society. Toynbee (1884) described it all:

at the conclusion of the 17th century it was estimated by Gregory King that there were 180,000 freeholders in England,... less than a hundred years later, the pamphleteers of the time, and even careful writers like Arthur Young, speak of the small freeholders as practically gone...

'The able and substantial freeholders,' described by Whitelock, 'the freeholders and freeholders' sons, well armed within with the satisfaction of their own good consciences, and without by iron arms, who stood firmly and charged desperately,' - this devoted class, who had broken the power of the king and the squires in the Civil Wars, were themselves, within a hundred years from that time, being broken, dispersed, and driven off the land.

The 18th century was a century of wealth and well-being for the middle and upper ranks of society but, as Toynbee (1884) says, in the midst of all the wealth and prosperity which began in the 18th century, there were vast numbers of destitute people. The later 18th and 19th centuries were to demonstrate that unfettered competitive self-interest does not necessarily produce the Summum Bonum 134 .

Wendeborn, a German living in England during the second half of the 18th century described what he saw,

In no other country are more poor to be seen than in England, and in no city a greater number of beggars than in London. A foreigner who hears of many millions annually raised for the benefit of the poor... will find himself unable to explain how it happens, that in his walk he is, almost every hundred yards, disturbed by the lamentations of unfortunate persons who demand his charity.
(quoted in Simon 1908 p.60)

As the 18th century unfolded, those people in the lower-middle ranks of British communities 135 looked for support and help from those whom they had long considered their superiors and community leaders. All-too-often, they found not only no support, but an active rejection of them and the difficulties they faced. They seemed to have been condemned by those they sought to emulate to a life of fear and possible destitution.

These 'almost poor', 'almost middle ranking' people knew that their only hope of avoiding the destitution which was all around them lay in being accepted, and so being supported by the middle ranks who seemed to be escaping the worst consequences of the reforms of the era. They both deeply wanted to be accepted by them and, at the same time, felt a deep need to be identified as not belonging to the pernicious ranks of the slothful.

They were not vagabonds and wastrels. They took life seriously and wanted nothing more than to be recognized as morally upright, desirous of owning and conserving property and willing to engage in work to that end. They had already adopted, or were more than willing, if they could find employment, to adopt "those habits of industry, which always tend to steadiness and sobriety of conduct, and to consequent material wealth and prosperity" (Codere 1950, p. 24).

They found the means of achieving both of these heartfelt longings in the religious revivals which swept Britain and the American colonies (soon to become the United States) through the 18th and on into the 19th century. The religious revivals were to provide a means for lower-middle ranking people to demonstrate and reaffirm their respectability.

Nothing reduces human beings to greater despair and distress than threat of the imminent loss of not only the means of livelihood but of self-esteem and status. The lower middle ranks of the 18th century found themselves facing possible destitution and treatment as though they belonged with those who, as Joseph Townsend (1786) described them later in the century, had

by their improvidence, by their prodigality... drunkenness and vices, ... dissipated all their substance... by their debaucheries... ruined their constitutions, and reduced themselves to such a deplorable condition that they have neither inclination nor ability to work. 136

There seemed no way out, no way in which they could reassert their status and respectability and demonstrate their commitment to industry and to all the associated 'middle sort' moral virtues of the century.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, they were thrown a lifeline. Preachers, clearly members of the gentry, began travelling the country, offering them acceptance, legitimacy, and the possibility of banding together into societies of disciplined, industrious, moral people. They flocked to hear them and to commit their lives to their causes in the hundreds of thousands. At meeting after meeting, they expressed their heartfelt relief at the possibility of redemption, of committing themselves, unreservedly, to a life of industry and frugality, of religious and moral discipline and virtue 137 .

Born-Again to Industry: the Conversion of the Little Gentry Return to Chapter Index

The preachers were bemused both by their own success in attracting such crowds to hear them speak, and by the depth of the emotional response to their message. Time and again, to messages as prosaic as many of the sermons of John Wesley, people lost emotional control, falling to the ground, crying uncontrollably, losing control of their faculties. And the fervor with which they sang the songs of the revival was a testimony to the depth of their despair and their revived hope for the future.

In the early to mid 18th century the middle ranks increasingly confused money-making and religious ideals. More and more of them justified themselves through involvement in money-making activities and the churches, which had been so strong in the 17th century, found it difficult to attract and hold members 138 .

At the same time, the minority who took their religion seriously felt increasingly ill at ease with the worldliness and materialism of the age and felt themselves burdened with a responsibility of their own to maintain their spiritual focus. John Wesley, as a young man in 1734, expressed it well in writing to his father,

I take religion to be, not the bare saying of so many prayers, morning and evening, in public or in private; nor anything superadded now and then to a careless or worldly life; but a constant ruling habit of the soul; a renewal of our minds in the image of God; a recovery of the Divine likeness; a still increasing conformity of heart and life to the pattern of our most Holy Redeemer.
(quoted in Harrison, 1942, p. 17)

Through the 18th century, in the face of what such people saw as a constantly increasing hedonistic materialism among the affluent middle ranks, they held to their faith and brought it to those who were prepared to listen. But, of course, they carried within them the understandings of their time and of their social ranking.

As historians have stressed over the years 139 , the religious revivals of the 18th century were conservative, not radical in orientation. The disciplines imposed on and accepted by the converts have been viewed as repressive and restrictive. Yet, as we will see, these were the very features which resulted in its enormous influence over the subsequent three hundred years in, first, English speaking countries and communities, and then, through the subsequent efflorescence of capitalism, in much of the rest of western Europe.

It was one of the early concerns of the Wesley brothers and other members of the 'Holy Club' at Oxford (from which many of the preachers came) that they too easily succumbed to laziness, a great 'weakness of the flesh', when God wanted them to 'employ their time profitably'. Industry and frugality, as John Wesley was to repeat time and again, are the inevitable outcomes of true godliness.

The following advice to his followers, in a tract published in 1762, providing instructions for daily living to those who belonged to Methodist Societies, is typical of his views on the subject,

Be active. Give no place to indolence or sloth; give no occasion to say, `Ye are idle, ye are idle.' Many will say so still; but let your whole spirit and behavior refute the slander. Be always employed; lose no shred of time; gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost. And whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might. 140

If human beings found themselves destitute, if they felt that God had abandoned them, they had only to commit their lives to Him and live as He had intended them to live. This would inevitably result in God's blessing. The demonstration of one's commitment to God was the diligence with which one applied oneself to 'one's calling'. If one was called to preach, then preach one must. If one was called to ply one's trade, then ply one's trade 'as unto God'. As Wesley put it, "Religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches." (quoted in Thompson 1980, p. 391)

In the 18th century, for both the religiously committed and for the majority of more loosely religious people of the middle ranks, progress was closely tied to God's plan for the world. Those who lived by his precepts, through their commitment and dedication, would ensure that the future would be that which He had planned. To show weakness in the face of unrepentant immorality was to endorse such behavior. One rejoiced 'with the Angels at one sinner brought to repentance', but one thundered the wrath of God to those who willfully refused His grace.

The century saw many very successful evangelists carrying this message to the 'lost'. It was, however, John Wesley, a man who knew that God had a plan for the world and that His plan could only be worked out through people who dedicated themselves to ensuring it, who was to fashion the doctrinal base for evangelical Protestantism over the next two hundred years. He was, in their hundreds of thousands, to 'convert' the deeply threatened lower-middle ranks to 'Methodism' 141 . In doing so, he was also to set the scene for the 'Victorian morality' of the next century.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, emphasis on the freedom of the individual from domination by both political and religious bureaucracies had led, in some instances, to anarchy, to an anti-law (antinomian) view of the rights of the individual. Since the individual was saved by grace, any attempt to merit God's favor through 'works' countered the grace of God. So, it was, in the most extreme forms of antinomianism, argued that the individual could display the depth of the grace of God through ignoring or contravening both moral and social rules and regulations.

In reaction to this, Luther, Calvin and other protest leaders of the 16th century emphasized the importance of civil law and order, and required their followers to live closely regulated lives. Nonetheless, the evils of the centuries were commonly believed to be a consequence of this lawless strain in extreme forms of Protestantism.

By the turn of the 18th century the common teaching was that, while individuals were saved by grace through faith, this salvation was demonstrated in the life of the individual through the Christian's 'blameless' life - as Jesus had said, "By their fruit you will recognize them" (Matthew Ch. 7 Verse 16). Wesley, as a consequence both of his family's experiences while growing up and of his own disputes with antinomian pietists and Calvinist dissenters, developed a theology which, while perhaps not as consistent as those of earlier protestant leaders, nonetheless directly addressed what he perceived to be fundamental weaknesses of both antinomianism and Calvinism.

Calvinists stressed the Divine prerogative in salvation. Since people were saved by grace, not works, no person could do anything to gain salvation, it was a 'free gift of God'. If people had to believe in order to be saved, they had to perform a 'work', that of actively believing. To get around this problem, Calvin had argued that God had, from the time of creation, 'elected' those to be saved. All that happened when people became religiously 'awakened' was that they became aware of what had already happened.

This awakening did not bring about their salvation, they simply became conscious of the salvation which God had accomplished 'before the foundation of the world'. Because they now knew they were among the elect, they delighted to do the will of God. Any person who was truly one of the elect, once he or she realized this, would, in thankfulness to God, want to live to please him. By their lives they would show that they really were among the elect. Of course, the flaw in this was that if people were destined to be saved, no matter what they did, then the door was always open to antinomianism.

Wesley, as a confirmed high church Anglican, was brought up in a religious environment in which faith and works went hand in hand. One showed one's faith through membership of the church, and one 'worked out one's salvation with fear and trembling'. The danger of this approach was, of course, the one which the Calvinists sought to avoid through the doctrine of election. People could be seen as 'earning' salvation through their works - the papist doctrine which Protestants claimed had brought about the Reformation in the first place.

Wesley's solution, while perhaps logically flawed, was nonetheless persuasive for ordinary people not embroiled in the intricacies of theology. First, people were saved by God's grace, through the active exercise of their free will. This was the only 'work' that any person could do to merit salvation. No form of morality, no form of legal rectitude, no membership of any religious body could bring a person to salvation. They merely exercised their 'free-will' in deciding whether or not they wanted to be saved.

When the person approached God in this way, He always accepted them. As a hymn of the period put it - "Only Believe, Only Believe, all things are possible, Only Believe". So, there were no 'elect', with the rest of humanity damned whether they liked it or not.

When people, aware of their utter helplessness and sinfulness, approached God, He gave them a 'new life', they were 'born again'. It was no longer them, but 'Christ in them'. They were given the 'Spirit of Christ' and from that point on could please God by their works, since they were not their own works, but the works of 'Christ in them, the hope of glory'. They were on the path to sanctification. Their hearts having been reoriented to God, they were being "transformed by the renewing of their minds".

As Kathryn Long has put it, speaking of attitudes reflected in the religious revivals of that century in 19th Century United States,

the stress on personal piety confirmed long-standing convictions that the only true path to social change came through individual conversions.
(1998 p. 107)

However, Wesley felt the need for some stronger reason for living lives 'acceptable to God' than an individual desire to be sanctified. Not only were people saved through an act of faith, they could also be lost through an act of will. The person who did not live to God, lived to self and, therefore, gave room to evil. This was why one had to 'work out one's salvation with fear and trembling'.

Wesley was to teach, for more than half a century, that while individuals were saved by grace through faith, and could not begin to please God until they had been 'born again', they could also commit spiritual suicide by failing to live as God intended them to. Such people had 'the form of godliness but denied the power of it'. When these people who were 'neither hot nor cold' were found within a community of Christians they should be expelled. Christians had a duty to discipline one another.

Those who were not "pressing on toward the goal" of the renewing of their minds, were 'backsliding'. And Christians could recognize such people. As Jesus had said,

By their fruit you will recognize them... Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord', will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
(Matthew 7: 16, 21)

So, one either pressed toward the goal, or one was in danger of being rejected by God - and, if by God, then also by Wesleyan Christians.

The theology might have been shaky, but the motivational message was forceful. It proved hugely successful in motivating those who accepted the message on both sides of the Atlantic over the next two hundred years.

By the end of the 18th century they would become a major religious, economic and political force within Britain and the emerging United States of America, deeply dedicated to industry and frugality, to the principle of "whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might". And it was they, not the financiers, bankers, and landowners of the country, who provided the engine for what was, indeed, to be an 'industrial revolution' which would set Britain and her transatlantic offspring on course to world empire and economic domination in the next centuries.

In a century when the moral commitment of the gentry to industry and frugality faltered, and might well have died, a new kind of 'gentleman' emerged, religiously dedicated to the unending pursuit of wealth and property, and to innovative production.

Born Again Manufacturers and Retailers Return to Chapter Index

The religious organizations which grew from the revivals or were transformed to accommodate them, provided these people with an ongoing means of deeply reaffirming the values which their 'conversions' had affirmed. Through them, they could re-establish the networks of respectability in which they had been brought up, and promote those values as essential to salvation for all human beings.

They knew that 'but for the grace of God', they too would have found themselves counted among the destitute of the century. They also quickly learned, through the preaching and teaching of the itinerant evangelists who were their leaders and mentors, that, having been saved by grace, through faith, they had begun lives of discipline and commitment to all the virtues of the century.

The Wesleyan Methodist societies, classes and bands provided the clearest model, but what John Wesley built up over more than fifty years in England was replicated with modification by many other evangelists not only in England but through Ireland, Wales, Scotland and the American colonies 142 . The religious revivals of the time were, largely as a result of Wesley's vision, strongly organized, with the redeemed encouraged to long-term discipline and direction by their peers and leaders.

The deep, emotional nature of their conversion, based on a commitment to the moral values of those who brought the possibility of redemption to them, resulted in them being far more committed and determined to live by the understandings of the century than those who, till this time, had been the major promoters of modern values. By the mid 19th century, the religious revivals of Britain and the United States were overtly focused within the newly successful middle ranks of the population.

The 1858 revival in New York sprang from "a weekly prayer meeting for businessmen" (Long 1998, p. 13). Those involved in the religious 'awakenings' which recurred over more than a century on both sides of the Atlantic from the early 1730s onwards, became, over the next two centuries, the moral center, the 'moral majority' of the western communities in which they lived.

They were convinced that only through faith and reliance on 'the grace of God' had they escaped catastrophe, committed to living by both moral and economic laws and convinced, as Kant explained, that

All the culture and art which adorn humanity, the most refined social order, are produced by that unsociability which is compelled by its own existence to discipline itself, and so by enforced art to bring the seeds implanted by Nature into full flower.

When they sang "Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me", they meant it with every fiber of their being.

The 18th century had launched a new, emotionally committed, community of capitalists. The driving force of the 'industrial revolution' was to come, not from the financiers and well-established gentry of the era, but from those who had been redeemed to be productive.

The term 'Methodist industrialist' was, by the early 19th century, a common descriptor for those who took both their religion and their productive enterprise seriously. They established factory towns and day schools and were concerned not only with money-making, but also with the moral development of those they employed.

Andrew Ure, in 1835, speaking of Richard Arkwright's 143 contribution to the emergence of the industrial factory explained this:

What his judgment so clearly led him to perceive, his energy of will enabled him to realize with such rapidity and success, as would have done honour to the most influential individuals, but were truly wonderful in that obscure and indigent artisan...

The main difficulty did not, to my apprehension, lie so much in the invention of a proper self-acting mechanism for drawing out and twisting cotton into a continuous thread, as in the distribution of the different members of the apparatus into one cooperative body, in impelling each organ with its appropriate delicacy and speed, and above all, in training human beings to renounce their desultory habits of work, and to identify themselves with the unvarying regularity of the complex automation.

To devise and administer a successful code of factory discipline, suited to the necessities of factory diligence, was the Herculean enterprise, the noble achievement of Arkwright.
(The Philosophy of Manufactures, 1835)

The revivals of the 18th century shared little with the cerebral, theological drive for religious reform which had brought 16th and 17th century protestant groups into being. They were 'charismatic', as that term has come to be used of similar movements in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Those who were 'saved', displayed all the passion for salvation and for recognition one might expect from people who felt themselves trapped and destined to be treated as what they were not. And they accepted and determined to live by the precepts and directives of their spiritual mentors.

Their mentors reaffirmed the presumptions of capitalism. As Whitefield, one of the very successful evangelists of the century on both sides of the Atlantic explained,

Nothing tries my temper more than to see any about me idle; an idle person tempts the devil to tempt him... if anybody says the Methodists [followers of the Wesley brothers] teach to be idle, they injure them. We tell people to be at their work early and late, that they may redeem time to attend the word. If all that speak against the Methodists were as diligent, it would be better for their wives and families. What, do you think a true Methodist will be idle?
(quoted in Armstrong 1973, p. 123)

A New Moral Leadership and Support Network Return to Chapter Index

The Methodist movement of the 18th century found its leadership, not in the dissenting churches, descendants of the puritanical, protestant movements of the 16th and 17th centuries, but in the established Church of England. And, although the hierarchy of the state church seemed reluctant to be associated with such enthusiastic Christianity, the leaders of the movement were, largely, committed to ensuring that their converts remained within the Church. So, for more than fifty years, the tightly organized and disciplined Methodist societies remained religious communities connected to the parishes of the state church.

This prolonged association did more to convince dedicated Methodists of the worldliness and lack of moral leadership in higher levels of society than almost anything else could have. Since the Anglican clergy were appointed by the Anglican hierarchy, local communities had little influence over those selected to lead them. Very often, they found themselves having to endure leadership which seemed almost inimical to the lives they had committed themselves to leading. As Archibald Harrison put it,

The Methodists themselves were increasingly reluctant to attend services conducted by clergy with no apparent interest in spiritual religion, and, too frequently, with reputations far below the standards of the gospel it was their business to proclaim.
(1942, p. 169)

They became increasingly convinced that they, themselves, would have to provide the moral leadership they sought. They could not look to their social superiors for moral direction. Rather, they could expect that those above them would, at best, display a lukewarm attitude to the moral virtues.

For these 'born again' Christians, the 'upper middle ranks', together with the aristocracy, were largely composed of people who, as Paul had explained to Timothy (2 Tim. 3:5), held "the form of religion but denied the power of it." Wesley had no hesitation in endorsing Paul's advice, "Avoid such people". He provided his own description of their shallowness, "So much paint and affectation, so many unmeaning words and senseless customs among people of rank" (quoted in Armstrong 1973, p. 88).

Those 'born again' in the 18th century revivals became the guardians of morality and prosperity. So dominant did they become that the virtues they espoused and promoted became the virtues of more than a century of middle ranking people. Even those who were, in truth, part of the earlier gentry, largely untouched by the religious revivals, found themselves having to publicly endorse the virtues. And born-again Methodists knew, with a conviction confirmed by experience, that if they did not hold the moral center, no one would.

The stern nature of the discipline they imposed on each other was tempered by social responsibility for those who repented and joined their ranks. The societies and classes of Methodism were not just religious groupings, they took moral, social and economic responsibility for each other. In doing so, they formed strong support networks, providing a social and economic refuge for people who saw the world closing in on them. As Armstrong described,

The societies helped the poor among their members - it was one of the duties of the stewards to arrange such relief. The maintenance of a 'lending stock' by the societies meant that loans of from one to five pounds could be made to poor members on the recommendation of the borrower's class leader.
(1973, p. 88)

This approach to the problems of the poor in their ranks is very similar to some of the 'pump priming' activities of 'credit banks' over the last forty years in 'developing' areas. The primary difference is that the pump priming lending of Methodist societies went to people who were already oriented to capitalist endeavor and whose activities were overseen by others of similar bent.

The lending did not produce the capitalist orientation, as some credit societies seem to presume will happen in Third World communities. Rather, it facilitated small business activity for people already aware of the need for frugal industry, the deferment of short term rewards for long term gain, and intent on the accumulation of capital as a means of demonstrating their inherent morality 144 .

Methodists did not develop small scale credit societies among the unredeemed poor as a means of stimulating small business among them. They knew that money lent to such people would be spent on present needs and wants, not used to make more money.

In fact, many of those who were 'saved' from the ranks of 'the poor', failed to remain within the societies. They quickly proved themselves unreliable borrowers, who could not be trusted to use the money given them 'wisely' and, consequently, fell short of the moral requirements of the communities in which they found themselves.

The Methodists, quite unconsciously, selected people of like temper, those who were already committed to the middle ranking virtues of the century. Those whose background was among the 'poor' seldom demonstrated the long term 'habits of industry' which ensured acceptance.

Not only was this kind of support given within Methodist societies to help members out of poverty, it was also seen as a means of ensuring that they remained committed to Methodism. The networks of Methodism provided strong business support to small business people. Those who found themselves expelled from a society because they failed to measure up to the spiritual and moral requirements of the group, often found that their businesses suffered once they no longer had access to the networks through which their business activity had been established.

John Wesley, ever a practical leader, realized the power which such support had in ensuring that people remained committed to the cause, or were drawn back to commitment through being helped in this way. In a letter to the Methodist Society at Keighley, London, in 1779, he describes the financial difficulties into which a former member of the Society had fallen.

The person concerned, one William Shent, had for many years been a faithful member of the Society, but had been disciplined some time earlier and expelled for not living up to the moral requirements of membership. With support from the group removed, his business activities fell apart and he and his family were now in danger of being evicted from their home. Wesley wrote,

Who is he that is ready now to be broken up and turned into the street? William Shent. And does nobody care for this? William Shent fell into sin and was publicly expelled from the Society; but must he also starve? Must he with his grey hairs and with all his children be without a place to lay his head?...

Who is wise among you? Who is concerned for the Gospel? Who has put on the bowels of mercy? Let him arise and exert himself in this matter. You here all arise as one man and roll away the reproach. Let us set him on his feet at once. It may save both him and his family.
(Brash 1928, p. 105)

It is in this group of religiously committed capitalists that one must look to find the capitalist spirit of the 19th century, that spirit to which the British prime minister Margaret Thatcher referred when she claimed, in the late 1970s, that British people should revive the moral values of the previous century.

The superficial charge laid against 19th century middle ranking people, that their morality was largely hypocritical, only holds if one fails to recognize the large number of fellow travelers who came under the influence of Methodists and members of those dissenting Churches which were reinvigorated through participation in the 18th century religious revivals. It is a testament to the social force of the movement, that the values of those saved by grace in the 18th century, became the values of an age.

Of course, although the religious revivals of the 18th century produced a morally committed middle class of capitalists, they brought their values with them into the revival. The revival preachers and teachers of the 18th century strongly reaffirmed the important moral values of the middle ranks of western European communities. Those from the lower middle ranks, who found themselves most directly threatened by the reforms of the period, were drawn to leaders who offered them both recognition and practical support.

In a time when little distinction was being drawn between the poor and the lower middle ranks, reformers set out to teach the lower ranks the importance of work. In the process, those who were converted developed strong, religiously reinforced support networks which enabled them to succeed in business in a way that had not been possible in earlier times.

Wesley summed up the impact of Methodism on the lives of his followers in a sermon toward the end of his life,

The Methodists grow more and more self-indulgent, because they grow rich. Although many of them are still deplorably poor... yet many others, in the space of twenty, thirty or forty years, are twenty, thirty, yea, a hundred times richer than they were when they first entered the society. And it is an observation which admits of few exceptions, than nine in ten of these decreased in grace, in the same proportion as they increased in wealth. Does it not seem (and yet this cannot be) that Christianity, true scriptural Christianity, has a tendency to destroy itself?
(quoted in Armstrong 1973, p. 95)

While the Methodists took their religion seriously, all their energies were focused on life within this world. The religious virtues they promoted were capitalist virtues from the 17th century, shaped by the understandings of the 18th. They lived in an age when self-interest and the private accumulation of wealth and property were assumed to result in the Summum Bonum. As Appleby has explained,

Where earlier the disposal of a harvest or the pursuit of a trade had been conditional upon the likely social impact, the acceptance of near-absolute property rights had driven a wedge between society and the economy. With the curtailment of political oversight over economic life, the formal link between the material resources of the country and the people to be sustained by them had been cut. The commonwealth had become an aggregation of private wealth.
(Appleby 1978, p. 151)

Good Methodists knew that self-interested private enterprise, driven by a deep commitment to industry and frugality, and resulting in the private accumulation of wealth, were virtuous. As Harrison says,

The Wesleyans were particularly numerous among the shopkeepers, farmers, and better-class artisans... In some cathedral cities nearly all the shops in the High Street would be Methodist shops and a great Wesleyan congregation would gather under the very shadow of the Cathedral... In big business and in Northern factories, too, Wesleyan Methodism was prominent and grew in wealth in the prosperous years.
(1942, p. 180)

As Methodists grew wealthy they found themselves able to emulate the lifestyles and become accepted by the middle sorts with whom they had long desired to be identified. Methodism provided a moral leavening to the 19th century. In the process, the 'old money' middle ranking families took on a veneer of 'morality' which enabled the 'new money' Methodists to interact with them without seeming to betray their Methodist values. The values of the two groupings slowly merged. In business one emphasized disciplined self-interest. In social life one accepted philanthropic responsibility for the 'improvement' of the poor.

By the 19th century, Methodists and others belonging to communities which came out of the 18th century revivals were dominant in both manufacturing and retailing. Those who were the descendants of 17th and 18th century gentry very often provided the finance for the more extensive of their activities. As Andrew Ure (1835, pp. 20,1) described, while explaining the emergence of factories in the late 18th century,

In its precise acceptation, the Factory system is of recent origin, and may claim England for its birthplace. The mills for throwing silk, or making organzine, which were mounted centuries ago in several of the Italian states, and furtively transferred to this country by Sir Thomas Lombe in 1718, contained indeed certain elements of a factory, and probably suggested some hints of those grander and more complex combinations of self-acting machines, which were first embodied half a century later in our cotton manufacture by Richard Arkwright, assisted by gentlemen of Derby, well acquainted with its celebrated silk establishment.

From the outset, as Brash (1928, p. 179) says, "Methodism was an army of missionaries". Every convert was a potential evangelist, every society and class accepted an evangelical mission to 'the lost'. Those who were at the forefront of the religious revival movements in Wales, England, Ireland, Scotland and in the various American colonies, believed they had been directly chosen by God. They had His mandate to "bring sinners to repentance", and if they failed, the damnation of those they had failed to reach would be their responsibility. They knew that the warning God had given Ezekiel was theirs also,

... if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.
(Ezekiel 33:6)

Equally, they accepted the responsibility that Wesley had made his own. They not only 'saved' the lost, they organized them into churches and communities, and they introduced the disciplines of 18th and 19th century Methodist Christianity and economic rationality to those they organized in these ways. They had the responsibility not only to bring salvation to the lost, but, in the process, to bring them civilization and consequent material prosperity.

Richard Whateley, Archbishop of Dublin, in 1854, explained the problem,

Men, left in the lowest, or even anything approaching the lowest, degree of barbarism, in which they can possibly subsist at all, never did, and never can raise themselves, unaided, into a higher condition 145 .

Because all human beings were sinners, and because 'enlightenment' depended on the grace of God, not only were people 'saved' from perdition, they were also, inevitably, saved to a new way of life, to a higher level of civilization than they could ever reach on their own. They were, by God's grace, and by the disciplines of their churches, delivered from lives of sloth and indigence into lives of industry and prosperity. Through this they would

overcome the present disposition either to sloth or to enjoyment. This habit is slowly acquired, and is in reality a principal distinction of nations in the advanced state of mechanic and commercial arts.
(Ferguson 1767 Part 2, Section 2)

As Herbert Schlossberg described,

In 1837 a clergyman in Leeds remarked that

the most established religion in Leeds is Methodism, and it is Methodism that all the most pious among the Churchmen unconsciously talk,

That is, Methodism, which by then had separated from the Church of England, had come to dominate the thinking of the city to the extent that even Anglicans had been swallowed up in its spirit, albeit without realizing it...

The "secular' 18th century, when we look beneath the surface, turns out to be the start of a profound spiritual revival. As it spread from the Church of England throughout the society, it affected the life of non-Anglican, or Dissenting, congregations. The chapels in which the dissenters worshiped increasingly rang with the ideas and hymns of the evangelical movement.
(2000, pp. 8, 10)

By the mid 19th century, Methodism would become the leavening of Victorian Britain. From the high, to the lower-middle, to the artisanal 'working class' (but seldom to the 'idle poor'), the British increasingly committed themselves to the understandings of Methodism, to a religiously invigorated capitalism.

The American War of Independence resulted in a hiatus in direct influences from Britain to the American colonies. The revival in Britain preceded a similar movement in the colonies by some thirty to forty years. The missionaries of the British 'Awakening' proved most effective as the colonies settled down and law and order were reimposed under the new United States administration.

As Mary Cayton (1997) explained, between 1794 and 1832 thousands of converts streamed into the non-conformist churches of British North America, and, as in Britain, the bulk of those who committed themselves to an active religious life were involved in petty-business. As Cayton said,

Especially in the Northeast, then rapidly being drawn into a net of complex market relationships, those entering upon the responsibilities of adulthood but also many of other life stages, and members of an emerging entrepreneurial class but also those of other stations and callings, were caught up in intensified religious expression.

They experienced conversions, joined organizations designed to promote a host of benevolent causes, and swelled church rolls. They were Congregationalists and Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists, and together they comprised a movement that historians in retrospect have called the Second Great Awakening.

First The Poor, Then The World! Return to Chapter Index

What started in Britain, very quickly reached outward to the whole world. Those who entered the movement in the 18th century knew that there were no geographical boundaries to bringing sinners to repentance. With Wesley, they asserted that the world was their parish.

Out of the 18th century religious revivals came the evangelical missionary movement of the 19th and 20th centuries. And, as they moved into the world, they took their Western European lower middle class values with them. As Cairns has described of missionary attitudes in central Africa in the 19th century,

The proper attitude was indicated by Carson of the L. M. S. [London Missionary Society] who, after noting that African men spent 'much time in indolence', remarked that it was inconceivable 'how the practice of that vice in the African race can be supposed to conduce to happiness in them when it makes us so miserable'.
(1965, p. 80)

Those who were 'born again' should, in the minds of these missionaries, be born into frugal, self-disciplined industry, into conserving possessions, into accumulating wealth, and into using the wealth they accumulated 'wisely'.

They took capitalism to the world. And, since people in other communities seemed to have so little internalized discipline, so little regard for prudent, productive endeavor, they realized they had a responsibility to discipline and train them.

Out of missionary endeavor among the poor, among the destitute in western Europe, and out of similar activity among the 'benighted' of other regions, came a strong belief in the need for practical education to teach converts to live as 'God had intended them to live'.

But, despite all its success in the Anglo-speaking world, and the extensive network of societies and churches which sprang from the movement, very few of those on the lowest rungs of the social order were drawn into the revival movement. The redemption of the lower middle rankings of British and North American communities still left large numbers of poor dispossessed and cast adrift in the century, relatively untouched by the revivals which had swept their countries.

The redemption of the artisans, tradespeople and small holders of the century did not predispose them to accepting the irreligion and laziness of the poor. It made them resolute in doing something about 'the problem'. They did not have to look far to find those who constituted it. They were on their own door step, a group of people who defied all law and morality. James Kay (1832) described the lower classes inhabiting a district in Manchester,

This district has sometimes been the haunt of hordes of thieves and desperados who defied the law, and is always inhabited by a class resembling savages in their appetites and habits. It is surrounded on every side by some of the largest factories of the town, whose chimneys vomit forth dense clouds of smoke, which hang heavily over this insalubrious region.

Capitalism was in full bloom! It was time for the new moral capitalist leaders of Britain to tame and civilize the hordes of thieves and desperadoes which lived on their own doorsteps. And they set about it with all the determination they had employed in building their new industrializing world.

End of Chapter

Chapter 5:
The Virtuous Capitalist, The Poor and the Wasteland Return to Index of Chapters

[Factory Workers] pamper themselves into nervous ailments by a diet too rich and exciting for their in-door occupations
(Andrew Ure 1835, p. 298)

Bubbles and Wasteland Return to Chapter Index

The trader, in rude ages, is short-sighted, fraudulent, and mercenary; but in the progress and advanced state of his art, his views are enlarged, his maxims are established: he becomes punctual, liberal, faithful, and enterprising; and in the period of general corruption, he alone has every virtue, except the force to defend his acquisitions. He needs no aid from the state, but its protection; and is often in himself its most intelligent and respectable member.
Adam Ferguson (1767 Pt 3, Section 4)

Ferguson's description of 18th century Western European gentry in the 2nd half of the 18th century is in stark contrast to Thomas Jefferson's description,

...they have divided their nations into two classes, wolves and sheep. I do not exaggerate. This is a true picture of Europe. ...man is the only animal which devours his own kind; for I can apply no milder term to the governments of Europe, and to the general prey of the rich on the poor.
(Thomas Jefferson, 1787 146 )

Jefferson was a visitor to Europe and his reaction is that of a relatively detached outsider witnessing the consequences of the enlightened self-interest of the gentry: injustice and oppression of those least able to defend themselves - the poor.

Ferguson was a Scottish gentleman. He had lived inside the bubble of middle class Western European society all his life and saw everything outside that bubble as a wasteland which needed to be reclaimed.

If that wasteland was to be reclaimed, its inhabitants rescued from poverty, moral depravity and sloth, it would be because the gentry set the example and took responsibility both for 'developing' their environments and for re-educating the indolent poor. Those who practised enlightened self-interest did so for the most moral of reasons. They were securing the future for everyone. They needed protection from the state to ensure that all the benefits which flowed from enlightened self-interest were realized 147 .

The wasteland was a 'nursery for thieves and villains'. They were poor because they were indisciplined and lazy, not because of the rapacious greed of the gentry! 148 The poor lacked the virtues that had become natural to the gentry.

When middle ranking people looked at a gentleman they saw a virtuous man. Adam Smith, in a book appropriately entitled The Theory of Moral Sentiments, explained it well. It was from the realization that such people were securing the future for everyone in society that there,

arises that eminent esteem with which all men naturally regard a steady perseverance in the practice of frugality, industry, and application, though directed to no other purpose than the acquisition of fortune. The resolute firmness of the person who acts in this manner, and in order to obtain a great though remote advantage, not only gives up all present pleasures, but endures the greatest labor both of mind and body, necessarily commands our approbation. 149
(1759 Part 4 Ch. 2)

Such people did not merely pursue prudent self-interest for their own gain or because others insisted they should. They knew, in their own hearts, that prudent, self-interested industry and frugality were amongst the most important of the virtues:

In the steadiness of his industry and frugality, in his steadily sacrificing the ease and enjoyment of the present moment for the probable expectation of the still greater ease and enjoyment of a more distant but more lasting period of time, the prudent man is always both supported and rewarded by the entire approbation of the impartial spectator, and of the representative of the impartial spectator, the man within the breast.
(Smith 1759, Part 6 Section 1)

The 18th and 19th centuries were the centuries in which capitalism was to flourish, unfettered by laws and regulations. It was to be the period when the long-term impact of capitalism on the living conditions of the poor would become obvious.

What would happen to the least fortunate, to the inhabitants of the wastelands, when the 'steady perseverance in the practice of frugality, industry, and application, though directed to no other purpose than the acquisition of fortune' was allowed full play?

Who were 'The Poor'? Return to Chapter Index

They were the dispossessed, inhabitants of the wastelands of Western Europe. They were the rubble of feudal society. For them, feudal understandings 150 , inevitably warped and altered by the centuries of turmoil, confrontation and change in western Europe, were still central.

But, the patron-client structures of the feudal past were gone. There were no patrons on whom they could rely, no institutional supports which might protect their rights. They had lost those over more than three hundred years of feudal decay and collapse. They had become

hordes of thieves and desperados who defied the law ... a class resembling savages in their appetites and habits
(James Kay (1832)).

Thomas More had described their plight two centuries earlier, when their patrons resolved 'to enclose many thousand acres of ground'.

... [T]he owners as well as tenants are turned out of their possessions, by tricks, or by main force, or being wearied out with ill-usage, they are forced to sell them.

By which means those miserable people, both men and women, married and unmarried, old and young, with their poor but numerous families (since country business requires many hands), are all forced to change their seats, not knowing whither to go; and they must sell almost for nothing their household stuff, which could not bring them much money, even though they might stay for a buyer.

When that little money is at an end, for it will be soon spent, what is left for them to do, but either to steal and so to be hanged (God knows how justly), or to go about and beg? And if they do this, they are put in prison as idle vagabonds
(1516, Utopia, Book 1)

Not much had changed in two centuries!

They were the dispossessed of Western Europe, the weak who could not defend themselves against patrons turned capitalist (or, as Jefferson put it, 'turned wolf'). They constituted separate communities from the gentry, money makers and aristocracy of Europe, only connecting with them as menials, laborers, vagabonds and thieves. They had not socialized with or shared the interests and understandings of the middle ranks. The gentry, with their distinctive ways of living, moved in social spheres beyond their vision, and, largely, beyond their interest.

Among the more intemperate descriptions of these people is that given by Daniel Defoe (1725?), son of a tallow chandler (a member of the Worshipful Company of Butchers) and aspiring member of the gentry. His writings grew in popularity through the 19th century:

How many frequent robberies are committed by these japanners? And to how many more are they confederates? Silver spoons, spurs, and other small pieces of plate, are every day missing, and very often found upon these sort of gentlemen; yet are they permitted, to the shame of all our good laws, and the scandal of our most excellent government, to lurk about our streets, to debauch our servants and apprentices, and support an infinite number of scandalous, shameless trulls, yet more wicked than themselves, for not a Jack among them but must have his Gill.

By whom such indecencies are daily acted, even in our open streets, as are very offensive to the eyes and ears of all sober persons, and even abominable in a Christian country.

In any riot, or other disturbance, these sparks are always the foremost; for most among them can turn their hands to picking of pockets, to run away with goods from a fire, or other public confusion, to snatch anything from a woman or child, to strip a house when the door is open, or any other branch of a thief's profession.

In short, it is a nursery for thieves and villains; modest women are every day insulted by them and their strumpets; and such children who run about the streets, or those servants who go on errands, do but too frequently bring home some scraps of their beastly profane wit; insomuch, that the conversation of our lower rank of people runs only upon bawdy and blasphemy, notwithstanding our societies for reformation, and our laws in force against profaneness; for this lazy life gets them many proselytes, their numbers daily increasing from runaway apprentices and footboys, insomuch that it is a very hard matter for a gentleman to get him a servant, or for a tradesman to find an apprentice 151 .

Innumerable other mischiefs accrue, and others will spring up from this race of caterpillars, who must be swept from out our streets, or we shall be overrun with all manner of wickedness.

Who's to blame for their poverty and degrading circumstances? Return to Chapter Index

They were childish ingrates, who expected something for nothing, who refused to take life seriously and suffered the consequences of their indisciplined laziness. It was time for them to grow up, to accept responsibility for life, not live on unearned handouts.

Bernard Mandeville expressed it well. If one supported people through offering them unearned handouts they would become lazy and dependent on welfare.

Charity, where it is too extensive, seldom fails of promoting Sloth and Idleness, and is good for little in the Commonwealth but to breed Drones and destroy Industry.
(Appendix to 1724 edition of Fable of the Bees entitled 'An Essay on Charity and Charity-Schools')

Samuel Smiles (1859), in a popular book of the mid 19th century, entitled 'Self-Help', provided the reasons why, after one hundred and fifty years of unregulated capitalism, the poor were still poor, all-too-often living and working in sub-human conditions. They were 'the extravagant', who 'wasted their resources'. It was their own fault if they were poor!

...the lesson of self-denial - the sacrificing of a present gratification for a future good - is one of the last that is learnt. Those classes which work the hardest might naturally be expected to value the most money which they earn. Yet the readiness with which so many are accustomed to eat up and drink up their earnings as they go, renders them to a great extent helpless and dependent upon the frugal.

Any class of men that lives from hand to mouth will ever be an inferior class. They will necessarily remain impotent and helpless, hanging on to the skirts of society, the sport of times and seasons. Having no respect for themselves, they will fail in securing the respect of others. In commercial crises, such men must inevitably "go to the wall." Wanting that husband power which a store of savings, no matter how small, invariably gives them, they will be at every man's mercy, and, if possessed of right feelings, they cannot but regard with fear and trembling the future possible fate of their wives and children.

"The world," once said Mr. Cobden to the working men of Huddersfield,

has always been divided into two classes - those who have saved, and those who have spent - the thrifty and the extravagant.

The building of all the houses, the mills, the bridges, and the ships, and the accomplishment of all other great works which have rendered man civilized and happy, has been done by the savers, the thrifty; and those who have wasted their resources have always been their slaves.

It has been the law of nature and of Providence that this should be so; and I were an imposter if I promised any class that they would advance themselves if they were improvident, thoughtless, and idle.

( 1859, Chapter 9 Para.5)

Samuel Scriven's 1842 report to the House of Commons on factory conditions in 'Mines and Manufactories', outlined the problems in dealing with the poor. No matter what good, virtuous gentlemen did, nothing could be improved so long as the poor behaved as they now did.

To contextualize Scriven's views, one needs to remember the contemporary situation in which he was writing.

The Speenhamland decrees 152 in the late 18th century allowed employers to pay "market rates" for labor, which soon drove wages below what was necessary to maintain subsistence. Parishes were required to make up the shortfall from their rates. The significance of this is that wages really did fall below what was considered necessary to ensure subsistence. It was not possible to live on the wages of just one or two members of the family without parish support.

In 1834 the Poor Laws were amended to remove this 'burden' from the parishes, transferring it to the poor. After all, what had they to complain about? All they had to do was 'get a job'.

Parents, in 1840, did not send children to work because they were 'proverbially improvident'. They desperately needed every penny they could get. As William Booth could still explain at the end of the century,

... the want of money is the cause of an immensity of evil and trouble. The moment you begin practically to alleviate the miseries of the people, you discover that the eternal want of pence is one of their greatest difficulties.
(William Booth (1890))

This, however, is clearly not the view of Samuel Scriven:

The manufacturers are gentlemen who 'evince a warm-hearted sympathy for those about them in difficulty or distress, contribute as much as possible to their happiness, and are never known to inflict punishments on the children, or to allow others to do so':

The manufacturers are a highly influential, wealthy, and intelligent class of men: they evince a warm-hearted sympathy for those about them in difficulty or distress, contribute as much as possible to their happiness, and are never known to inflict punishments on the children, or to allow others to do so.

It, would be invidious to particularise individuals, but I should do them injustice as a body if I did not acknowledge their liberality in allowing me unrestrained admission to every department of their works, as well as the desire they have shown to render me every assistance and co-operation, with the view of carrying out the objects of the Commission ...

They can hardly be held responsible for the consequences of the lifestyles of their proverbially improvident employees.

The processes being such as to admit of the employment of whole families father, mother, and some two, three, or more children - their united earnings are sometimes 3l. or 4l. per week: but, proverbially improvident, and adopting the adage,- "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof", they squander the proceeds of their labor in gaudy dress, or at the skittle-ground and ale-house; so that, when overtaken by illness or other casualty, and thrown for a few days out of work, they resort to their masters for a loan, or to the parish workhouse for relief.

Thoughtless and improvident parents, showing no regard for the consequences to their offspring, permit them to continue working in sub-standard conditions. So long as they can reap the advantages of their labor they encourage them to work in conditions like these:

The processes and departments to which I beg leave to direct your especial attention are the dipping, scouring, throwing, plate, saucer, and dish making, and printing, as those in which very young children are found. The effects I have observed in the first and second, on many of the older hands, and the evidence I have recorded from all, have satisfied me that they are the most pernicious and destructive in the whole process of potting.

It is true that in many instances persons have been known to have worked as dippers many years without any material consequences resulting, or being perceptible, and they will tell you "'tis not so bad now as formerly, when a greater proportion of the poisonous metal entered into the composition of the liquid;" but even in them, whose constitutions may have been less susceptible of its influences, I have been able to trace in their dull and cadaverous countenances its insidious workings.

In most of the rooms there are one or two adults, with their attendant boys, whose business it is to bring the ware in its rough, or, in the phraseology of the potter, in its biscuit state, from the warehouse or painting-room to the tub. By constant handling, the fingers become so smooth and delicate that they sometimes bleed, and thereby render the process of absorption more certain and rapid. The dipping itself; performed by the man, is momentary, and, when completed, the article is passed on to the boys for shelving and drying; the liquid consists of borax, soda, potash, with whiting, stone, and carbonate of lead, finely ground and mixed together with water; for coarse goods a large proportion of lead is used, and in some cases arsenic.

The workers seem to have a complete disregard of the dangers around them. They recklessly eat their meals in the most unhygienic of surroundings.

Both men and boys have their hands and cloths almost always saturated with it; and reckless of the danger they incur, seldom or ever change, or use precautionary measures, frequently taking their meals in the same room, sufficiently satisfied to wipe their hands on their aprons. I have never seen rooms provided for cleansing, although it appear in some of the returned schedules that there is plenty of water and at their command.

From their disregard of prophylactic measures; you will not be surprised that paralysis, colica pictonum, epilepsy, and a host of other nervous diseases; are to be met with in all their aggravated forms. The most constant, however, is that of partial paralysis of the extensors of the hands in men, and of epilepsy in children, accompanied at all times with obstinate constipation of the bowels and derangement of the alimentary canal.

But the strongest assurance that can be adduced of the deleterious effect that this process has on children, to be found in the evidence of the men themselves, who, when their affections have been appealed to as fathers of families, have invariably, to the question " Would bring your own son to the dipping-tub ?" replied " No: " and in the instance of John Cooper he continued because I love my child, and would rather that should live."

The average amount of weekly wages for men in this department is 30s., for boys 5s., which is higher than in many others, and obtained as an equivalent for " the risk they run." This pay is a strong temptation to the thoughtless and improvident parent, who, regardless of consequences to their offspring, permit them, so long as they reap the advantages of their labor, to continue in this pest-house.

The parents seem to have no interest in educating their children, sending them at too early a period of life to labor from morning till night.

The masters show the concern one would expect from socially aware gentlemen. They acknowledge and lament the children's low and degraded condition.

The problem really is the total indifference of the parents.

I almost tremble, however, when I contemplate the fearful deficiency of knowledge existing throughout the district, and the consequences likely to result to this increased and increasing population, and would willingly leave the evidence to speak for itself, did I not feel that I should ill discharge my duty were I to shrink from the task; on an examination of the minutes of evidence which I have the honour to forward from Cobridge, Burslem, &c &c, it will appear that more than three-fourths of the persons therein named can neither read nor write.

An internee may be possibly drawn that I may have been partial in my selection of them, but I beg distinctly to be understood as having on all occasions had them before me irrespective of any educational competency they may have possessed. But it is not from my own knowledge that I proclaim their utter, their absolute ignorance. I would respectfully refer you to the evidence of their own pastors and masters, and it will appear that as one man they acknowledge and lament their low and degraded condition.

My experience has satisfied me that this state of things is attributable to the three following causes:

30) The first, and perhaps most prominent, I conceive to be that of sending children at too early a period of life to labor from morning till night, in hundreds of cases for 15 or 16 hours consecutively, with the intermission of only a few minutes to eat their humble food of " tatees" and " stir pudding", and where they acquire little else than vice, for the wages of ls. or 2s. per week, whereby they are necessarily deprived of every opportunity of attending a day or evening school.

31) Another is the total indifference of parents, who, although in numberless instances earning from 2s. to 3s. or 4s. per week, and not requiring the early labor of their offspring, nevertheless care so little about their immediate or future welfare, as to be equally satisfied whether they continue in ignorance or not.

32) A third is doubtless the poverty of others unemployed.

The workers appear to have no self-respect. They live in disgusting, squalid conditions,

The position of the town being elevated, and upon the brow of a hill, it is consequently exposed to the winds from all quarters, but more especially to the north-east, for a valley approaches the town in this direction, and serves to give force and increased effect to the cold winds which prevail from that quarter.

It is to this elevated position and free ventilation that I am disposed to attribute our comparative exemption from epidemic and certain endemic diseases, especially to the common fever of the country, which in the summer and autumn more particularly prevails in the surrounding towns of Burslem, Newcastle, and Stoke; whilst Hanley and Shelton suffer much less from the disease. But owing to this position and particular exposure to the most ungenial wind of the heavens, the north-east, I conceive a peculiar character is, to a certain extent, given to the diseases of the town-pulmonary affections prevailing very extensively.

The direction in which the streets are built might have slightly counteracted this unfavorable exposure, but unfortunately the inhabitants have, no doubt in ignorance and without design, given it increased effect by arranging most of the streets on the north-east and eastern side of the town in a direction parallel to the current of the wind when it blows from this quarter.

There is a small closely-built district near the centre of Hanley, called Chapel Field, and a series of blind streets branching off from the main street in Shelton, both which places are crowded with inhabitants living in squalid poverty. Many of the inhabitants of these spots, but especially the children, have a peculiarly sickly aspect, most probably from the poor and improper food they take, conjoined with the impure air they breathe. Numbers of children die during infancy in these quarters of the town, and fevers and other epidemic diseases prevail there most extensively and in their most virulent forms.

In different parts of the town and on its outskirts there are many stagnant pools in which vegetable matter is constantly undergoing a process of putrefaction, for they are used for the purpose of steeping hazel-rods in, to render them more pliant in the use to which they are applied, that of forming crates, in which the earthenware of the neighbourhood is packed.

They are very well paid in comparison with workers in other manufacturing districts but their improvidence is their undoing!

The wages paid in this neighbourhood are good, better than those of most other manufacturing districts. Habits of improvidence prevail notwithstanding extensively; and it not unfrequently happens that men who draw 3s. a-week for their own work and that of their children, suffer some of the evils and many of the irregularities of poverty.

Intemperance in intoxicating drinks is a serious evil among the working class. Many of them allowing their families almost to starve to beg in order that they may indulge in this vice. The numbers of public-houses, beer, and spirit shops being great, and the latter appearing to enjoy a very prosperous trade ...

The women do not acquire those domestic habits which would best fit them for housewives and mothers. They continue to work while they are pregnant and then send out their infants to nurse during the day.

The females, from being employed from an early age in the manufactories as transferrers painters, burnishers, &c, do not acquire those domestic habits which would best fit them for housewives and mothers: and it frequently happens that when they are bearing children they continue to labor in the manufactories, and send out their infants to nurse during the day, This is a source of great mortality amongst infants, for they are fed by their nurses chiefly with bread steeped in water, and they early become sickly, and die of various diseases of the digestive organs, those of the chest, or head ...

One could continue with this report, but it is simply more of the same: atrocious conditions, and improvident, irresponsible inhabitants who seem to disregard both their own and their children's wellbeing.

The Report concludes with a set of appendices in which both responsible people of the towns and employees in the various factories are given a voice. The conclusions to the first and last of these is given below.

Scriven Report: Doctors report on health conditions: Appendix No. 1. A few REMARKS on the GENERAL and sanatory condition of the town of HANLEY and SHELTON, and its Inhabitants, more especially with respect to the Health of the Children of the Working Classes:

...In conclusion I may add, as the result of my observation from a residence of 17 years in this town, during which time I have practised as a surgeon, that children are sometimes cruelly overworked, in the process of plate-making especially, and that in other labors, and in the collieries, they are exposed to very unhealthy occupations. They also suffer greatly from the improvident and intemperate habits of their parents. In such cases their clothing is defective, and especially towards the end of each week their food very scanty. Their education is exceedingly imperfect, and the religious instruction they receive ought to be much more contemplate in the department of morals.
(Signed) J. B. DAVIS, Surgeon

Perhaps we should allow the Reverend Aitken to have the final comment. Scriven Report: Teachers & Clergy reports: Appendix No. 119. LETTER from the Rev. R. E. Aitkens, incumbent of Hanley:

Sir;
To the inquiries which you have been pleased to submit to me respecting the moral condition of the children employed in the manufactories in this place, I cannot give any additional evidence to that which you have received from the worthy master of the National School, which you read in my presence before him, and which with some slight alterations, in which he concurred, I confirmed viva voce. I am not sure whether it was expressed in your notes that the school is under the superintendence of the incumbent of Hanley.

Respecting the two subjects of inquiry (at the bottom of p.10 and the top of p.11) to which, by your marginal mark, you have directed my especial attention, I beg to offer the following observations, which are the result of considerable experience.

I have almost invariably found that the habits invariably acquired by women, rendering them more or less fit to perform their duties as wives and mothers, depend infinitely less on the occupations by which they procure their maintenance, than in their domestic training by the instructions and examples of their mothers. Let the mother be industrious, notable, decorous, and devout, and generally you will find her daughters of the same character, whether they continue to reside at home and earn their livelihood by the use of the needle, or whether they are employed in the manufactories. I have uniformly found the case in this rank of life similar to the oft-debated and endless question of the respective advantages of public or private schools among the higher and middle classes of society. In both cases the eventual moral habits of individuals will depend more on the dispositions which they bring from home than what they acquire in the school or manufactory.

No reference is made to the consequences of changes in the Poor Laws. Wages are assumed to be more than adequate for the legitimate needs of the inhabitants. And adverse conditions are largely of their own making.

These were the conditions of 'the poor' in Britain after one hundred and fifty years of politically dominant capitalist development.

We need to ask how conditions like these emerged.

What shall we do with The Poor? Return to Chapter Index

In the 18th and 19th centuries, 'the poor' were to find that it was time for them to be re-educated. They were to become the 'mission field' for morally upright, responsible Western Europeans. And for the good of both 'decent society' and their immortal souls, they were to be taught discipline and obedience, they were to be taught to work. It would be a long, drawn-out and painful process, and those being re-educated would endure much misery and heartache, but they were going to be taught.

Although it might seem a cruel policy, the only reasonable way of dealing with those who needed help was to compel them to work. There were times in life when one had to be cruel to be kind. As James argued,

the social legislators of the Restoration aimed at nothing less than making the poor a source of profit to the state by forcing them to work for reduced wages.
(in Wilson 1969, p. 119)

But they did not do so vindictively. This was not a 'class war', it was a class-focused re-education program. As Wilson says,

what came to be regarded by later critics as a system of calculated brutality and repression arose in the first place not from unconcern or harshness, but out of a desire to protect the efforts of those local authorities who were trying hardest to improvise remedies.
(1969, p. 134)

The Poor are lazy with no desire to Better Themselves! Return to Chapter Index

A major problem encountered in dealing with 'the poor' was that they seemed to have little desire either to accumulate possessions or to save for the future 153 . And, perhaps more importantly for those who now held the reins of power in Britain, and, increasingly, in the rest of western Europe, the poor did not seem to understand or appreciate the vital importance of work, for its own sake, that is, for its character building potential 154 . This was not merely a concern of the 18th century. It had become an increasingly important concern of 'responsible' people over the previous two hundred years.

Edmond Fitzmaurice explained that Sir William Petty, writing in 1665, recognized how intractable the problem was of getting 'The Poor' to work consistently. They seemed content "to live in a condition little above that of animals".

His own observations of the habits of the cloth-workers in England and of the Irish peasantry compelled him, however reluctantly, to the opinion that the general standard of living was as yet too low to make high daily wages of any advantage to the laborer, because of their tendency at once to reduce their hours and be content with wages just sufficient to support existence at a very low level of material civilization.

"It was observed," he says,

by clothiers and others who employ great numbers of poor people, that when corn is extremely plentiful that the labor of the poor is proportionately dear and scarce to be had at all, so licentious are they who labor only to eat, or rather to drink.

It was the same in Ireland, especially since the introduction of that

breadlike root, the potato. A day of two hours labor was there sufficient to make men to live after their present fashion, and the cheapness of food was the excuse for the people to live in a condition little above that of animals.

(1895, p. 220)

Sir Josiah Child, in 1668, put his finger on the problem,

And for our own Poor in England, it is observed, that they live better in the dearest Countries for Provisions, than in the cheapest, and better in a dear year than in a cheap, (especially in relation to the Publique Good) for that in a cheap year they will not work above two days in a week; their humor being such, that they will not provide for a hard time; but just work so much and no more, as may maintain them in that mean condition to which they have been accustomed.
(Josiah Child, Brief Observations Concerning Trade and Interest of Money, London, Printed for Elizabeth Calvert at the Black-spread Eagle in Barbican, and Henry Mortlock at the Sign of the White-Heart in Westminster Hall. 1668)

The poor seemed focused on the present, unaware of the future, living from hand to mouth.

Sir Henry Pollexfen pronounced in 1697 that

the advances of wages hath proved an inducement to idleness; for many are for being idle the oftener because they can get so much in a little time;

and Bernard Mandeville in 1714 asserted that

Every Body knows that there is a vast number of Journey-men ... who, if by Four Days labor in a Week they can maintain themselves, will hardly be persuaded to work the fifth; and that there are Thousands of Laboring Men of all sorts, who will ... put themselves to fifty Inconveniences ... to make Holiday.

(Hatcher 1998, p. 68)

Ferguson identified the problem as one of being 'uncivilized'. In straying from speaking of the poor to speaking of the barbarian, Ferguson, in common with most other writers of the 18th century, betrayed his view of the poor in his own country. It was as though they belonged to another society, alien and devoid of the moral virtues of the civilized; impetuous, artful, rapacious, violent, deceitful and slothful,

Actuated by great passions, the love of glory, and the desire of victory, roused by the menaces of an enemy, or stung with revenge; in suspense between the prospects of ruin or conquest, the barbarian spends every moment of relaxation in the indulgence of sloth.

He cannot descend to the pursuits of industry or mechanical labor: the beast of prey is a sluggard; the hunter and the warrior sleeps, while women or slaves are made to toil for his bread.

But shew him a quarry at a distance, he is bold, impetuous, artful, and rapacious: no bar can withstand his violence, and no fatigue can allay his activity.
(1767 Part 2, Section 3)

As Foucault (1971) claimed, for 'responsible' western Europeans of the 17th and 18th centuries, sloth had become the worst of all sins, and productive labor the best of all disciplines and virtues, having its own, inevitable rewards.

'The poor', like the barbarians, appeared unable to understand why this should be so. Consequently, they labored for only so long as was necessary to supply their meager wants and needs and then focused on other activities, more often than not, various forms of 'time wasting' such as socializing and 'loitering'.

For 18th and 19th century reformers, 'loitering' was a pernicious past-time of those who were 'slothful', those who seemed content with their miserable lot and who clearly lacked all motivation to 'better themselves' 155 . John Marshall (1698), in a commentary on John Bunyan's writings, put it well,

Bunyan well knew that idleness engenders poverty and crime, and is the parent of every evil; and he exhorts his runner to the greatest diligence, not to 'fool away his soul' in slothfulness, which induces carelessness, until the sinner is remediless ...156

Born Again or Not - They need to Learn Discipline! Return to Chapter Index

The nature of the activity in which 18th century responsible people were to engage in getting the poor to commit to consistent work was strongly influenced by their religious predisposition. For those less religiously inclined, the poor could be disciplined to work through legal compulsions; for those who saw religious commitment as central, no amount of discipline, no depth of punishment could bring about the needed transformation until the heart and soul of the individual had been reborn 157 .

For the great majority of middle ranking people, the answer lay in laws and regulations, in disciplining and directing the activity of those who threatened the prosperity of the age. But, for a significant minority, those who still strongly identified with the religious longings and ambitions of the 17th century, the problems of the age could not be overcome simply through compulsion and legislation. Before people could even contemplate such transforming changes in their lifestyles they needed to be empowered by God. People needed to be 'born again', starting out on a new life empowered by God to become sanctified in mind and body.

They would still have to yield to discipline, and they would still have to show that perseverance and industry which marked the truly moral person, but the transformation could not begin until they had been made into new people, saved to serve God in the way He chose (and Responsible Western Europeans knew) they should. Having yielded their lives to God, they should focus on the life before them, determined to "work out their salvation with fear and trembling".

John Wesley, in 1762, adjured his followers,

Be always employed; lose no shred of time; gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost. And whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.

Only God could perform the miraculous transformation which was needed in the lives of those who were trapped in sloth and its consequences. Unless there was true repentance, born of clear understanding of the depths of depravity in which they were sunk, there could be no redemption.

The redeemed, in gratitude to God, would apply themselves unstintingly to virtuous, productive lives. As Charles Wesley, in a popular hymn of the period, wrote,

Depth of mercy, can there be, mercy still reserved for me? Can my God his wrath forebear, me the chief of sinners spare?

Isaac Watts put it equally eloquently,

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now I'm found, was blind, but now I see!

Once that transformation had been made, it was the responsibility of the redeemed to make the most of the new lives they had received at God's hand.

Over the next two hundred years these alternative focuses were to produce very different determinations in those who held them.

Those who saw the future as one of discipline and punishment knew that attempting to relieve the sufferings of the poor would be counter-productive.

Herbert Spencer (1884), in the late 19th century, was still wrestling with how best to ensure that 'The Poor' acquired 'the capacities needful for civilized life'. This had exercised the minds of 17th and 18th century writers like Petty, Child, Pollexfen, Marshall, Mandeville, Defoe, Ferguson and Townsend. Yet, at the end of the 19th century, it had still not been resolved.

Spencer explained what he believed was required to make the lower classes 'fit for the social state'. Those who felt sorry for the poor, who wanted to rescue them from the harshness of their lives, were working against the tide of human evolution. All the evils of the age; the poverty, degradation, maltreatment of the lower classes 'are unavoidable attendants on the adaptation now in progress':

To become fit for the social state, man has not only to lose his savageness, but he has to acquire the capacities needful for civilized life. Power of application must be developed; such modification of the intellect as shall qualify it for its new tasks must take place; and, above all, there must be gained the ability to sacrifice a small mediate gratification for a future great one.

The state of transition will of course be an unhappy state. Misery inevitably results from incongruity between constitutions and conditions. All these evils which afflict us, and seem to the uninitiated the obvious consequences of this or that removable cause, are unavoidable attendants on the adaptation now in progress.

Humanity is being pressed against the inexorable necessities of its new position - is being molded into harmony with them, and has to bear the resulting unhappiness as best it can. The process must be undergone, and the sufferings must be endured.

No power on earth, no cunningly-devised laws of statesmen, no world-rectifying schemes of the humane, no communist panaceas, no reforms that men ever did broach or ever will broach, can diminish them one jot.

Intensified they may be, and are; and in preventing their intensification, the philanthropic will find ample scope for exertion. But there is bound up with the changes a normal amount of suffering, which cannot be lessened without altering the very laws of life.
(1884 Ch. 3, p. 40)

For Spencer, as for the vast majority of 'responsible' Western Europeans of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, human beings were on a millennial evolutionary journey. There was a direction to social change and that direction, provided people took their responsibilities seriously, was upwards, into a future of growing material prosperity and well-being.

The utopian presumptions of the previous two centuries 158 had become a part of the background of understanding for the 'middle sorts' of western Europe. And, with the absorption of these presumptions into the unconscious substrate of reasoning, the implied dangers of not pressing toward that goal of the 'upward call of God' became similarly internalized, no longer a matter of belief but one of certainty, no longer religiously justified, but now materially certified.

The progress of humanity was written into the material constitution of human beings, just as the changes in the earth's surface and in the heavens were increasingly being seen as consequences of inescapable and unstoppable 'forces of nature'.

The attitudes of western European employers in the 18th and 19th centuries toward the poor were hundreds of years in the making. By the 15th century, employers and landowners were already convinced that 'the poor' would only work consistently if compelled to do so. Their experiences following the Black Death of the mid 14th century 159 , when labor became very scarce while the tasks to be done remained about the same as they had been when there was a much larger workforce, convinced them that they could not rely on the goodwill of those they employed.

Of course, if one sees the situation from the laborers' point of view, the demands made of them from the early 1350s onwards were entirely unreasonable. The presumption that those who remained would meet all the laboring demands previously met by as much as double their number five years earlier, resulted in them being required to work for very long hours, for very little more reward.

Since they were geared to labor as a means of meeting needs and wants rather than as a means to the open ended accumulation of money and possessions, once they obtained the cash they needed it seemed pointless to continue working. There were better things to do than work when the product was no longer needed.

How deep-seated such understandings and motivations in life are, and how difficult it is to retrain people to new perspectives. 'Responsible' western Europeans had been passing laws and organizing processes of retraining for 'the poor' for more than three hundred years before the concerted efforts of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The 'responsible public' of the 18th century was, undoubtedly, largely comprised of self-serving, self-interested, self-promoting individuals who wanted the world organized to their benefit. They were, however, nonetheless, convinced of the historical necessity underpinning the reforms they supported.

The world, for them, was becoming, more and more certainly, a world of resources and a world of productive, wealth-generating activity. They were the vanguard of the future, creating a world which would benefit all. But, to effectively pursue these goals, the laziness, indiscipline and profanity of the 'lower rank' had to be addressed. Daniel Defoe, of Robinson Crusoe fame, described the problem in the 1720s,

... the conversation of our lower rank of people runs only upon bawdy and blasphemy, notwithstanding our societies for reformation, and our laws in force against profaneness; for this lazy life gets them many proselytes, their numbers daily increasing from runaway apprentices and footboys, insomuch that it is a very hard matter for a gentleman to get him a servant, or for a tradesman to find an apprentice.

In the 18th century, following a relative lull in activities during the later 17th century, the enclosure of common land, dispossession of peasant landholders and consolidation of landholdings took on new momentum. As it did so, the ranks of dispossessed and indigent people were swelled by those moved from the land. The common view of 18th century reformers was that almost half of the land available for farming in Britain was 'waste', that is, not used 'profitably'. They set out to make it economically productive and efficient.

They'll work if they're hungry! Return to Chapter Index

The poor know little of the motives which stimulate the higher ranks to action - pride, honour, and ambition. In general it is only hunger which can spur and goad them on to labor; yet our laws have said, they shall never hunger. The laws, it must be confessed, have likewise said that they shall be compelled to work.

But then legal constraint is attended with too much trouble, violence, and noise; creates ill will, and never can be productive of good and acceptable service: whereas hunger is not only a peaceable, silent, unremitted pressure, but, as the most natural motive to industry and labor, it calls forth the most powerful exertions; and, when satisfied by the free bounty of another, lays a lasting and sure foundation for good will and gratitude ...

The wisest legislator will never be able to devise a more equitable, a more effectual, or in any respect a more suitable punishment, than hunger is for a disobedient servant. Hunger will tame the fiercest animals, it will teach decency and civility, obedience and subjection, to the most brutish, the most obstinate, and the most perverse.
(Joseph Townsend 1786 )

Sir Josiah Child had identified the problem in the 17th century, the poor "work so much and no more, as may maintain them in that mean condition to which they have been accustomed". It was time to make sure that they received no more than would keep them working. And it was time to take away any supports the poor might be relying on other than wage labor.

The 'responsible' people of the mid 18th century found a way to do this which would both force the poor into a consistent commitment to work and ensure the rational reorganization of the countryside. They accelerated the alienation of common lands and the dispossession of small holders:

The enclosure of commons had been going on for centuries before 1760, but with nothing like the rapidity with which it has been going on since, it is known that 554,974 acres were enclosed between 1710 and 1760, while nearly 7,000,000 were enclosed between 1760 and 1845.
(Arnold Toynbee (1884))

The dispossession of small holders gathered momentum as the 18th century unfolded. Toynbee (1884) summarized the movement,

A third result of landlord supremacy was the manner in which the common-field system was broken up. Allusion has already been made to enclosures, and enclosures meant a break-up of the old system of agriculture and a redistribution of the land. This is a problem which involves delicate questions of justice.

In Prussia, the change was effected by impartial legislation; in England, the work was done by the strong at the expense of the weak. The change from common to individual ownership, which was economically advantageous, was carried out in an iniquitous manner, and thereby became socially harmful.

Great injury was thus done to the poor and ignorant freeholders who lost their rights in the common lands.

In Pickering, in one instance, the lessee of the tithes applied for an enclosure of the waste. The small freeholders did their best to oppose him, but, having little money to carry on the suit, they were overruled, and the lessee, who had bought the support of the landless 'house-owners' of the parish, took the land from the freeholders and shared the spoil with the cottagers.

It was always easy for the steward to harass the small owners till he forced them to sell... The enclosure of waste land, too, did great damage to the small freeholders, who, without the right of grazing, naturally found it so much the more difficult to pay their way.

Those who lost access to lands joined the ranks of 'the poor', forced to live on the charity of parishes or move to the outskirts of towns in an attempt to find some alternative means of subsistence. As they did so, the 'problem of the poor' became increasingly obvious to responsible citizens 160 .

The problems attending the enclosure of common lands were just the tip of the iceberg. At the same time as people who relied on common lands found themselves denied access, small holders who held sufficient land to make ends meet found that their lands, in the eyes of those who held political power, were 'waste land' that could be 'more productively' used. They found the political conditions of the time stacked against them.

Large landowners had gained the whip hand and set out to dispossess the yeomen of England of the lands they held:

To summarise the movement: it is probable that the yeomen would in any case have partly disappeared, owing to the inevitable working of economic causes. But these alone would not have led to their disappearance on so large a scale. It was the political conditions of the age, the overwhelming importance of land, which made it impossible for the yeoman to keep his grip upon the soil.
Toynbee (1884)

People who, until the mid 18th century, had felt themselves relatively safe from the dispossession experienced by rural laborers and others who relied heavily on access to the commons for survival, now found themselves the target of land reform.

Their problems were not only brought on by rapacious landlords and changes in statutes which were strongly weighted against them. They were compounded by the movement of industry through the 18th century from the countryside into towns. Traditionally, small holders had augmented their income by spinning, weaving and other forms of handicraft. As these activities became the focus of factory development, the returns for their labors were greatly reduced. Very often the market for their produce simply disappeared.

Many who were not evicted or defrauded of their properties, found that they could no longer make a living from the land they held, and were either compelled by circumstance into sending more and more members of their households into towns in search of work, or found themselves having to accept the very low prices being offered for rural land and move to the rapidly growing towns and cities of western Europe (but particularly of England) 161 . And, as is always true under capitalism, the increased labor which became available to employers resulted in constant reductions in wages.

We'll Compel Them through Laws and Regulations! Return to Chapter Index

For the Middle Ranks, of course, the problems were not those of dispossession and abuse, they were problems of sloth and intemperance, which inevitably resulted in crime and violence. The poor were fundamentally lazy and unwilling to put the needs of the country above their own petty concerns and interests. They would, if they could, undermine all that was being achieved in ensuring the 'wealth of the nation'.

The indolent poor must be compelled to contribute to the prosperity of the country, and the government must act strongly and decisively to deal with what was rapidly becoming not 'the poor' but 'the criminal' class. John Simon described the scene,

Sir Samuel Romilly [1786] in his Observations on a Late Publication, intituled Thoughts on Executive Justice, reviews the criminal law of England, and says -

The first thing which strikes one is the melancholy truth that among the variety of actions which men are daily liable to commit, no less than one hundred and sixty have been declared by Act of Parliament to be felonies without benefit of clergy; or, in other words, to be worthy of instant death. [162 ]

Romilly founds his statement on Blackstone's Commentaries; and, in a note, he draws attention to the fact that, since the publication of those Commentaries, the number of felonies had been considerably augmented by the legislature. Sydney says

To steal a horse or a sheep; to snatch property from the hands of a man and run away with it; to steal to the amount of forty shillings in a dwelling-house, or privately to the value of five shillings in a shop; to pick a pocket of only twelve pence and a farthing; these offences all continued till the end of the eighteenth century to be punishable with death.
England and the English, vol. ii. pp. 268, 269.

Mr. John Latimer, in The Annals of Bristol in the Eighteenth Century, gives a list of the persons executed in that city during the first half of the eighteenth century. The list is confessedly incomplete, but, so far as we can judge by its details, executions for murder were comparatively infrequent. Out of the seventy-seven criminals whose cases and crimes are cited, only eighteen suffered death for murder. The rest were executed for offences, which would now be punished by imprisonment.

It is no wonder that the number of executions in England was great. Lecky tells us that, when Blackstone wrote, it was a very ordinary occurrence for ten or twelve culprits to be hung on a single occasion, and for forty or fifty to be condemned at a single assize. In 1732 no less than seventy persons received sentence of death at the Old Bailey. In the same year eighteen persons were hung in one day in the town of Cork.
History of England, vol. i. p. 505.

... It is painful to record these brutalities, but it is impossible to understand the temper of the English people in the eighteenth century unless we do so. An utter callousness to the sufferings of criminals prevailed. We may go further. Those sufferings were a source of pleasurable excitement to the crowds that witnessed them. When the death-carts rumbled along the road from Newgate to Tyburn, the pavements were crowded with spectators. From the windows of the houses, hosts of people looked out with admiration upon the jaunty men who, with nosegays on their breasts, journeyed on the solemn path that broke away so suddenly into eternity.

Let the wanderer along the present Oxford Street imagine the scene. Let him try to conceive the possibility of its repetition to day. He will then be able to form some idea of the immeasurable distance that divides us from the spirit and the customs of the eighteenth century.

We ask in amazement if any voice was raised in Church or State, against the brutal punishments contained in the criminal code of England. The answer is disappointing. The ascertained facts show that, so far as the executions for felony are concerned, not only was there an absence of protest, but such executions were approved by the most enlightened opinion of the time.
(1908 p. 63)

Boswell recorded a discussion between Samuel Johnson and Sir William Scott in 1783, when told that criminals to be hanged were no longer to be publicly paraded on the way to execution,

... He said to Sir William Scott, 'The age is running mad after innovation; all the business of the world is to be done in a new way; men are to be hanged in a new way; Tyburn itself is not safe from the fury of innovation.'

It having been argued that this was an improvement,-'No, Sir, (said he, eagerly,) it is NOT an improvement: they object that the old method drew together a number of spectators. Sir, executions are intended to draw spectators. If they do not draw spectators they don't answer their purpose. The old method was most satisfactory to all parties; the publick was gratified by a procession; the criminal was supported by it. Why is all this to be swept away?'

I perfectly agree with Dr. Johnson upon this head, and am persuaded that executions now, the solemn procession being discontinued, have not nearly the effect which they formerly had.
(Boswell 1791)

Punishments were not to be viewed as acts of vengeance, but as cautionary devices, discouraging others from similar behavior (reminiscent, of course, of Thomas More's 1516 description:

...the severe execution of justice upon thieves, who ... were then hanged so fast that there were sometimes twenty on one gibbet

- there has been a long history of blaming and punishing victims in western Europe).

Throughout the century, the vastness of the problem, and the difficulties of dealing with it, occupied the minds of socially aware, responsible people. Those most directly involved in addressing the problem felt a sense of hopeless frustration at the immensity of the task which confronted them. It was not that a few of the 'lower rank' were lazy and degenerate, this seemed to be the condition of everyone.

E. P Thompson described the attitude of Josiah Tuck, dean of Gloucester, in 1745,

'the lower class of people' were utterly degenerated. Foreigners (he sermonized) found 'the common people of our populous cities to be the most abandoned, and licentious wretches on earth': 'Such brutality and insolence, such debauchery and extravagance, such idleness, irreligion, cursing and swearing, and contempt of all rule and authority... Our people are drunk with the cup of liberty.'
(1967, pp. 80-81)

Daniel Defoe in the 1720s seems to have put the common view of 'responsible members of the public' into words in a pamphlet entitled, Everybody's Business Is Nobody's Business Or, Private Abuses, Public Grievances: Exemplified In the Pride, Insolence, and exorbitant Wages of our Women, Servants, Footmen, &c, which rapidly ran to five editions.

As he says in the preface to the fifth edition, his intentions, in writing the pamphlet have,

had the good fortune to meet with approbation from the sober and substantial part of mankind; as for the vicious and vagabond, their ill-will is my ambition.

His language is blunt and his views uncompromising,

It is with uncommon satisfaction I see the magistracy begin to put the laws against vagabonds in force with the utmost vigour, a great many of those vermin ... having lately been taken up and sent to the several work-houses in and about this city; and indeed high time, for they grow every day more and more pernicious...

I, therefore, humbly propose that these vagabonds be put immediately under the command of such taskmasters as the government shall appoint, and that they be employed, punished, or rewarded, according to their capacities and demerits; that is to say, the industrious and docible to woolcombing, and other parts of the woollen manufacture, where hands are wanted, as also to husbandry and other parts of agriculture.

His solution to the problem of the unreliability of day workers and servants was to pass innumerable laws and regulations governing their behavior with which they

must either comply or be termed an idle vagrant, and sent to a place where they shall be forced to work. By this means industry will be encouraged, idleness punished, and we shall be famed, as well as happy for our tranquillity and decorum.

Not only were the poor idle, irreligious and wanton, those who were employed could simply not be trusted. Defoe's pamphlet provides one example after another of the duplicity, deceit and light-fingeredness of servants and other employees. They displayed

saucy and insolent behavior, ...pert, and sometimes abusive answers, [and] daring defiance of correction.

If they were not watched constantly, they would cheat their employers of all their belongings.

E. P. Thompson described the lengths to which Crowley, owner of the Crowley Iron Works, went in attempting to get his employees to work and in trying to protect himself from their blatant dishonesty. In preambles to two of the 'Orders' of the extensive 'Law Book' of the Company, Crowley wrote,

I having by sundry people working by the day with the connivance of the clerks been horribly cheated and paid for much more time than in good conscience I ought and such hath been the baseness and treachery of sundry clerks that they have concealed the sloath and negligence of those paid by the day...

To the end that sloath and villany should be detected and the just and diligent rewarded, I have thought meet to create an account of time by a monitor, and do order and it is hereby ordered and declared from 5 to 8 and from 7 to 10 is fifteen hours, out of which take 1˝ for breakfast, dinner, etc. There will then be thirteen hours and a half neat service...

[This service must be calculated] after all deductions for being at taverns, alehouses, coffee houses, breakfast, dinner, playing, sleeping, smoaking, singing, reading of news history, quarelling, contention, disputes or anything foreign to my business, any way loytering.
(1967, pp. 81-2)

The stress on the 'period of work', and of ensuring that employees worked their full number of hours, was, of course, not new to the 18th century. It was a growing concern of merchants and landowners through the late 14th and 15th centuries, and it grew in importance in succeeding centuries 163 . By the 18th century, Crowley felt it unnecessary to justify this stress.

Everyone who mattered knew that people labored for a set period of time each day, and that they ought to spend all of that time 'on the job'. Work was not simply 'labor', it was spending a set time in a 'place of employment' where the time was 'owned' by the employer.

Not only 'the poor' were organized to 'work time' and 'leisure' or 'non-work' time, so were the industrious middle sorts. Only the gentry, who spent their time in 'public' activities, were not organized in this way. But they too had their sphere of service and should, also, allot a period in each day to the performance of their 'duties'.

While one could rely on responsible members of the community taking their work commitments seriously, this simply could not be assumed of 'the poor'. They would cheat and steal and rob employers of the time they wanted to be paid for. Only constant vigilance, thorough regulation and supervision could ensure that they spent their time in work rather than in taverns, alehouses, and coffee houses, 'loitering' rather than working.

The poor were, as they had been seen for centuries, unreliable, untrustworthy, dishonest, lazy and duplicitous. Responsible people in the 18th century realized that if they continued in this 'savage' state they threatened all the advances of civilization which seemed promised in the century.

Something had to be done to address what, to the responsible citizens of Britain and the rest of western Europe, was both a disgrace and a dire threat to the well-being of every responsible person. This mass of unredeemed, degenerate humanity had to be redeemed, retrained, made responsible.

Let's Train their Young Return to Chapter Index

In the 18th century, as in earlier centuries, the means to ensuring conscientious commitment to work by employees were all based on external regulations and legal compulsions. If enough pressure was applied, and people were organized and supervised thoroughly, their work commitment would improve. Government provided the background legislation compelling the poor to work, and individual industrial enterprises provided additional structures and regulations ensuring that laborers really did labor.

But, despite all these measures, the problem of getting the poor to take their laboring responsibilities seriously seemed worse than ever. It was clear that the problem could not be addressed simply by trying to coerce and police adults. It was very difficult to change the habits of a lifetime.

Aphorisms were at hand to justify one of the approaches to retraining the poor: You can't teach an old dog new tricks; you've got to break a horse when it's young. If laws and regulations alone did not work, perhaps overt training of the young would do it.

Edgar Furniss described a range of opinions on the matter expressed during the 18th century,

Very significant of the point of view of these writers are the projects which they advanced for shaping and moulding the characters and destinies of the children of the laboring classes.

Many of these projects strike the modern reader as almost fantastic distortions of justice, but it is necessary that we bear in mind, in attempting to gain an insight into the attitude of their authors, that the proposals were advanced for the good of the nation, and not for the immediate benefit of the children who were to supply the material for experimentation.

William Temple, always an extremist in his point of view, devised one of these:

When these children are four years old, they shall be sent to the country workhouse and there taught to read two hours a day and be kept fully employed the rest of their time in any of the manufactures of the house which best suits their age, strength and capacity.

If it be objected that at these early years, they cannot be made useful, I reply that at four years of age there are sturdy employments in which children can earn their living; but besides, there is considerable use in their being, somehow or other, constantly employed at least twelve hours in a day, whether they earn their living or not; for by these means, we hope that the rising generation will be so habituated to constant employment that it would at length prove agreeable and entertaining to them ...
(William Temple, Essay (1770))

(1920, p.114 164 )

Children had to be taught, as John Locke (1692) had explained in the late 17th century, to defer gratification of immediate, imprudent desires and lusts in favor of working towards long-term, prudent rewards for diligent endeavor. This would benefit not only the individuals themselves, but also their dependents and communities.

They had to learn the immorality, the sinfulness of sloth and the virtue, the sanctifying power of industry. The evangelist of the age, John Wesley, put it very clearly,

Know ye not then so much as this, you that are called moral men, that all idleness is immorality; that there is no grosser dishonesty than sloth; that every voluntary blockhead is a knave? He defrauds his benefactors, his parents, and the world; and robs both God and his own soul.

Yet how many of these are among us! How many lazy drones, as if only fruges consumere nati! "born to eat up the produce of the soil." How many whose ignorance is not owing to incapacity, but to mere laziness!
(1741 sermon )

It was becoming clear to 18th century responsible people that the horse must be broken when young, or not at all. As Sir John Eardley Wilmot, Chief Justice of the Common Pleas explained late in the 18th century,

Obedience is one of the capital benefits arising from a public education, for though I am very desirous of having young minds impregnated with classical knowledge, from the pleasure I have derived from it, as well as the utility of it in all stations of life, yet it is but a secondary benefit in my estimation of education; for to break the natural ferocity of human nature, to subdue the passions and to impress the principles of religion and morality, and give habits of obedience and subordination to paternal as well as political authority, is the first object to be attended to by all schoolmasters who know their duty and do it.
(The Gentleman's Magazine (1811) Volume 109 p. 449 165 )

Through the second half of the 18th century, and on into the 19th, both focuses were to be developed. On the one hand, laws and regulations compelling people to work would be strengthened and applied more and more vigorously, and alternative means of material support would be removed wherever possible. On the other, increasing emphasis would be placed on training the young.

This was not, of course, education, as given to the children of the middle ranks. That might well back-fire, giving the children of the poor ideas which were beyond their station. Among those who had not been directly involved in or affected by the religious revivals of the period, the view of education for the masses which Bernard Mandeville expressed in 1724 seems to have been standard,

From what has been said it is manifest, that in a free Nation where Slaves are not allow'd of, the surest Wealth consists in a Multitude of laborious Poor; for besides that they are the never-failing Nursery of Fleets and Armies, without them there could be no Enjoyment, and no Product of any Country could be valuable.

To make the Society happy and People easy under the meanest Circumstances, it is requisite that great Numbers of them should be Ignorant as well as Poor. Knowledge both enlarges and multiplies our Desires, and the fewer things a Man wishes for, the more easily his Necessities may be supplied.

The Welfare and Felicity therefore of every State and Kingdom, require that the Knowledge of the Working Poor should be confined within the Verge of their Occupations, and never extended (as to things visible) beyond what relates to their Calling. The more a Shepherd, a Plowman or any other Peasant knows of the World, and the things that are Foreign to his Labor or Employment, the less fit he'll be to go through the Fatigues and Hardships of it with Chearfulness and Content.

Reading, Writing and Arithmetick, are very necessary to those, whose Business require such Qualifications, but where People's livelihood has no dependence on these Arts, they are very pernicious to the Poor, who are forced to get their Daily Bread by their Daily Labor....

Going to School in comparison to Working is Idleness, and the longer Boys continue in this easy sort of Life, the more unfit they'll be when grown up for downright Labor, both as to Strength and Inclination. Men who are to remain and end their Days in a Laborious, Tiresome and Painful Station of Life, the sooner they are put upon it at first, the more patiently they'll submit to it for ever after.
(Fable of the Bees (1724) Appendix: An Essay On Charity, and Charity Schools).

This view of the educational requirements of the poor remained dominant through the century. An anonymous writer to the Gentleman's Magazine in 1797 put it even more clearly,

Industry is the great principle of duty that ought to be inculcated on the lowest class of the people, as it is the best and most effectual barrier against vices of every kind; as it occupies the mind, and leaves no vacancy for licentious thoughts and mischievous projects...

The laborious occupations of life must be performed by those who have been born in the lowest stations; but no one will be willing to undertake the most servile employment, or the meanest drudgery, if his mind is opened, and his abilities increased, by any tolerable share of scholastic improvement: yet these employments and this drudgery must be necessarily performed... and, surely, none can be more properly fitted for this purpose than those who have been born in a state of poverty.

The man, whose mind is not illuminated by one ray of science, can discharge his duty in the most sordid employment without the smallest views of raising himself to a higher station, and can take his rest at night in perfect satisfaction and content.

His ignorance is a balm that soothes his mind into stupidity and repose, and excludes every emotion of discontentment, pride and ambition. A man of no literature will seldom attempt to form insurrections, or plan an idle scheme for the reformation of the state.
(in Goldstrom 1972, p. 22,3)

Mr Davies Giddy, member of parliament, in a debate on the Parochial Schools Bill in 1807 166 , expanded on the problems of educating the poor:

['The giving of education to the laboring classes' would] be found to be prejudicial to their morals and happiness; it would teach them to despise their lot in life, instead of making them good servants in agriculture and other laborious employments to which their rank in society had destined them; instead of teaching them subordination, it would render them factious and refractory, as was evident in the manufacturing counties; it would enable them to read seditious pamphlets, vicious books, and publications against Christianity; it would render them insolent to their superiors; and, in a few years, the result would be, that the legislature would find it necessary to direct the strong arm of power towards them...
(in Goldstrom 1972, p. 29)

For these people the problem was one best dealt with by direct means:

  • through finding a variety of ways of compelling the poor to work;
  • reducing the circumstances of those who refused to work to such low levels that they would have no option but to accept whatever work was offered;
  • and by retraining their offspring to become habituated to work.

The impact of the 18th century revivals resulted in a very different approach being employed by those who accepted that they had a duty of care for the weak and the poor.

The 19th century saw the proliferation of day schools for the poor. The aims of the schools, however, were in line with sentiments expressed through the 18th and 19th centuries. Wilmot's views on education for the poor, given above, seem to have summed up the aims of most day schools. The aims of public school education for the middle classes were rather different (though public schools did emphasize "habits of obedience and subordination to paternal as well as political authority").

An advertisement explaining the object of the Kennington District Schools, in 1824, provides a clear explanation of their purpose,

The object in forming Establishments of this nature, which now happily exist in almost every Parish and District throughout the Kingdom, is, to train the Infant Poor to good and orderly habits, - to instil into their minds an early knowledge of their civil and religious duties, - to guard them, as far as possible, from the seductions of vice, - and to afford them the means of becoming good Christians, as well as useful and industrious Members of Society: - These are the benefits proposed by the Promoters of these Schools; benefits, it is presumed, not more essential to the Children themselves, and their Parents, than to the Community at large.
(Silver and Silver 1974, p.1)

As a consequence of the 18th century revivals, Sunday Schools 167 emerged in the second half of the century as a means of providing a rudimentary education to both children and adults in association with religious worship services.

Samuel Scriven, in his 1842 Report to Parliament, described what he considered to be the value of the Sunday schools he investigated,

There are in the district Sunday-schools belonging to the church, and to dissenters of many denominations, but chiefly to Methodists of the "Wesleyan", " New Connexion", "Christian Association", and "Primitive" connexion. In these are congregated immense numbers of children of both sexes.

The practice of all is to open their doors at nine o'clock in the morning, and close them at half past ten, when they retire to the religious worship of their respective churches or chapels: to open again at one o'clock, and retire at half past two generally, for the same purpose, thus giving three hours of instruction deducting half an hour for prayer and singing, with which they commence their duties.

There are defects in the system of Sunday-school training, or whence arises the fact of children whose depositions I hand you from Burslem, the very pride of the potteries, their very seat of learning, being so profoundly ignorant as not to know one letter from another, and yet regularly "attend Sunday schools" my deliberate opinion is; that in an educational point of view they are not doing the good which is attributed to them: first, on account of the limitation of the hours of schooling; next; from the absence of writing, and other such secular instruction; and, thirdly, on account of the teachers; who with honour be it spoken, are eight-tenths of the working classes, yet unequal to the task of teaching.

I do not mean to detract from the merits of Sunday-schools as a source of religious knowledge, which by some is considered the basis upon which all others should be built, or from the moral effects resulting from the congregating of children in religious places; or from associating with religious friends; but would rather give my humble praise to the many sects who have with such determined efforts striven to stem the torrent of infidelity, profligacy, and drunkenness, and continue with pious zeal, in imitation of their founder, to extend the knowledge and love of God.

Thomas Jordan (1993) has summed up the value of education during the first half of the 19th century,

In 1851, Henry Mayhew reported that costermongers sent their children to school only to "save the trouble of tending them" (Quennell 1969). In the early decades, reformers established Sunday schools to promote access to the Bible, although some of them were anxious about educating the poor beyond their presumed station in life.

At a more political level, the tension between the Anglicans' National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church and the Chapel's British and Foreign Schools Society delayed reform of education. The National Society was the larger, and the Royal Lancasterian Society was smaller than either.

Overall, the pattern of schooling was spotty in the early and middle decades of the 19th century, and Bedfordshire had the highest rate of illiteracy. Wolverhampton, according to the Morning Chronicle's special correspondent in 1851, had " ... 15,000 children in a space of a few square miles growing up in dense and total ignorance."

It should be noted that education in the period owed much to the efforts of individuals. Hannah More, early in the 19th century, promoted literacy through Wesleyanism, Robert Raikes' Ragged Schools laid a foundation for later efforts, and Mary Carpenter directed her efforts toward delinquents through scholarship and penal reform.

With the Elementary Education Act of 1870, the government finally undertook serious educational planning. A series of commissions from the Devonshire Report in 1872 subsequently undertook further reform of education. In 1902, public policy led to administrative changes and to promotion of secondary education.

And ... No Charity!! Return to Chapter Index

Among the most unfortunate consequences of government 'hand-outs', in the minds of many writers of the 18th and 19th centuries, was their negative impact on the willingness of the poor to work. One of several writers quoted by Edgar Furniss (1920), in examining the issue, was William Temple,

Temple wrote at a time when the poor rates were computed at two and a half millions of pounds annually and were continually on the increase; when the minds of men were filled with fresh memories of the destructive riots which the past four years had seen; when, in fact, there seemed to be lacking no evidence of the despair-engendered viciousness of the lower classes necessary to convince the short-sighted observers of the day of their innate depravity.

Temple proceeded to find the cause of this immorality in the existing laws for poor relief:

Our poor laws are at present a snare to the poor, and leave them loose to idleness, debauchery and insolence; because they depend on these laws for support in necessity; and knowing that a justice of the peace will relieve them, they despise parish officers, insult the inhabitants, and do not feel themselves obliged to their benefactors for what they receive.

It is upon the poor laws that the poor rely and not upon their own behavior and conduct; and this tends to destroy all subordination as well as gratitude and mutual esteem. (William Temple, 1770, Essay)

But the writer's belief that the poor laws were responsible for the condition he decried, did not cause him to absolve the laborer from all blame for his " idleness, debauchery, and insolence."

The reaction of the laborers toward these well-intentioned efforts to ease their life conditions, was rather construed as evidence of a deep-lying moral taint in the character of the people, a proneness to evil which became pronounced in the presence of conditions in the least degree favorable to an indulgence of their congenital habits of indolence and debauchery.

Temple concluded that life had been made too easy for the laborer, that he had fallen into the evil ways so congenial to his temperament, and that necessity alone could enforce labor - the labor which the poor man owed to his nation; necessity, visualized in hard times, low wages, high prices, toil-inducing want.

This is the one strong note which sounds through the writings of the eighteenth-century social reformers, the demand for rigorous life conditions to discipline the laborer and purge his character of the evil habits of "luxury" and "sloth," a demand which takes a variety of forms during the period, advocating different expedients, all calculated to render the hard lot of the laboring classes still harder....
(Furniss 1920, pp. 106-7)

Joseph Townsend, in A Dissertation on the Poor Laws , in 1786, provided perhaps the most rational, calculated solution to the problem of compelling the poor to work when he suggested that the best means was to strip them of all alternative means of livelihood; and reduce wages to the bare minimum required for subsistence. The problem, as many had explained through more than two centuries, was that the poor would work for only so long as they absolutely had to in order to obtain their subsistence. If they could do this in three or four days of work then they would only work for that period. So, it was clearly counterproductive to provide them with above-subsistence wages.

For Townsend, as for Mandeville, Temple, Ferguson and many other writers of the century, one of the greatest errors of reformers over the previous two centuries was that they had attempted to deal with the problem of poverty by providing welfare payments of various kinds to those who were destitute. In doing so, they expanded and perpetuated the very problem they were trying to address 168 .

First, Townsend states the problem, stemming, he believes 169 , from the old monastic system which supported the poor in their indolence and was dismantled when Henry VIII, in the early 16th century, broke up the monasteries and appropriated their possessions.

At the dissolution of the monasteries, the lazy and the indigent, who were deprived of their accustomed food, became clamorous, and, having long since forgot to work, were not only ready to join in every scheme for the disturbance of the state, but, as vagrants, by their numbers, by their impostures, and by their thefts, they rendered themselves a public and most intolerable nuisance 170 .

According to Townsend, these wretches, once succored by the Church and, in the main, a product of the foolishness of misplaced charity, were, with the breakup of the feudal Church in England, forced to fend for themselves. Only, having for so long been fed and clothed by the religious communities, they no longer possessed the skills, motivation or inclination to work for their own living.

Now, according to Townsend, in the latter part of the 18th century, it was time to seriously address the problem posed by the descendants of those lazy and indigent wards of the Church. And, since the responsible people of the age now approached everything rationally, presuming that in a rational consideration of the elements of a problem the solution would become plain, this problem should be approached in that way.

There never was greater distress among the poor: there never was more money collected for their relief. But what is most perplexing is, that poverty and wretchedness have increased in exact proportion to the efforts which have been made for the comfortable subsistence of the poor; and that wherever most is expended for their support, there objects of distress are most abundant; whilst in those countries or provincial districts where the least provision has been made for their supply, we hear the fewest groans. Among the former we see drunkenness and idleness cloathed in rags; among the latter we hear the chearful songs of industry and virtue.
(Townsend 1786)

So, the solution was obvious, take away charity. Misplaced charity breeds the problems it claims to address. Force the poor to fend for themselves and they will develop those skills which they presently lack. Having learned to work, they will come to enjoy it and their regions will resound to "the chearful songs of industry and virtue".

How could the state go about this without provoking widespread civil unrest? Again, Townsend claimed, to understand the solution one needed to examine measures previously tried and determine why they had failed.

Through the previous two hundred years, the major approaches to the problem of the laziness and indigence of the poor had involved legislation and social compulsion. Innumerable laws had been passed compelling the poor to work. None had succeeded. Even more laws had been passed, and draconian penalties applied to address the immorality and dishonesty of the idle poor; again, without any apparent success in dealing with the problems of crime and immorality among the poor. So, to continue with either of these seemed pointless.

The poor were clearly not motivated to work through any sense of pride in achievement, ambition or self-respect. They were 'not yet civilized'. But they must be taught to work. Best, therefore, to resort, not to manmade laws and compulsions, which are seldom successful, but to those 'natural' motives which drive human beings to labor.

Freemen should not be compelled to work, but they can be motivated by lowering their incomes to levels which will reduce them to 'the bread line'. Then they will work because they need to, and the wages they receive will lay

...a lasting and sure foundation for good will and gratitude.

The slave must be compelled to work; but the freeman should be left to his own judgment and discretion; should be protected in the full enjoyment of his own, be it much or little; and punished when he invades his neighbour's property. By recurring to those base motives which influence the slave, and trusting only to compulsion, all the benefits of free service, both to the servant and to the master, must be lost.
(Townsend 1786)

The second half of the 18th century saw the final push to strip away small-holdings from the rural poor of Britain, making them entirely dependent on wage-labor for subsistence.

The enclosure of commons had been going on for centuries before 1760, but with nothing like the rapidity with which it has been going on since, it is known that 554,974 acres were enclosed between 1710 and 1760, while nearly 7,000,000 were enclosed between 1760 and 1845.
(Toynbee, 1884)

If the poor were going to eat, they would have to accept wage labor. And the wages they would receive would be those which the market set. Of course, in a labor market flooded by the rural dispossessed, competition for work gave employers an enormous advantage and wages dropped below amounts required for subsistence.

The Speenhamland decrees 171 in the late 18th century allowed employers to pay "market rates" for labor, which soon drove wages below what was necessary to maintain subsistence. Parishes were required to make up the shortfall from their rates. This soon placed parish finances under great strain.

In 1834 the Poor Laws were amended to remove this 'burden' from the parishes, transferring it to the poor. After all, what had they to complain about? All they had to do was 'get a job'. As Andrew Ure insisted in 1835, many workers "pamper themselves into nervous ailments by a diet too rich and exciting for their in-door occupations"!

Don't allow them to organize - it's Bad for Them! Return to Chapter Index

... Before the "strike" of 1836-7, many of [the houses] were tenanted by their owners; but that unfortunate and mistaken attempt to coerce their masters, provoked by some few itinerant demagogues that visited the neighbourhood under the pretence of improving the condition of their occupants, occasioned most of them to change hands, and contributed to reduce those who were in a previous state of prosperity and happiness, to one of dependence, humiliation, and poverty, from which they have never recovered.
(Scriven Report 1842 Point 11)

The workmen... very seldom derive any advantage from the violence of those tumultuous combinations, which, partly from the interposition of the civil magistrate, partly from the necessary superior steadiness of the masters, partly from the necessity which the greater part of the workmen are under of submitting for the sake of present subsistence, generally end in nothing, but the punishment or ruin of the ringleaders.
(Adam Smith 1776, p. 85)

Confrontations between employers and workers were not new to the 19th century. They had occurred throughout western Europe over more than three hundred years 172 . And, because legal force has always favored employers and landowners 173 , it was inevitable that throughout the period laws would exist constraining united action on the part of workers.

Adam Smith (1776), in his most famous work, The Wealth of Nations, described the nature of confrontation between workers and employers in the mid 18th century; an astute description which has proved valid over the past two hundred years 174 .

In the 19th century and later there would be two quite distinct groups of 'workers'. One group would have its roots in the artisanal groupings of the 18th century and feel a 'natural' connection with their employers. The other group would come from 'The Poor' and bring quite different motivations and understandings with them into the 'workplace'. Both groups would confront employers with their demands, but laws would apply most effectively to the second group, to the 'working poor'.

The anti-combination laws of 1799-1800 most directly addressed the artisanal workers who were already effectively organizing at the start of the 19th century. And it was toward them that many of the restrictions on worker protest activity written into the 'repeal' of those laws during the 1820s would be directed. It would not be until the second half of the 19th century that the second group would begin to have an effective voice in protesting working conditions.

Organizations of Artisans Return to Chapter Index

Christiane Eisenberg provided an account of the emergence of the 'labor aristocracy' of the 18th and 19th centuries,

The guilds split into the wealthy masters' and merchants' Livery Companies (whose functions were soon restricted to sociability) and the Yeomanries of poorer artisans, masters as well as journeymen. Most members of the Yeomanries becoming sooner or later dependent on merchants and other putters-outs, the numbers of self-employed artisans diminished.

In his 1776 Wealth of Nations Adam Smith wrote of twenty men working for wages for every one who was his own master. In a more recent study, this calculation has been confirmed for London, which by the end of the 18th century was by far England's largest center of artisanal production.
(1991 p. 510)

As a consequence of the 18th century Revivals, the lower middle ranking people of Western Europe were reorganized and firmly placed as an urban small-business and artisan 'class', with some of the more ambitious providing the manufacturing elites of the 19th century.

The artisanal groups provided a skilled labor force. They were allied to those whose morality and self-image came out of the 18th century revivals. They were capitalist, not pre-capitalist in orientation 175 . They held many of the capitalist understandings of the world and attitudes toward the idle poor even more strongly than the 'old-money' middle ranking people of the time 176 .

Artisans, employing artisan apprentices of their own, either maintained their own small businesses or became attached to large manufacturing enterprises. As productive enterprises grew in size, many became either sub-contractors to those businesses or became skilled employees. Focusing on Birmingham and Sheffield, Maxine Berg described the scene in the first half of the 19th century:

From the 1820s there was a rise in the size of establishments, the introduction of machinery, and falling apprenticeship and wages. It was in this period that the balance of power shifted away from the skilled artisan to the larger scale unit.

This dramatic break between the large and small producers appeared to prevail in most of the town's industries between 1829 and 1840, whether they were 'traditional', such as tailoring or the leather trades, or new mechanised industries, such as steel-toymaking. The large-scale units dominated the town by 1840, and the small firm depended on the credit and market facilities controlled by the larger ...

Often, independent artisan producers moved by choice into the factory, where by subcontracting they could maintain the viability of their small enterprises
(1993 pp. 19, 21).

In either case, they remained detached from the 'ordinary worker', a distinct group of small-scale capitalists who supported each other and met in their own clubs and institutes. They increasingly needed to organize to protect their interests and, in the process, became recognized as a radical force within British society.

Inevitably, since through the later 18th and the 19th century they increasingly found themselves working in the same enterprises as the 'working poor', the distinctions between the groups blurred at the boundaries. Some of them, over time, became leaders in Union movements among the 'working poor', a 'labor aristocracy', concerned to improve the lot of less fortunate workers.

However, most remained aloof, a group with their own interests to pursue. As James Jaffe (2000) has described, even now, when unionization is weak, it is as often because workers mistrust unionization as because employers and governments deliberately attempt to prevent workers from collective bargaining.

At the start of the 19th century, articulate workers and trades-people, the artisans of the period, were as suspicious of organizations which focused on the independent rights of the laboring poor as were their employers. This made attempts at worker organization very difficult.

They were motivated by all the moral virtues of the age. They knew the importance of both industry and frugality! Christine Macleod (1999) provided a picture of:

the innovative pursuits of shop-floor inventors in the grimy workshops and factories of Victorian Britain ... It is important to emphasize that we are dealing here with the upper echelons of the working class. The 'working man' that Victorian commentators had in mind was almost certainly 'the respectable artisan',

a member of the lower-middle classes of Victorian Britain. Driven by the entrepreneurial spirit of the 18th century revivals among the 'little gentry', they provided much of the innovative force of the 19th:

It was a commonplace in mid-nineteenth-century Britain that the majority of inventors were working men, and both sides in the 'patent controversy' - reformers and abolitionists - claimed to be acting in the interests of the working-class inventor as they advocated contrary strategies.

'Generally, inventions come from the operatives', Paul Rapsey Hodge, himself an inventor, engineer and patent agent, told a parliamentary select committee in 1851. Isambard Kingdom Brunel concurred, as did patent agent Thomas Webster, who explained that,

In an established manufacture, improvement must consist in small details; the workman is better educated as to, or has more experience of, the wants of the machine than any other person.

The Manchester engineer, William Fairbairn, insisted that in larger mechanical engineering firms it was the 'working partner' (or a foreman or manager) who was responsible for most inventions, 'from his great experience and desire to expedite the work', but then explained that such a man had usually 'been originally a workman, who [had risen] by his industry and careful attention to business'.
(Macleod 1999 p. 19)

Robin Pearson gave a description of some of them in the 19th century,

...the lower middle class, a heterogeneous body of tradesmen and small employers who came to dominate the public life of the industrial suburbs in the mid-Victorian decades ...

In the local press, in almanacs and histories, in lectures at political clubs, school halls and mechanics' institutes, shopkeepers and small employers invoked a community sentiment which was at once radical in its hostility to central authority, and conservative, in that it sought to maintain their hegemony in the out-townships at the expense of a labor solidarity based on class opposition.

The latter was attempted, for instance, via repeated homilies to the worker to accept his lot. Praise for the nobility of work was qualified by strictures on the need for humility and caution, "knowing one's place," both in the sense of loyalty to one's local community, and in the sense of social deference.
(1993, p. 21)

The emerging lower middle classes of Britain felt as threatened (or, perhaps, more threatened because of their own social proximity) by attempts at political organization amongst the recently 'idle poor' as did their social superiors. The 'Working Classes' of Britain were composed of people like those described by Don Herzog:

...workers banded together in clubs, some more formal than others, and met in alehouses to talk about politics. One churchman catalogued the rise of "Revolutionary Clubs" figuring they meant the onset of riots and worse. Other conservatives were unhappy, too, pondering the malignant example of France's Jacobin Clubs.

In 1802, the Leeds Mercury printed a letter musing over such nightly meetings:

Almost every street in a large town has a little senate of this description; and the priviledges of sitting in council over the affaires of the nation, and a pot of porter has long been claimed by free Britons...

(1998 p. 60)

Their experiences during the 18th century had made them suspicious about the moral reliability of those who still held political power and control of most major financial institutions 177 . This had left them with a reinforced conviction of the importance of the separation of commerce and politics, and a growing belief in the moral inadequacy of state institutions, including the state church. They were even more dismissive of the poor.

Organizing the 'Working Poor' Return to Chapter Index

In 1834, in response to continued concern among the middle ranks about the laziness, lack of moral fiber and costs of maintaining the 'idle poor', the Poor Laws were amended. As Thomas Carlyle wrote in 1839,

The New Poor-Law is an announcement, sufficiently distinct, that whosoever will not work ought not to live. Can the poor man that is willing to work, always find work, and live by his work?

... A man willing to work, and unable to find work, is perhaps the saddest sight that Fortune's inequality exhibits under this sun.
(1885, p. 21)

John Fielden, a member of parliament and, himself, a cotton manufacturer from Lancashire, spoke against the conditions applying to the 'working poor' in 1836:

Here, then, is the "curse" of our factory-system; as improvements in machinery have gone on, the "avarice of masters" has prompted many to exact more labor from their hands than they were fitted by nature to perform, and those who have wished for the hours of labor to be less for all ages than the legislature would even yet sanction, have had no alternative but to conform more or less to the prevailing practice, or abandon the trade altogether.

This has been the case with regard to myself and my partners. We have never worked more than seventy-one hours a week before Sir JOHN HOBHOUSE'S Act was passed. We then came down to sixty-nine; and since Lord ALTHORP's Act was passed, in 1833, we have reduced the time of adults to sixty-seven and a half hours a week, and that of children under thirteen years of age to forty-eight hours in the week, though to do this latter has, I must admit, subjected us to much inconvenience, but the elder hands to more, inasmuch as the relief given to the child is in some measure imposed on the adult.

But the overworking does not apply to children only; the adults are also overworked. The increased speed given to machinery within the last thirty years, has, in very many instances, doubled the labor of both.
(John Fielden, M.P., 1836, pp. 34-35)

The abject poverty and destitution of vast numbers of casual and low paid workers and unemployed people through the 18th and 19th centuries makes any belief in the Summum Bonum 178 consequences of disciplined self-interest seem myopically absurd.

If capitalism flourished and bloomed through this period, it provided little relief for the poor. A few contemporary descriptions of Manchester and similar regions, representative of a much larger body of literature from the period, paint a grim picture:

Alexis de Tocqueville, in the 1830s, described the scene as he approached Manchester:

An undulating plain, or rather a collection of little hills. Below the hills a narrow river (the Irwell), which flows slowly to the Irish sea. Two streams (the Medlock and the Irk) wind through the uneven ground and after a thousand bends, flow into the river. Three canals made by man unite their tranquil lazy waters at the same point. On this watery land, which nature and art have contributed to keep damp, are scattered palaces and hovels.

Everything in the exterior appearance of the city attests the individual powers of man; nothing the directing power of society. At every turn human liberty shows its capricious creative force. There is no trace of the slow continuous action of government. Thirty or forty factories rise on the tops of the hills I have just described. Their six stories tower up; their huge enclosures give notice from afar of the centralisation of industry.

The wretched dwellings of the poor are scattered haphazard around them. Round them stretches land uncultivated but without the charm of rustic nature and still without the amenities of a town ... Some of [the] roads are paved, but most of them are full of ruts and puddles into which foot or carriage wheel sinks deep ...

Heaps of dung, rubble from buildings, putrid, stagnant pools are found here and there amongst the houses and over the bumpy, pitted surfaces of the public places ...

Amid this noisome labyrinth from time to time one is astonished at the sight of fine stone buildings with Corinthian columns ... But who could describe the interiors of those quarters set apart, home of vice and poverty, which surround the huge palaces of industry and clasp them in their hideous folds?

On ground below the level of the river and overshadowed on every side by immense workshops, stretches marshy land which widely spaced muddy ditches can neither drain nor cleanse. Narrow twisting roads lead down to it. They are lined with one-storey houses whose ill-fitting planks and broken windows show them up, even from a distance, as the last refuge a man might find between poverty and death.

Nonetheless the wretched people reduced to living in them can still inspire jealousy of their fellow beings. Below some of their miserable dwellings is a row of cellars to which a sunken corridor leads; twelve to fifteen human beings are crowded pell-mell into each of these damp, repulsive holes.
(1958, pp.105-6)

James Kay described an area of Manchester between 1831 and 1844,

The cottages are very small, old and dirty, while the streets are uneven, partly unpaved, not properly drained and full of ruts. Heaps of refuse, offal and sickening filth are everywhere interspersed with pools of stagnant liquid. The atmosphere is polluted by the stench and is darkened by the thick smoke of a dozen factory chimneys.

A horde of ragged women and children swarm about the streets and they are just as dirty as the pigs which wallow happily on the heaps of garbage and in the pools of filth.

In short, this horrid little slum affords as hateful and repulsive a spectacle as the worst courts to be found on the banks of the Irk. The inhabitants live in dilapidated cottages, the windows of which are broken and patched with oilskin. The doors and the door posts are broken and rotten.

The creatures who inhabit these dwellings and even their dark, wet cellars, and who live confined amidst all this filth and foul air-which cannot be dissipated because of the surrounding lofty buildings-must surely have sunk to the lowest level of humanity.

That is the conclusion that surely must be drawn even by any visitor who examines the slum from the outside, without entering any of the dwellings. But his feelings of horror would be intensified if he were to discover that on average 20 people live in each of these little houses, which at the moment consist of 2 rooms, an attic and cellar. One privy - and that usually inaccessible - is shared by about 120 people.

In spite of all the warnings of the doctors and in spite of the alarm caused to the health authorities by the condition of Little Ireland during the cholera epidemic, the condition of this slum is practically the same in this year of grace 1844 as it was in 1831.
(from The Moral and Physical Condition of the Working Classes by James Phillips Kay MD (1844))

Phil Chapple provides a glimpse into conditions in Preston in 1844,

A visitor entering Queen Street, finds himself facing a row of privies of more than 100 yards long. The doors of the privies are about 6 feet from the house doors opposite and the space between one privy and another is filled up with all imaginable and unimaginable filth; so that the street consists of passages little more than 6 feet wide, with dwelling houses on one side and a continuous range of necessaries, pigsties and middens on the other, with a filthy surface drain running along one side ... 12 houses have their only outlets upon this disgusting and pestiferous passage.

The working-class slums of the mid-19th century English industrial town have fascinated and horrified social historians for decades. The example above, from the Reverend J. Clay's report on Preston in 1844, presented a vision of squalor repeated many times over across industrial urban England.

In such environments children were born, lived, played and worked, and for hundreds of thousands life was short and brutal ... While industrialization and urbanization undoubtedly brought about great national wealth, they also produced misery ...
(Chapple 2000, p. 42)

Attempts by the 'working poor' to improve their lot were strongly resisted through both centuries.

In 1835 Andrew Ure examined conditions in factories, with a typical middle ranking understanding of the world in which he lived. As he explained,

It seems established by a body of incontestable evidence, that the wages of our factory work-people, if prudently spent, would enable them to live in a comfortable manner, and decidedly better than formerly, in consequence of the relative diminution in the price of food, fuel, lodgings, and clothing. (p.306)

Earlier in the same publication he described the problem of workers' agitation against their conditions,

The textile manufactures consist of two distinct departments; one carried on by multitudes of small independent machines belonging to the workmen, another carried on by concatenated systems of machinery, the property of the masters ...

The operatives of the latter class are necessarily associated in large bodies, and moreover have no capital sunk in machinery or work-shops. When they choose to strike they can readily join in the blow, and by stopping they suffer merely the loss of wages for the time, while they occasion to their master loss of interest on his sunk capital, his rent, and his taxes, as well as injury to the delicate moving parts of metallic mechanisms by inaction in our humid climate.

There are several cotton-mills in Manchester, of which the interest on sunk capital amounts to from 5,000l. to 10,000l. per annum. If we add to the loss of this interest, that of the profit fairly resulting from the employment of the said capital, we may be able to appreciate in some measure the vast evils which mischievous cabals among the operatives may inflict on mill-owners, as well as on the commerce of the country ...

Proud of the power of malefaction, many of the cotton-spinners, though better paid, as we have shown, than any similar set of artisans in the world, organized the machinery of strikes through all the gradations of their people, terrifying, cajoling the timid or the passive among them to join their vindictive union.

They boasted of possessing a dark tribunal, by the mandates of which they could paralyze every mill whose master did not comply with their wishes, and so bring ruin on the man who had given them profitable employment for many a year. By flattery or intimidation, they levied contributions from their associates in the privileged mills, which they suffered to proceed, in order to furnish spare funds for the maintenance of the idle during the decreed suspension of labor.

In this extraordinary state of things, when the inventive head and the sustaining heart of trade were held in bondage by the unruly lower members, a destructive spirit began to display itself among some partisans of the union. Acts of singular atrocity were committed, sometimes with weapons fit only for demons to wield, such as the corrosive oil of vitriol, dashed in the faces of most meritorious individuals, with the effect of disfiguring their persons, and burning their eyes out of the sockets with dreadful agony.

The true spirit of turn-outs among the spinners is well described in the following statement made on oath to the Factory Commission, by Mr. George Royle Chappel, a manufacturer of Manchester, who employs 274 hands, and two steam-engines of sixty-four horse power.

I have had several turn-outs, and have heard of many more, but never heard of a turn-out for short time. I will relate the circumstances of the last turn-out, which took place on the 16th October, 1830, and continued till the 17th January, 1831. The whole of our spinners, whose average (weekly) wages were 2l. 13s. 5d., turned out at the instigation, as they told us at the time, of the delegates of the union. They said they had no fault to find with their wages, their work, or their masters, but the union obliged them to turn out.

The same week three delegates from the spinners' union waited upon us at our mill, and dictated certain advances in wages, and other regulations, to which, if we would not adhere, they said neither our own spinners nor any other should work for us again! Of course we declined, believing our wages to be ample, and our regulations such as were necessary for the proper conducting of the establishment.

The consequences were, they set watches on every avenue to the mill, night and day, to prevent any fresh hands coming into the mill, an object which they effectually attained, by intimidating some, and promising support to others (whom I got into the mill in a caravan), if they would leave their work. Under these circumstances I could not work the mill, and advertised it for sale, without any applications, and I also tried in vain to let it.

At the end of twenty-three weeks the hands requested to be taken into the mill again on the terms that they had left it, declaring, as they had done at first, that the union alone had forced them to turn out. The names of the delegates that waited on me were, Jonathan Hodgins, Thomas Foster, and Peter Madox, secretary to the union.

(Andrew Ure 1835 pp. 281-4)

Andrew Ure's account of the duplicity and greed of workers in the cotton industry who "pamper themselves into nervous ailments by a diet too rich and exciting for their in-door occupations" is representative of many middle class writings on attempts at unionization by the working poor during the first half of the 19th century. As he continues,

We have seen that the union of operative spinners had, at an early date, denounced their own occupations as being irksome, severe, and unwholesome in an unparalleled degree. Their object in making this misrepresentation was obviously to interest the community in their favor at the period of their lawless strike in the year 1818.

Subsequently to this crisis, some individuals of their governing committee made the notable discovery, that if the quantity of yarn annually spun could by any means be reduced, its scarcity in the market would raise its price, and consequently raise the rate of their wages. They accordingly suggested the shortening of the time of labor to ten hours, as the grand remedy for low wages and hard work; though at this time they were receiving at least three times more wages than hand-loom weavers for the same number of hours' employment, and therefore had very little reason to complain of their lot.

In fact, it was their high wages which enabled them to maintain a stipendiary committee in affluence, and to pamper themselves into nervous ailments by a diet too rich and exciting for their in-door occupations. Had they plainly promulgated their views and claims, they well knew that no attention would have been paid to them, but they artfully introduced the tales of cruelty and oppression to children, as resulting from their own protracted labor, and succeeded by this stratagem to gain many well meaning proselytes to their cause.
(1835, pp. 298-9)

William Booth, a Methodist evangelist, at the end of the 19th century could still say,

Alas, what multitudes there are around us everywhere, many known to my readers personally, and any number who may be known to them by a very short walk from their own dwellings, who are in this very plight!

Their vicious habits and destitute circumstances make it certain that without some kind of extraordinary help, they must hunger and sin, and sin and hunger, until, having multiplied their kind, and filled up the measure of their miseries, the gaunt fingers of death will close upon them and terminate their wretchedness.

And all this will happen this very winter in the midst of the unparalleled wealth, and civilization, and philanthropy of this professedly most Christian land.
(Booth 1890, Preface)

These conditions had first emerged some three hundred years earlier. They had grown steadily worse over two hundred years. Capitalism was built on these foundations 179 .

In the second half of the 19th century, with wealth flowing to Britain from its considerable empire, conditions for the poor slowly improved. Robert Steinfeld (2007) has given a succinct explanation of the freedoms won by workers' unions in the 1870s:

the "Employers and Workmen Act," which eliminated criminal penalties for breaches of employment contracts in most cases, and the "Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act," which repealed the Criminal Law Amendment Act, revised the controversial picketing clause, and completely removed trade disputes between employers and workmen from the reach of the common law of criminal conspiracy 180 .

While still oppressive, conditions for the 'laboring poor' of Britain were changing for the better. They were rapidly deteriorating for colonial populations.

Conclusion Return to Chapter Index

... If the love of money is the root of all evil, the want of money is the cause of an immensity of evil and trouble. The moment you begin practically to alleviate the miseries of the people, you discover that the eternal want of pence is one of their greatest difficulties.

In my most sanguine moments I have never dreamed of smoothing this difficulty out of the lot of man, but it is surely no unattainable ideal to establish a Poor Man's Bank, which will extend to the lower middle class and the working population the advantages of the credit system, which is the very foundation of our boasted commerce.

It might be better that there should be no such thing as credit, that no one should lend money, and that everyone should be compelled to rely solely upon whatever ready money he may possess from day to day. But if so, let us apply the principle all round; do not let us glory in our world-wide commerce and boast ourselves in our riches, obtained, in so many cases, by the ignoring of this principle.

If it is right for a great merchant to have dealings with his banker, if it is indispensable for the due carrying on of the business of the rich men that they should have at their elbow a credit system which will from time to time accommodate them with needful advances and enable them to stand up against the pressure of sudden demands, which otherwise would wreck them, then surely the case is still stronger for providing a similar resource for the smaller men, the weaker men.

At present Society is organized far too much on the principle of giving to him who hath so that he shall have more abundantly, and taking away from him who hath not even that which he hath.

If we are to really benefit the poor, we can only do so by practical measures. We have merely to look round and see the kind of advantages which wealthy men find indispensable for the due management of their business, and ask ourselves whether poor men cannot be supplied with the same opportunities. The reason why they are not is obvious. To supply the needs of the rich is a means of making yourself rich; to supply the needs of the poor will involve you in trouble so out of proportion to the profit that the game may not be worth the candle.

Men go into banking and other businesses for the sake of obtaining what the American humorist said was the chief end of man in these modern times, namely, "ten per cent." To obtain a ten per cent. what will not men do? They will penetrate the bowels of the earth, explore the depths of the sea, ascend the snow-capped mountain's highest peak, or navigate the air, if they can be guaranteed a ten per cent. I do not venture to suggest that the business of a Poor Man's Bank would yield ten per cent., or even five, but I think it might be made to pay its expenses, and the resulting gain to the community would be enormous.

Ask any merchant in your acquaintance where his business would be if he had no banker, and then, when you have his answer, ask yourself whether it would not be an object worth taking some trouble to secure, to furnish the great mass of our fellow countrymen, on sound business principles with the advantages of the credit system, which is found to work so beneficially for the "well-to-do" few.

Some day I hope the State may be sufficiently enlightened to take up this business itself; at present it is left in the hands of the pawnbroker and the loan agency, and a set of sharks, who cruelly prey upon the interests of the poor.

The establishment of land banks, where the poor man is almost always a peasant, has been one of the features of modern legislation in Russia, Germany, and elsewhere. The institution of a Poor Man's Bank will be, I hope, before long, one of the recognized objects of our own government.
(William Booth (1890))

William Booth was a Methodist preacher. He would found a movement, The Salvation Army, which still, today, accepts a deep responsibility for providing practical help (in Booth's words, 'soup, soap and salvation') to the poor 181 . His practical approach to poverty was based on the tried and true principles of Methodism 182 . Their influence on both policies and practice in 'reforming the poor' would lead to the development of 'welfare' programs both by other religious organizations and Western governments. The wastelands of Western Europe and its offspring would slowly but surely be converted into a 'lower middle capitalist class'.

True to the vision of John Wesley, the mission to redeem the lost would not stop with the poor of London, or even of Western Europe. Western Europeans now had vast colonial territories. There was a new wasteland - vast and daunting in its scope - and Western Europeans could not escape their God-given responsibility for reclaiming it, bringing 'soup, soap and salvation' to the lost. The West knew that it was destined to bring 'civilization' and 'development' to the populations of the world.

One could paraphrase the song 'Streets of London', written by Ralph McTell in 1969,

So how can you tell me you're lonely,
And say for you that the sun don't shine?
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets
of - any of a thousand slums around the world
I'll show you something to make you change your mind.

End of Chapter

Chapter 6:
Capitalism and Work: the White Man's Burden Return to Index of Chapters

Western people do not work in order to live.
They live to work!

The nigger is a lazy beast and must be compelled to work - compelled by Government - with a stick.
(Sir Rudolph Slatin 183 (in Gilbert Murray 1900 p. 135))

Suppose that, at a given moment, a certain number of people are engaged in the manufacture of pins. They make as many pins as the world needs, working (say) eight hours a day.

Someone makes an invention by which the same number of men can make twice as many pins as before. But the world does not need twice as many pins: pins are already so cheap that hardly any more will be bought at a lower price.

In a sensible world, everybody concerned in the manufacture of pins would take to working four hours instead of eight, and everything else would go on as before. But in the actual world this would be thought demoralising. The men still work eight hours, there are too many pins, some employers go bankrupt, and half the men previously concerned in making pins are thrown out of work.

There is, in the end, just as much leisure as on the other plan, but half the men are totally idle while half are still overworked. In this way, it is insured that the unavoidable leisure shall cause misery all round instead of being a universal source of happiness. Can anything more insane be imagined?
(Russell 1935 pp.16,17)

The White Man's Burden Return to Chapter Index

The 19th century was the century in which unregulated capitalism lay at the heart of most Western European public and private policy and practice. It was the century in which 'The Poor', long a vexing problem for responsible people - and, of course, a source of cheap labor and profit for capitalist enterprise - were taught to work.

By the end of the century, life was slowly improving for Western Europe's poor. But, for the responsible middle classes of Western Europe, the job was far from complete! A new 'Poor' had been found, indigent and slothful, in need of discipline and direction, in the extensive colonies for which they had accepted responsibility.

The next century would be the one in which Western working poor slowly gained legal rights and entitlements, enshrined in labor awards 184 . The wealth flowing into Western countries from the rest of the world would bring increasing material prosperity, improved living conditions, healthier diets, and even, for a period, the chance to pursue 'leisure' activities. This would not be true for the inhabitants of Europe's colonial empires.

The 19th was not only the century when The Poor learned to work. It was also the century of Western European colonial expansion. Populations around the world found themselves included, whether they liked it or not, in Western European empires.

A 1990 editorial in The Ecologist provides a bleak picture of a prime purpose of that expansion:

"History", wrote the French philosopher Voltaire, "is a fable upon which we are all agreed". So far as the colonial period goes, the fable would have us believe that the colonial powers were primarily motivated by a desire to bring "progress" and "civilization" to their colonies. Whilst this may indeed have been true of the missionaries who trail-blazed Europe's colonial expansion, it was far from the minds of the main architects of colonial rule.

Contemporary writings... 185 make it clear that for the governments of the day, the principle justification for colonialism was unashamedly economic. Colonies provided the means by which the metropolitan powers could secure access to cheap food, cheap raw materials and labor, new markets for manufactured goods and new investment opportunities. It was as simple as that.
(Ecologist Vol 20 No 6 1990 p. 202)

Hirst, Murray and Hammond (1900) examined the formation of and conduct in British colonies in a book entitled Liberalism and The Empire:

Our colonies, like most other colonies, owe their original existence, in one sense or another, to mere adventure or the power of the sword. They owe their vitality and strength, and most of the finer characteristics which make them almost unique in the history of colonization, to very different causes: to the policy of non-interference, to the studied avoidance of aggression, to toleration and generous amity between conflicting creeds and diverse races, to Liberal principles and Liberal ideas.

...Authority, force, firmness, the detection of offences, the assertion of rightful claims and the punishment of enemies, are, no doubt, principles of great power and value in the world as it now stands; but they are not, and never have been, sufficient alone.

Self-criticism, persuasion, patience, a wise blindness to offences, a reluctance to stand on the outermost edge of every right, the appeasement of enmities, are principles also of great and, one used to hope, of increasing value.

...A fabric of human lives so vast as that for which Her Majesty's Government is now responsible surely demands for its good guidance both high principles and profound prudence.

...There is no sentiment in a nation so dangerous, there is no sentiment so easy to stimulate, as the false excess of patriotism 186 .
(1900 Preface pp. v, vi, xi)

Gilbert Murray (1900) in an essay entitled The Exploitation of Inferior Races... provided a summary of common colonial practice toward 'the natives' in British colonial territories,

The 'corvee' or forced labor system, which implied a kind of formal, though very limited, 'slavery', is said to be still practised in some parts of British India, and exists in a very severe form in Natal. In Egypt it was abolished by us some years ago, but seems - though the statement has been denied - to have been reintroduced during the Soudan campaign under irregular and therefore exasperating conditions (Daily News, March 8, 1899).

In the Soudan itself we have, of course, recently proclaimed the formal abolition of slavery. The system we propose to substitute for it has been lucidly described by Sir Rudolph Slatin in an interview which appeared in several newspapers. [For instance, Daily Mail, March 11, 1899. 135]

'The nigger is a lazy beast,' said Slatin, 'and must be compelled to work - compelled by Government.' ' How?' asked his interlocutor. 'With a stick,' was Slatin's reply. Those who have followed the course of Slatin's singular career can perhaps form some notion of the probable weight of that stick!
(1900 p. 135)

J. L. Hammond (1900) in an essay entitled Colonial and Foreign Policy, summed up the British attitudes and responsibilities to its empire,

It is the major premiss of the Imperialist argument that British civilization is the best in the world...

The moral hegemony of the world which we have undertaken - we are ready to share it with America when she behaves herself to our satisfaction or when Europe is more than usually insolent - might be expected to imply that our conduct and our influence should act as a beneficent example upon other States. The phrase is that we are the schoolmasters of Europe...

As schoolmasters we are told that we stand outside the discipline of the school. Mr. Bryce has shown that during the negotiations with the Transvaal Government we contrived to provoke war before we had discovered a casus belli 187 .

It is not pretended that these negotiations would have been so conducted if we had been dealing with a Great Power, or, indeed, if we had known the strength of the Transvaal. In other words, we were taking advantage of our physical superiority.

And how is that course of action defended? By reminding ourselves of our missionary character! By recalling all the blessings which the world will reap from the extension of our Empire!
(in Hirst et al (1900) pp. 174-5)

Getting things into Perspective! Return to Chapter Index

Perspective is everything in understanding the real world.

From the Western European perspective, their colonies demonstrated their civilized approach to their responsibilities in life. Francis Hirst (1900, p. v) explained why:

They owe their vitality and strength, and most of the finer characteristics which make them almost unique in the history of colonization... to the policy of non-interference, to the studied avoidance of aggression, to toleration and generous amity between conflicting creeds and diverse races...

It all looked very different from the colonial perspective 188 .

In a book entitled Path to Nigerian Freedom, Obafemi Awolowo, later to be a prominent Yoruba politician in independent Nigeria, spelled out his view of the nature of the colonial territory known as Nigeria and of the relationship between Nigerians and their colonial masters:

The conquest of one nation by another in an unprovoked act of aggression cannot be justified by any standard of morality. Britain came to Nigeria of her own choosing, and with motives which are only too well known. She sought to impose her rule on the various tribes that inhabited the country in order to attain her own selfish ends.

There was then no question of trusteeship. This was the result of a later compunction of conscience which usually dawns on any evil-doer who is not hardened beyond redemption. Those tribes with whom she first came into contact resisted the unwarranted attack on their political independence. They were overpowered by force of arms. Thereafter, each tribe was faced with a choice of one of two roads leading to subjection: defeat or surrender...

There are various national or ethnical groups in the country. Ten main groups were recorded during the 1931 census as follows: (1) Hausa, (2) lbo, (3) Yoruba, (4) Fulani, (5) Kanuri, (6) Ibibio, (7) Munshi or Tiv, (8) Edo, (9) Nupe, and (10) Ijaw. According to Nigeria Handbook, 15th edition, 'there are also a great number of other small tribes too numerous to enumerate separately...'

It is a mistake to designate them 'tribes'. Each of them is a nation by itself with many tribes and clans. There is as much difference between them as there is between Germans, English, Russians and Turks for instance. The fact that they have a common overlord does not destroy this fundamental difference...

All these incompatibilities among the various peoples in the country militate against unification.... It is evident from the experiences of other nations that incompatibilities such as we have enumerated are barriers which cannot be overcome by glossing over them.
(Awolowo 1947, pp. 24,48-9)

A passage from a 1924 speech 189 by Prince Marc Kojo Tovalou Houčnou, a Dahomeyan (now Benin) who fought for France in the 1st World War, provided a bleak African perspective on the 'colonial experience':

Europe has inaugurated in the Colonies an area of veritable savagery and real barbarism which is carried out with science and premeditation - with all the art and all the refinement of civilization. The unfortunate natives have mingled their destinies with yours...

We understand nothing of the egotistic and barbarous aims sought by certain civilized people who believe that civilization can only reach its zenith by ignoring original laws, and by debasing and enslaving men who have the natural right to live, to evolve, and to attain the full expression of their being...

...The problem arose at the moment of the discovery of America when Europeans intoxicated by glory, adventure, and above all by rapine, sought to conquer new territories which did not belong to them.

They destroyed the aborigines - exterminated them! Then, terrified at the void they had created around them and being themselves incapable of labor, they turned to Africa for workmen. It was Africa that furnished contingents for penal labor - this Africa with whose unhappy history you are unacquainted but which some day, one of her sons will outline for you in darts of fire, - a monument of shame for that civilization of which you boast.

Without humanity there is no civilization!

If the monsters, full of vice, sodden with alcohol, contaminated by disease, whom you send to us, have nothing else to offer than what they have already given us, then keep them yourselves, and let us revert to our misery and our barbarity. The whole fatality that burdens Eschyllian tragedies cannot compare with the blackness of the African tragedy.

Under cover of civilization, men are hunted like deers, plundered, robbed, killed; and these horrors are presented afterwards in eloquent orations as blessings. Hypocrisy and knavery are added to crimes!
(Houčnou (1924) 1979, pp. 228,9)

By the end of the 19th century, Western European nations had divided the world amongst themselves. As Awolowo (1947) claimed of British practice:

Those tribes with whom she first came into contact resisted the unwarranted attack on their political independence. They were overpowered by force of arms. Thereafter, each tribe was faced with a choice of one of two roads leading to subjection: defeat or surrender.

Hillaire Belloc put it well in a poem 190 which celebrated the deployment of the first Vickers machine gun (the Maxim). The British South Africa Company used several of them in what was euphemistically called a 'war' against the Ndebele in Matabeleland (southern Zimbabwe) in November 1893 (Blood was a Maxim gunner's name):

I shall never forget the way
That Blood stood on this awful day
Preserved us all from death.
He stood upon a little mound
Cast his lethargic eye around,
And said beneath his breath;
'Whatever happens, we have got
The Maxim Gun, and they have not.'

As a popular British song of the period put it:

Some talk of Alexander,
And some of Hercules
Of Hector and Lysander,
And such great names as these.
But of all the world's great heroes,
There's none that can compare
With a tow, row, row, row, row, row,
To the British Grenadier

Millions of people around the world found themselves included within European empires, their lives reorganized to ensure that they, like The Poor of Western Europe in previous centuries, learned to work. There was a great deal to be done, and the responsible people of Western Europe, as 'schoolmasters' to the world, knew that they had a duty to ensure that 'the natives' (the Western colonial term for 'The Poor' of the world) learned to work.

An introduction to the summary of the UNESCO (2002) International Symposium on Post-Development has phrased it well,

By 1914, 84.4 % of the world's terrestrial area had been colonized by the Europeans. With colonization there came a new paradigm of development.

...According to many voices the paradigm of development has not changed. It emerges in new forms, in the current pursuit of neo-liberal globalization.

According to François Partant, the French banker-turned-critic of development;

the developed nations have discovered for themselves a new mission - to help the Third World countries advance along the same road to development which is nothing more than the road on which the West had guided the rest of humanity for several centuries.

[Partant, F., La Fin du Developpement, Francois Maspero, Paris, 1982]

As any well enculturated Western European would have told you 191 , colonialism, no matter what a few leftist trouble-makers and opportunists might say, was not about 'exploiting' the natives. They were children in need of parental direction, supervision and discipline. In their child-like simplicity they simply did not realize the true potential of the lands within which they lived and their true responsibilities before God. They had been living from hand-to-mouth and had neither the intelligence nor skills needed to realize their own potential.

It was the responsibility of Western Europeans to 'teach them the practice of frugality and industry' which they themselves had learned over four centuries - to 'develop' them 192 . At the end of the 19th century, this was Western Europe's inescapable responsibility. It was 'the White Man's burden'.

Rudyard Kipling (1899) 193 explained it:

Take up the White Man's burden -
Send forth the best ye breed -
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild -
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

...To seek another's profit,
And work another's gain.

...Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.

Take up the White Man's burden -
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard -
The cry of hosts ye humor
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light: -
"Why brought he us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?"

...Take up the White Man's burden -
Have done with childish days -
The lightly proferred laurel,
The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers!
(Rudyard Kipling McClure's Magazine 1899)

They would go where civilized people had never before ventured, assume the heavy duties of parenthood, and shine the light of civilization and the Gospel into the 'spiritual darkness' of 'heathen lands'.

Lowell Mason had expressed it well in a missionary hymn written in 1823,

From Greenland's icy mountains, from India's coral strand;
Where Afric's sunny fountains roll down their golden sand:
From many an ancient river, from many a palmy plain,
They call us to deliver their land from error's chain.

What though the spicy breezes blow soft o'er Ceylon's isle;
Though every prospect pleases, and only man is vile?
In vain with lavish kindness the gifts of God are strown;
The heathen in his blindness bows down to wood and stone.

Shall we, whose souls are lighted with wisdom from on high,
Shall we to those benighted the lamp of life deny?
Salvation! O salvation! The joyful sound proclaim,
Till earth's remotest nation has learned Messiah's Name.

Waft, waft, ye winds, His story, and you, ye waters, roll
Till, like a sea of glory, it spreads from pole to pole:
Till o'er our ransomed nature the Lamb for sinners slain,
Redeemer, King, Creator, in bliss returns to reign.

Western Europeans were on a millennial mission 194 . Good would triumph over evil, order over chaos, frugality and industry over improvidence and indolence. Responsible people, whose souls were 'lighted with wisdom from on high', had a duty to those who 'call us to deliver their land from error's chain'. And, a duty to ensure that all was in readiness for the arrival of that millennial golden age. If this entailed a little harshness, discipline and social disruption, that was unfortunate but necessary!

All schoolmasters knew that true learning requires obedience. As Sir John Eardley Wilmot had explained in the late 18th century,

to break the natural ferocity of human nature, to subdue the passions and to impress the principles of religion and morality, and give habits of obedience and subordination to paternal as well as political authority, is the first object to be attended to by all schoolmasters who know their duty and do it.
(The Gentleman's Magazine (1811) Volume 109 p. 449 (originally in Volume 73 p. 136))

Middle class Western Europeans had learned the lessons of their own history well.

The resolute firmness of the person who acts in this manner, and in order to obtain a great though remote advantage, not only gives up all present pleasures, but endures the greatest labor both of mind and body, necessarily commands our approbation.
(Adam Smith 1759 Part 4 Ch. 2)

The 'Development' Business Return to Chapter Index

'The natives' would never progress or become 'developed' without Western European help. Richard Whateley, Archbishop of Dublin, in 1854, had explained the problem,

Men, left in the lowest, or even anything approaching the lowest, degree of barbarism, in which they can possibly subsist at all, never did, and never can raise themselves, unaided, into a higher condition.
(in Campbell 1871 Pt 1 P.1)

Unless those already enlightened took responsibility for enlightening those who lived in darkness they would continue in ignorance and sloth! Missionary attitudes in central Africa in the 19th century, and on into the 20th, have been summed up neatly by Cairns,

The proper attitude was indicated by Carson of the L. M. S. [London Missionary Society] who, after noting that African men spent 'much time in indolence', remarked that it was inconceivable 'how the practice of that vice in the African race can be supposed to conduce to happiness in them when it makes us so miserable'.
(1965, p. 80)

Western European 'responsible' people of the middle ranks had taught their own poor the evil of sloth and the virtue of work over more than six centuries 195 . They brought both the experiences and practices they had acquired in doing so with them as they tackled the problem in their colonies.

As they had determinedly set about teaching the poor to work, they had also taught themselves that work was indispensable to a moral life. The Western European middle classes which took responsibility for reorganizing vast areas of the world during the later 19th and the 20th centuries, were committed to work, for its own sake. It was moral to work and immoral not to do so.

In the words of Adam Smith, asserted by countless other writers of the 17th to 20th centuries (and still being asserted today), the lives of virtuous people would and should demonstrate,

a steady perseverance in the practice of frugality, industry, and application, though directed to no other purpose than the acquisition of fortune.
(1759 Part 4 Ch. 2)

Western middle classes became and have remained convinced that everyone should work for their living and that they have a responsibility to ensure that the indolent do learn to work. To appreciate the driving force of the invasion of the world by Western Europeans over the past two centuries, we need to understand the Western belief in the fundamental importance of work, for its own sake, for its character building potential.

Of course the West invaded (and continues to invade) the world for its resources. Of course the West has profited from its appropriation of the environments of others. But they have done so for the best of all possible reasons.

They were and are in the 'Development' business! 196 In 'developing' the territories of the world, they were enabling the 'development' of their inhabitants. They were bringing order to the chaos of their lives, they were providing them with the opportunity to work. They were in the 'job creation' and 'work training' business!

Russell's observations, with which we started this discussion, highlight the inevitable consequences of human beings building particular understandings into their primary ideologies 197 . Work became a form of organization and activity which no longer needed to be 'explained'. To question its importance was either absurd or subversive. To suggest that the working day should be halved, was foolish. To suggest that work was not of equal importance everywhere on earth was equally silly. The reason why the rest of the world was impoverished and 'backward' was that they did not know how to 'put in a full day's work' 198 .

Over the past seven hundred years Western individuals and communities have progressively been reorganized and reoriented to what we now know as economic principles and practices 199 . People know that the economic presumptions contained within and expressed through the forms of organization within which they are enmeshed are correct, they make intuitive sense 200 .

The need for constant expansion of self-interested consumption and accumulation, as evidences of commitment to work, is built into the primary ideologies of Western communities. Western people are not ensnared in the forms of meaning and organization and processes of interaction and activity within which they find themselves. If those forms were not there, they would feel compelled to create them or something very similar to them. Indeed, they have done precisely this through most of the world as they have gained influence in other communities 201 .

Although Western people think the principles which underpin the forms of organization and interaction in terms of which they organize their lives, they have not always thought in these ways or organized their lives by the fundamental economic principles which now govern life. The emergence of "modern" ways of thinking and organizing life was slow and painful for most Western Europeans 202 .

The majority of people, during the 16th to early 20th centuries, had to be taught to take these principles seriously, and the disciplines imposed on them by those Western Europeans who gained control of government and who were already thinking in these ways were harsh 203 .

Since the basic presumptions and principles of thought of a community determine all the behaviors and interactions of its people, they cannot easily be altered. Attempts at such radical social engineering inevitably disrupt communities and confuse and confound the minds of their members 204 . Western Europe did not escape cultural confusion as its cognitive frame changed. As Foucault (1971) described, in Western Europe it produced, over several centuries, a pervasive awareness of uncontrolled madness in the minds of most people.

During the seven centuries it took Western communities to shift from feudalism to modern ways of thinking, the constantly expanding "middle classes" 205 recognized a deep responsibility for re-educating the "lower classes" 206 .

The final triumph of modern ways of thinking in Western communities has been heralded over the past 50 years by the progressive disappearance of the "lower classes" as more and more people who come from such backgrounds have begun to think and act in middle class ways 207 . With the advent of colonial empires, Western middle classes found themselves with a similar responsibility to 'the natives' of the world.

Of Globalization and 'Failing States' Return to Chapter Index

When human beings are convinced of the rightness of their causes they usually feel a moral responsibility to compel those who don't understand or live by the principles which underpin their lives to conform to them.

We have seen the disastrous consequences of this many times in the 20th and 21st centuries. From Stalin, to Hitler, to Pol Pot, to the ethnic-cleansings of the 1990s, to numerous wars waged by both Western and other communities, human beings have amply demonstrated their insistence that those who are weaker than they should be made to think and live as they do.

Western Europeans have been engaged in such a mission for the past several centuries, and chief amongst their concerns has been the need to convince people everywhere of the importance of work.

Western people are, of course, not the only ones enmeshed in home-grown systems of meaning, organization and interaction. This is the condition of humanity. People, everywhere, organize themselves and their worlds in ways which are consonant with their forms of categorization and classification.

The problem, in trying to understand both ourselves and others, is that, just as the languages of people are historically determined and unique to the communities which speak them, so are the forms of organization and interaction in communities. They are expressions of the underlying principles of categorization and classification which have been historically, and subconsciously, shaped through history 208 .

The Decay of Western Influence Return to Chapter Index

Western people know that work is important, and organize their individual lives and their communities in ways which stress and reinforce the importance of the organizational forms and processes of interaction required by work. But, let's not forget that other communities are just as consistent in their thinking, just as certain of the importance of their own understandings of the world, and just as committed to maintaining them through time. And, because these structures and principles are historically, and uniquely determined within communities, it is most unlikely that they will reinforce or give coherence to the Western commitment to work.

People can, of course, be taught the Western understandings, and, while the West is dominant and they need to behave in those ways in order to succeed in that Western dominated world, they will appear to live by those understandings. However, if the influence of the West wanes, so too does the commitment of those people to ordering their lives by Western understandings. Then, they begin, inevitably and less than consciously, to reshape their own behaviors and interactions to fit the unconscious ordering principles of their own communities.

Britain, in the 5th century A.D., provides an excellent historical illustration of this.

By 400 A.D. the Romans had occupied Britain for almost four hundred years 209 and had determinedly set about making it into a Roman Province. As Gildas (c.494 or 516-c.570) says, Britain

was no longer thought to be Britain, but a Roman island; and all their money, whether of copper, gold, or silver, was stamped with Caesar's image.
(Chapter 7)

Yet, on the withdrawal of the Roman legions between 400 and 410 A.D., life rapidly reverted to pre-Roman ways. As Catherine Hills (1990) says,

around 400 AD Romanists see the end of most of the kinds of information which can be deployed to reconstruct life in Britain for the previous three and a half centuries. Written sources disappeared, and coins, wheel-thrown pottery and masonry building went out of use...

[E]ssentially, from a Romanist's point of view it is obvious that the institutions and way of life of Roman Britain disappeared soon after 400 AD. The absence of 'Roman' kinds of evidence means that we are dealing with a different kind of society, possibly a different kind of people.

Any region which has been subjected to enforced reorganization and commitment to externally imposed understandings of the world will experience a period of turmoil and chaos as those imposed forms become less dominant in the lives of inhabitants.

Britain, in the 5th century, experienced just such turmoil as rival 'kings' battled for ascendancy and neighboring groups, taking advantage of the chaos, invaded the region. Gildas, a century after the exodus of the Roman legions, provided a graphic (if polemically biased) description of the chaos which ensued with the waning of Roman influence in Britain,

...neither to this day are the cities of our country inhabited as before, but being forsaken and overthrown, still lie desolate; our foreign wars having ceased, but our civil troubles still remaining.
(Chapter 26)

As the empires of Western Europe have crumbled, the institutions in their post-colonial territories, established by them to ensure continuity with the colonial past, have become decreasingly effective. The 21st century has produced its own examples of post-colonial territories suffering turmoil and chaos in the increasing numbers of 'fragile' and 'failed' states which are a growing concern for Western people 210 .

Many post-colonial territories are in various stages of change. They are slowly, but inevitably, metamorphosing into communities which exhibit similarities with the pre-colonial communities from which they came. Any reassertion of pre-colonial principles of categorization and classification will inevitably be slow and difficult. Over time, forms of organization and interaction will emerge which echo those of the past though they will, of course, not simply replicate past forms.

First, any form which emerges is simply one of a range of possible forms, any or all of which might be generated from the same fundamental categorical principles. So, even if the same principles were in operation one would find different surface forms over time.

Secondly, the principles themselves are not static, they change through time and the forms of interaction and organization which emerge will reflect such changes.

This has been demonstrated time and again in Third World communities as Western influence has become less dominant.

Of course, the longer the period during which a community has been subjected to enforced reorganization to Western understandings of reality, the greater the disruption. It is inevitable that there will be chaos and turmoil as opposing groups attempt to reorder their worlds to their own advantage.

As people no longer order their lives by those rational 211 forms of meaning and organization which the West has introduced into their communities, Western people will inevitably feel threatened. They will (and do) consider that they have a responsibility to intervene and re-impose forms of organization which they see as rational and necessary to successful integration into the global economy.

This is particularly true when non-Western people appear to lose their commitment to forms of organization and activity which maximize the possibility and quality of productive employment. Then, Western people know that if they cannot organize themselves to work, it is perfectly acceptable, indeed, necessary, that multi-national enterprises base their productive activities in their communities. This is one of the reasons why Western organizations have argued so strongly for economic globalization over the past thirty years.

For many people in Third World countries however, globalization seems like a new form of ruthless colonialism, a conspiracy of the rich against the poor and defenceless212 . As Marjorie Mbilinyi, author of Big Slavery: The Crisis of Women's Employment and Incomes in Tanzania (1991), claimed:

We could have a lot of despair in Africa right now. Many of us see this as a moment of mass genocide. And it's a very conscious one, we think, on the side of at least some big government actors as well as some of the actors in agencies like the World Bank and the IMF.

The peoples of Africa are being steadily impoverished. They are also being dispossessed of their lands. Governments like Tanzania, partly in response to popular demand, had begun to nationalize assets and try to guide the economy in the direction that would meet the basic needs of the people and increase national control and make it more inward oriented. Now we have complete reversal so that it is almost worse than in the colonial period.
(Mbilinyi 1994)

Fantu Cheru claimed of African experience:

The overwhelming consensus among the poor in Africa today is that development, over the past 25 years, has been an instrument of social control. For these people, development has always meant the progressive modernization of their poverty.

The absence of freedom, the sacrifice of culture, the loss of solidarity and self reliance which I personally observed and experienced in many African countries, including my own, explains why a growing number of poor Africans beg: please do not develop us!
(Cheru 1989, p. 20)

Western people, however, know that multi-national enterprises are not exploiting resources and cheap labor. They are opposing socialist, dictatorial and anarchic tendencies. They are ensuring that communities are once again guided into market-led economic development. They are providing employment which might help to turn those countries once more back to economic prosperity. Not only are they providing some cash inflow to communities, they are, even more importantly, reintroducing them to "work discipline".

Work discipline, titles of consumption and status Return to Chapter Index

Over seven centuries of teaching themselves and their 'Poor' the importance of work, Western people have built a wide range of presumptions into the concept to buttress its importance. It has become important for its own sake, a form of organization and activity to which all truly moral people commit themselves.

Any suggestion that people should be freed from work to other activity without losing income would be regarded by most Western people as impractical, irresponsible, foolish or subversive. While many people might find Bertrand Russell's vignette with which this discussion started, clever, few would accept that his solution is 'practical'.

The Computer Revolution Return to Chapter Index

This has never been better demonstrated than in the Western response to the computer revolution of the past thirty years. During the 1960s Western people first became aware of the transforming possibilities of the computer revolution which was looming on the horizon.

A report from a specialist committee to President Lyndon Johnson of the USA in 1964 examined the issue and made a number of recommendations. They were summarized by Macbride in 1967:

Distribution of titles of consumption (i.e., money) has been via jobs... this will have to end. The continuance of the income-through-jobs link as the only major mechanism for distributing effective demand - for granting the right to consume - now acts as the main brake on the almost unlimited capacity of a cybernated productive system.

Further, up to this time resources have been distributed on the basis of contributions to production, with machines and men competing for employment on somewhat equal terms. In the developing cybernated system, potentially unlimited output can be achieved by systems of machines which will require little cooperation from human beings.
(Macbride (1967, p. 195); see AD Hoc Committee on the Triple Revolution (1964) 213)

Numerous articles were written in newspapers and magazines speculating on how people would fill in their time when robots and other computer based technologies made their lives easier and freed human beings to leisure activity. And, equally, speculation was rife as to "how to distribute the abundance that is the great potential of cybernation" when consumption was no longer tied to work. How would we distribute income to people when machines were doing the producing and money had become simply a means to obtain goods and services produced by them, with the "income-through-jobs link" broken?

Of course, there seems no logical reason why, if we invent machines to do our work for us, we should not reward ourselves by gaining increased leisure time and by distributing the means for obtaining the goods and services produced in some other way than as rewards for work. The reality, however, has been very different from the speculated futures of those articles214 .

Globalization, Free Trade Zones and Definitions of Employment Return to Chapter Index

In the 21st century people either work for longer hours, with more demanding pressures, or find themselves, involuntarily, committed to casual and part-time work or to unemployment queues. And the incomes of people are, if anything, more closely tied to work than they were forty years ago. Business taxes, duties, tariffs and other forms of public impost on economic activity have been reduced to ensure the continued competitiveness of industry. And government services and welfare payments have correspondingly been cut back 215 - often because it has been claimed that they 'reward improvidence' 216 .

{§} Through the rest of the world over the past thirty years, the globalization of productive enterprise has resulted in the reorganization of entire populations to provide low paid labor for export goods.

For graphic illustration of this, see Michael Zhang · Apr 05, 2013,
Eye-Popping Photographs of Hong Kong High-Rise Apartment Buildings
High-rise apartment buildings in Hong Kong - every window represents a family (or more).

See Bettina Wassener and Grace Tsoi, Have-Nots Squeezed and Stacked in Hong Kong (New York Times, September 27, 2013) for a depressing description of what happens when hyperglobalization makes workers 'redundant'. At what point does the relocation of production to regions where the costs of production are lowest; coupled with callous disregard of those disenfranchised and discarded, morph into ill-disguised slavery and crimes against humanity (the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines these as: "... particularly odious offenses in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of human beings.")?

Raveena Aulakh provides a damning assessment of conditions in a Bangladesh factory:

A Bangladesh factory that sews garments for The Gap and Old Navy brands routinely forces workers to work over 100 hours a week and they are slapped, shoved and punched, says a damning report.

It also says workers live in penury, earning 20 to 24 cents an hour, and illegal firings are regular.

The report titled "Gap and Old Navy in Bangladesh: cheating the poorest workers in the world" was released Thursday by Pittsburgh-based Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights.

Charles Kernaghan, director of the institute, said in the report "these abuses have been going on for more than two and a half years."
(Raveena Aulakh/Torstar News Service, Bangladesh factory that sews garments for The Gap and Old Navy accused of abusing workers, Cambridge Times (Canada), Oct 04, 2013;
Bangladesh factory which collapsed in April, 2013.
see also, this Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights summary: Two Excellent Articles Expose Gap in Bangladesh; Stephanie Clifford and Steven Greenhouse, New York Times, September 1, 2013, Fast and Flawed Inspections of Factories Abroad)

From the mid 1970s, transnational companies increasingly began to locate their low-wage production activities in selected Third World countries, taking advantage of new transport developments, particularly the development of container shipping which transformed Western waterfronts during the 1970s.

Those who were most directly involved in Third World development planning and programs saw this new movement to produce low-wage goods in Third World countries as providing a new base for national development in those countries. With the failure of import substitution industrialization, and the faltering of value-added industrial development 217 , this new move by transnational companies to relocate in Third World countries was seen as a 'window of opportunity' for Third World people.

Where government-directed planning had not succeeded, private investment from Western countries would. Development agencies, therefore, strongly promoted various forms of deregulation to facilitate transnational investment in the Third World.

The result, for Western populations, was a transient affluence as goods made in non-Western sweat-shops flooded Western supermarkets and malls. It also resulted in increasing unemployment among low-skilled workers. This last effect was rapidly disguised, in Western nations, by altering the definition of employment to include all people who 'did any work at all for pay or profit'. The U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics gives the current definition of employment,

...people are considered employed if they did any work at all for pay or profit during the survey week. This includes all part-time and temporary work, as well as regular full-time, year-round employment.
(USBLS 2010)

Even one hour of paid work in a week now qualifies an individual for definition as 'employed'. The definition has been completely divorced from any consideration of a 'living income'. The relation between 'employment statistics' and living standards has been broken, allowing for the disguised growth of a low paid, marginalized workforce in Western countries 218 .

A EurekAlert summary of a report by Lambert, Henly and Haley-Lock (2010) entitled Managers' Strategies for Balancing Business Requirements with Employees' Needs , provides a glimpse into the situation in 2010,

The United States workforce, battered by an economic slowdown, now includes a record number of workers who are involuntarily working part-time due to reduced hours or the inability to find a full-time job.... Hourly workers - the majority of the wage and salary workforce - are especially susceptible to reduced, irregular and fluctuating hours, and the myriad of challenges associated with them....

The Census Bureau uses the term for those who work less than 35 hours a week because they could not find a full-time job or those who work reduced hours due to "slack demand." In November 2009, 9.2 million workers fell in this category, the highest level in recorded history.

Other recessions also have seen an increase in involuntary part-time workers, she said. For example, the labor market added 1.5 million involuntary part-time workers between 1981 and 1982 for a total of 6.8 million workers, surging up again to add 2.3 million between 1992 and 1993 for a total of 6.7 million workers.

"I think it is important to underscore that employment has become increasingly precarious over the past 30 years, not just during recessionary periods, due to structural changes in the economy, reductions in labor protections and evolving employer practices that pass risk from the market onto workers," Lambert said. "The current recession highlights these insecurities, bringing much-needed attention to the plight of disadvantaged workers who are struggling to keep their jobs as well as maintain sufficient hours to make ends meet.

The problems faced by hourly, low-level workers are unlikely to go away when the economy fully recovers."

In good times and bad, employers frequently use "just-in-time" scheduling practices - setting hourly workers' schedules with limited advance notice to accommodate fluctuating demand - as a means of maintaining a tight link between labor costs and demand.

Unpredictable schedules not only make it harder for workers to determine their incomes, they also make it hard to plan for childcare and family life, Henly said.

"Unpredictable work schedules can translate into instability in family routines and practices, placing additional burdens on already strapped and busy families, their caregivers and extended family members," she said.
(EurekAlert 31 Aug. 2010 'Hourly workforce carries burden during recession' 219 )

In Third World countries, a variety of 'free trade zones' were established as governments competed to attract transnational companies 220 .

From the late 1970s, Western governments, seeking ways in which to stimulate their own faltering trade 221 , lowered tariff barriers to selected Third World countries. However, the consequences have been rather different than initially anticipated by the experts 222 .

So, what has gone wrong? Why have not new technologies, which have, unarguably, enabled more efficient and less labor intensive production, enriched human beings everywhere and freed them to non-work activity? In order to understand why, in a climate which should have led to shorter working hours and increasing material prosperity, people have found themselves working harder and for longer, amongst other things 223 , we need to understand the peculiar nature of work in Western communities.

Distinction between Labor and work Return to Chapter Index

Through the past seven centuries Western people have evolved a very distinctive and peculiar understanding of the nature of work 224 , which necessitates making a clear distinction between the terms labor and work.

The term labor, for our purposes, will refer to any activity which includes expenditure of physical or mental effort especially when difficult or compulsory. It is normally defined as human activity that provides goods or services.

Work, on the other hand, cannot be so simply defined since it not only includes labor but a variety of moral presumptions about the nature of labor.

The following discussion of work, for reasons which we have already spelt out, relates only to understandings in Western communities. Nothing we are talking of can simply be translated to "human beings" at large. They are culturally specific understandings which reflect the peculiar history of Western communities over the past several centuries.

The term work, as we will define it, includes the services performed by workers for an income since one of the important reasons given by people who are asked why they work is that without work they would not be "able to afford to live". As Macbride (1967 p.195) put it, "Distribution of titles of consumption (i.e., money) has been via jobs" 225 .

But it does not only refer to activity which generates an income. It is also, and perhaps far more importantly, the term we use to imply that an object is performing as it was meant to perform 226 . So, we are able to ask "is it working?", and the person to whom we are speaking knows that in order to answer the question he or she must check its performance and that performance should be judged against the potential of the item.

There is a teleological dimension to the term. 'Work' is understood, in a less than conscious way amongst most Western people, to be directed toward an end or shaped by a purpose, primarily related to individuals achieving their potential. People ought to work.

This understanding of the meaning of work implies that objects, or people, have been designed to perform in certain ways. When they are performing as they have been designed to, they are working. When they are doing something other than what they have been designed to do, they are not working or they are disabled.

The Able-bodied and the Disabled - The Deserving Poor Return to Chapter Index

During the 17th to 19th centuries in Western Europe, there emerged a clear division between the "deserving" and the "undeserving" poor. Those who were undeserving were those who, while "able-bodied", yet were not employed and/or relied on welfare support to one extent or another for subsistence. The deserving poor were those who could not help being unemployed. The largest category of these were people who were classified as in some way "disabled" as a consequence of some physical imperfection or other which interfered with their ability to be employed.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, as Mackelprang and Salsgiver (1996) explained, it was assumed that it was the responsibility of the community to repair these imperfections so as to ensure that such people could engage in work.

In the United States, institutions dedicated to perfecting the imperfect sprang up (Rothman, 1971) with the hope that professional intervention could cure these inadequacies. When a cure was not possible, people with disabilities could at least be trained to become functional enough to "perform socially or vocationally in an acceptable manner"
(Longmore, 1987b, p. 355).

Over the past two centuries, Western communities have identified a variety of "disabled" people. Into this residual category are placed any who are, in any way, "deficient". The range of people placed into this category is remarkably wide, including those who are mentally retarded or otherwise mentally 'impaired', blind, deaf, lame, exhibiting some other form of physical abnormality or 'deformity', or suffering from any of a variety of long-term illnesses.

Even today, the term "disabled" is applied to any who are in any way "impaired" and are therefore "dependent". This is exemplified in the acts passed in most Western countries over the past fifty years, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (1992) which guaranteed to the physically or mentally impaired protection against discrimination (see Anderson 1992). This category includes not only those with physical or mental problems, but also many whose "impairment" is social in nature.

But for the need to be able to perform at "work" and so ensure their "independence" 227 , there could be little reason for the existence of such a widely inclusive category of people. These are the "dependent" ones, those who must be "cared for".

During the 19th century Western communities developed quite specific programs for dealing with these "unrepairable" people. Such people were concluded to be permanent "dependents" who should be cared for by the community but were, nonetheless, a drain on its resources. It was believed that they should, to a large extent, be separated from the rest of the community lest others become in some way contaminated.

Professionals lost confidence in their ability to perfect people with disabilities, concluding that they were innately unproductive and thus endemically without worth. No intervention could bring about change because the laws of nature deemed people with disabilities unfit (Longmore, 1987a).

People with disabilities were to be prevented from marrying or having children for fear of propagating their imperfections.

As the 19th century progressed, institutions to deal with the threat and nuisance of people with disabilities increased dramatically, and they were increasingly isolated and institutionalized, sometimes in sub-human conditions.
(Mackelprang and Salsgiver (1996))

Work and its antonyms Return to Chapter Index

For those who are not "handicapped" or "disabled", there are two contrasting states to work in Western communities. The first is usually termed unemployment, this is, as most dictionaries define the term, "a period of involuntary idleness". It is during periods of unemployment that people are paid "the dole". Synonyms of the term include: alms, charity, gratuity, handout, mite, pittance, trifle. Being unemployed is assumed to be related to misfortune and heartache, to living from hand-to-mouth.

The unemployed person is being denied the opportunity to work, and there is something morally wrong with a person who accepts this situation with equanimity. People who are not given the chance to work should feel a sense of adversity, of affliction, of being judged as good-for-nothing and worthless. Those who lose their jobs are said to have been declared redundant.

Work and leisure Return to Chapter Index

While Western people assume the right to 'leisure time', this is not a right which even in the 21st century is universally recognized or honored. The 'forty hour week' was something which Western working people gained only after prolonged, organized protest. It was only in the 1930s that legal acceptance of the principle of a forty hour week was finally won in Western nations. It never has been in most Third World nations. Paid annual leave was also first included in Western industrial awards during the 1930s (though usually only one week).

It was during the boom years following the Second World War that both the forty hour week and annual leave became accepted as basic entitlements in Western industrial labor awards. The effective period during which 'leisure' has been available to the bulk of Western working people has been less than sixty years.

During the discussion on 'leisure' which follows we need to realize how long it took to have such time recognized as legitimate and for how short a time it has been a 'basic entitlement' for Western workers.

While most Western people over the past fifty years have assumed the right to limited working hours and paid annual leave, the entitlements have always been questioned by employers and are by no means ensured into the future. Since the 1970s, low paid workers have found their entitlements slowly whittled away. Many need to juggle more than one job in order to 'make ends meet'.

In Third World countries, with labor organization weak or non-existent, it is not uncommon for workers to be employed for six days a week and ten hours a day. This, of course, leaves very little time for 'leisure activities'.

There is, however, where leisure is accepted as a legitimate entitlement of workers, a state in which the person is not working both legitimately and necessarily. This is a state of voluntary idleness. The overarching, positive antonym for work is leisure, which can be divided into active and passive categories of behavior.

The active forms of leisure include pastimes, sports, games, recreation and other amusements. These are times when the person "charges the batteries", engaging in refreshing diversions so that they will be mentally and physically re-tuned to better perform in the realm of work. The passive forms of leisure include: relaxation, repose, rest, requiescence. These periods should provide the person with stillness, with a tranquility not possible in the busy round of work activities.

These times also have a purpose. They are times when the individual is able to distance himself or herself from the busy round and take stock, getting work into perspective so that they will perform more effectively and efficiently than before 228 .

When people are found to be run-down, worn-out or exhausted by the pressing urgencies of work they can be prescribed times of leisure, when they can, for a period, escape the duties of life and become mentally and physically renovated. Even these times are considered to be intimately intertwined with work. They are not separate, alternative bases for life, they are the activities and times when human beings, who are naturally and morally fashioned for work, re-create themselves, and, in doing so, function more effectively within the world of work.

This conceptualization of work as "appropriate performance" is not closely tied to particular vocations or aptitudes 229 . It is, rather, in human beings, considered to be diligent application to productive endeavor 230 . It is very often dissociated from an individual's own aptitudes and abilities unless these have clearly been honed so as to improve the person's potential for work.

There is almost a sense of illegitimacy about "working" at something which one enjoys for itself - enjoyment, after all, is one of the definitional properties of leisure. If one was to respond to the question, "what would you do if you didn't have to work?" with the reply "what I am now doing" most Western people would find it difficult to accept. There seems to be a contradiction inherent in doing what one calls work in a time when one no longer is required to work.

So, for instance, an artist who paints because he or she greatly enjoys the activity, or a tennis player who makes a living from the game, seem in some way to be "cheating". Such people have blurred the boundaries between work and leisure. In order to ensure that this does not provide people with escape from the normal necessity to work they must be categorized as in some way "special". And, in order to remain legitimate they need to be seen as in some way "driven" to apply themselves to their activity by some inner compulsion. Work is about discipline, about applying oneself to activity which is in some way an imposition of ordered endeavor upon the individual.

Those who are not inwardly driven soon find that people around them supply much of the needed resolve to engage in work through their expressed attitudes toward these deviant people. It is the lucky few who are able to combine personal interest with work but they, driven to constant involvement in a form of activity which is normally defined as leisure, need to demonstrate that they have an extraordinary commitment to the attainment of perfection. They are professionals not "amateurs".

The realm of leisure is constantly being redefined as more and more leisure activities are professionalized, transforming them from leisure to work, from a form of activity presumed to be "relaxing" to one which the individual is diligently focused upon and from which the individual "derives an income". We speak of this phenomenon as the professionalization of sport, leisure etc..

The organization of work Return to Chapter Index

Although one would hardly perform work if there were no income attached to it, there is more to work than the income obtained. Work should be performed over extensive periods of time, and the time set aside for it should be spent in activities which are clearly defined as "work related". Talking with someone involved in a large corporation, I was told the following story:

Several people in an office had found that, by hurrying through their tasks, they were able to perform most of the day's required activities in the first three to four hours of the day. They therefore decided to do this and spent much of the afternoon in playing cards.

The manager of their section of the corporation decided that this was entirely unacceptable (for reasons which you, if you are a Western person, will already understand, even if you can't articulate them). He called the offending workers into his office to remonstrate with them.

They asked him whether there was any expressed dissatisfaction with the quality or consistency of their efforts. He answered that there wasn't but that there was a perception that they were lazy because they spent so much time in playing cards. He explained that they were not employed to play cards, but to carry out the duties of their positions.

They were asked, in future, to "space" their work and spread it over the entire day. They were not to indulge in card playing or in excessive periods of "morning tea" or "afternoon tea" but were to use their time in "work related" activity.

This is, of course, reminiscent of Parkinson's (1957) Law:

Work expands to fill the time available for its completion and subordinates multiply at a fixed rate, regardless of the amount of work produced.

...A lack of real activity does not, of necessity, result in leisure. A lack of occupation is not necessarily revealed by a manifest idleness. The thing to be done swells in importance and complexity in a direct ratio with the time to be spent.
(Parkinson 1957)

A Western person, hearing this story, immediately recognizes a whole constellation of reasons why the workers could not be allowed to continue to "play" during "work hours". Work, in almost all forms of employment, covers a period, and tasks are performed through that period. There are, in all jobs not directly driven by assembly line practices or by "piece" work, times of disguised "inactivity" through the period. Most workers, if they concentrated their efforts, could perform the required tasks of their positions in much less than the time span of work.

It was this recognition which led to "Taylorism " (see Taylor 1911), the scientific management programs of the early 20th century, which aimed to eliminate "inefficiencies" and ensure that workers performed in the most productive manner possible. It has, similarly, resulted in recent management strategies to "streamline" companies, through concentrating work activity within a smaller workforce 231 .

As we observed earlier, these practices are aimed, at a time when new technologies are simplifying work tasks and increasing productivity in many areas, at increasing the work commitment of individuals, requiring them both to work harder and for longer hours. For reasons with which most Western people find it hard to disagree, new management strategies are aimed at increasing commitment to work, not at lessening it. And, we know that this is as it ought to be. As soon as we find that a term has a teleological dimension of this kind, we immediately also know that the term is a prescriptive one. The term work is such a term in the English language.

It is undeniable that labor is something in which all people everywhere engage because some of the tasks which need to be performed in any community require an expenditure of physical or mental effort which is at times irksome to those required to perform the tasks. However, the need to allot a specific period of each day to the performance of such tasks, and then to ensure that people are managed in such a way as to maximize their activity, is a distinctively Western need.

It is this allotment of set times to maximized labor-related activity which uniquely defines work in Western communities. This complements the equally unique relationship perceived between production, possessions and status in Western communities 232 and ensures that people are focused on the status maintenance and attainment prerequisites of their communities.

Because our drive to consumption and accumulation is open-ended, Western people argue that so too must our commitment be to producing the goods and services we "need" 233 . This is a consequence of the Western belief that individuals should diligently apply themselves to productive endeavor, to work, rather than a cause of it.

It is not that we work because our needs are constantly expanding. Rather, the ability to acquire a constantly expanding range and quality of goods and services is evidence of our strong commitment to work 234 .

Of course, in the minds of most Western people the two are intimately connected. Since our prime means of obtaining the income necessary to obtaining the goods and services we need is work, we are quite sure that unless we work we will not be able to obtain those goods and services. This, of course, is true, but simply demonstrates how strongly Western people, over the past four centuries, have reinforced the need to work through closely tying both material wellbeing and status attainment and maintenance to its performance.

The most important forms of behavior, organization and meaning in any community are strongly reinforced through the ways in which they are made "necessary" through tying individual and communal wellbeing to them. So people sense that unless they are maintained, life will become increasingly difficult.

Over a period of more than four centuries Western European communities increasingly buttressed "work" in this way. Now, in the early 21st century, Western people are, indeed, very certain that unless they commit themselves to work, both their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of the communities in which they live will be at risk.

In a very real sense, Western people do not work in order to live, they live to work!

Teaching Western Europeans to work Return to Chapter Index

So, how did it happen that Western Europeans became so convinced of the central importance of work? To understand this, we need to look back into Western Europe's historical experiences 235 . Here we will focus on a few of the presumptions and practices which led to the present Western commitment to work.

In the past, during the 16th to 19th centuries, as Foucault says,

If it is true that labor is not inscribed among the laws of nature, it is enveloped in the order of the fallen world. This is why idleness is rebellion - the worst form of all ... the sin of idleness is the supreme pride of man once he has fallen, the absurd pride of poverty...

In the Middle Ages, the great sin... was pride... All the 17th century texts, on the contrary, announced the infernal triumph of Sloth: it was sloth that led the round of vices and swept them on.
(Foucault 1971: 56-7)

As Foucault says, by the 17th century, responsible Western people 236 had come to believe that commitment to work was either based on natural law requirements, or that it was necessary to sanctification.

The emphasis, among the responsible people of 17th to 19th century Western Europe, was on the necessity to engage in work, that is, in productive enterprise; in realizing the potential of one's own capacity to labor; of one's own innate "talents"; and of the environment available for exploitation.

John Locke, in the late 17th century, put it like this,

God gave the world to men in common; but... it cannot be supposed he meant it should always remain common and uncultivated. He gave it to the use of the industrious and rational (and labor was to be his title to it).
(1982 (1690), p.21).

It was the necessity to "make the most of oneself through industrious endeavor" that lay at the root of the 18th and 19th century insistence that everyone become involved in productive endeavor.

As Locke (1982, Ch. 5) argued in 1690, God commanded human beings to labor, and the property they accumulated as a consequence of their labor demonstrated their commitment to that industriousness which God required. To do otherwise than industriously accumulate personal property was to rebel against the natural order established by God for the wellbeing of both individuals and communities. Not only was one rebelling against God, by breaking the natural laws for human "progress" the person was also refusing to take his or her communal responsibilities seriously.

The term work summarized and expressed, in human organization and behavior, the central presumptions of the emerging primary ideology of Western Europe 237 . Commitment to work demonstrated that the person, as an individual, was dedicated to obtaining the returns which the industrious gained for their dedicated effort. Those returns were important both to the individual and to the community in which he lived. Richard Baxter affirmed this when he proclaimed in 1678,

If God show you a way in which you may lawfully get more than in another way (without wrong to your soul or to any other), if you refuse this and choose the less gainful way, you cross one of the ends of your Calling, and you refuse to be God's steward.
(1838, p. 377)

As Foucault (1971:46) claimed, during the 17th to 19th centuries there was far greater concern about the consequences of idleness than of illness. It was considered the responsibility of both Governments and responsible citizens to teach the "idle poor" the virtues of consistent work. As Sir William Coventry, in the 1670s, claimed, poor laws 238 , which protected the idle from the consequences of their sloth, should be repealed and the Government should establish workhouses 239

... where such as will not work for themselves may be compelled to work for others
(in Appleby 1978, p. 151).

Sayings emphasizing the sinfulness of sloth proliferated through Western Europe, summed up in a number of very similar English proverbs: "Idleness is the beginning of all sin"; "The devil makes work for idle hands"; "Idleness breeds vice"; "Idleness is the devil's workshop". If sloth was sin, indigence and pauperism were its consequences.

By the 18th century it was well understood that indigence was closely tied to immorality. The harshness of the workhouses between the 17th and 20th centuries was necessary to discourage the moral depravity of sloth. And, just as the evils of idleness were denounced, so the virtues of industry were heralded. There was virtue in steady or habitual effort, in diligence in an employment, in applying oneself in a disciplined way to productive endeavor, in

adopting those habits of industry, which always tend to steadiness and sobriety of conduct, and to consequent material wealth and prosperity
(Codere 1951, p. 24).

The morality of work Return to Chapter Index

There was a morality in the consistent, daily commitment of the individual to work, to industriousness 240 . The individual gained respect and status through clearly demonstrating a consistent, continual commitment to harnessing his or her environment in the interests of accumulation and production. A conspicuous commitment to industry became the primary evidence of the individual's commitment to upholding the central moral values of Western Europe.

In any community, the morality of individuals is measured in terms of consistent commitment to the central tenets and understandings which drive and give force to systems of status and respect in the community. In Western Europe it became an accepted fact that "responsible people" work hard, and that, as Locke (1982, p. 27) said, "Labor makes the far greatest part of the value of things" 241 .

So, it was entirely necessary that individuals who worked hard should retain possession of the things whose value they had thus increased and this "necessarily introduces private possessions" (Locke 1982, p. 22). Hard work gives value to objects, and the evidence of hard work is, therefore, an accumulation of private property. In order to demonstrate the virtues of individuals it was necessary that those who created value should possess the objects within which that value was expressed.

The accumulation of private property by individuals was both just and appropriate since, through their own industry, they had created the property they accumulated. It was neither appropriate nor just that those who created the wealth should be required to share it with others who did not create wealth. Rather, those who did not create wealth for themselves should be compelled to do so. Otherwise they would be a drain on those who through their own productive endeavor had accumulated wealth and had, in this way, demonstrated their commitment to the central moral values of their communities.

Responsible governments ensured that the conditions encouraging and facilitating such activity were maintained, and that those who were "not responsible" were "made responsible" by making the condition of their lives as difficult as possible until they committed themselves to work. This has remained, throughout the 20th and on into the 21st century, a prime responsibility of Government. Governments should educate and train the "workforce", and should provide every inducement and encouragement to people to "work". They should, conversely, strongly discourage idleness and vagrancy 242 .

For the past several centuries Western European communities have had (and most still have) strongly enforced laws calculated to ensure that people were "gainfully employed" and had "visible means of support". Anything which might discourage people from strong and continuous commitment to work should be removed in the interests of ensuring that people "worked for their living". Over the past four centuries concerted efforts have been made by responsible Western Europeans to strip people of any other means of subsistence than work aimed at increasing the cash worth and extent of their private property.

From indolent subsistence to Labor-pool worker Return to Chapter Index

Teaching 'The Poor' to Work

As a legacy of the feudal period in Western Europe, many poor peasants between the 16th and 19th centuries owned small parcels of land which provided all or part of their subsistence. They also had rights of use in areas of common land attached to manorial estates but available to all associated with the estate, whether small farmers or rural laborers, where they could forage and graze animals. The land was used for subsistence, not for increasing cash income or private property.

This focus in life was one which emphasized communally determined limitations on the accumulation of property, not an open ended accumulation of private property 243 . As such, in the minds of the responsible people of Western Europe, the land these people held was being used "inappropriately". Therefore, as Locke (1690 Ch. 5) reasoned, it should be forfeited to those who would use it "productively", that is, to increase cash income and private property.

Not only were these peasants using the lands they controlled inappropriately, because they obtained a part of their subsistence from it, wage labor, for many of them, was an additional source of income used to augment the subsistence obtained from their own or common land. The Poor were not strongly oriented to the emerging status systems based on accumulation and conspicuous consumption which were driving activity among those who had come to be called the "middle class". In consequence, the "laboring poor" were unreliable workers. They seemed ready to work for only so long as was necessary to obtain the additional income required for a subsistence lifestyle. If they did not need the money, they saw little reason to work 244 .

By the end of the 17th century it was already recognized by those who were gaining control in Western Europe that so long as the poor had access to land and could supply part of their own subsistence requirements independently of the emerging work oriented economy, they would continue to treat work in this way. The answer, of course, was to strip away the small parcels of land from the poor, and to take away their access to common land, making them entirely dependent on work in the cash economy for their subsistence. The reasons given for the expropriation of these lands were varied, including, of course, Locke's argument that land-holding should be rationalized to increase its economic productivity.

The upshot was that in England, between 1700 and 1845, more than seven million acres of common land was expropriated and consolidated in the hands of larger landowners who put the greater part of it into pasturage. Considerably more land was transferred from small to large landowners through the termination of leaseholds and through challenging ownership rights where small-holders lacked documentation supporting their ownership, though no records are available to determine the amount of land transferred in this way.

Those who lost their lands in this consolidation became wholly dependent on cash work and increasingly reliant on the social welfare provided by parishes under the Poor Laws. They became a 'labor-pool', dependent for their livelihoods on employment within the mines, factories and sweat-shops of Western Europe; in competition with each other for scarce jobs 245 .

In the 19th and 20th centuries the responsible people of Western Europe found themselves with a new responsibility. They had long accepted their responsibility for re-organizing and re-educating the poor of Western Europe. Now they had to accept the same responsibility for 'the natives' of their colonies.

Teaching 'The Natives' to Work Return to Chapter Index

Responsible Western people were well aware of the problems they had encountered in educating the poor in Western Europe over more than four centuries. They realized that one of the major mistakes made had been to engage in land reform without taking into account the movement of people from the countryside. Having nowhere to go, they had 'clogged the highways and byways' during the 16th and 17th centuries and become a major problem in the cities of the 18th and 19th centuries.

They determined not to make the same mistake in their colonies. The colonial authorities would divide the land into regions, setting aside some of the less agriculturally productive areas as 'native reserves' onto which the surplus native population could be moved. They would become a labor-pool of workers, managed by the colonial administration, and employed by various economic enterprises in the colony.

Western Europeans had learned over more than four centuries that human beings were independent individuals not communal beings 246 . As the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, talking to Women's Own magazine, October 31 1987, explained,

...there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women.

So, no account needed to be taken of existing indigenous forms of social organization or understandings of their environments. In colony after colony, they employed the same strategy:

  • Assess the economic potential of the territory;
  • determine where lower or higher concentrations of population were needed;
  • pass the necessary laws and regulations to legitimize the reorganization;
  • and move the native populations accordingly.

This freed up agriculturally valuable land for large scale farming and created labor pools for mining, plantation, large-scale agricultural enterprise and other economic activity. Colonial administrations also closely controlled movement of native populations out of their reserves. They would be allowed to move to administrative centers only by invitation and would return to their reserves afterwards. They would be selected for employment on the reserve and returned there when the employment was terminated.

The breakdown in law and order and in living standards among indigenous populations resulting from the complete disruption of their communities and individual lives were evidence, if any were needed, of the childlike inability of the natives to care for themselves 247 .

Gilbert Murray (1900), a late 19th century student of British colonial labor practices, provided a clear summary of the systems of labor exploitation found in British colonies. It has been included in the following footnote 248 .

He goes on to provide graphic examples of the ways in which 'useful' and 'useless' 'natives' were treated in various Western European colonies (see footnote 249).

In the 19th century, during Western Europe's expansion into the rest of the world, the emphasis on the importance of work was as strong, if not stronger than in the 17th and 18th centuries. Western Europeans took their commitment to work with them as they invaded the rest of the world.

A common theme of those who wrote on the problems in countries and communities for which they felt they had to take responsibility was that "traditional" people seemed so unwilling to put in a "full day's work".

Cairns explained their attitude,

The intrinsic value of work was revealed by Bishop Smythies (U. M. C. A. [Universities' Mission to Central Africa] ) when he noted Africans east of Lake Nyasa clearing ground and cultivating 'on the steepest, most stoney slopes' of a mountain side.

This seems to point to one good thing which may come from the evil of African wars [250 ]. If all was quiet and there was no fear of... marauding tribes and yet no civilization to quicken thought, in a climate where everything comes easily to hand so readily if there are only rivers as there are here, the people would have nothing to keep them from becoming more and more enervated.

(1965, p. 79)

Henry Drummond, commenting on the people of the same area, claimed that "apart from eating, their sole occupation is to talk, and this they do unceasingly" (Cairns 1965: 79). As Cairns claims of European attitudes,

the general attitude was that work, more for the sake of the virtues which it fosters than for the wealth it created, was necessary to a well-ordered purposeful life
(1965, p. 79).

Western Europeans, intent on colonial expansion, believed that they were on a "civilizing" mission and that one of their most important responsibilities was to teach people in other countries and communities to work. Sir Rudolph Slatin's remedy for the people of The Sudan, described by Gilbert Murray, was an example of a common theme,

'The nigger is a lazy beast,' said Slatin, 'and must be compelled to work - compelled by Government.' ' How?' asked his interlocutor. 'With a stick,' was Slatin's reply.
(Gilbert Murray 1900 p. 135)

Bernard Magubane provided a succinct description of Western attitudes toward non-Western communities in his description of relations between Europeans and Africans in South Africa,

Before they were physically subdued, African traditional societies with plenty of land confronted the requirements of capitalism with difficult problems. The wants of an African living within his subsistence agriculture, cultivating his own mealies (corn), were confined to a karosss (skin cloak) and some pieces of home-made cotton cloth. The prospects of leaving his family to work in a mine, in order to earn wages with which he could buy things he had no use for, did not at once appeal to him.

James Bryce observed that,

The white men, anxious to get to work on the goldreefs, are annoyed at what they call the stupidity and laziness of the native, and usually clamour for legislation to compel the native to come to work, adding, of course, that regular labor would be the best thing in the world for natives.

(Magubane 1975, p. 233)

This belief in the virtue of work was, by the 19th century, so ingrained in Western Europeans that they knew that it was both logical and rational that people be compelled to work, no matter what their objections. Western Europeans had a moral duty to teach the world to work, and they have gone about it in non-Western communities with a missionary zeal.

Over the past forty years, with the resurgence of deregulated capitalism, the reorganization of non-Western regions and communities to serve the demands of capitalism has continued apace. In free trade zones, maquiladoras and export processing zones, wherever labor is cheap and regulation relaxed or non-existent, people will work in substandard conditions, receive low wages, and live in slums.

And, all the while, Western peoples and those who emulate their lifestyles in non-Western countries and communities will continue to expand their consumption and accumulation of the products of that exploitation.

Conclusion Return to Chapter Index

So long as commitment to work, and its inevitable companions - ever-expanding consumption and accumulation - are among the central primary ideological presumptions of Western communities, unregulated capitalism will continue to produce conditions like these around the world.

The emphasis upon the importance of work in Western communities has not diminished in the 20th and 21st centuries. Writers as diverse as Thorstein Veblen, John Dewey, Hannah Arendt and Daniel Bell have argued that work is a moral imperative and has, as Bell put it, "always stood at the center of moral consciousness" (in Wolfe 1997 p. 559) 251.

The most important duties and responsibilities of community members, those which, as Kant ((1785) 1909) suggested, secure our own "freedom", are strongly reinforced through the ways in which they are made "necessary" to both individual and communal wellbeing. In Western communities, a wide range of common-sense reasons is given as to why people must be involved in work:

  • The economic wellbeing of the country requires that everyone commit themselves to consistent hard-work - only in this way will the gross national product continue to grow and the economy "expand". Bureaus of Statistics publish tables showing "days lost" due to a lack of commitment to work, to absenteeism 252 .
  • People who don't put work first fail to establish themselves financially and so become a drain on the community through becoming, at one time or another in their lives, dependent on "welfare". Consequently, their children become "disadvantaged" and in later life are unable to "achieve their potential" in the world of work.
  • Those who diligently apply themselves to work become "successful" and grow in self-confidence. They earn respect from others and become recognized as dependable and reliable (or, alternatively, as ruthless and dominant). In consequence they become leaders, those who will be able to take up responsibilities and see them through 253 .

These understandings permeate Western consciousness. They are presented and reinforced in many different ways. Perhaps the most pervasive and effective ways in which they are reinforced are through the varieties of forms of product and service promotion and in the various forms of "entertainment" to which the vast majority of Western people subject themselves for three or four hours a day.

Whether in salacious soap operas, or in advertisements for motor cars, those most admired are usually those who seem to have been able to succeed in the workplace, in the economic arena. They are wealthy, suave, sophisticated, with the easy grace of those who know their own worth. They provide models against which we can measure ourselves or that we can attempt to live by.

To the successful go the spoils! To them belong the fast cars, the yachts, the lavish entertainments and the lifestyles of the "rich and famous". Far from challenging the central moral tenets of Western communities, the magazines and television entertainments of the West strongly reinforce them.

The West is no longer centrally concerned with sexual morality - that belongs to a past age, when people were prudish and no-one seemed prepared even to talk about the possibility of sexual adventure. It is no longer centrally concerned with violence since most of its entertainments glorify it, though it is roundly condemned in the abstract.

It is, of course, centrally concerned with social justice: in a "user pays" environment people get what they deserve! And it is centrally concerned with economic success, which is assumed to be related to work.

There is little evidence that people living in Western communities are evolving beyond their deep-seated moral commitment to work. After a brief flirtation with the 'evils' of 'regulation', 'protectionism' and 'social welfare' 254 in the 1930s-1970s, Western communities have reasserted their subordination to deregulated capitalism and commitment to:

  • Individual self-promotion through expanding consumption,
  • A 'user-pays' world,
  • And unconstrained 'development' of the world's economic resources.

A Personal Observation Return to Chapter Index

Others have explained that the amazing efflorescence of knowledge and invention of the past three hundred years could not possibly have occurred without the capitalist work ethic. It has been the drive to 'profit', William Booth's '10%', which has brought about this explosion in intellectual exploration. I agree. Without an external goad and without a drive to harness human intelligence in this way, the achievements of the modern era would largely not have occurred.

The epitaph of the era might well be, that human beings have been driven to, and beyond, the limits of their individual intellects by those myopically committed to self-promotion and the accumulation of material wealth.

The focuses of intellectual endeavor in the West have far-too-often not emerged from the intellectual curiosity of the researchers, but from a short-sighted drive to satisfy and shape the demands of the employment and investment marketplaces.

The forces which have channeled and circumscribed Western intellectual endeavor have seldom come from intelligent exploration and understanding of long-run consequences. They have been determined by the needs and wants of the capitalist and the consumer.

End of Chapter

Chapter 7:
Capitalism and its Colonies:
Nation-States, Third World Nations, Development and Failing States Return to Index of Chapters

By 1914, 84.4 % of the world's terrestrial area had been colonized by the Europeans. With colonization there came a new paradigm of development. Cecil Rhodes expressed this paradigm eloquently:

We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labor that is available from the natives of the colonies...
(UNESCO (2002) International Symposium on Post-Development)

They were overpowered by force of arms. Thereafter, each tribe was faced with a choice of one of two roads leading to subjection: defeat or surrender...

There are various national or ethnical groups in the country [Nigeria]. Ten main groups were recorded during the 1931 census as follows: (1) Hausa, (2) lbo, (3) Yoruba, (4) Fulani, (5) Kanuri, (6) Ibibio, (7) Munshi or Tiv, (8) Edo, (9) Nupe, and (10) Ijaw.... 'there are also a great number of other small tribes too numerous to enumerate separately...'

It is a mistake to designate them 'tribes'. Each of them is a nation by itself with many tribes and clans. There is as much difference between them as there is between Germans, English, Russians and Turks for instance. The fact that they have a common overlord does not destroy this fundamental difference...

All these incompatibilities among the various peoples in the country militate against unification.... It is evident from the experiences of other nations that incompatibilities such as we have enumerated are barriers which cannot be overcome by glossing over them.
(Awolowo 1947, pp. 24,48-9)

We define weak states as countries that lack the essential capacity and/or will to fulfill four sets of critical government responsibilities:

  • fostering an environment conducive to sustainable and equitable economic growth;
  • establishing and maintaining legitimate, transparent, and accountable political institutions;
  • securing their populations from violent conflict and controlling their territory;
  • and meeting the basic human needs of their population...

We term countries in the bottom quintile "critically weak states" and deem the 3 weakest states in the world "failed states." Failed states perform markedly worse than all others - even those in their critically weak cohort...

Bottom Quintile:
Somalia; Congo, Dem. Rep.; Burundi; Sudan; Central African Rep.; Zimbabwe; Liberia; Cote D'Ivoire; Angola; Haiti; Sierra Leone; Eritrea; North Korea; Chad; Burma; Guinea-Bissau; Ethiopia; Congo, Rep.; Niger; Nepal; Guinea; Rwanda; Equatorial Guinea; Togo; Uganda; Nigeria
(Rice and Patrick 2008, pp. 3, 9-11)

Given the wide range of tensions, contradictory demands and confrontations to which Third World nations have been subjected by Western capitalist nations over the past 60 years, it is a testament to human resilience that there are any which still escape being classified "critically weak states".

Western people have, over the past three centuries, confidently applied their own understandings and forms of organization to the rest of the world. They have done this in the sure knowledge that these represent the most advanced, developed and sophisticated of all forms of understanding and organization available to human beings.

To introduce those forms to non-Western people has been to start them on the road to capitalist development. It has been assumed that this enables them to by-pass the historically long and thorny route taken by Western Europeans in achieving their advanced state of organization and understanding.255 Chief amongst the forms of organization, thought to be most important in moving into the modern world, have been the political and economic forms of the industrialized West.

To understand the problems encountered in Third World nations over the past sixty years, we need, first, to examine a few of the presumptions underpinning Western political organization and activity as they have been shaped in concert with capitalism over the past four centuries.

Nation-states Return to Chapter Index

From the 16th to the early 20th century, Western Europe experienced widespread, drastic economic reorganization. Capitalism became the ideological frame of life for the middle-classes of Western Europe. From the 17th century this capitalist reorganization coincided with a revolutionary, middle-class driven, political reorganization of the region 256 .

Who were the 'Middle-Sorts'? Return to Chapter Index

The nation-state was presumed to be comprised of citizens who, individually, first and foremost, identified with the nation rather than with regions within the nation. They saw the nation's achievements as their own; the nation's problems as personal problems; and they so committed themselves to the nation that when it became threatened, if necessary, they were prepared to die for it. Thomas Hobbes set out the requirements of such a 'Commonwealth' in his Leviathan (1651 Chapter 17, 'Of The Causes, Generation, And Definition Of A Commonwealth' ) 257 .

Capitalism is based on individual independence, not on interdependence 258 . Its political frame has echoed the motivations of the middle ranking individuals who were at the heart of the revolutionary changes of the period. It requires 'democracy'. But this was, always, a 'democracy' of 'responsible' people - a democracy of the middle-classes. The history of voting rights in Western democracies reflects the changing fortunes of sub-populations as they have become accepted by the middle-class base which still largely controls Western democracies 259 .

The new political entities, nation-states, represented the interests of the middle-classes. In almost every ethnic community in Western Europe, one could find these people - 'middle sorts' - who socialized and identified with each other across community boundaries and shared common interests both through the state territory in which they were living, and throughout Western Europe. These people, in the communities incorporated into each nation-state, were presumed to be not only able, but willing to subordinate their ethnic and regional interests and commitments to the interests and requirements of the larger political whole within which they were placed.

So, what was it that bound middle ranking people together in this way?

Nations as enclaves of common-interest migrants Return to Chapter Index

An important feature of Western European nationhood has been the 'nationalism' of its people, their apparent identification with the nation-state and its political and bureaucratic organizations, and acceptance of the state's directive legitimacy. Because most Third World national governments have great difficulty in gaining and maintaining acceptance from their populations, we need to understand how European nation-states 260 attained and maintain legitimacy.

'Nation' was a term which originally referred to administrative regions of the medieval Western-Orthodox Church. These western European Orthodox Church regions were governed through bureaucratic organizations controlled by regional ecclesiastical administrators. The representatives of those regions in Rome lived in a set of enclaves known as 'nations'. As Thomas Dandelet (1997) has explained,

it was in medieval Rome that the numerous local identities of Europe were commonly grouped under the five major "nations" of France, England, Spain, Italy, and Germany.

A rag-bag of regions not included in those named was referred to as the 'Netherlands' (the lands beyond the recognized regions).

People who lived in these regions not only thought of themselves as members of their local communities but also knew the names of the administrative regions of the Church within which they lived. Their rulers, on their accession to power, were anointed to their positions by the regional ecclesiastical administrators 261 . So, almost inevitably, over a thousand years, political aspirations became identified with the regions and with the names they bore.

The medieval use of the term 'nation', following the western European Orthodox Church's usage of the term in Rome, referred to enclaves of middle-ranking people (those who, from the late 16th century, would consider themselves the 'responsible people' of western Europe), migrants from the same region, who shared some common interest or focus in life. These were the nascent middle-classes of Western Europe, those who, by the 19th century, would espouse 'democratic capitalism'.

During this discussion, we need to remember that the term 'nation' was applied to two quite distinct ideas. The first was to administrative regions of the medieval Church; the second was to enclaves of people living outside their own administrative regions, who banded together, formed cooperative relationships and friendships and were referred to by the name of the administrative region from which they came.

More emphasis was given to 'region of origin' than to 'ethnic identity' in gaining entry and acceptance into a nation (an enclave of migrants), so that nations could consist of people who spoke different dialects or languages (the lingua franca was, of course, Latin), were of different ethnic ancestry, and possibly of very different skin shadings. This would prove important in the intermeshing of middle-class interests across culturally diverse regions of interconnected territories 262 as 'nation-states' emerged in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Nations (as enclaves) were medieval common-interest, fraternal groups 263 . Members accepted responsibility for each other and assumed support and co-operation from anyone who was identified as a group member. They developed friendships which over time expanded into extensive networks of support and acquaintanceship. The families of people connected in these ways entertained and accommodated visitors from other areas and regions, and assumed similar support if they travelled outside of their home area. The principle of mutual support and acceptance was of central importance in claiming membership of a nation (Hobsbawm 1990, p. 16).

'Nations' of scholars existed at university centers. Each nation was comprised of people from a particular geographical/ecclesiastical area who supported one another and provided hospitality and security to visitors and new arrivals. The members of such nations maintained their links after graduating and moving to other places. One could move from a 'nation' at one university center, to its counterpart at another university center and be accepted because others in the new center already had connections in the center from which one had come.

Similar nations of merchants and traders existed, which shared identity with scholars and others identified as belonging to the same region as themselves. Networks of such groups developed throughout western Europe. A feeling of affinity emerged between those who identified with each other through membership in common networks of nations (as enclaves). It was these networked people from particular regions who would become the future electorates of emerging nation-states.

Not until the 18th and 19th centuries did the term come to include both the inter-linked people of a particular territory, and the political and bureaucratic state organization of that territory. When it did, this usually resulted from concerted political and/ or revolutionary action involving those who already saw themselves as interconnected and as belonging to the same nation.264

By the 18th century everyone in western Europe knew the name of the region within which they lived and identified themselves in some way as belonging to the region that bore that name. The regions which were metamorphosing into nation-states were, largely, nascent capitalist regions which had been involved in the Reformation. Most of them had renounced or greatly loosened their ties with Rome.

People living in the old medieval Western-Orthodox ecclesiastical districts seem to have had little difficulty in transferring their recognition of those districts to the emerging states and their bureaucratic structures. So, national identity (that is, nationalism) preceded the establishment of nation-states 265 .

By the late 19th century, as a consequence of the historical connection between membership of 'nations' and education, trade and other productive and 'cultured' activities, middle-class Western Europeans had become convinced that

As the individual chiefly obtains by means of the nation and in the nation mental culture, power of production, security, and prosperity, so is the civilization of the human race only conceivable and possible by means of the civilization and development of the individual nations.
(List (1885, Ch.15))

The nation, which for middle class Western Europeans of the 19th century, was synonymous with the state and its people, was the very embodiment of human existence. As Hegel explained in his lectures on The Philosophy of History:

Subjective volition - Passion - is that which sets men in activity, that which effects "practical" realization. The Idea is the inner spring of action; the State is the actually, existing, realised moral life. For it is the Unity of the universal, essential Will, with that of the individual; and this is "Morality." The Individual living in this unity has a moral life; possesses a value that consists in this substantiality alone.
((2001, pp. 53, 4.) G. W. F. Hegel, The Philosophy of History, [1822-1837], translated by J. Sibree, 2001, Batoche Books, Kitchener, Ontario)

Not only was membership of a nation a prerequisite for each individual human being's 'civilization', 'mental culture', 'power of production' and 'morality', the aggregation of small ethnic groupings into large nation-states was assumed to be an evolutionary inevitability 266 . As List (1885) explained:

Between each individual and entire humanity, however, stands THE NATION, with its special language and literature, with its peculiar origin and history, with its special manners and customs, laws and institutions, with the claims of all these for existence, independence, perfection, and continuance for the future, and with its separate territory; a society which, united by a thousand ties of mind and of interests, combines itself into one independent whole, which recognizes the law of right for and within itself, and in its united character is still opposed to other societies of a similar kind in their national liberty, and consequently can only under the existing conditions of the world maintain self-existence and independence by its own power and resources. ...

A large population, and an extensive territory endowed with manifold national resources, are essential requirements of the normal nationality; they are the fundamental conditions of mental cultivation as well as of material development and political power. A nation restricted in the number of its population and in territory, especially if it has a separate language, can only possess a crippled literature, crippled institutions for promoting art and science. A small State can never bring to complete perfection within its territory the various branches of production. In it all protection becomes mere private monopoly. Only through alliances with more powerful nations, by partly sacrificing the advantages of nationality, and by excessive energy, can it maintain with difficulty its independence.
(Chapter 15)

Eric Hobsbawm put it well. For Western Europeans,

nations were therefore, as it were, in tune with historical evolution only insofar as they extended the scale of human society, other things being equal.
(1990, p. 33)

To quote the British philosopher, economist, employee of the British East India Company and, subsequently, member of parliament, J. S. Mill (1861):

The most united country in Europe, France, is far from being homogeneous: independently of the fragments of foreign nationalities at its remote extremities, it consists, as language and history prove, of two portions, one occupied almost exclusively by a Gallo-Roman population, while in the other the Frankish, Burgundian, and other Teutonic races form a considerable ingredient.

When proper allowance has been made for geographical exigencies, another more purely moral and social consideration offers itself. Experience proves that it is possible for one nationality to merge and be absorbed in another: and when it was originally an inferior and more backward portion of the human race the absorption is greatly to its advantage.

Nobody can suppose that it is not more beneficial to a Breton, or a Basque of French Navarre, to be brought into the current of the ideas and feelings of a highly civilized and cultivated people - to be a member of the French nationality, admitted on equal terms to all the privileges of French citizenship, sharing the advantages of French protection, and the dignity and prestige of French power - than to sulk on his own rocks, the half-savage relic of past times, revolving in his own little mental orbit, without participation or interest in the general movement of the world. The same remark applies to the Welshman or the Scottish Highlander as members of the British nation.
(Mill (1861) 1862 Ch. 16)

Hobsbawm has suggested that the minorities incorporated into the expanding nation-states of Western Europe accepted their incorporation as both positive and inevitable (one needs to remember that we are speaking of the interconnected middle ranking people, not of all those inhabitants in these regions who were excluded from middle-class networks):

... small nationalities or even nation-states which accepted their integration into the larger nation as something positive - or, if one prefers, which accepted the laws of progress - did not recognize any irreconcilable differences between micro-culture and macro-culture either, or were even reconciled to the loss of what could not be adapted to the modern age.

It was the Scots and not the English who invented the concept of the 'North Briton' after the Union of 1707. It was the speakers and champions of Welsh in 19th century Wales who doubted whether their own language, so powerful a medium for religion and poetry, could serve as an all-purpose language of culture in the 19th century world - i.e. who assumed the necessity and advantages of bilingualism.
(1990, p. 35)

Middle-class Western Europeans, convinced that the social, economic, and political world was evolving towards ever increasing size and complexity,267 accepted that small ethnic communities must, inevitably, be absorbed into larger political structures, into nation-states.

Those states, it was believed, should be of sufficient territory, population and resources to enable involvement in the emerging international forms of trade and diplomacy developing amongst Western European nation-states and between them and the United States of America. Bigger was better! And, as ethnic and regional communities became incorporated, they inherited the rights of 'citizens' within the nation-state. So, the government could legitimately claim to represent them, as it did all other people who lived within its territory.

In speaking of nations we are speaking of the coalescence of the old medieval common-interest groups which came from a particular territory. People only identified themselves as members of 'nations' because they were distinguishing themselves from people of other regions of western Europe who shared similar interests and with whom they regularly interacted. The middle-classes of Western Europe were co-operatively interconnected with each other not only within their own national regions, but also across national boundaries. There was a great deal of intellectual, business and social movement between the various 'national' territories 268 .

In most Western European territories, the sense of national identity, of mutual support and co-operation among the middle-classes, long preceded the recognition of the 'nation-state' as a political and bureaucratic organization which represented the interests of people who belonged to the nation.

It was not that a government was established which claimed authority within a territory, and that people who did not already identify themselves as belonging to a common nation were required to swear allegiance to it. Rather, nationalism preceded the nation-state, which received its legitimation from the already interconnected people of the territory. Representative government came from national revolution and the establishment of political and bureaucratic systems which represented the middle-class interests of those involved in the revolution.269

The nations of Western Europe included a range of middle-class people from ethnic and regional communities which saw their interests as coinciding with, or complementing those of other middle-class people with whom they identified in national government. National government could act in the interests of the whole territory, assuming support from the 'responsible' people in its various regions.

The focuses of government, its bureaucratic institutions and concerns, inevitably reflected the various interests and concerns of middle ranking people. They had become identified with the interests of the enclaves in which the sense of national identity had been forged. As nation-states emerged, middle ranking people could see their interests and concerns mirrored in government organization and policy making.

Since those people saw the government as representing their interests, they saw, in a truly Hobbesian sense, their interests as coinciding with the interests of the government. They could feel a sense of personal fulfillment in its achievements, and a sense of personal difficulty in its difficulties.

They took these understandings and commitments with them as they determinedly set out to reorganize the rest of the world in the late 19th and 20th centuries.

Colonies as the globalization of the Nation-State Return to Chapter Index

European nation-states during the 19th century expanded into the rest of the world 270 . Wherever they went they extended their political authority through the establishment of protectorates and colonies. As they did in Europe, so they did in the rest of the world. They focused on territory, and assumed the integration of 'responsible' people within the boundaries of the territories they controlled.

Initially, Western European governments did not see their colonial territories as independently evolving nascent nation-states. They saw them as extensions of their own nation-state 271 . The 'colonies' were a part of the evolution of the Western European nation-state, its geographical extension into the world.

Like the Bretons, Basques, Welsh, Scottish, Irish and countless other minorities in Western Europe, so with the peoples of Western Europe's colonies. They would soon realize, as List (1885) had explained, the wonderful advantages of 'mental culture, power of production, security, and prosperity' which would be their inheritance. After all, it was obvious that 'the civilization of the human race' is 'only conceivable and possible by means of the civilization and development of the individual nations' 272 .

Colonial populations were identified with 'The Poor' of Western Europe and designated 'natives'. A few, usually considered to be 'aristocratic' in some way, were identified as nascently middle-class and sent to the Home Land to be educated and incorporated into the ranks of the nation-state's middle-classes: "by special favor and grudgingly made, citizens" (Houčnou (1924)). It was this select Western educated elite which would be handed control as the colonies gained independence in the post 2nd World War era.

The 'responsible' people (middle-classes) in colonial territories, whether of local or European origin, were small in number and could access political processes through the institutions at the center of empire. There seemed no reason to replicate political processes in the colonies. Colonies merely required a subset of the bureaucratic administrative structures of the 'home land' which would ensure their smooth functioning and integration into the political and bureaucratic systems of the colonizing nation-state 273 .

Most colonial authorities established administrative machinery throughout their territories and assumed its acceptance by the people who inhabited the governed regions 274 . The colonial administrations became the governments of colonial territories. The head of government in the colony was, in British colonies, the 'Governor', representative of the monarch, and ceremonial head of the administration. Beneath him a hierarchy of administrative officials existed, which preserved and accentuated the social order of the Home Land. Similar authority structures were developed in most Western European colonies.

Houčnou (1924), speaking of the French administrators he had dealings with in Dahomey (Benin), described:

... the daily abuses of the Colonial Policy, and in particular, of the Policy called Native Policy. This Policy is a source of perpetual vexations.

Let me illustrate: A European passing along the highways can arrest a native and condemn him to 15 days imprisonment for the sole reason that he did not take off his hat to a white man. You will say to me that these are insignificant matters; but the arbitrariness goes much farther.

The power of the Administrator is enormous. Contrary to that which happens in Europe, it is the accumulation of all powers; it is the accumulation of legislative and executive powers; it is the accumulation of judicial and administrative powers, - it is despotic power without control.

As the writer Somerset Maugham described them, colonial administrators, taken out of their European milieu, often appeared almost ludicrously self-important caricatures of their counterparts at the centers of empire.

In establishing administrative bureaucracies in colonies, colonial authorities believed they were involved in the historical evolution of those territories by linking them, through the colonizing state, into world-wide political and economic networks. It was believed that, given the evolutionary process of constantly increasing size and complexity, colonized populations could only benefit from (and should be grateful for) the establishment of colonial administration and reorganization of their communities.

As J. S. Mill, erstwhile resident in India and employee of the British East India Company, had put it,

Experience proves that it is possible for one nationality to merge and be absorbed in another: and when it was originally an inferior and more backward portion of the human race the absorption is greatly to its advantage.
(1861, Ch. 16)

To understand the political problems faced by Third World nations in the second-half of the 20th century, we need to realize how unanticipated was their emancipation from Western European colonial status. It was simply not presumed that they were in the process of moving toward 'independence' of any kind. As Winston Churchill said in a speech before the British House of Commons on 18th June 1940,

If we can stand up to [Hitler] all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad and sunlit uplands.

If we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, and all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister and perhaps more prolonged by the light of a perverted science.

Let us therefore, do our duty and so bear ourselves that if the British Commonwealth and the Empire lasts a thousand years men will say, "This was their finest hour".

The idea of grooming colonies for independence was an afterthought (in most cases post-2nd World War) of a dawning realization that, like it or not, most colonial territories were going to gain independence from their European schoolmasters. Most European governments were reluctant to relinquish control of their colonial territories but found themselves with few options.

Unraveling Empires Return to Chapter Index

The 2nd World War proved a watershed for colonial empires. The European powers were unable, during the war, to closely maintain supervision of their colonies and many colonial administrations had unraveled through neglect. The costs of re-establishing control in the face of increasingly organized resistance from colonial populations were prohibitive. Colonial peoples had been co-opted into fighting for their European masters and had received both military training and counter-insurgency training which would serve them well as they returned home and asserted their right to independence.

Most European states found themselves with huge debts to the United States, which had bankrolled the war effort and then presented European governments with the bill. For the USA, war had proved good business. The US would use the leverage it gained to reshape the world in the ways which best suited its own interests.

The United States became banker to the world, holding the mortgages of all those states which had gone into debt to fight 'The War'. It became leader of, and a major supplier of armaments of all kinds to the 'Free World' - i.e. the world which accepted and followed its ideological understandings and leadership. For the next fifty years it would live on income generated by those mortgages and new mortgages negotiated with all those Third World countries which came into its orbit as European empires crumbled 275 .

The internal infrastructures of Western European colonial powers had all but collapsed through the war years and they simply did not have the financial means to reassert control of their colonies. The real winners in the aftermath of the war proved to be the two emergent superpowers: the USA and the USSR.

There were new kids on the block, and they were going to take over the world. Neither had been involved in the 19th Century acquisition of colonial empires. They saw no reason why the weakened European states should retain the advantages which privileged access to their colonial empires gave them.

Through the post-war years, the USSR would champion the 'right' of colonial people to independence and back this up with military training and weapons support. The USA, realizing that it was in their interest to ensure they had unfettered access to the colonies, very strongly pressured Western European governments into granting independence to colonial territories.

Western European colonial powers faced the joint pressures of a 'Cold War' between the two superpowers (as they arm-wrestled for international dominance) and US insistence on free access to their colonies. With the combined problems of national indebtedness, costs of taking sides in the developing superpower confrontation, and re-establishing their own faltering infrastructures and economies, their empires became a mill-stone which most Colonial powers could do without.

Much as they might have wanted to retain them, and however strongly they attempted to assert the right to control, one after another, colonial territories gained independence. European colonial empires crumbled over about forty years between 1945 and the 1980s.

I was involved in research aimed at grooming a British colony - The Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony - for independence as late as the early 1970s. As a preliminary to my research I investigated the administrative structures of the colony and found that trainee ministers from the indigenous population had been appointed to each of the colonial administrative departments by the British administration. I was told that the aim was that they should learn how everything worked before taking over (some 3-4 years later).

Assuming that they would have departmental information at their disposal, and interested in their views of where things were going, I interviewed relevant ministers (there were, of course, no British counterparts in the colony since it was an administrative outpost of the British governmental bureaucracy).

They seemed genuinely surprised that I should want to talk with them. Once I began questioning them they quickly explained that they had no access to any ongoing activity or policy making in their departments. Their opinions were simply not sought by the administrative staff who generally thought them something of a nuisance. They had been given offices and titles but there was little or no 'grooming' going on!

Given the British Westminster system of parliamentary democracy, this was not surprising. In the Westminster System, there is a clearly established and carefully maintained separation between the political and administrative arms of government. Few administrative personnel knew how to 'train' future politicians - or felt that it was important to do so!

There was little long-term education or planning engaged in by any of the Western European powers as they handed governmental reins over to indigenous leaders 276 . Territories which went from colonial to post-colonial status, simply inherited the colonial bureaucratic machinery and had political processes and institutions appended to them, often less than two years prior to gaining independence.

Taking over alien political and administrative structures Return to Chapter Index

Colonies moved from being bureaucratic dictatorships to 'parliamentary democracies' with almost no education of the population in democratic ideas or procedures, and often with only a single election of political leaders prior to independence.

It could be claimed that this was because their European masters had simply lost interest, or were genuinely aggrieved at losing control. However, while those might have been considerations, it was also rather naively believed that democracy of the Western European kind was 'natural' to human beings. Freed from the dictatorial and capricious control of 'chiefs' and 'warlords', it was believed that people would revel in the new found freedom which Western forms of governmental organization gave them 277 .

Many of the problems of Third World countries seem to center on attempts to recreate, in alien environments, Western-style 'nations' and Western-style 'nationalism' amongst their peoples. In attempting to emulate Western nations, they have introduced expectations and understandings which appear to fit very poorly into the cultural understandings and expectations indigenous to the peoples of post-colonial territories.

To understand the presumptions and expectations of those responsible for establishing new nations in the post-War period, we need to understand why they assumed the viability of such nation-states, and why they presumed that strong national sentiments amongst the people incorporated in such states would automatically follow the establishment of new nations. We also need to understand the nature of the political expectations and presumptions of the populations which have, in large measure, shaped the post-War experience of Third World nations.

A growing chorus of Third World writers has insisted on the inappropriateness of such presumptions for the government of post-colonial countries. Julius Ihonvbere is among the clearer of such voices, claiming that:

... the masses in Africa, relate to the state as an exploitative, coercive and alien structure [whose] custodians lack credibility and legitimacy and are thus incapable of mobilising or leading the people.
(Ihonvbere 1994, p. 43)

More recently, Kamilu Fage has claimed of Nigeria 278

... Nigerian experience leaves much to be desired. After several attempts at democratization (involving constitutional reforms, elections etc), the country is yet to evolve a viable, virile and stable democracy that will elicit popular support and or even have direct bearing on the lives of the generality of the ordinary people.

... the subtle re-emergence of the ugly signs of the past (violence, bickering and fracas in the state and national assemblies, feuds between the executive and legislative arms of the government, electoral malpractices, corruption, oppression etc) raise the fear that Nigerian democracy is still on shaky grounds.
(Fage 2007)

Richard Joseph of the Brookings Institute has given a somber description of Nigeria in 2010:

In 2005, the U.S. National Intelligence Council predicted the "outright collapse of Nigeria as a nation-state within the next 15 years." Five years later, Nigerians themselves often refer to their country as a "failed state". What most characterizes life for its citizens is insecurity. Armed robbery has recently become more terrifying with kidnapping conducted to extract ransoms. On the eve of Nigeria's 50th anniversary in October 2010, basic needs in electricity, water, and public health are unmet. Even fuel for cars is often scarce in this major petroleum exporter.

Nigeria is today a bruised and disoriented nation.
(Joseph 2010)

After the Colonies Return to Chapter Index

Following the Second World War, Western imperial powers, with varying degrees of reluctance, moved out of their colonies. As they did so, they created 'new nations', with responsibility for government usually inherited by Western-educated elites. Their training, based on Western European understandings of the world, led them to believe that Western forms of political and administrative organization were essential to the ongoing well-being of their people.

Most European commentators simply assumed that where there was a nation-state one would soon find an emerging sense of nationalism. The viability of the nation-state was taken for granted and political failure could only result from political and economic ineptitude and/ or from a failure to provide properly representative government. The subsequent histories of post-colonial states, in large part, reflect attempts to adapt Western nation-state organization to their territorial and ethnic realities.

Obafemi Awolowo's (1947) description/explanation of Nigerian realities was indeed prescient (and applicable to many other post-colonial nation-states).

Amongst the important influences on governments and people in Third World countries have been the reification of 'the state' and 'the people' in most discussion of Third World nations and peoples. This has been accompanied by the formulation of governmental policies based on that reification.

Instead of squarely facing and taking into account the ethnic diversities of post-colonial nation-states, there has been a belief in their inherent unity and ability to be treated as unified wholes. Their post-colonial reorganization has usually been undertaken as an exercise in 'modernizing' inherently homogeneous nation-states.

The modernization thesis,279 espoused in various forms and with various emphases by most development specialists over the past fifty years, has been an optimistic one. It has assumed that, for those nations which genuinely and consistently implement the necessary social, political and economic changes, transformation into modern industrialized nation-states is inevitable.

A Few Assumptions underpinning Post-Colonial 'Development' Return to Chapter Index

The state has been assumed to be a self-existent entity, separate from the communities which it controls, and able to impose necessary changes, however radical, on its populace 280 . Important responsibilities placed on new nation-states by development and 'nation-building' specialists have included establishing those institutions necessary to economic development, and providing the social and political climate necessary to stimulate self-interested, competitive material accumulation. It has been assumed that this would result in an inevitable 'take-off into self-sustained economic growth' (cf Rostow 1956, 1961).

Because most political and economic theorists and practitioners believe that 'traditional' societies are being transformed into modern societies, with traditional features destined for oblivion, Third World communities have been regarded as transient. Problems encountered by 'traditionally oriented' individuals and communities are assumed to be, in large measure, consequences of this shift to modernity. So, rather than focusing on the social problems of such communities, one needs to step up the pace of modernization.

Third World governments, it has been believed 281 should, therefore, in the face of the breakdown of law and order and social cohesion in traditional communities, more rigorously implement those measures which will transform them into industrialized nation-states, with all the advantages of such a transformation.

The dissolution of the old is a necessary precursor and concomitant of modernization and the state should keep its eyes firmly fixed on that goal, not deviating to attend to problems which are inevitable, but transient consequences of moving toward it. As Sangmpam put it:

... modernization theory assumes an imaginary society because the real society in the Third World is perceived as 'transient'

... Various solutions have been proposed to combat underdevelopment. Central to these solutions is the role assigned to the state as the 'engine of development'. Until recently, it was thought that an authoritarian state could better perform 'developmentalist' tasks.

In recent years, the state has been invested with the capacity to move toward democracy, which presumably will lead to socioeconomic development. The belief in the state is reinforced by the call to 'bring-the-state-back-in', according to which the state and its policies reflect almost autonomous institutions and the actions of those occupying these institutions.
(Sangmpam 1994, p. 1)

This assumes a 'government' separate from the people it governs, with political leaders somehow separate from and able to impose their policies on the populace (echoing colonial administrative practice). All this is based, of course, on a reification of 'government' and the separation of a 'political environment' from other 'environments' such as the 'economic' and the 'social' (see People and recognized Environments). It also assumes the depersonalization of government and a clear separation between its political and administrative arms, that is institutional, routinised Western-style government (see Max Weber (1968)).

Politicians, in Western countries, are usually identified with their parties and platforms. The people they represent assume that they will support their party in parliament and only secondarily focus on the local needs and interests of the electorate. Members of parliament are insulated from the impersonal institutional bureaucracies through which government policies are carried out.

In the Third World, these presumptions are usually difficult to sustain. Political activity is commonly not separate from other forms of activity, and those with political power exercise it personally. Political parties often find it difficult to pursue a coherent set of policies since members of parliament are focused on their own electorates' concerns. That is, government, both in formulating policy and in the delivery of services is personalized 282 .

For people who live in communities where it is both natural and proper for leaders to be personally connected with their followers, this personalization is unexceptional. Government is not separate from the people, and politicians access the administrative departments of government through networks of patron-client relationships which link not only the administrative bureaucracy and politicians, but also politicians and their constituents.

International forces Return to Chapter Index

From 1945 to 1990, post-colonial nations were subjected to a forty-five year period of 'cold war' between the two 'superpowers' which emerged from the Second World War. Both superpowers held contradictory, but nonetheless equally Western ideologies, which they each attempted to impose on the rest of the world.

This, in turn, split the world into three camps:

  • those who supported capitalism and saw in Marxism, communism and socialism the anti-Christ which denied individual human rights and enslaved subjects to the state (The First World);
  • those who saw in capitalism the rapacious greed of a few, subjecting the many to work for their individual and private gain (The Second World);
  • and a third, 'non-aligned' group, with many shadings, which sought to remain neutral, claiming to hold neither ideology, but some other political rationale suitable to their particular circumstances. It was in reference to this 'non-aligned' movement that the term 'Third World' first emerged.

Development Agencies, Human Rights and Structural Adjustment Programs Return to Chapter Index

As new Third World nations emerged from the late 1940s onwards, confronted by enormous political and economic problems, the industrialized world became increasingly aware of the need to 'develop' 'undeveloped', 'under developed' and 'less developed' regions. It was strongly believed in 'Third World Development' circles, that, unless Third World communities were 'developed', they would fall prey to Soviet propaganda.

Over the next forty years, a wide range of national, international and voluntary 'development' organizations were established. Chief amongst these have been international organizations with charters which require them to fund and organize Third World development programs and plans.283

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have had responsibility for advising governments on economic, welfare and development matters, for funding major projects, and for overseeing economic development in the new nations. In the process, they have widely been accused of imposing their own Western priorities and ideological interests on those governments most in need of assistance.

Fantu Cheru discussed this:

In the words of former President Nyerere of Tanzania, the IMF has become 'the International Ministry of Finance', with enormous leverage to dictate the national policies of Third World governments ...

As in the case of IMF loans, the [World] Bank grants credit only after a borrower-government signs a letter of intent in which it undertakes to comply with certain conditions. These conditions, however, go beyond the traditional IMF recipe and require major institutional reforms ...

The critics of the IMF and the World Bank charge that these institutions represent the interests of Western countries and that their orthodox prescriptions are not appropriate to the circumstances of African countries as they fail to address the root causes of underdevelopment and unequal exchange.
(Cheru 1989, pp. 35-6, 38-9)

The United Nations has provided a forum for interchanges between developed and developing countries. It has also often been accused of being a vehicle for the imposition of First World demands on Third World governments, including the imposition of sets of 'universal principles' relating to the rights of individuals and the responsibilities of governments.

Following the Second World War, with the ideological confrontation of capitalism and communism, Western nations became increasingly concerned with 'human rights', particularly with the right of individuals to freedom of movement and self-expression. No government should have the right to control movement. Of course, only 30 years earlier, Western European colonial powers had no difficulty in imposing severe restrictions on the movement of indigenous peoples within and from their colonies 284 .

Not only were Third World governments pressured to implement such resolutions, the United Nations organizations formed to provide development assistance provided means of leverage to donor countries. Where First World governments disapproved of political processes and developments within the new nations, they very often used these international organizations as forums within which they could voice their concerns and through which they could pressure Third World governments for reform.

Accusations made against the activities of many of these organizations have been that the priorities which have been set, and the programs and projects which have been funded, have reflected First World rather than Third World concerns; and that these programs and the activities of international organizations have very often been motivated by 'human rights' issues which reflect the political concerns of First World nations.

The Indonesian Government, in 1993, spelt out its attitude to such First World pressures:

Human rights questions are essentially ethical and moral in nature. Hence, any approach to human rights questions which is not motivated by a sincere desire to protect these rights but by disguised political or, worse, to serve as a pretext to wage a political campaign against another country, cannot be justified 285 .

Given the international tensions of the 'Cold War' period, it is small wonder that the international political concerns of donor nations strongly influenced their development priorities. This led them to use development funding as a means of pressuring governments into endorsing their interests and concerns.

Much of the pressure exerted on post-colonial governments during this period was concerned, not with the material well-being of Third World peoples so much as with ensuring the commitment of governments and people to the ideological biases of the donor nations.

With the demise of the Soviet Union, 'non-alignment' has become anachronistic. Now there is only one highly successful and very dominant ideology (with its variants) in the West, with socialism and communism in disrepute. Those who, in the past, sought to remain nonaligned, now have little option but to accept the ascendancy of capitalism and attempt to reorganize their communities to participate in the rapidly expanding international capitalist system.

Many of them, in the 1980s and 1990s, at World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) instigation, implemented structural adjustment programs (SAPs) to reorient their political and economic organization and activity to neoliberal, free-market requirements. As Jason Oringer and Carol Welch (1998) claimed,

SAPs share a common objective: to move countries away from self-directed models of national development that focus on the domestic market and toward outward-looking development models that stress the importance of complete integration into the dominant global structures of trade, finance, and production. 286 .

In the new international climate, no nation could escape involvement in the emerging global communications, financial, enterprise, information and entertainment networks. Nor could they insulate themselves from the deregulative forces which exposed populations to the vagaries of the international marketplace. These gave transnational corporations and organizations increasing influence within Third World national boundaries.

Confusing Third World intra-national tensions with international confrontations Return to Chapter Index

As colonial territories gained independence, they entered a world threatened by the confrontation of two world industrial powers, armed with weapons of mass destruction. No country was immune from the resulting tensions and from the demands made upon them to support or oppose the Western and Eastern blocs.

While there was no Third World War during this period, there were innumerable 'brush fires' or small wars.

Third World countries, fraught with internal tensions and challenges to central authority, became the target of Cold War rivalries. As regional interests in Third World nations challenged central governments they looked for external support and ways of obtaining weaponry and military expertise. They soon learned the language of international Cold War confrontation and used it very effectively in appealing for backing for their insurrections.

First, convince a Cold War bloc that they were committed to its ideological position. Second, convince them that their opponent was on the side of the opposing bloc. Once done, this would quickly be followed by funding for their activities by the major world players and their allies. This 'funding' was, of course, not 'free'. The costs of the wars were borne by the Third World countries, not by those international players who 'supported' them.

Inevitably, once one side in an internal Third World national conflict received international support of this kind, the other side found itself the recipient of 'military aid' from the opposing bloc. In this way, superpower tensions spilt over into the rest of the world, reclassifying local disputes in Cold War terms and financially crippling the Third World nations involved in the disputes.

During the Cold War period, these reclassified wars were fought in colonial and post-colonial countries, with opponents armed and supported by the two superpowers or their allies. Each conflict was recast as an ideological confrontation between capitalism and communism, proxies for direct conflict between First and Second World players (the superpowers and their allies were only directly involved in three of these wars). Only two of them (in Northern Ireland and Turkey) were not fought on Third World soil.

Because they were insulated from the conflict, this period of worldwide turmoil and bloodshed has often been described by people in Western nations as a prolonged period of peace. That peace has usually been attributed to the balanced build-up of nuclear weapons, which guaranteed the 'mutually assured destruction' (with the appropriate acronym 'MAD') of the two superpowers should they enter into war with each other.

In Third World nations, however, during this period millions of people were killed in wars which were bankrolled and armed by the superpowers and their allies in the name of the ideological confrontation of capitalism and communism.287

This was not a period when newly independent countries could concentrate on their 'development' equitably aided by 'developed' nations and development organizations whose interests in their affairs were wholly benign and positive. This was a period when countries which wished to receive 'aid' from the 'developed' 'First' (capitalist) or 'Second' (communist) worlds had to demonstrate their ideological commitment to the bloc which provided the aid.288

It was a period in which the bloc which did not provide the aid almost certainly attempted to develop and/or maintain festering discontent and rebellion within the country. The aim of this interference in the internal affairs of Third World countries was, through successfully fuelling insurrection, to replace the leadership with people committed to the ideology of the ideological bloc promoting the confrontation.

Throughout the Third World, governments, faced with the enormous task (inherited from colonial powers) of developing the infrastructures of 'modern' 'industrialized' countries, found themselves fighting 'insurgents' or 'rebels' or 'guerrilla movements', spending a great deal of their time, energy and resources on these conflicts.

Kick and Kiefer described the scene in the late 1980s:

In the last few years, developing countries have spent nearly [US] $20 billion per annum on the importation of armaments ...

Militarisation of the Third World coincides with a marked post-war change in the global theatres of war from the developed to the developing countries. In the first half of this century major wars involved direct contention between the prevailing world powers, but since 1945 the structure of international warfare has shifted.

Sivard (1982) identifies 65 major wars and 10,700,000 civilian and battle deaths during 1960-1982, and with only two exceptions (Northern Ireland and Turkey) these wars were entirely fought on the territory of developing countries ...

The rivalry between the capitalist and eastern socialist power blocs has ... been played out in the Third World by the provision of military equipment to local combatants, and less often by direct intervention either by the sponsors themselves or by their proxies.
(Kick & Kiefer 1987, pp. 34, 44)

As Michael Renner described, 'more than $1.2 trillion worth of military equipment has been transferred [to Third World countries] during the past three decades' (1994, p.23).289 It was small wonder that 'development' activities were less than successful, and that Third World governments, by the 1980s, faced bankruptcy and economic ruin.

Dan Connell spelt out some of the consequences:

In 1991, of the 25 largest Third World debtors, 12 were at war, and many were on a war footing ...

From 1970 to 1989, according to UN reports, Third World debt skyrocketed from $68.4 billion to $1,262.8 billion, leaving several nations owing more than they produce in annual income. Today, many countries have been forced to restructure their economies to keep up interest payments, while living standards plunge, urban squalor and rural poverty deepen, and infant and maternal mortality rates climb toward pre-independence levels.

With the best land reserved for export crops and natural resources sold off at discount rates, their ability to feed themselves declines further while environmental degradation proceeds apace. And more money is borrowed to stave off imminent catastrophe.
(Connell 1993, p. 1)

As Gustave Speth, Administrator of the United Nations Development Program, said of Africa in 1994:

We conveniently forget Africa's history. We forget that the transatlantic slave trade robbed Africa of about 12 million of its able-bodied men and women. We forget that colonialism which followed the slave trade introduced a system of exploitation of Africa's natural resources to feed the industries of the West.

We forget the 1884/1885 Colonial Conferences of Berlin which crudely Balkanised and divided Africa into geographic areas of control by the West, with scant regard for ethnic groupings. We even forget that during the period of the cold war's geopolitical fight for spheres of influence, Africa became a focal point for the ideology and the arms that today contribute to the havoc we find in Rwanda and Burundi, in Zaire and Angola and Somalia

... Conflict and wars claim resources that would otherwise be spent on education and health and housing and other areas of development.

... A large part of the blame for this trading in death rests with the industrial countries who, while giving aid in the order of $60 billion a year, earn much more in arms sales and otherwise from the estimated $125 billion per year in military expenditures of the developing world.
(Speth 1994)

At the very time when post-colonial governments were attempting to establish viable political and administrative institutions in their countries, legitimized by popular acceptance and participation, they were required to develop sophisticated international policies and interactions. They had to balance the geo-political demands of the superpowers with an increasing range of 'development' requirements placed on them by an emerging set of international institutions. The conflicting and contradictory demands to which Third World governments were subjected made long-term, rational planning extremely difficult.

Problems of nation-building Return to Chapter Index

The 'nations' created by colonial powers usually directly reflected the geographical territories which they had ruled. They usually incorporated a variety of ethnic groupings, sometimes traditionally opposed to one another, sometimes more closely tied to other communities not included within the national boundaries, and sometimes opposed through the activities of the colonial powers themselves 290 .

In almost all colonial territories, a small Western educated minority, very often representatives of a number of separate ethnic groupings in the colony, had been groomed to consider themselves members of the middle-classes of the colonizing powers. Houčnou (1924) described his own attachment to France:

To begin with, I must completely absolve France from the policies of some of her children. We who have been reared in the Motherland - we know her, we love her, and we have unshakeable confidence in her.

But, I regret to say, though I say it fearlessly, that the representatives whom she sends to her colonies fail to perform their duties. More than that, they betray the interests of France and compromise her future. They betray the interests of Africa, and thereby compromise the future of a people who has the right to exist.

My sympathy, my affection, my love for France cannot be doubted; for in the critical hours of 1914, without compulsion of any sort, I assumed spontaneously the duty of all citizens and exposed my life like all Frenchmen.

The sense of inclusive, co-operative identity between middle ranking people preceded the establishment of most Western European nation-states. The small educated minority from the colonies were educated to identify with those middle ranking people.

However, as Houčnou claimed, they often felt they had been tolerated rather than whole-heartedly included in middle class company, "by special favor and grudgingly made, citizens" of the colonizing power. In many ways they were neither fully accepted as citizens of the 'Motherland', nor, any longer, closely identified in their own minds with people in the colonies from which they had been taken.

The nationalism of most Third World nations consisted in the desire of these Western educated individuals to validate themselves by taking over the reins of government from colonial administrators. This was coupled with a strong desire on the part of the populace to be freed from foreign domination.

In most new nations, the post-colonial nation-state preceded the emergence of nationalism amongst the vast majority of the population. Those who inherited government, inherited a responsibility which few colonial administrations had accepted - they would have to find ways in which to develop and maintain a sense of nationalism amongst the diverse peoples of their national territories.

The unity of a colony was, to the colonial power, a consequence of its administration, and did not require the active endorsement of the indigenous populations. The post-colonial nation-state, however, as a result of very strong international pressures and a presumption of the universal applicability of Western democratic forms, needed to receive its legitimation from the population.

Post-colonial governments, unlike the colonial administrations which preceded them, needed to be ratified through the identification of their populations with them as legitimate and unifying authorities within national territories.

Colonial powers had provided administration, and administrative representatives down to the local village and household levels in the form of magistrates, police, wardens, and council officers. They had imposed these structures and authorities on the colonial populations. They had assumed, but had not felt any need to engender, the commitment of villagers to their supervision.

In contrast, post-colonial governments needed to engender in their populations a sense of 'belonging' to the nation, rather than to a particular region, ethnic group or clan. Governments, therefore, had to intrude into the lives of their constituents in ways not contemplated by most colonial authorities.

Bice Maiguashca explained it well:

As for the Third World, during the 1950s and 1960s most of the newly created states concentrated their attention on establishing political centralisation and fostering national integration. As a consequence, most indigenous peoples, who had enjoyed a relative degree of autonomy during the colonial period, now found themselves under the authority of local elites who were driven by the imperative of 'nation-building' and who sought to consolidate their precarious hold on power through any means available to them ...
(Maiguashca 1994, p. 361)

National governments, handed control by colonial authorities, had to intrude into the identities and self-definitions of relatively insular regions, ethnic groups and clans. They had to attempt to inculcate new perceptions and understandings, through which people would primarily define themselves as members of the nation, so as to weld them into a coherent whole.

They had to begin 'nation-building' in a way not confronted by their colonial predecessors.

Those who inherited the reins of governmental power usually saw their task as one of establishing a European-style 'nation-state' 291. The motives for support by the majority of the population however, usually had less to do with the establishment of a nation-state than with the displacement of those who had imposed such ideas upon them.

This new, and often very intrusive, involvement of national political and governmental activity in local and regional affairs created mounting tension in many regions. In many countries the resentment generated by such intrusion led to independence claims by regions and ethnic groups.

Decentralization of Political and Governmental organization Return to Chapter Index

Most colonial authorities, though claiming to be aware of the strong divisive forces which existed within the territories they were handing over to indigenous elites, counseled new governments to devolve political and administrative authority to regions. This decentralization of political and governmental organization and activity, it was hoped, would dampen demands for secession from the new nation.

This emphasis on devolution echoed conventional wisdom in political and economic development circles. In order to ensure grassroots involvement in political and economic development, it was believed necessary to involve people as directly as possible in the responsibilities of government 292 .

Premdas and Steeves (1984) spelt out the rationale clearly:

If decolonisation means anything, it would at least entail the dismantling and re-orienting of the inherited bureaucracy rendering government administrative behavior subservient to community will. In essence, decolonisation at the grassroots becomes more of a reality where decision making and execution do not remain the monopoly or preserve of civil servants but rather are controlled by elected local councils.

The overdeveloped centre must be deconcentrated to the periphery; a meaningful measure of autonomy in political decision making should be devolved to the vast majority of citizens who are rural dwellers ...
(Premdas & Steeves 1984, p. 2)

However, the problems confronting new nations could not be so easily overcome. In most countries, devolution of governmental responsibilities to provincial and regional governments simply multiplied the problems associated with governing through poorly legitimized political structures. A further level of inefficient, ineffective bureaucracy and political office was added to a structure which was quickly to come under real strain 293 .

Once regions gained political voice of their own, it became easier for regional interests to argue for secession, centered on the existing regional political and bureaucratic structures. Many post-independence separation movements focused their rebellions through taking control of provincial and regional governments in their areas.

Post-colonial governments faced challenges to their autonomy from several directions:

  • international organizations and major international political powers placed strong demands on them to accept and act on their priorities and interests;
  • the deregulation demanded by those involved in the emerging international economic order made governments less and less able to control economic and welfare activity within their territories;
  • and regional forces challenged the legitimacy of the nation-state.

Benjamin Barber and Regine Temam (1992) claimed that internationalization and tribalism in the 1990s were still, and perhaps even more successfully, undermining the traditional political institutions of the nation-state.

On the one hand, global economic and ecological forces were requiring increasing integration and uniformity in the world, with deregulation making national borders permeable. On the other hand, nations were being threatened by 'resurgent, conflicting nationalities and tribal enmities' (Barber & Temam 1992, p. 13).

The leadership and internal organization of regional and ethnic groups and clans incorporated within the new nations had very often been warped, disrupted and weakened during the colonial period. Those (primarily Western educated elites) who sought power in the new nations found in those groups fertile soil for their own ambitions. They often attempted to subvert and/ or displace 'traditional' leadership in order to establish personal support-bases within their own ethnic and regional communities through which they could gain control of the national government 294 .

Ikejiani described the scene in Nigeria in 1964, three years after gaining independence:

It is glaringly evident that the distinguishing mark in Nigerian public life presently is not a man's political philosophy, or religion, or party, or education, or wealth, or personal qualities, but in the last analysis his tribe or origin.

Nigerians carry these tribal thoughts into all aspects of their daily life. They carry them into their friendships, into their occupations, into their loyalties and into their prejudices.

Politics in Nigeria not only has a regional cleavage, subtle and most grossly evident, but also clan connotation. There is a deep struggle for tribal superiority as well.

... It is certainly beyond dispute that in our factories and shops, in government offices, in corporations and in our various institutions, appointments and promotions are made, in many cases, on tribal and clan calculations.
(Ikejiani 1964, p. 122)

Rather than a shared 'nationalism' amongst the populace, the leaders of new nations found that colonial administration had done little to weaken ethnic and clan loyalties and identities. It had been just as ineffective in establishing any sense of shared identity between the disparate communities within national territorial boundaries.

Most colonial people interacted with the colonial structures at the local level and seldom needed to think in terms of an over arching 'national' bureaucracy. In consequence, for most people, pre-colonial political allegiances, while distorted by colonial experience, were still potent. Chukwudum Okolo put it well:

Perhaps the best description of the African reality is tribalism, which is Africa's foremost social evil. Tribal wars have long been part of the continent's chequered history, and a source of social, political, and economic distress since independence. The identifiable cause of coups in Africa lies in tribal struggles for power.
(Okolo 1989, p. 33)

Indigenous Nations have the right of self-determination Return to Chapter Index

During the 1990s, with Third World governments assumed to be firmly in control of their national territories, an international emphasis emerged on minorities, on 'the Fourth World' or 'Indigenous Nations' (see Hughes 1997). The International Covenant on the Rights of Indigenous Nations , presented to the Geneva headquarters of the United Nations in 1994, provided a clear statement of the focus:

The Charter of the United Nations, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and resolutions and declarations of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples, the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, the International Indian Treaty Council and other international bodies related to these organs affirm the fundamental importance of the right of self-determination of all peoples, by virtue of which they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

Paradoxically, as emphasis was increasingly placed on the globalization of economies and the emergence of supra-national political, social and economic integration, the rights of minority groups within national boundaries were increasingly emphasized in international debate. Representatives of such groups found receptive audiences in international forums and in First World nations in pressing claims for the recognition of:

... the urgent need to respect and promote the inherent rights and characteristics of Indigenous Nations, especially the right to lands, territories and resources, which derive from each Nation's culture; aspects of which include spiritual traditions, histories and philosophies, as well as political, economic and social customs and structures.
(UN 1994)

While continuing to treat the state as separate from and able to direct the activities of 'its people', international organizations and First World leaders 295 increasingly required Third World governments to recognize the rights of minorities within their boundaries. As the Covenant said:

Indigenous Nations have the right of self-determination, in accordance with international law, and by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development without external interference;

... Indigenous Nations may freely choose to participate fully in the political, economic, social and cultural life of a State while maintaining their distinct political, economic, social and cultural characteristics, and not relinquishing the inherent right of sovereignty.
(UN 1994)

By placing these demands in the context of Awolowo's description of colonial Nigeria, it becomes apparent that post-colonial authorities were going to face enormous problems if they accepted such demands and attempted to act on them:

There are various national or ethnical groups in the country [Nigeria]. Ten main groups were recorded during the 1931 census as follows: (1) Hausa, (2) lbo, (3) Yoruba, (4) Fulani, (5) Kanuri, (6) Ibibio, (7) Munshi or Tiv, (8) Edo, (9) Nupe, and (10) Ijaw.... 'there are also a great number of other small tribes too numerous to enumerate separately...'

It is a mistake to designate them 'tribes'. Each of them is a nation by itself with many tribes and clans. There is as much difference between them as there is between Germans, English, Russians and Turks for instance.
(Awolowo 1947, pp. 48-9)

In part, these apparently contradictory emphases signaled the decreasing importance being placed upon nation-states in the world of the late 1990s. In part, however, the emphasis on the rights of minorities also reflected the realities of the ethnic conflict which has been present in Third World nations since their inception, and which was becoming a major concern in the First World.

A 1995 Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) report described the problem:

More and more small states are emerging, requiring new forms of extra-national arrangements and development assistance. Conflicts such as those in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Chechnya are recent and dramatic manifestations of an emergent nationalism that created new, and exacerbated old, political, economic, religious, and ethnic problems. Violence and war have continued unabated in various parts of the developing world.
(UN 1996)

Third World nations were being challenged by forces both inside and outside state boundaries 296 .

Since September 11th 2001, with the West re-oriented to seeking out and destroying 'terrorists' wherever they might be found (or imagined), those minorities which have not already secured rights (and many who have) find themselves categorized as 'terrorists' by central governments.

A new language has emerged to legitimize harsh reaction to minority demands. Branding a minority movement a 'separatist terrorist organization' seems to mute condemnation of any action against it from most Western governments. Adopting the policies and justificatory language of George W. Bush's United States, central governments have readily asserted, in the words of Henry Hyde, Chairman of the US House of Representatives Committee on International Relations (Hyde, October 3 2001 - accessed 27 July 2010), that:

We must be prepared not only to protect ourselves from new assaults, not only to intercept and frustrate them, but to eliminate new threats at their source. This must be a permanent campaign, similar to the ancient one humanity has waged against disease and its never-ending assault upon our defenses
(Hyde 2001)

With Western governments committed to similar reaction to those who oppose them around the world, it has become increasingly difficult for disadvantaged minorities to gain support or even a hearing in international forums. Movements which were supported during the 1990s are now cut adrift, to fend for themselves.

The consequences can be seen in the increasing flows of displaced persons, no longer welcome in Western countries which now see them - whatever their age or gender - as a looming threat to national security.

The World is Awash in Weapon Systems Return to Chapter Index

From the outset, most Third World governments have had to contend with the competing interests of powerful ethnic and regional groups, more intent on furthering their own interests than in ensuring workable national government. This, in many countries, has led to long-term civil unrest, insurrection, and civil war.

In the climate of the Cold War, such difficulties were compounded by international powers confounding tribal, regional and clan conflict with ideological confrontation between capitalism and communism. The protagonists were, as we've seen, often armed and funded by competing international forces.

In the post-Cold War period, the flow of arms did not diminish. With huge stockpiles of weapons no longer required by Western and Eastern bloc countries, arms merchants were able to offer sophisticated weaponry at bargain basement prices with little or no check on the credentials or intentions of purchasers.

James Woolsey, Director of Central Intelligence, in testimony to the US Senate Select Intelligence Committee on 10 January 1995, claimed that:

... the proliferation of advanced conventional weapons and technology [is] a growing military threat as unprecedented numbers of sophisticated weapons systems are offered for sale on the world market.

Especially troubling is the proliferation of technologies and expertise in areas such as sensors, materials, and propulsion in supporting the development and modernization of weapons systems.

Apart from the capability of some advanced conventional weapons to deliver weapons of mass destruction, such weapons have the potential to significantly alter military balances, and disrupt U.S. military operations and cause significant U.S. casualties.

And Lt. Gen. James R. Clapper, Jr., Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, before the same committee:

[W]hile we tend to focus on current and future high technology big-ticket items, it's important to remember that the world is already awash in weapon systems. These range from the relatively simple small arms and mines, to more advanced hand held surface to air missiles, to increasingly advanced anti-ship cruise missiles.

Any country with hard currency can and will get these systems. And while they won't lead to military defeat of U.S. forces, they certainly hold out the prospect of casualties. As we have seen in the past, this can have both a major impact on force planning for peacekeeping operations and a significant domestic political impact on their conduct.
(Arms Sales Monitor February 1995, p. 3 )

As Rachel Stohl has described, the 21st century has seen little change in the flow of weaponry to Third World territories:

In the last six years, Washington has stepped up its sales and transfers of high-technology weapons, military training, and other military assistance to governments regardless of their respect for human rights, democratic principles, or nonproliferation. All that matters is that they have pledged their assistance in the global war on terrorism.
(Rachel Stohl (2008))

Thom Shanker, in A New York Times article, September 6th, 2009, entitled Despite Slump, U.S. Role as Top Arms Supplier Grows, outlined the continued growth in arms sales over the past several years:

In the highly competitive global arms market, nations vie for both profit and political influence through weapons sales, in particular to developing nations, which remain "the primary focus of foreign arms sales activity by weapons suppliers," according to the study.

Weapons sales to developing nations reached $42.2 billion in 2008, only a nominal increase from the $41.1 billion in 2007.
(Shanker 2009) 297

{§} As the following graph shows, arms transfers to the 'developing' world by the United States have sped up since the 2008 global financial crisis. The United States, in 2011, was responsible for 79% of all arms transfer agreements with Third world countries.

Richard Grimmett and Paul Kerr (2012), presented a detailed report of arms agreements and transfers to the Third World between 2004 and 2011 to the US Congress. As they explained:

In worldwide arms transfer agreements in 2011-to both developed and developing nations-the United States dominated, ranking first with $66.3 billion in such agreements or 77.7% of all such agreements. This is the highest single year agreements total in the history of the U.S. arms export program. Russia ranked second in worldwide arms transfer agreements in 2011with $4.8 billion in such global agreements or 5.6%. The value of all arms transfer agreements worldwide in 2011 was $85.3 billion, a substantial increase over the 2010 total of $44.5 billion, and the highest worldwide arms agreements total since 2004.
(Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2004-2011, (US Congressional Research Service, August 24, 2012, R42678))

Parliamentary democracy, one-party states, military coups Return to Chapter Index

Destructive as the weapons build-up and regional and ethnic challenges have been within Third World countries, there were other equally disruptive forces involved in challenging the viability of new nation-states. Where post-colonial governments were established through the electoral processes of democracy, those who entered parliament were supposed to conform to Western European parliamentary and governmental practices.

Parliamentary democracy, particularly of the Westminster form, depends on those elected seeing themselves as representatives, not of people in particular residential regions within the nation, but of particular 'parties' which represent the interests of particular social 'classes' and pressure groups, each with its distinctive ideology. Ethnic and clan differences are assumed to have been overridden by economically-based class distinctions which cut across group boundaries.

People are presumed to be committed to particular ideological positions espoused by the parties for which they vote.

Parliamentary democracy of Western European varieties philosophically presupposes a commitment by the majority of the population to the nation, with individuals vicariously sharing in the achievements of the nation as though they were their own achievements298 . Thomas Hobbes, in the 17th century, provided the philosophical underpinnings for this form of nationalism. The commitment of individuals to the nation creates:

... a real unity of them all in one and the same person, made by covenant of every man with every man, in such manner as if every man should say to every man: I authorise and give up my right of governing myself to this man, or to this assembly of men, on this condition; that thou give up thy right to him and authorise all his actions in like manner. This done, the multitude so united in one person is called a COMMONWEALTH.
(Hobbes 1909 [1651], ch. 17)

The government becomes the individual writ large, and individuals effectively enter into contract with the government to support it as long as all other individuals in the nation do so, too. However, as we have seen, this form of commitment presupposes an existing unity or nationalism amongst the populace. Government is aimed at balancing the competing interests of classes and pressure groups, fulfillling their aspirations at the national level.

Neither the 'classes'299 nor widely endorsed 'parties'300 and ideologies existed in most newly independent countries.

The Nigerian Head of State, General Murtala Mohammed, speaking to the Nigerian Constitution Drafting Committee in 1976, spelt out the problem:

Since the inception of this Administration, and particularly since the announcement of your appointment as members of the Constitution Drafting Committee, there has been a lively debate in the press urging the introduction of one form of political ideology or another. Past events have, however, shown that we cannot build a future for this country on a rigid political ideology. Such an approach would be unrealistic.

The evolution of a doctrinal concept is usually predicated upon the general acceptance by the people of a national political philosophy and, consequently, until all our people, or a large majority of them, have acknowledged a common ideological motivation, it would be fruitless to proclaim any particular philosophy or ideology in our constitution.
(Murtala Mohammed 1976, pp. 12-15)

As Murtala Mohammed argued, variant political ideologies within a nation detail alternative biases in organization and activity, based on a common underlying understanding of the world and commitment to national government. Where that common understanding and commitment do not exist, it is difficult, if not impossible, to gain widespread, long-term support for the particular ideology of a political party. Rather, people define themselves in terms of ethnic and regional identity.301

In Third World nations, those elected to office have sometimes publicly endorsed particular political ideologies 302 which have spelt out alternative forms of centralized government of the nation. However, most of them already knew, or soon found, that their constituents were not committed to the articulated ideology and many of them simply did not understand its rationale.

Instead, people presume members of parliament to be committed to the communities which they represent. The communities do not see central government as an important institution through which the national economy might be safeguarded and nurtured or through which the nation might achieve 'stability' or 'economic well-being' or 'greatness'. Rather, they see it as the source of jobs, wealth and goods which could flow to themselves if their representative is astute.

Okwudiba Nnoli described this problem in post-colonial Nigeria:

Nigerianisation involved efforts by the ethnically based ruling parties in the regions to secure the complete domination of the regional public service positions by the relevant regional functionaries, or, in their absence, to prevent rival ethnic groups from filling the relevant posts. This same strategy was evident in the inter ethnic struggle for positions in the federal public service.
(Nnoli 1980, p. 196)

Paula Brown spelt out a similar scene in her study of leadership in the New Guinea Highlands:

... achievement of a high elective position has the greatest prestige and rewards ... The competition and ambitions of Simbu are demonstrated in the large number of nominees, the lavish expenditure of candidates on their campaigns, the significance of success and expectations of rewards by their followers.

Support of a candidate is an important rural social activity. Provincial and national political office are the counters in Simbu intergroup and interpersonal competition of the 1980s.
(Brown 1987, p. 102)

This direct relationship between the politician and his or her constituency is, of course, closer to the Athenian ideal of democracy than is the party system of Western democracy. But, in the absence of a sense of unity amongst all those whose representatives formed government, it resulted in political and governmental chaos.

When parliamentarians are intent on ensuring that as much of the national wealth as possible is siphoned off to themselves and to their regions, government becomes a process of dividing up the spoils of office, not of focused 'national development'. As Brown said:

With the continued concentration of financial resources in government, politics is the way to wealth ...

Power and prestige in the province focus upon the town; a multi ethnic elite runs the affairs of the province and has connections with the national government, business, and sports activities. The rural communities are its dependents and the source of votes, customers, clients, and parishioners.

... these leaders are not detached from their rural relatives for two reasons.

First, the selected officials represent rural constituencies where they must be nominated, campaign, receive votes, and serve rural supporters. In their distribution of benefits they reward their supporters and constituents with jobs and services.

Second, the upper and urban segment is not independent of a rural base. Although they may live and work outside the rural area they contribute to rural affairs of their kinsmen, clan, and constituents and participate in some rural activities.
(Brown 1987, p. 103)

Nnoli described the situation as it developed in Nigeria:

Most Nigerians have come to believe that unless their 'own men' are in government they are unable to secure those socio-economic amenities that are disbursed by the government. Hence, governmental decisions about the siting of industries, the building of roads, award of scholarships, and appointments to positions in the public services, are closely examined in terms of their benefits to the various ethnic groups in the country.

In fact, there has emerged a crop of 'ethnic watchers' who devote much of their time and energy to assessing the differential benefits of the various groups from any government project.
(Nnoli 1978, p. 176)

During the 1980s, while living on the island of Tabiteuea in the Republic of Kiribati in the central Pacific during national elections, I canvassed the views of people as to the right kind of parliamentarian for their community. Every person with whom I spoke said that it was the responsibility of the elected person to gain as much for their community as possible from the central government.

People also focused on the cash income and other benefits flowing to the holder of the office. It was felt that the position of member of parliament was something of a sinecure, and the salary and 'perks' which went with the job belonged not only to the member but also to the community to which he or she belonged. It was, therefore, reasonable to 'share the job around', so that a number of communities might benefit from this cash flow.

The candidates all similarly claimed that they would only be elected if they could show that they could obtain more for the community than others before them and that their own income would be more widely distributed. Re-election depended on this perception of the performance of the member of parliament.

The man who was finally re-elected for a second term had developed a strategy through which his income was shared beyond his own community. In fact, he insisted, and it seemed correct, that he spent more of his money in helping marginal groups than in helping those who strongly supported him and considered him a member of their community.

Both the candidates and people in the electorate were able to name those in the previous parliament who had been most successful. In all cases their success was judged by what they had managed to obtain for their electorates.

When I asked people how they knew who were most successful, they answered that they knew through listening to the parliamentary broadcasts. People in the community who had radios (and many who lived nearby) often listened to parliament. The aim was not to find out about the country's external relations, or to judge the effectiveness with which the nation was being governed. Rather, they wanted to hear who were most forceful and effective in representing their electorates and which electorates were being favored in any 'development' exercises or in infrastructure maintenance and upgrading.

If the community felt that their representative was inadequate, that person was most unlikely to be re-elected. So, each new parliament comprises large numbers of new members, with little or no experience of parliamentary procedures, and far more commitment to their own electorates than to centralized government.

Papua New Guinean parliamentary experience 303 , during the 1980s and 1990s, demonstrated a similar problem. Some sixty per cent of those elected in national elections were first timers, elected because they were perceived to be capable of better representing the interests of their communities and regions.

Not only are members of national and regional parties considered to be conduits of wealth and goods to their electorates, local-level politics is similarly competitive. Peter Weil (1971) explained this well for local council activity in the Gambia:

Within any given electoral ward, various villages have particular demands. Inevitably some villages do not get the well or other project they have been demanding during their councillor's tenure, and the interests of these villages will then probably be in opposition to those of other villages.

If a group of villages tends to unite around an issue, that group tends to be opposed by another group of villages with another issue. Thus, a type of opposition over specific issues operates at the local level in Area Council elections.
(Weil 1971, p. 110)

This orientation, of course, makes it extremely difficult to govern nationally, regionally or locally. Parliamentarians and councillors are far more interested in gaining resources for themselves and their constituents than they are in regional government and development planning.

It is more important to obtain these resources than to observe the niceties of Western concepts of 'honesty' and 'integrity'. These are based on a presumption of the separation of politics and administration, of political activity and government spending. Third World governments, therefore, at whatever level, seem, almost inevitably, to be riddled with 'corruption'.304

Politics becomes reduced to patron-clientism, with those in power concentrating wealth and influence in their own hands, maintaining their support bases through providing privileged access to the jobs, wealth and influence they control. As Awazurike has claimed:

The evidence in the last decade continues to point to a dismal outlook for third-world democracies ... The twin forces of economic woes and the opportunism of powerful oligarches ensure that from India and Pakistan to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, the fate of fledgling attempts at democratization continues to raise more questions than answers - not least of which is the seeming ambivalence of the advanced industrial nations to the spread and deepening of genuine democratic movements since the late 1950s.
(Awazurike 1990, p. 56)

One-party states Return to Chapter Index

In many post-colonial nations, leaders, in the face of such pressures, did away with democratic multi-party politics, declaring 'one-party' states with strong leaders who appointed the representatives from each region of the country, or who ensured that the candidates in any election all accepted their leadership.

The ways in which this shift to single-party rule were effected varied from country to country.

The movement to one-party rule was, of course, often not entirely internally determined. In the international climate of ideological battle, the intelligence services of major Cold War countries attempted to ensure that Third World governments remained ideologically committed to their bias.

In Indonesia, the overthrow of President Sukarno and the installation of Suharto as President of the country in 1967 seems to have been a consequence of just such activity 305 . This reorganization of political activity placed the ruling party (Golkar) in the powerful position of claiming the allegiance of the armed forces and members of the civil service, scrutinising and approving the constitutions and platforms of the other parties and of controlling their electoral activities in rural areas. (See Kathy Kadane (1990))

The President was given the right to dissolve any political party whose policies were not 'in the interests of the state' or whose membership comprised less than one quarter of the population. Indonesia became, and effectively remains a 'one-party' state, despite its apparent multi-party organization.306

Indonesia was not alone in reorganizing its political landscape. In Africa, by 1969, ninety per cent of the post-colonial nations were governed through single-party systems or by military regimes, many of which justified their seizure of power by claiming that the elected governments had become irredeemably corrupt (Young 1970, p.460). In former Asian colonies effective one-party states quickly emerged in most countries, and military coups occurred in many of the new nations. Sangmpam claimed that:

Third World countries are characterised by a specific form of political competition marked by violent eruption of conflicts. From 1958 to 1965, about 70 percent of Third World countries experienced violent conflicts ranging from secession to open warfare, and 68 military coups were successful. From 1965 to 1985, about 130 coups occurred in Third World countries; of about 10 million violent, conflict-related deaths in the world, 99.94 percent were in Third World countries ...
(Sangmpam 1994, p. 4)

Where one-party government was imposed, or governments were deposed by military leaders, this frequently seemed to provide strong central government, though such governments have been widely condemned for their 'human rights' records. Fred Riggs claimed that:

... data from a 1985 survey of Third World regimes reveal correlations between breakdowns and regime type. The high survival level of single-party regimes reflects the ability of ruling parties to control the elected assembly (and hence to govern arbitrarily), and to dominate the bureaucracy (and hence to prevent a coup). By contrast, since all presidentialist regimes in the Third World have experienced catastrophic breakdowns, it is concluded that the ability of divided government to control its bureaucracy and to provide coherent policy direction is so flawed that coups are virtually unavoidable.
(Riggs 1993, p. 199)

Military coups Return to Chapter Index

Throughout the Third World multi-party democracies have, as Riggs suggested, 'experienced catastrophic breakdowns', usually followed by military coups. Arthur Nwankwo spelt out his view of the situation in Nigeria in 1966 when a multi-party, democratically elected parliament was overthrown by a military coup:

On 15 January 1966 Nigeria's post-colonial experiment with democracy ended when soldiers struck, killing some politicians, sacking the civilian government, and imposing military rule. Several factors were responsible for the collapse of Nigeria's First Republic, but among the most crucial was Regionalism, with its attendant ethnic dominance of each of the three regional governments.

The regions constituted the political base for the contenders of power at the Federal level, and tribal or ethnic sentiments were used by these politicians to whip up support for their equally regionally and ethnically-based parties ... In the struggle, the powerful regional governments overwhelmed and incapacitated the Federal Government, regardless of the central government's constitutional superiority.

Thus, it was not the Constitution that failed, but the politicians who operated it, for they were too narrow-minded, too reckless and intellectually and emotionally unprepared for the functions the Constitution placed on them. It was the violent rivalry for power among the politicians, coupled with massive corruption, brazen injustice and political and religious intolerance which brought about the demise of the First Republic.
(Nwankwo 1984, pp. 6-7)

Where military coups were avoided, multi-party democracy has usually been displaced by single-party systems. Since countries which opted for one-party rule or which were ruled by military juntas were often already experiencing inter-group tension and confrontation, in many cases the imposition of military or one-party rule masked continuing conflict within the nation. In Nigeria, as in many other countries ruled militarily, military rule has been punctuated by coups and counter-coups.

In both militarily ruled and one-party states, those holding power have intruded ever more directly and forcefully into those areas of activity which Western people are strongly convinced should be outside the realm of politics. Sangmpam has argued that the state, in many Third World countries, has become 'over politicized'. As he said:

By over politicization I mean

  • the use of overt compulsion by those holding power to organize political representation, participation, and competition for ... goods and services ... ;
  • the fluidity of state power and constant insecurity characterising holders of state power in their relations with other social actors;
  • political participation and competition outside established institutions;
  • the lack of compromise over the outcome of political competition; and
  • the general use of open violence and confrontation in such participation and competition.

(Sangmpam 1994, p. 5)

Political, Economic and Social Integration:
A Patron-Client World Return to Chapter Index

Rather than government providing a stable backdrop to the self-interested activities of people competing within the marketplace, political power holders have become direct players in the economic sphere, using their positions and power to advantage themselves and their supporters.

This has effectively reoriented many Third World communities toward patron-client forms of political, economic and social organization. The activities of political, business, traditional, military and other leaders become interfused as networks of mutual support and promotion develop. In such patron-client oriented systems, political and economic spheres are intermeshed. To succeed economically, one needs a political patron.

Richard Robison (1990) provided a description of a variety of forms of this kind of political / economic activity in Indonesia. The most important of these in Third World countries is undoubtedly what he called 'bureaucratic capitalism'. As he explained,

bureaucratic capitalism is a product of patrimonial bureaucratic authority in which the demarcation between public service and private interest is at best blurred.
(1990, p. 14)

Many of those involved in this kind of political activity develop 'joint ventures' with overseas companies and transnational corporations. The politician, or person who has strong links with political authority, obtains licences, concessions, finance, and favorable terms of business for the overseas partner and, in return, holds stock in the company formed within the country or is rewarded in other ways. As Robison explained,

The central feature of the joint venture is the exchange of politically controlled economic concessions for financial reward.
(1990, p. 17)

While Robison's study focused on such activity in Indonesia, very similar arrangements can be found in almost every Third World country.

For businesses involved in this kind of activity it is very important that the political leaders be secure and hold power over a long period. Every political upheaval becomes a business upheaval as new political patrons have to be secured.

For this reason, many multinational and transnational businesses have been accused of supporting dictatorial, repressive regimes, securing their own interests by ensuring the long-term survival of their patrons.307

Where this cannot be arranged, businesses have to hedge their bets, securing the commitment not only of key political figures of the present, but also likely future players. The game becomes much more complex and certainly more costly.

It is, therefore, less likely that foreign businesses will be attracted to countries where the political leadership is likely to be displaced in a short period, whether by electoral or any other means. Economic 'development', therefore, seems to favor stable regimes, as the East and South-East Asian countries have demonstrated.

Political support is not only available to foreign companies (though these are usually the most lucrative source of income). Similar arrangements are made with business people within Third World countries. As Sklar and Whitaker described of Nigeria two decades ago:

In every region, the party waxed fat in its house of patronage. It had money, favors, jobs, and honours to distribute among those who would support it. To a large extent, these regional patronage systems were based on regional marketing boards ...

Invariably, the vast majority of those who receive or hope to receive loans from the boards or the banks are attracted by powerful inducements to join or support the regional government party; insofar as they prosper, they may be expected to support the party financially. The same may be said of commercial contractors who work for the regional governments and their statutory corporations ....

Who are the masters of the regional governments? High-ranking politicians, senior administrators, major chiefs, lords of the economy, distinguished members of the learned professions ...
(Sklar & Whitaker 1991, p. 79)

As key economic, political, professional, military and traditional leaders support one another, avenues to wealth are increasingly controlled by them, to be made available, at their discretion, to those who support them. The result is what is commonly seen in Third World countries: a marked division between the 'haves' and 'have nots', with those who do not have access to the wealth of the region increasingly dependent on those who have, tied to them in bonds of clientage.

In the climate of ethnic and clan rivalry which exists in many Third World countries, patrons and clients see their interests as separate from those of opposing groups which are also competing for the spoils of political and economic power. The consequences, as both Sangmpam (1994) and Weil (1971) have suggested, are increasing tension and eruptions of violence which cannot easily be countered.

In the worldwide political climate of the 1950s-1980s, this usually meant that one or other of the internationally dominant ideological blocs readily financed and armed opposing groups, leading to continued unrest and rebellion. Opposing leaders, each intent on establishing their patronage and power, soon learned to speak the language of international ideological tension, and so ensured funding of military requirements in either resisting or instigating rebellion and armed insurrection.

Over the last decade, the language employed to gain support has changed, but the consequences have not. Now, support is given to bolster regimes or favored insurgents in combating 'international terror' rather than 'Communism', but the results are very similar 308 . Third World politicians and their economic counter-parts have learned a new language and are becoming increasingly fluent in its use.

From 'Soldiers of Fortune' to
'International Security Companies' Return to Chapter Index

In the 1990s, privatization became the name of the game. It was argued that the reason why Third World governments had failed to 'develop' their countries was that they had incompetently interfered in economic activity. This was much better left to the 'market-place'. The new emphasis was introduced to Third World peoples through a variety of structural adjustment programs (SAPs) imposed by the World Bank and the IMF.

Not only was private enterprise the new key to development, it was also argued that if security was left in the hands of Third World governments, politicians would use this as a means of leveraging international businesses operating in the country. It became increasingly acceptable for transnational companies to hire 'security firms' to ensure the safety of their operations in areas of political instability and lawlessness. This was justified by corporations as being very similar to their use of such private security agencies in Western countries. If the scale of security operations was greater, this was simply because security problems in many Third World countries are more acute.

The use of mercenaries is, of course, not new. As Gilbert Murray described of British practice in the late 19th century,

In military operations, again, we of the British Empire depend to a quite enormous extent upon soldiers of alien race, more, possibly, than any State since Carthage. Nearly all our African fighting before the present war, and most of our Indian fighting, has been done for us by natives. The great victories of Clive over the French, which we are accustomed to regard as proofs of British strength or valour, were almost entirely victories of Sepoys over Sepoys.

The economic situation is really the same as in the other cases. We cannot spare more of the ruling race to fight. We take instead some naturally warlike savages, train them, officer them, and make them do the fighting for us.
(Gilbert Murray 1900 p. 144)

In the first decade of the 21st Century, the use of private security firms has become very wide-spread, fuelled by the employment of these organizations by the U. S. military and by major corporations and organizations operating in danger zones in non-Western countries. Hundreds of 'privatized military firms' now exist, operating in over fifty countries, with annual revenues well in excess of a hundred billion dollars 309 .

The effect of these developments has been to reintroduce mercenary soldiers into non-Western countries in the guise of security personnel. The mercenaries which plagued African communities during the 1970s were funded as expatriate soldiers who were supporting regimes fighting 'communist insurgency'. The new mercenaries, in the spirit of the times, are seen to be fighting 'international terror', the enemies of democracy and capitalism.

They are ensuring the stability of regimes (or the successful insurgency of an opposing group if a regime proves unreliable) and the profitability of transnational corporations. As such, they no longer come in the crude guise of soldiers of fortune, now they come as 'security consultants', providing security services and helping to 'privatize' yet another arm of government activity, forming an even closer alliance between transnational corporations and their political patrons.

Civil/military rule Return to Chapter Index

In many countries, long-term 'civil-military' regimes have emerged, in which the leadership, while 'civil' (that is, not holding military rank or position), is closely allied with the military leadership. As Hassan Gardezi described, there has emerged, in Pakistan, a 'strong bureaucratic-military oligarchy at the helm of the state which uses its regulatory powers to mediate the mutually competing and at times conflicting interests' (1985, p. 1) of the country.

Arthur Nwankwo, writing of Nigeria, suggested that this form of rule should be called 'cimilicy' and should be based on:

... civilianising the military and militarizing the civilians in a new arrangement for a new dispensation. Government being the authoritative allocator of national resources in response to articulated and organized group interests, it is necessary that people who participate in government articulate and organize their views and work together, each being fully conscious of the strength, weaknesses and rights of others in a new social compact where the artificial lines of demarcation between the military and the civilians is eradicated. For in theory and in deed, all civilians and all military persons of Nigerian extraction are Nigerians and are entitled to equal rights, privileges and dispensations and equally endowed for the onerous task of building a New Nigeria.
(Nwanko 1984, p. xii)

To date, Nigeria has not managed to establish a stable coalition of such interests. Other post-colonial states, however, have been much more successful in pursuing such policies. In nations as diverse as Egypt and Indonesia, this kind of civilian-military alliance has been effectively pursued over some thirty to forty years.

The degree to which such alliances have disenfranchised communities and populations has been a matter of vigorous debate over the past fifteen years. It has commonly been claimed that such 'dictatorships' ride roughshod over individual human rights, as expressed in various United Nations declarations. Some of the more stable of these regimes have replied, as Indonesian authorities have, that:

It is now generally accepted that all categories of human rights - civil, political, economic, social and cultural, the rights of the individual and the rights of the community, the society and the nation - are interrelated and indivisible. The promotion and protection of all these rights should therefore be undertaken in an integrated and balanced manner. Inordinate emphasis on one category of human rights over another should be eschewed.

Likewise, in assessing the human rights conditions of countries, particularly developing countries, the international community should take into account the situation in relation to all categories of human rights - following the principles contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 29 of that Declaration addresses two aspects that balance each other: On the one hand, there are principles that respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual; on the other, there are stipulations regarding the obligations of the individual toward the society and the state.
(Alatas 1993)

United Nations emphasis on the rights of individuals, at the expense of community and nation are considered unbalanced and in need of correction. However, such statements have been vigorously rejected by pro-democracy groups throughout the world. As Jeremy Hobbs of Community Aid Abroad (CAA) claimed:

Australia's special relationship with Indonesia is viewed with bitter cynicism by Indonesian non-government organizations. For them it is supremely ironic that Australia, arguably the most democratic country in the region, is not prepared to take a tougher line on free speech, human rights, democracy and labor issues. Worse, we have been happy to fill the breach when the [US] Clinton administration withdrew military support because of its concerns over human rights.
(Hobbs 1995, p. 1)

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Western powers have increasingly insisted on a return by Third World governments to multiparty political systems based on Western democratic ideals. As Andrew Purvis claimed:

As recently as five years ago, sub-Saharan Africa seemed poised on the verge of a new democratic era. The end of the cold war and mounting pressure from Western donors for political reform as a condition for ongoing aid led to a flurry of multiparty elections, and millions of voters eager for a change trekked to the polls ... [However] Africa's veteran rulers know what they are up to. Many of them have been denied foreign aid because of their autocratic regimes. But once elections have been held, or in some cases merely promised, Western aid dollars begin flowing again

... This is not the first time Africa has wrestled with multiparty governance. Immediately after many countries gained independence in the 1960s, political parties flourished, elections were called, and voters rejoiced. But then many of independent Africa's founding fathers convinced their people that the single-party state was the only way. The result was the lost years of the '70s and the economic disarray of the '80s. The only hope is that Western donors, together with Africa's more reform-minded leaders, will not stand for such backsliding again.
(Purvis 1996)

Like Purvis, many Western commentators believe that most of the Third World's woes can be traced to the forms of government which have emerged over the past forty years. Autocratic governments, dominated by corrupt, self-serving politicians, have mismanaged economies and increased their own wealth and power at the expense of their electorates. In order to overcome these problems, it is considered necessary to return to Western governmental practices, to multi-party, democratic government.

However, it can be argued, as Nef (1991, pp. 16ff. 310 ) did for Latin America, that, in part, the emergence and dominance of repressive regimes has been a requirement and a consequence of the kinds of 'economic development' pursued in those countries since the late 1960s. The unpopular, 'structural adjustments' which Third World governments have been required to make by both the World Bank and IMF have required political controls not available to truly democratically elected governments.

The developmentalist models of Third World development experts, which placed emphasis on the role of government in stimulating and guiding economic development, came into disrepute during the 1970s. At about the same time, the Keynesian economic models of the West came under siege from neoliberal alternatives. In their place the neoliberal monetarist policies of Margaret Thatcher in Britain and of conservative politics throughout most of the Western world during the late 1970s and the 1980s and 1990s, became the stuff of development specialist advice in the Third World through the 1970s and since that time.311

This shift coincided with a rapid increase in Third World indebtedness following a sharp increase in oil prices in the early 1970s. From the late 1970s, lenders became increasingly concerned at the mounting debt of Third World countries. As Dan Connell has said, 'From 1970 to 1989, according to UN reports, Third World debt skyrocketed from $68.4 billion to $1,262.8 billion, leaving several nations owing more than they produce in annual income' (1993, p. 1).

This came to a head in the early 1980s, when international creditors decided it was time to act to protect their investments. For most, the central consideration in ensuring the economic viability of Third World nations was the 'downsizing' of government and the deregulation of all economic, financial and fiscal activity.

Effectively, this meant a complete reorganization of government, a determined swing away from 'left-wing' politics to the politics of the marketplace 312 . Such radical restructuring has inevitably resulted in mounting tension within the affected countries.

Cheru spelt out some of the demands of such programs:

a) liberalization of import controls;

b) devaluation of the country's exchange rate;

c) a domestic anti-inflationary program which will control bank credits and [exercise] control over government deficit by curbing spending, increased taxation, abolition of consumer subsidies;

d) a program of greater hospitality to multinational companies (MNCs) .

... As President Kaunda of Zambia put it, 'The IMF does not care whether you are suffering economic malaria, bilharzia or broken legs. They will always give you quinine'. The policy prescriptions listed above reflect the Fund's political and economic ideology rather than the interests of the developing countries.
(Cheru 1989, p. 37)

In order to ensure that the necessary 'structural adjustments' were made to Third World economies so that they might benefit from the increased competitive advantages that it was assumed would accrue from an unfettered 'enterprise economy', governments needed to be firmly in control, able to apply the 'pain' which would, necessarily, precede the economic 'gain' of this radical shift from welfare economics to free market economics.

As an astute commentator described for Chile, one of the first Latin American countries to experience these changes:

After overthrowing the elected Allende government in 1973, the Chilean military crushed leftist parties, unions, and peasant associations. Then, in an unwelcome surprise to some elites that had initially invited the coup, the military disbanded right wing and centrist parties as well ...

Such measures were necessary, the military claimed, to enable it to impose harsh deflationary policies 'in the national interest' without organized opposition.

The need for this degree of control resulted, in many countries, in an increased emphasis on 'law and order', and increased expenditures to bolster both police and paramilitary strength to support government in its determination to set in place the necessary changes to ensure long-term economic growth. As Ihonvbere claimed:

The political tensions that have accompanied monetarism have furthered repression, human rights abuses, riots and national disintegration ...

The very high degree of human suffering, disillusionment, anger, alienation, rural decay, urban dislocation, suicides, marital crises, prostitution and crime which have accompanied monetarist responses to the African economic crisis, hold major implications for the potency of ethnicity and the subversion of the goals of nationhood.
(Ihonvbere 1994, p. 51)

The appearance of democracy Return to Chapter Index

As tensions have mounted in many countries, governments have felt compelled to increase their coercive authority. Most Third World governments, in the past thirty years, have found themselves on the horns of a dilemma. They are being pressured by First World governments and organizations into both deregulation of economic activity, which requires increased coercive authority, and the ratification and implementation of human rights programs and principles.

As Purvis suggested, this has led to a rhetoric in favor of multi-party democracy 313 and implementation of human rights programs, accompanied by further politicization of the directive agencies of government.

This increasing politicization of both the police forces and court systems has delegitimised both sets of institutions in the eyes of many people in Third World countries, leading to increasing fear and tension within Third World nations and to further political repression.

The politicization of police forces and courts has been accompanied by the politicization of law, establishing statutes which can be used to legitimize government repression and make it increasingly difficult for individuals and groups to defend themselves against politically motivated criminal charges. As Amnesty International spelt out for the African continent:

There is a developing pattern of human rights violations in parts of Africa in which governments publicly committed to political pluralism adopt methods of curbing domestic opposition and criticism which are designed to minimize the likelihood of international disapproval and to keep their democratic credentials intact.

Certain types of legal charge are proving increasingly attractive to governments seeking to criminalise peaceful political activity or dissent in this new context. These charges include sedition, contempt of court, subversion, defamation, possession of classified documents, and holding meetings or demonstrations without an official permit.
(Amnesty International 1995)

The reality in many Third World nations since the mid 1990s is that while governments are being pressured to reinstitute multi-party democratic political processes, contradictory pressures coming from the First World, in fact, produce multi-party democratic rhetoric, coupled with the entrenchment of coercive, autocratic government. This has resulted in continuing unrest and rebellion in many Third World countries.

A Time report spelt out the realities of the first decade of the 21st century,

President Bush is fond of saying that "democracy is on the march" around the world. That's been largely true for the last couple decades, but a new report from the Economist Intelligence Unit says that over the last two years the global trend toward democratization has been stopped in its tracks. Even further, the report suggests the global financial crisis has the potential to start the march moving in the opposite direction:

The results of the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index 2008 confirm that, following a decades-long global trend in democratization, the spread of democracy has come to a halt. Comparing the results for 2008 with those from the first edition of the index, which covered 2006, shows that the dominant pattern in the past two years has been stagnation.

Although there is no recent trend of outright regression, there are few instances of significant improvement. However, the global financial crisis, resulting in a sharp and possibly protracted recession, could threaten democracy in some parts of the world.

The report also classifies only 30 of the world's countries as being "full democracies," with another 50 countries deemed "flawed democracies." Only 14% of the world's population lives within those countries considered "full democracies."
(Real Clear Politics October 22nd 2008)

Of the last 30 years: Return to Chapter Index

Corruption Return to Chapter Index

Inevitably, when personalized systems of government and leadership, like those found in most Third World nations, are judged against the standards assumed to be commonplace in Western systems of Government 314 , they are found to be 'riddled with corruption'. In order to conduct business on a 'level playing field', Western governments and corporations consider it essential to police corrupt practices. At the instigation of Western nations and agencies the United Nations Convention Against Corruption has been negotiated, coming into force in 2005. As the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime explains,

Corruption undermines democratic institutions, slows economic development and contributes to governmental instability. Corruption attacks the foundation of democratic institutions by distorting electoral processes, perverting the rule of law and creating bureaucratic quagmires whose only reason for existing is the soliciting of bribes.

Economic development is stunted because foreign direct investment is discouraged and small businesses within the country often find it impossible to overcome the "start-up costs" required because of corruption.
(UNODC 2010 - accessed 12 April 2010)

Unsurprisingly, corruption appears to be endemic in non-Western nations, but remarkably infrequent in Western nations 315 .

In order to appreciate the experiences of Third World nations in the post-Second World War period, we need to remember that depersonalized government of the Western kind is unusual and requires understandings of the world which are distinctively Western.316 Where Western understandings don't exist, the forms of government which they require are also unlikely to exist; and where people are required to behave as though Western understandings do exist, there will be many inconsistencies in governmental organization and practice.

Terror Return to Chapter Index

In the last twenty years there have been a number of important changes in international and regional politics around the world. Most obviously, the ideologically fuelled 'Cold War' has ended, with communism and socialism in disarray and capitalism firmly established in the international arena. In the world of the 1990s there was a marked increase in conflicts which were pronounced to be 'ethnically' inspired, in contrast to those of earlier post-Second World War years, which were usually considered to be driven by commitment to First and Second World ideologies.

The 'ethnic' focus (which largely side-lined Western countries) has, since 2001, been displaced by a diffuse concern with 'terror'. This has led to the United States' promoted 'war on terror' around the world.

Non-Western governments, confronted with ethnic and other challenges inside their territories, could once again trigger military aid from Western countries. All they had to do was to label those with whom they were having difficulty 'separatist terrorist organizations' or claim that they had been 'infiltrated by terrorists' and accuse them of links with 'international terrorism'.

They have been quick to take advantage of Western paranoia, receiving weaponry and military training from Western countries which have largely seen them as the 'front line' in the 'war on terror' 317 . As Rachel Stohl has described,

... the United States has made the "global war on terror" its priority in determining arms transfers and military assistance. In the last six years, Washington has stepped up its sales and transfers of high-technology weapons, military training, and other military assistance to governments regardless of their respect for human rights, democratic principles, or nonproliferation. All that matters is that they have pledged their assistance in the global war on terrorism.
(Rachel Stohl (2008))

Neoliberalism Return to Chapter Index

There has also been a technological revolution in worldwide telecommunications networks, with transactions of all sorts now flowing through those networks which governments are decreasingly able to effectively monitor and/ or control. This has been accompanied by a victory for neoliberal economic reformers 318 as advisers to governments and international organizations.

These advisers have managed to convince governments everywhere of the need for the privatization of government assets and activities and deregulation of financial markets and currencies, progressively moving control of national fiscal and financial matters from national governments into the international marketplace.

As Rosario Espinal claimed of Latin America during the 1980s, there was a dramatic shift away from developmentalism 319 and towards neoliberal economic and political policies:

... pro-market statements came from different quarters: agencies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), foreign governments, a growing number of Latin American economists and intellectuals and some segments of the business class ...

In addition to pressure from international agencies to privatize and liberalise the Latin American economies, think tanks and research groups flourished throughout the region in an effort to publicise neoliberal views.
(Espinal 1992, p. 32)

This coincided with a change in the dominant way of 'making money' in the world - through currency, bond and stock trading and financial manipulations rather than through long-term investment in primary and secondary production. This has resulted in primary production, the most important means of income generation for new nations, becoming less and less attractive to investors, since returns on primary production are usually lower and slower - and often far more uncertain - than those resulting from financial manipulations. So, Third World nations are finding it increasingly difficult to attract and retain investment income, making their economies increasingly volatile.

The volatility of international capital investment, focused on short-term gains, means that, in their efforts to retain investment capital, governments must offer a range of financial inducements, competing with each other to minimize capital flight. Thus, over time, the cost of investment capital increases for those countries least able to afford such costs.

Far from there being true financial deregulation, governments find themselves having constantly to interfere, to prop up their currencies and induce capital to stay. As Gerald Meier presciently described of the financial crises which assailed both Latin American and East and South-East Asian countries in the late 1990s (and which, of course, have threatened the rest of the world during the last years of the first decade of the 21st century):

The Mexican crisis was caused by the volatility of short term capital flows, produced by the unfulfillled market expectations of investors. Today capital flows are dominated by international markets, to the point that domestic autonomy and sovereignty is subordinated to the markets ...

The Mexican crisis or something similar will happen again because it is impossible to keep exchange rates fixed.
(in Morles 1996)

Governments, as a result of these influences, are now faced both by regional and ethnic challenges from within and by international challenges to their authority, independence and economic viability. There is a strong demand for internationalization of economies, allowing the now dominant forces of capitalism increasing entry into, and influence over internal economic activities. This, if and as it is successful, reduces the ability of governments to control economic activity and therefore to plan and implement economic, infrastructural, service, and welfare programs.

On the one hand, governments are increasingly finding themselves at the mercy of international financial and fiscal forces, and on the other, the integrity of the nation-state is being challenged from within. During the first half of 1996, an unremarkable year for ethnic conflicts, there were ethnically or religiously inspired revolts in more than sixty countries around the world. In 2009, though the focus of revolt is claimed to have changed, the frequency of internal challenges to central government authority increased, with more and more non-Western countries teetering on the brink of being declared 'fragile' or 'failed' states 320 .

Conclusion Return to Chapter Index

The tensions we have examined in this discussion have not lessened in the first decade of the 21st century. In many cases they have become stronger and more challenging to the viability of Third World national governments.

Governments are being subjected to:

  • international pressures from First World governments and non-government organizations;
  • demands of the international marketplace and of international organizations and enterprises;
  • the demands of electorates which see central, regional and local government as resources to be mined;
  • and the tensions associated with competing regional, ethnic and clan-based patron-client networks.
  • They are also being pressured by demands from First world countries to control incipient terrorism within their borders and, simultaneously, to prevent refugee flows to Western countries which, in the minds of Western populations, might include individuals and groups seeking to pursue terrorist agendas within First World countries.

These problems, compounded by a range of environmental and economic problems of equal magnitude, make the future of many Third World governments highly problematic. As Rice and Patrick have concluded:

On balance, poorer countries tend to be weaker ones. Poverty fuels and perpetuates civil conflict, which swiftly and dramatically reduces state capacity...

The vast majority of [failed and critically weak] states... have experienced conflict within the past decade and a half. Their security deficits are typically accompanied by weaknesses across the three other core areas of state performance. This is logical, because conflict destroys both formal economies and political institutions. It can also exacerbate poor health conditions, including by facilitating the spread of infectious diseases.

Given a nearly 50 percent risk that postconflict countries will return to war within 5 years, unsuccessful postconflict, peace-building and peacekeeping/stabilization efforts risk condemning countries to renewed conflict or nearly perpetual insecurity and poverty.
(Rice and Patrick 2008)

The world of the 21st century reminds one of Britain in the 5th century AD.

As we saw in the last post (The Decay of Western Influence) Britain, in the 5th century, experienced just such turmoil as rival 'kings' battled for ascendancy and neighboring groups, taking advantage of the chaos, invaded the region.

Gildas, a century after the exodus of the Roman legions, provided a graphic description of the chaos which ensued with the waning of Roman influence in Britain,

...neither to this day are the cities of our country inhabited as before, but being forsaken and overthrown, still lie desolate; our foreign wars having ceased, but our civil troubles still remaining.
(Chapter 26)

As the empires of Western Europe have crumbled, the institutions in their post-colonial territories, established by them to ensure continuity with the colonial past, have become decreasingly effective. The 21st century has produced its own examples of post-colonial territories suffering turmoil and chaos in the increasing numbers of 'fragile' and 'failed' states which are a growing concern for Western people.

Many post-colonial territories are in various stages of change. They are slowly, but inevitably, metamorphosing into communities which exhibit similarities with the pre-colonial communities from which they came. Any reassertion of pre-colonial principles of categorization and classification will inevitably be slow and difficult. Over time, forms of organization and interaction will emerge which echo those of the past though they will, of course, not simply replicate past forms.

First, any form which emerges is simply one of a range of possible forms, any or all of which might be generated from the same fundamental categorical principles. So, even if the same principles were in operation one would find different surface forms over time.

Secondly, the principles themselves are not static, they change through time and the forms of interaction and organization which emerge will reflect such changes.

This has been demonstrated time and again in Third World communities as Western influence has become less dominant.

End of Chapter

Chapter 8:
Global economic forces, Western realities:
From Protectionism to Neo-Liberal Free Markets Return to Index of Chapters

Rather than creating costs, both regulation and deregulation shift them... Regulation and deregulation each consists of lower costs for one party and higher costs for the other.
(Samuels & Shaffer 1982, p. 467)

`Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin,' thought Alice; `but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!'
(Lewis Carroll Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)

The Regulation - Deregulation Cycle Return to Chapter Index

The problem since 2009 is 'sovereign debt' 321 .

Western nations have profligately continued to fund social welfare measures - such as aged pensions, free health care, free education, unemployment benefits, child and family support, poverty alleviation ... - as though they still lived in a regulated and protected world.

But the world has been deregulated, protection has been traded for globalization 322 . Sovereign debt sustainability has become an increasingly serious issue in advanced economies323 .

{§} The social welfare component built into production and financial sector costs in Western nations is disappearing. Like the Cheshire cat, we are left with little but the grin! Deregulation has shifted the costs from 'the economy' to sovereign debt.

Western nation-states, once firmly in control of economic activity within their borders are, in the deregulated, privatized world of the 21st century, decreasingly able to shield their populations from the exploitative consequences of unregulated and internationalized financial manipulation324 .

No longer is the economy the means by which communities meet their needs and wants. Now communities service an international network of independent financial corporations which need accept no reciprocal responsibilities for their welfare.

The surprise displayed by so many 'financial experts' in the first decade of the 21st century, at the failure of the highly suspect investment, lending and 'risk management' strategies of major Western financial enterprises; and the subsequent need for bailout via increases in 'sovereign debt', requires the questions:

  • How is it that we, Western people, could be held to ransom by international financial corporations?

and;

  • Why weren't they alerted by the financial woes experienced in the so-called 'Tiger' economies of the 1990s 325 and so prepared for the problems of the last several years?

The answer seems to be that they believed that Western nations were immune to the problems visited upon non-western countries in previous decades. Despite the chequered financial history of Western nations over the past century, the experts 326 appear to have convinced themselves that Western nations had finally been insulated from serious bank/financial failures of the kind periodically endured in the rest of the world.

We need to remind ourselves of our own past and relearn its lessons.

In order to understand how we got to our present position, we need to understand the historical/philosophical underpinnings of both the protectionist and neoliberal approaches to social and economic organization and activity.

In doing this, we will examine and historically contextualize:

  • the growth of welfare capitalism in the 1920s;
  • the emergence of the 'welfare state' in the 1930s;
  • the progressive
  • privatization, from the 1970s, of the welfare state;
  • emphasis on 'user pays' versions of welfare;
  • and the subsequent unsustainability of residual publicly funded social welfare costs; and
  • the neoliberal drive to deregulation and globalization of market activity in Western communities over the past forty years.

The financial shocks of the past several years in Western countries have alerted people who live in these countries to the fragility of the financial environment upon which they depend for present wellbeing and future security.

Western people are beginning to understand what people in the rest of the world have endured over the past forty years: fragile economies, unstable currencies, volatile investment environments and, when everything is on the verge of collapse, harsh structural adjustment programs 327 devised and prescribed by international agencies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Similar financial crises have been experienced in Third World 328 countries at regular intervals since the 1970s. The recent crisis pales in comparison with the financial and fiscal problems endured in Asian, Central/South American and African countries between 1990 and 2000.

In an assessment of the East and South East Asian financial collapse of 1997-8 which reminds one of recent experiences in Western countries, Janet Yellen (2007), President and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, explained that,

In spite of the risky lending practices that prevailed before the crisis, foreign investors poured money into these countries at record rates. Their willingness to do so appears to have stemmed in part from ... a perception that the governments of these nations stood ready to intervene to forestall bank failures.
(Yellen 2007)329

A major problem for Third World countries is that they have always been in the periphery of the global economic system, never able effectively to address the core issues which have threatened long term economic well being. So long as the problems they endured did not significantly affect life in Western nations, there was little likelihood of those issues being addressed.

Western nations have consistently reacted to periodic financial failures only to the extent that they have threatened the wellbeing of 'responsible' people in Western countries. Attempts at regulating international fiscal/financial organization and activity over the past century have all appeared in reaction to problems encountered in Western economies.

In this discussion we will explore the experiences of the West which have provided a blueprint for changes in economic organization and practice in Third World countries. In a later discussion we will explore the experiences of Third World countries as they have been required to follow Western economic fashion shifts.

The 1929 Wall Street collapse, following the neoliberal 1920s, produced the first major national initiatives in the USA to ensure that risky lending practices of banks could no longer threaten the economic stability of the nation (and, by extension, the world economic system based in Western nations).

Prior to this collapse, as the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC 1984) described, the US, along with most other Western nations, had experienced periodic financial failures over more than a hundred years. Measures employed to counteract and insulate against such failures were ad hoc and never effective over the long run.

It seems that regulatory authorities in Western nations are unable to maintain and adapt regulatory measures taken in reaction to crises once they have been mitigated. The FDIC, itself, established by the Roosevelt administration in 1933 to 'reduce the economic disruptions caused by bank failures', has been accused of being a toothless tiger in the 1st decade of the 21st century.

Once the initial shock of a financial failure passes, and measures introduced seem to have dealt with the problem, those authorities responsible for ensuring against future financial failures become decreasingly effectual. The measures introduced to handle particular failures become less appropriate over time as marketplace strategies alter to circumvent them, until they no longer safeguard against failure, and the problems resurface.

Effectively, what we have in the historical record is a process of moving from

  • crisis;
  • to regulation;
  • to progressive weakening/circumvention of the regulations;
  • to deregulation330 ;
  • to crisis

The official history of the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) explained this in a 1984 publication outlining its establishment and operation during its first fifty years 331 .

Welfare capitalism and gutted unions Return to Chapter Index

The 1929 crash followed a decade during which regulations which had been enacted over the previous forty years had been progressively weakened to allow uninhibited market activity to flourish.

Following the First World War, left leaning 'radicals' and trade unions were successfully challenged and sidelined by employers and state officials. Gerald Friedman (2008) has summed up their experiences over the 1920s decade well.

The 1920s was an especially dark period for organized labor in the United States where weaknesses visible before World War I became critical failures. Labor's opponents used fear of Communism to foment a post-war red scare that targeted union activists for police and vigilante violence. 332

Factory automation and assembly line organization were refined and extended during the war years. This, following the war, resulted in excess productive capacity which, with the influx of people looking for work as troops returned from the war, resulted in a short sharp urban recession in 1920-1.

Raymond Betts (1979) described similar problems in Western Europe,

For millions of war veterans readjustment to civilian life was an immense problem. The search for jobs, the attempt to repair marriages disrupted by years away from home, the bitterness over reports of war profiteering, and the disappointment over the shortages of housing were personal difficulties quickly dampening the enthusiasm for the long sought-after peace.

In the US, this resulted in a sharp increase in unemployment which quickly grew to more than 11% of the workforce. The unemployment problem was compounded by the large numbers of women who had entered the workforce during the War years and wished to continue working 333 . These conditions, as Friedman has described, greatly helped employers and their organizations in neutralising union strike activity.

{§} The US Commerce Secretary, Herbert Hoover (elected president in 1928), successfully argued for an expansion of the money supply, weakening of investment strictures and an increase in urban wages as a means of stimulating mass consumption to match the increasing productive capacity. This had the desired effect and urban areas of the United States experienced a period of rapid economic growth, fuelled by the newly stimulated era of mass consumption (see 'deregulation leads to economic growth and wellbeing' for consequences).

Having neutralised workers' unions, businesses, in a time when they were flush with profits from the developing boom conditions, sought to make unionization irrelevant. They did this by following the worker welfare practices refined by Henry Ford during the 1st World War, incorporating 'welfare capitalism' into their staffing strategies. These practices had a long history in western Europe and would have a similar history in Western Europe's colonies through the late 19th and 20th centuries.

Company Towns, Truck Systems, Debt Bondage and Indenture Return to Chapter Index

During the 19th century, socially aware business owners, conscious of the appalling working conditions in most major industrial centers in Western Europe had attempted to improve the lot of workers and their families. A number of examples of 'company towns' emerged, such as New Lanark in Scotland built by Robert Owen; Pullman on the outskirts of Chicago built by George Pullman334 ; and McDonald in Ohio, built by the Carnegie Steel Company.

The emergence of company towns and similar forms of welfare capitalism might, very often, have been well intentioned and for the benefit of employees. Welfare capitalism was, of course, an effective means of ensuring employee loyalty and keeping employee organization under control. An employee organization which was contained within a company and relied on company welfare programs could be insulated from worker organizations elsewhere.

All-too-often these attempts at ensuring the welfare of workers degenerated into truck systems 335 , debt bondage, peonage and indenture 336 . Such practices had been commonplace forms of worker exploitation from the 17th century. They had been formalized in English law with the passing of the 1601 Poor Laws.

Merle Travis expressed it well in a mid 20th century folk song,

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter, don't you call me, 'cause I can't go;
I owe my soul to the company store337 .

Daniel Gross (2004) has neatly summed up the move to welfare capitalism in the 1920s 338 .

Henry Ford led the way. In January 1914, Ford Motor Co. instituted the $5 day. Over the next several years, Ford took steps to ensure that its employees remained healthy, loyal, and above all, efficient. It opened an infirmary and established the "Sociological Department" to both keep tabs on and look after the welfare of its workers. In 1922, Ford cut the work week from six days to five.

In the roaring 1920s, when other highly profitable companies began to emulate Ford, welfare capitalism began in earnest. Companies built cafeterias and health clinics, sponsored baseball and bowling leagues, and granted days off for the opening of deer season. Corning Glass Works began providing health insurance in 1923. The same year, U.S. Steel slashed its workday from 12 hours to eight. In 1927, International Harvester began offering two-week paid vacations. All this was all done without government mandates and largely without the influence of unions.

The 1920s was a decade of 'welfare capitalism', in which employers took paternal responsibility for their employees.

It seemed to employed urban inhabitants that the prosperity of the era was a consequence of:

  • the weakening of union power;
  • weakening of public legislation on speculative investment;
  • and commitment by businesses to the welfare of their employees.

It was believed that these were responsible for both the strong growth in urban incomes and improvement in urban living conditions 339 .

The United States urban employed experienced growing incomes (almost 20% real increase over the period) coupled with falling commodity prices as a consequence of the new mass production technologies and electrification of industry.

American middle and working classes began a love affair with private enterprise and material possessions which has lasted to the present.

But, there were losers. The prosperity of the decade did not extend into the rural populations of the United States, and there were many members of minority groups - such as a growing population of African Americans moving from the impoverished rural south into northern, mid-western and western cities - who had to settle for low paid service employment or could not get work and found life harsh in a deregulated world.

By the end of the decade, the euphoria of the period evaporated, the illusory wealth created by a speculative investment bubble vanished, hundreds of thousands of people lost their savings and millions of urban workers lost their jobs.

It was another in the list of economic bubbles which seem to be an inevitable result of neoliberal free market policies. And, like other bubbles before it 340 , and a few since, it burst!

President Franklin D. Roosevelt summed it all up:

To review at this time the causes of this failure of our banking system is unnecessary. Suffice it to say that the government has been compelled to step in for the protection of depositors and the business of the nation.
(President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Congress March 9, 1933)

Compare the response in 1933 to this response by President Barack Obama following the 2008 Wall Street collapse which followed a neoliberal revival over the previous thirty years:

... we don't have any kind of process designed to contain the failure of a Lehman Brothers or any of the largest and most interconnected financial firms in our country.

That's why, when this crisis began, crucial decisions about what would happen to some of the world's biggest companies - companies employing tens of thousands of people and holding hundreds of billions of dollars in assets - had to take place in hurried discussions in the middle of the night. That's why, to save the entire economy from an even worse catastrophe, we had to deploy taxpayer dollars.
(President Barack Obama Cooper Union Speech April 23, 2010)

Quantitative Easing, Financial Collapse and Protectionism Return to Chapter Index

The decade of the 1920s was shaped by the combined effects of

  • expansion in the money supply 341 ;
  • the streamlining and electrification of production;
  • consequent mass production of cheap consumables;
  • a deliberate decision to encourage spending;
  • and unregulated speculative investment and lending342 .

These, together, produced their inevitable result - the 1929 financial crisis.

While 1929 marked the beginning of the end, the effects of the crisis emerged over the next four years. With loss of confidence in the future, businesses and individuals reined in their spending, banks became increasingly reluctant to fund the continued reliance on easy credit, and a downward spiral commenced which would end, as the FDIC report described, in bank failure, a freeze on investment, and subsequent massive unemployment.

From the stock market crash in the fall of 1929 to the end of 1933, about 9,000 banks suspended operations, resulting in losses to depositors of about $1.3 billion. The closure of 4,000 banks in the first few months of 1933, and the panic that accompanied these suspensions, led President Roosevelt to declare a bank holiday on March 6, 1933. The financial system was on the verge of collapse, and both the manufacturing and agricultural sectors were operating at a fraction of capacity.
(FDIC 1984)

By 1933, unemployment in the United States had risen to 25% of the workforce. Close to 13 million people were unemployed. And, of course, the 'welfare capitalism' of businesses collapsed. Those who retained their jobs, found that they were powerless. Company workers' associations provided no protection against loss of conditions as businesses cut costs to stay afloat.

The unemployed found themselves on their own, without access to any of the welfare facilities they had taken for granted over the previous decade. There was no "welfare safety net" to which the newly destitute could turn. And the problems of the decade would not be short-lived 343 .

It was inevitable that a dispossessed democratic electorate would demand protection from its government. And that was what happened in the U. S. federal election of 1932.

From Free Markets to Protectionism Return to Chapter Index

There is something fundamentally unstable about a deregulated neoliberal, free market economic order.

There has long been a belief in the US that 'free markets' are unregulated markets. Any attempt at regulation has simplistically been considered a move toward socialism 344 . Attempts to provide a stable backdrop to economic activity through regulation have been considered inherently 'anti-free-market' 345 .

The presumption that free markets are best when unregulated depends on a claim, first made by Aristotle and reiterated by Aquinas in the 13th century, that civilization is based on people ordering their lives by instincts implanted in each individual 346 . If one accepts Aquinas's logic, then those instincts, having been implanted by God who makes all things perfect, must, in their expression, produce a perfect individual and a perfect society. Without this metaphysical presumption, there really are no grounds for assuming that the expression of uninhibited human nature will produce the Summum Bonum - or greatest good 347 .

Those who argue for government regulation to ensure a stable legislative background to economic enterprise are assuming that an unregulated market place is not a recipe for either perfect individuals or societies. They are, implicitly, questioning Aquinas's logic. Many who feel the need for public regulation of private economic practice, presume that unregulated markets will result in a world in which 'the devil takes the hindermost'; where the unscrupulous manipulator is given free rein 348 .

In an unregulated world, governments can only react to problems after they occur. The capacity to proactively regulate financial behavior through time to ensure long-term economic stability is removed. This anarchic form of libertarianism has become dominant in US neoliberal thought in conjunction with a resurgence of religious fundamentalism.

In 1932 Franklin D. Roosevelt, in response to the demands of a disenchanted electorate, promised them a 'New Deal'. His government would introduce a range of measures to address the current economic problems and protect people from such disasters in the future 349 .

The New Deal provoked a storm of protest from those who believed in free markets, independent individualism and small government. They developed and prosecuted a claim that the prolonged difficulties of the 1930s were due, not to the unwise policies of the 1920s but to the 'collectivist', 'socialist' policies of the New Deal government 350 . According to these protestors, the evils of the 1930s were due to the leftist sympathies of politicians who promoted big government, the regulation of private enterprise, and 'social welfare' policies which weakened the moral fiber of the nation 351 .

As we will see, the measures introduced to address the problems of the period faced concerted challenge in the courts and fired an opposition which would prosecute its case over the next 40 years. With the emergence of economic difficulties from the late 1960s onward, that opposition would finally gain traction and neoliberal policies would successfully be promoted.

The depth of the 'Great Depression' provided the political leverage that Roosevelt needed to over-ride concerted opposition from both free marketeers and fellow-travelers. Between the early 1930s and the middle to late 1970s, most Western governments promoted protectionist, 'developmentalist' policies aimed at harnessing economic activity to national and community needs. Governments limited and directed market activity through imposing rules and regulations on imports and exports and on fiscal and financial activity. We will examine these developments in the next section.

From the mid-1960s, as the post 2nd World War economies of Western nations reaped the consequences of an overheated 1950s economic boom, neoliberal arguments were increasingly successful in challenging the legitimacy of the protectionist legislation of the period.

Neoliberalism places the market at the center of 'development'. The presumption is that if the state privatizes as much of its activity as possible, making it directly answerable to 'market forces', and deregulates fiscal and financial activity, market forces will ensure rational, efficient economic organization and activity. This will, in the long-run, result in a more rational organization of society, to the benefit of its members.

A fundamental presumption underpinning neoliberalism is that all cultural and social forms are derivatives of individual, competitive, acquisitive behavior, which is fundamental to human nature 352 . So, social change is driven by competitive individual exchange. Uninhibited market exchange most directly expresses that human nature. Therefore, by subjecting communities to 'market forces', one introduces rational social change 353 .

It has been in the context of this deregulation of national economies, and the facilitation of international economic activity that the present global economy has emerged. In order to understand how we got to our present position, we need to understand the underpinnings of both the protectionist and neoliberal approaches to social and economic organization and activity.

Welfare States and Protectionism Return to Chapter Index

To contextualize the discussion we need briefly to examine:

  • community social templates;
  • resource utilization;
  • the constantly escalating productive and consumptive demands of Western communities;
  • the emergence of what, in the West, came to be called the welfare state;
  • and some of the reasons for the imposition of protectionist legislation on economic activity.

This provides a platform for understanding the post-1970s demand for the lowering of protectionist barriers to market activity which characterises the neoliberal economic reorganization of the past thirty years.

The global economy which has emerged has been based on a progressive removal of national governmental restrictions on international market activity. We will examine some of the demands made for the internationalization of market activity over the period and some of the consequences of unregulated, international market exchange for both First and Third World communities.

It became accepted during the 1930s in Western countries that people were wholly dependent on wage labor for their livelihood. They no longer had access to the resources needed for a subsistence lifestyle. It was decided that, in order to cushion the effects of loss of employment, and therefore income, the state should accept some responsibility for their social welfare if they lost employment.

On the other hand, those responsible for policy development and implementation in colonial territories considered that people in non-Western communities, if they lost employment, could return to their home communities and depend on subsistence resources for their livelihood.

These variant presumptions have led to some of the most important strains and stresses on both Western and non-Western communities in the past thirty years. So, it is necessary to understand both the rationale and the consequences of this belief in the continued existence of viable subsistence alternatives for non-Western people.

The relationship between community social templates,
resource utilization and constantly
escalating productive and consumptive demands Return to Chapter Index

Prior to European intrusion, most non-Western people lived in subsistence oriented communities 354 . Economic activity was focused on the provision, by its own members, of most of the goods and services required by the local community, and that community accepted responsibility for the well-being of its members.

Trade was usually limited to a few products or raw materials not directly available to the community. It was often focused directly on the circulation of status-related goods and was not central to the supply of everyday needs and wants.

As has been outlined 355 , in most communities the material requirements of individuals and groups have been socially circumscribed and fit the productive potential of the environments they inhabit. So, over long periods of time, such communities have been able, in all but very adverse physical conditions, to meet most of their needs from their own environments.

Western Europeans, on the other hand, became involved in material production and in the consumption of goods and services for very different reasons.

Western European social templates focus directly on the production and consumption/accumulation of goods and services. They are economically oriented. They are also focused on individual competitive opposition, on what economists call 'market activity' 356 .

Where individuals gain status and respect through the competitive accumulation and consumption of goods and services 357 , the supply of goods and services in the community is inherently inflationary. Those items which are in shortest supply, but in greatest demand, become the most highly 'valued', that is, the most important in determining relative status.

Since people are involved in individualized competitive accumulation and consumption, there is constant pressure to produce increasing quantities of goods to feed the acquisitive and consumptive appetites of community members. There is, therefore, constant pressure being placed on current productive techniques and technologies, since the requirements placed on current technologies are constantly escalating.

Producers who are able to improve productive efficiency through more 'economic' use of their resources, through streamlining production techniques, and through improving technology, gain a competitive edge over their rivals.

The consequences of this drive are that techniques and technologies are constantly being improved and refined to enable constantly increasing production; constantly increasing exploitation of the environment; and constantly decreasing materials and production costs.

Community resources are placed under constant pressure. They are in short supply, or, as economists are wont to remind us, they are 'scarce'. As such, they become increasingly 'valuable' and therefore become desired possessions in the drive for status and respect. This, in turn, leads to their accumulation by those with the wealth and power to appropriate them 358 .

Loss of subsistence resources Return to Chapter Index

In early modern Western Europe this led to land enclosure and the dispossession of increasing numbers of rural dwellers. (In colonial territories, people were moved from their traditional environments to native reserves of marginal agricultural usefulness) 359. The poor of Western Europe were forced, by their loss of subsistence resources, to become poorly paid rural laborers or to migrate to the towns where they might be able to live by their wits or, if they were lucky, find paid employment. Thomas More described this kind of dispossession in 16th century England well:

[T]he owners as well as tenants are turned out of their possessions, by tricks, or by main force, or being wearied out with ill-usage, they are forced to sell them.

By which means those miserable people, both men and women, married and unmarried, old and young, with their poor but numerous families (since country business requires many hands), are all forced to change their seats, not knowing whither to go; and they must sell almost for nothing their household stuff, which could not bring them much money, even though they might stay for a buyer. When that little money is at an end, for it will be soon spent, what is left for them to do, but either to steal and so to be hanged (God knows how justly), or to go about and beg? And if they do this, they are put in prison as idle vagabonds 360 .

Land became unavailable to most members of the community for subsistence lifestyles. It had become incorporated into the social template as one of the possessions through which people could attain and maintain status. As such it had to be 'owned' by the individual rather than by the community, and the individual had to limit the possibility of others enhancing their statuses through its use. That is, laws of trespass became inevitable 361 .

Losing access to subsistence resource bases, people had to rely on cash income both to ensure subsistence and to maintain and enhance their social statuses. Poverty became defined not only in terms of loss of access to subsistence resource bases, but also in terms of the ability to maintain the levels of accumulation and consumption of goods and services which were required for the social statuses which people had attained. The 'success' of individuals could be determined by the cash income available to them, or by the cash value of their holdings.

Wage Labor dependence Return to Chapter Index

In Western communities, increasing numbers of people could only maintain their statuses and satisfy their expanding needs through wage labor. As Marx observed in the mid 19th century, the only saleable commodity left to many individuals was their ability to labor.

They became compelled by both their subsistence and status-related needs to sell their labor power to those who controlled the means of production. And, since labor power became another source of wealth and therefore of status, it was used as all other resources were used, to increase the wealth of those who controlled it - to produce the maximum output for the minimum input.

Human beings became commodified 362 , another resource which might be bought and used to maximize profit.

With labor in plentiful supply and employment difficult to find, employers could reduce labor costs and make it more pliant through challenging social restrictions on the exploitation of labor. During the 17th to early 20th century, this ensured that both living and working conditions for the 'laboring poor' were harsh.

The influential people of Western communities, since the 17th century, have been capitalists 363 . Since they were oriented to maximizing profits and minimizing costs, it soon became argued that all forms of social interference in the marketplace of labor should be removed.

As Joseph Townsend (1786) argued in the late 18th century, labor should be made directly available, without social impediments, through the marketplace. People should be 'freed' from social 'restrictions' on their 'right' to sell their labor power to the highest bidder and businesses should be 'freed' from 'political interference' to engage labor at 'market prices'.

Of course, in a period of plentiful labor, market forces ensured that such prices would be very low 364 . Inevitably, given that the drive of capitalism is to lower costs and increase profits, employers and owners of business colluded to keep costs of labor down.

Adam Smith described the realities of 'combination' as employers combined to further their interests during the 18th century, in his most famous work An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776). The description he gives is as applicable throughout the capitalist world now as it was then. It is an explanation which has received much less attention than it deserves through the past 200 years.

...Whoever imagines... that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labor above their actual rate.

To violate this combination is everywhere a most unpopular action, and a sort of reproach to a master among his neighbors and equals. We seldom, indeed, hear of this combination, because it is the usual, and one may say, the natural state of things, which nobody ever hears of.
(1776, p.84) 365

From the 16th century onwards, the emerging legal framework of economic relations was always biased toward those who increasingly controlled the law courts of Western Europe 366 . 'Masters' increasingly used their privileged access to the law courts of Western Europe to advantage themselves at the expense of both the 'rural' and 'laboring' poor.

Where people lose access to their subsistence environments and become entirely dependent on wage labor for the supply of their needs and wants, loss of employment leads to both socially-defined and absolute poverty. The history of the emergence of capitalism in Western Europe is, simultaneously, the history of endemic poverty for large numbers of displaced people who were compelled to sell their labor power on the open market 367 .

The improvement in the quality of life of Western European wage laborers coincided with the expansion of Western Europe into the rest of the world.

Free Markets, invaded environments, and snowballing production and consumption Return to Chapter Index

The world which Western European colonial powers set out to reorganize in the late 19th and 20th centuries was already organized to provide inhabitants with their needs and wants. Europeans did not move into empty regions. They dispossessed inhabitants of their lands and resources, and compelled the populations either directly or through a variety of subterfuges to supply the labor they required 368 .

The planet was being reorganized to ensure that the needs and wants of Western people could continue to expand. The story of the rest of the world, since the late 19th century, is bound up in its progressive co-option to continue feeding the expanding appetites of the West.

Regions became devoted to 'mono-agricultural' export, to large-scale production of a very few primary commodities for export, rather than for the communities whose environments were reorganized 369 . Where mono-agricultural development in large holdings was not feasible, indigenous communities were re-organized to emphasize cash-cropping, producing agricultural products required for European markets on small-holdings.

Free Markets Work: Improving Wages, Conditions and Consumption Return to Chapter Index

The influx of new raw materials from non-Western regions in the last quarter of the 19th century ushered in a prolonged period of growth in commodity production in Europe. This, in turn, fuelled consumption in Western countries. At the same time, the expansion into the rest of the world required rapid growth of both armed forces and colonial administrations. These developments, of course, increased labor requirements and labor, in Western countries, became relatively scarce.

Now, for the first time, market forces led to an improvement in wages and conditions for laborers. Wage laborers in Western nations could begin to negotiate better employment terms 370 . Unions became increasingly powerful since their members were not threatened by loss of employment if they insisted on improvements in their wages and conditions.

It also gave credibility to the claims of 'free marketeers' that 'free'371 competition would, inevitably, result in improved lifestyles for those who entrusted their lives to 'market forces.'

Thomas Huxley (1893) described the position of free marketeers in the second-half of the 19th century:

According to their views, not a shilling of public money must be bestowed upon a public park or pleasure ground; not sixpence upon the relief of starvation, or the cure of disease.

...The State is simply a policeman, and its duty is neither more nor less than to prevent robbery and murder and enforce contracts. It is not to promote good, nor even to do anything to prevent evil, except by the enforcement of penalties upon those who have been guilty of obvious and tangible assault upon purses or persons.
(1893, p. 258) (See Thomas Huxley for more on this)

The prolonged economic difficulties of the last quarter of the 19th century 372 did little to dent this belief in the efficacy of market forces. They did, however, strengthen the determination of workers' organizations to have legislative protections put in place against excessive exploitation by employers.

Adam Smith, in 1776, had predicted the response of 'masters' to attempts by workers to have regulations built into terms of employment,

The masters upon these occasions ... never cease to call aloud for the assistance of the civil magistrate, and the rigorous execution of those laws which have been enacted with so much severity against the combinations of servants, laborers, and journeymen.
(1776, p.85)

Yet, despite strong opposition from free market employers and their supporters, conditions favored workers in their determination to improve their working conditions 373 .

As employment conditions and wages slowly improved through the last part of the century, more and more of the 'laboring poor' gained a foothold into the ranks of the lower-middle classes. As they did so, they needed to demonstrate their improving social positions in ways required by the established Western European social templates: they would begin to accumulate possessions and expand consumption.

Western social templates result in constant, though relatively slow, expansion in the felt needs of community members. This is so because in order at least to maintain one's social status relative to others, one must ensure that one is at least as affluent as, or, preferably, slightly more affluent than they are.

Of course, to increase significantly one's private possessions and/or publicly stated income is to improve one's social standing beyond that of one's 'social equals'. This usually requires entry into a new group, within which one will need to establish oneself and probably accept a disadvantageous position until accepted by the group.

The costs associated with such a leap in status deter many from attempting to 'climb the ladder'. Comparisons are usually made between others of similar wealth to oneself, attempting to gain as high a position in their estimation as possible without having to move into a new status group.

So, over time, because of this competition within status groups,374 the felt needs of Western people expanded. As the needs expanded, the necessary income to support those needs also expanded. During periods of economic growth in Western countries, people (obtaining higher wages through improved bargaining power) transfer discretionary incomes into necessary income through expansion of felt needs, and so set new baselines for wages.375

Inevitably, over time, the perceived needs of Western people became far greater than the perceived needs of people in communities governed by other social templates. In the eyes of most non-Western people, Westerners became, and still are, materially very wealthy. The incomes deemed 'necessary' by Western people have to cover the acquisition of necessities not perceived as such by people in most other communities.

So, even without factoring in the social welfare needs of Western communities, the necessary incomes will be substantially higher than necessary incomes in non-Western communities.

A distinction needs to be made between the necessary income to meet perceived individual needs and the social welfare component costs of production. Wages are not higher in Western countries because they include a social welfare component, they are higher to cover the perceived needs of Western individuals.

Social welfare costs refer to both the costs of the community and the responsibilities of the community toward all its members. Community costs do not only relate to the 'poor box', but also to the general well-being, education and organization of the community and its members.

Over the past two hundred years, Western countries have increasingly emphasized individual rights and responsibilities at the expense of those of the community. In the process, the community becomes weakened until it no longer provides its members with a strong, immediate sense of shared responsibility and identity.

This move toward the individualization of the population and weakening of the responsibilities and cohesion of communities has been accentuated over the past thirty years.

The emergence of welfarism :
Social Costs are Production Costs Return to Chapter Index

It took Western communities a long time to come to terms with the need to provide a coherent social welfare program. Such a program needed to include both the funding of general community responsibilities and protection of those in the community who had lost access to subsistence resources and could not find employment.

It was not until the early 1930s that concerted efforts were made by Western governments to establish welfare legislation to underwrite health, education and the livelihoods of the least affluent of their populations. Prior to that, workers relied on welfare capitalism. Piecemeal legislation existed in conjunction with community-based charities to meet the needs of those in the most desperate of economic straits.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the most common attitude amongst the 'middle classes', to those who had lost access to subsistence resources but had no cash income 376 , is well expressed in a paper written by R. J. Morrison in 1842. It was entitled,

Proposals to abolish all poor-laws except for the old and infirm: and to establish asylum farms on which to locate the destitute able-bodied poor; who might thereon maintain themselves and benefit the country Ł18,600,000 annually.

The paper was written in defence of an 1834 amendment to the Poor Laws in which the destitute were to have social welfare supports removed in order to compel them to accept whatever wages and conditions the market might impose.

There was also, of course, a range of papers written by individuals and groups concerned for the welfare of the destitute, arguing for state protection of the poor. Legislative measures to provide for the poor were, however, at best partial and under constant attack from economic enterprises which saw them as imposts threatening the competitive viability of industry.377

It was not until Western nations were plunged into economic depression following the stock market collapses of 1929 that Western governments were forced by popular pressure into building coherent sets of social welfare policies and institutions. From the 1930s to the 1970s, in Western nations, as Stephen Gill explains:

... statist planners and productivist forces pressed successfully for the creation of a national economic capacity (and also autonomy), welfarism, and Keynesianism, with specific policies designed to inhibit the pure mobility of short-term speculative capital. The aim, in the words of the US Secretary of Treasury during the New Deal, was to make finance the 'servant' rather than the 'master' of production.
(Gill 1994, p.174)

After the 1929 financial collapse, people in Western nations, who had been experiencing economic boom conditions over the preceding ten years, found out just how vulnerable they were to the vagaries of the international marketplace. Stock markets crashed, businesses collapsed, and millions of people lost their savings and their jobs.

Since most Western wage earners, by the 1930s, no longer had access to subsistence resources, loss of employment meant destitution for millions. In the wake of this economic depression, voters in many Western countries turned to political parties which promised that they would directly address the problems of the Depression period.

In the USA, Franklin D. Roosevelt promised the population a 'New Deal' which would introduce a range of measures to protect people from such disasters in the future378 . Amongst the measures he introduced were:

  • The Fair Labor Standards Act (1938). The Administration, in 1933, attempted to set up an agency to enforce codes of fair practice for business and industry.
    The legitimacy of the initial agency was successfully challenged in the courts, but, by 1938 its intentions had been successfully established through the above Act.
    The codes included:
  • minimum age;
  • minimum wages;
  • maximum hours;
  • the right of workers to join unions;
  • and provided means for establishing minimum prices to protect businesses from unscrupulous price cutting.
  • The Social Security Act (1935) which aimed to provide workers with a guarantee that, in the event of their encountering reduced circumstances, their basic needs would be met.
    Among the programs which were established over time were: unemployment, old age, and disability insurance; public assistance for the needy; and child welfare.
    In 1965, Medicare was added to the Social Security system to provide hospital care, nursing homes, and other medical services for those over the age of 65 years.
  • The National Labor Relations Act (1935) which overturned much of the employer/employee legislation and practice that had emerged through the 1920s. Amongst other things it,
  • guaranteed workers the right to organize and collectively bargain with their employers;
  • guaranteed workers the right to strike;
  • prohibited unfair labor practices by employers;
  • outlawed company unions or employer-controlled unions;
  • prohibited discrimination against employees who brought charges against or testified against a company in court;
  • and made it unlawful for the employer to refuse to bargain collectively with an authorised employee representative.

To free marketeers, the legislation of the 1930s was a direct attack on 'free enterprise', a 'socialist conspiracy' against the wealth creators of the nation.

The campaign against these measures, which began in the 1930s, was to continue through the rest of the century. Its rhetoric was refined through the 1960s and emerged as neoliberal free market philosophies and policies. These set the agenda for the globalization of economic activity from the mid 1970s.

In its inception, however, the New Deal legislation represented the first coordinated governmental attempt in the US to ensure that the social costs of communities were included in production costings379 . As Paul Boller says,

In its efforts to cope with the Great Depression, the federal government under Roosevelt took measures to help the poor and jobless for the first time in American history.
(1981, p. 259)

Through measures such as these, Western governments accepted direct responsibility for managing their economies in the interests of their constituents.

Effectively, producers were required to include a 'social welfare' component as part of the costs of production. The price of each product included not only the direct costs of labor, material resources, infrastructure and technology, and a 'profit' component; now the price also included the social welfare requirements of workers, their dependents and other members of the community 380 .

Most of those who were involved in managing economic enterprises saw these new costs as illegitimate imposts on business. It is possible to argue, however, that after more than two hundred years of social trauma resulting from the market-driven need to cut costs (to which social costs seemed most vulnerable), Western nations had matured.

At last, communities were insisting that capitalist enterprises be geared to meeting the needs and wants of the communities within which they existed. This was not an illegitimate demand.

Capitalism and Parasitism Return to Chapter Index

Where enterprises are required to purchase material resources, from the outset it has been accepted that the price of resources includes two separate components. The first component comprises the costs of extraction and processing of the resource. The second component comprises the profit margin of the supplier. Any supplier which, over the long run, sold its product for less than the cost of extraction and processing, would, by definition, fail.

While all enterprises drive to reduce costs, there is a cost of material resources below which, over the long run, prices cannot be maintained. This same logic, however, had not been applied to the supply of labor.

In the early years of European capitalism, labor was supplied from communities which still had access to subsistence resources. Laborers relied, as Marx put it, on 'all the guarantees of existence afforded by the old feudal arrangements'. Business only had to pay the competitive market rate for labor, without a baseline determined by its 'costs of extraction and processing'.

In a real sense, capitalist enterprise, as it evolved in Western Europe, was parasitic upon the feudal communities within which it operated. Capitalist enterprises saw themselves as separate from the communities in which they did business 381 .

As those communities became reshaped by the new forces of capitalism, they increasingly became dependent upon capitalist forms of production and consumption for subsistence. Communities lost their other means of subsistence based on 'all the guarantees of existence afforded by the old feudal arrangements' and had to rely on market-driven production and employment for all their needs and wants.382

Community needs and wants do not only relate to employed people and their dependants. They include the requirements of all community members, and costs of all the activities and responsibilities of the community. Capitalist activity became the basic means by which communities supplied their needs and wants.

However, since businesses had long calculated their inputs excluding any costs associated with support of the communities within which they operated, they, inevitably, saw any attempts at imposing such costs as illegitimate and parasitic.

Capitalist enterprise in its evolution was parasitic on communities in which both individual subsistence and the community's needs and wants had been supplied by other means. When it undermined and displaced those alternative avenues of need and want provision, the presumption that community welfare requirements were met through other means was, conveniently, retained.

In a peculiar way, which can only be understood as one understands the primary ideologies of Western people 383 , economic activity was assumed to be separate from social and political activity. Following Adam Smith's identification of an 'economic environment' it was considered to be subject to its own laws and regulations, with its own independent sets of responsibilities relating to performance within the marketplace.384

Communities, it was argued, should take responsibility for the provision of their own needs and wants. They should not become 'parasitic' on business.

Community costs are Production costs Return to Chapter Index

In the 1930s, Western communities finally required economic enterprises to accept social welfare needs as part of production costs.

As long as all businesses within a nation accepted the welfare component as an inescapable cost of production, and could be protected from competition from imported products which did not include such a cost, social welfare could be maintained as a reasonable cost on production 385 .

After all, the real issue at stake was whether productive activity occurred primarily for the good of the community or whether production could be divorced from social responsibility.

Was 'the economy' separate from, and not responsible to 'the community', or was it the means by which the community met all of its material needs and wants?

In the climate of the 1930s and in the post-Second World War era, the answer was very definitely that 'the economy' was the means by which a community met its needs and wants. These included the needs and wants of its least advantaged members. Governments, therefore, managed economies in the interests of their populations.386

The New Deal reforms of the 1930s were the first reforms in the United States which clearly established the principle that community costs should be built into the costs of industry.

In a period of booming economic growth following the Second World War, Western countries continued to accept responsibility for the social and economic welfare of their populations. A range of taxes and charges were instituted to cover the costs of education, health, and social welfare programs. It was considered socially responsible to redistribute incomes toward the poor through such programs.

This resulted in the sliding taxation scales of the period and increases in company tax rates387 . After all, it was argued, businesses not only benefited directly through better educated, better nourished and more contented employees, they were also, in the final analysis, community assets, which should contribute to community well-being. Businesses had a 'social' responsibility.

Not only did the 'Welfare State' emerge through such reforms, in accord with the spirit of the times, benign welfare capitalism became 'normal practice' for business. Daniel Gross (2004) has explained it well,

Even with the rise of the welfare state in the '30s, corporations continued to assume responsibility for the well-being of their employees. It was part of a grand bargain between labor, capital, and government that allowed for remarkable growth, innovation, and rising standards of living for decades. It also served as a bulwark against socialism. By endowing labor with dignity, welfare capitalists made industrial work a ticket to the middle class.
(Welfare capitalism is dying. We're going to miss it
For some of the unintended consequences of this shift, see: The new 'middle class')

The society did not exist to service the economy. Rather, the economy existed to provide a better quality of life for community members.

Protectionism Return to Chapter Index

In this climate, with the economy servicing the community, industries and, therefore, the jobs which they created and the contributions they made to social welfare, could be 'protected' through the imposition of a range of tariffs on competing imports. The inflow of goods could be regulated by a range of permits, licences, quotas and charges.

This 'interference' with 'free' international trade was strongly justified in terms of governmental responsibility for insulating its population from the effects of unregulated international competition. Because of the experiences of the 1930s, this included governmental responsibility to safeguard jobs. It was assumed that they would, otherwise, be lost to those countries where production was cheaper because those who controlled production did not accept that economic pricings should include costs related to the maintenance of social welfare.

Effectively, Western governments required the value of goods to include a component for the social welfare - the 'costs of extraction and processing' - of the communities in which they were produced. They, therefore, had to protect producers and manufacturers from unfair competition from counterparts in other countries whose pricings did not include such a component and a range of barriers to trade were instituted 388 .

{§} It was also believed that private banks and similar organizations needed to be strongly regulated. This belief was founded in historical experience and reflected the conviction of the general public following the 1929 crash that,

...measures of a national scope were needed to alleviate the disruptions caused by bank failures.
(FDIC 1984, Ch. 1, p. 3)

In the 18th and 19th centuries, as banking expanded to provide facilities to increasing numbers of investors, it was found that unless legislative checks were instituted, banks were at risk of collapse, based, not on their own performance, but on rumour and speculation in the community 389 .

If people heard that a bank was in trouble they, quite reasonably, hurriedly withdrew their deposits. Since banks make money through lending and investing based on (among other things) the assumed value of income received as deposits, no bank, if required to return all deposits, could continue to operate. Without legislative protection from such runs on their holdings, banks collapsed; they were 'bankrupted'.

The New Deal legislation of Roosevelt in the USA quite explicitly included further reinforcement and refinement of such protections, since it was widely held that a prime cause of the 1930s Depression had been failure in the regulation of major banks.

The Glass-Steagall Act of June 1933 gave government the authority to curb speculation by the banks and established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) which guaranteed all deposits up to $US2500. This was aimed at convincing small investors that their money would be secure in a bank so that they would not withdraw deposits in anticipation of bank failure. The maximum amount has been periodically increased since then to more or less keep pace with inflation.390

In 1935, Congress transferred a great deal of the authority formerly wielded by regional Federal Reserve Banks to the Federal Reserve Board in Washington. In addition to its basic fiscal responsibilities, it was given power to exercise direct control over interest rates and could therefore 'manage' economic activity in the marketplace by encouraging or discouraging bank lending.

It was not only necessary to stabilise banks and manage them to contribute to community well-being. It was also believed countries were at risk unless legislation was in place to limit the possibility of invested capital being withdrawn from a country whenever it appeared that there was some kind of economic problem which threatened short-term profits. This safeguarded productive enterprises from short-term economic swings over which they had little or no control 391 .

Similarly, national currencies were protected from international exploitation. Exchange rates were fixed by governments and legislation existed limiting the possibility of trade in currency 392 .

In these and a range of other ways, governments 'managed' their economies 393 . The economy was servant to the country rather than the country being servant to an internationalized economy which could claim to be independent of communities and not responsible for their social welfare.

No Social Welfare for post-colonial nations Return to Chapter Index

The situation was a little different in the Third World. Many of the welfare programs established in Western nations were not established in post-colonial countries.

Most colonial administrations had assumed that wage laborers in their regions belonged to rural communities which would support them. They were assumed to have access to subsistence alternatives if they lost employment. They therefore saw little need to provide economic safety nets for people who had little or no cash income. Post colonial governments inherited administrations which held these views.

So, few Third World nations developed the kinds of social welfare programs which became standard in most First World countries. Those who lost employment should, as colonial administrations had insisted they must, return to their rural bases and become involved once again in rural communities and subsistence forms of livelihood 394 .

This presumption of the continued existence of viable subsistence alternatives to wage employment has persisted in the face of mounting evidence of the degradation of rural environments and burgeoning rural poverty. In consequence, those who have no viable subsistence alternatives find themselves destitute and the problem of deepening rural and urban poverty in Third World countries mounts daily.

Because wage rates and taxes and charges on businesses have been calculated to cover the costs of welfare in Western countries, industries have had to factor in such costs. On the other hand, where no such welfare is provided, the costs of industry are much lower.

Third World countries, which originally attracted labor-intensive industry on the basis of much lower labor costs, cannot, therefore, institute welfare programs, since this would raise costs and discourage the entry of labor-intensive industry. So, although the subsistence alternatives in many countries are now more imagined than real, Third World governments and industries continue to exclude social welfare costs from the costs of production.

This, coupled with a smaller range of perceived needs and therefore lower necessary incomes for Third World workers, make labor-intensive industrial goods much cheaper than such goods manufactured in Western countries.

Western countries, during the 1950s and 1960s, were well aware of the possibility of losing labor-intensive industry to low-wage countries. This was one of the reasons for maintaining tariff barriers. They were aimed at supporting local enterprise from low-wage competition 395 .

This kind of 'protectionism' could only continue, of course, if Western governments concurred and import restrictions were biased against producers whose prices did not take into account both a social welfare component and the heightened needs base of Western workers396 .

The triumph of neoliberalism Return to Chapter Index

Since success in the marketplace is based on keeping costs as low as possible in order to remain competitive, those involved in economic enterprise have, since the 1930s, strongly resisted and protested the 'imposition' of social welfare costs.

This opposition has been expressed both through 'neo-conservative' politics and through the policies of the 'radical right'. That is, politics based on arguments about the centrality of the marketplace; the separation of economic activity from political and social activity; and the reinstatement of pre-1930s conditions for industry.

In a market economy, the costs of raw materials are based on demand and supply and costs of extraction and processing. The social costs of production however, are, in the neoliberal 21st century, claimed to be based only on demand and supply. The costs of the community in which that labor is situated are separated from the costs of labor itself.

That is, the costs of 'extraction and processing' of the labor are shifted away from the enterprise to the community to the extent that economic enterprises can convince the community that they are separate from it and bear no responsibility for its well-being 397 .

Even where wages include a component for the upbringing of offspring and for the old age of the worker, these costs are assumed to be related to the personal requirements of the individual worker. As the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher proclaimed in the 1980s 398 , there is no society, only individuals who choose to congregate and should, as individuals, meet the costs of their interaction.

In the minds of those who accept this logic, there are only individuals and the economy 399 . Everything else is a consequence of economic interaction between competing individuals. Those individuals should take responsibility for the provision of their own needs and wants, they should not demand contributions from other competing individuals. That is, 'user pays' principles should apply to social costs.

This has been the argument at the center of neo-conservative political demands for removal of social welfare costs from economic enterprise. As we will see, in the 1980s and 1990s these arguments were increasingly effective in reducing social welfare costs to industry.

By the late 1960s, individuals and organizations, committed to improving the economic lot of Third World peoples, seemed to have forgotten - or perhaps never clearly understood - the reasons for the protectionist legislation of the period. They argued strongly that Western governments should 'deregulate' economic activity and encourage international economic interaction through lowering tariff barriers and allowing imports from low-wage countries.

The economic woes of the Third World they were attempting to address were, of course, a result of problems that post-colonial nations endured as they struggled to establish viable nation-states 400 . Not least were the burgeoning debts owed to First World countries which had provided them with both 'development aid' and 'military aid' from the late 1950s onward 401 .

With the approval of major Western governments, transnational companies increasingly began to locate their low-wage production activities in selected Third World countries. This was facilitated by new transport developments, particularly the development of container shipping which transformed Western waterfronts during the 1970s.

Those who were most directly involved in Third World development planning and programs strongly approved these moves. They saw this new movement to produce low-wage goods in Third World countries as providing a new base for national development in those countries.

With the failure of import substitution industrialization, and the faltering of value-added industrial development 402 , this new move by transnational companies to relocate in Third World countries was seen as a 'window of opportunity' for Third World people. Where government-directed planning had not succeeded, private investment from Western countries would. Development agencies, therefore, strongly promoted various forms of deregulation to facilitate transnational investment in the Third World 403 .

Neoliberalism: A Cure for Economic Stagnation Return to Chapter Index

After a period of economic boom conditions in Western countries following the 2nd World War, they experienced a decade of economic stagnation. This gave economists and those convinced that the reforms of the 1930s were both economically and morally wrong, a base from which to argue that the changed economic fortunes of the West were a consequence of the 1930s reforms.

The booming economic conditions in Western countries during the 1950s were driven by:

  • the need to replace and upgrade infrastructure after the 2nd World War;
  • a housing boom as troops returning from war married, had families and required accommodation;
  • the need to develop all the education, health and other social infrastructure required by the 'baby boom' which accompanied this;
  • the ongoing demands stimulated by the Korean War;
  • the rapidly expanding purchasing power of workers living in a boom economic period;
  • and all the requirements of the emerging superpower 'cold war'.

During the 1960s and 1970s, those same nations experienced long-run economic problems as the overheated economies of the fifties led to productive over capacity.

The world experienced an oil crisis in the early 1970s, largely driven by the emergence of The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as the first major cartel of oil producing countries. This, coupled with the economic difficulties which emerged during the 1960s, led economists and other interested parties 404 to claim that the economic woes of the West were the result of 'protectionist policies' which should be dismantled.

To combat the evils of protectionism, Western economic activities should be 'globalized'. Trade should be 'freed' from parochial constraints. As the World Trade Organization statement of purpose would later explain,

The economic case for an open trading system based upon multilaterally agreed rules is simple enough and rests largely on commercial common sense. All countries, including the poorest, have assets - human, industrial, natural, financial - which they can employ to produce goods and services for their domestic markets or to compete overseas.
(WTO)

Western nations, with faltering economies, began to take such advice seriously and a number of Western countries lowered tariff barriers to selected Third World countries. The most immediate consequence was the relocation of labor-intensive production to Third World countries and the importation of cheap low-wage products into First World countries by companies already established in Western countries.

Jorge Nef (1995) explained a few of the major consequences of this shift clearly:

... [I]mport dependency ... does not mean that developed countries become dependent on less-developed countries for the satisfaction of their consumption needs. Since most international trade takes place among transnationals, all that import dependency means is First World conglomerates buying from their affiliates or from other transnationals relocated in peripheral territories....

Manufacture evolves into a global maquiladora operating in economies of scale and integrating its finances and distribution by means of major transnational companies and franchises (for an analysis of maquiladoras, see Kopinak 1993, pp.141-162). Abundant, and above all cheap, labor and pro-business biases on the part of host governments are fundamental conditions for the new type of productive system. 405

The lowering of tariff barriers did not empower either governments or people in Third World countries. It merely opened them to exploitation by First World companies. Marjorie Mbilinyi (1994) described African experience during this period,

The peoples of Africa are being steadily impoverished. They are also being dispossessed of their lands. Governments like Tanzania, partly in response to popular demand, had begun to nationalize assets and try to guide the economy in the direction that would meet the basic needs of the people and increase national control and make it more inward oriented. Now we have complete reversal so that it is almost worse than in the colonial period.
(Mbilinyi 1994)

First World companies rapidly became 'transnational' and exploited the newly accessible differential between production costs in Western and non-Western countries to greatly expand profits and market share.

The 'balance of payments crisis' which has been a major cause of concern in Western countries over the past thirty years, has, in large part, been a consequence of the internationalization of production which came with the lowering of tariff barriers and transfer of low-wage industry to Third World countries.

The move to lower tariff barriers and to allow cheap imports from low-wage countries required a reduction in protective legislation in Western countries. From the late 1970s, Western governments began to make such changes 406 .

Economic experts giving advice in these matters seemed unaware of the social welfare differentials between Western and Third World countries. They seem to have accepted, unreservedly, that such considerations should not be taken into account in moves toward the internationalization of economic activity.407

Economic Efficiency and the Virtues of De-Regulation Return to Chapter Index

Economics focuses on 'the economy' as a self-existent, independent environment subject to its own laws and constraints 408 . In the process of producing and distributing goods and services, it generates income for the community through the economic interactions of 'real' and 'artificial' individuals.

Political and social environments are considered to be similarly independent. The requirements of each should, therefore, be met from within their own 'resource bases'409 . Economic activity should be freed from political and social 'interference'.

There is no presumption of the necessity for a 'social welfare' component to costs. So, the best economy is one which is 'freed' to pursue economic goals, unfettered by social and political constraints aimed at harnessing economic activity to other ends.

Low-wage economies, if they are subject to fewer such constraints, are, by definition, more 'efficient' than high-wage economies if they are based on social and political 'protectionism' 410 . If Western businesses were to compete 'on a level playing field' with businesses from these countries, they needed to be freed from the shackles placed upon them by protectionist legislation and 'excessive' social welfare demands.

Of course, economic experts have not only ignored the social welfare requirements of communities, they have been equally myopic about the environmental costs of economic activity. As Stephen Shrybman explained of international tariff negotiations through the 1980s:

Nowhere is the failure to integrate the environment and the economy clearer than in the GATT negotiations in which, with only limited exceptions, evaluating the environmental implications of trade proposals is not even on the table. To make matters worse, the negotiations are veiled in secrecy, and virtually no opportunity exists for public comment or debate.
(Shrybman 1990, p. 17)

Just as economists failed to accept that social welfare costs should be incorporated into pricings, so they failed to consider the environmental costs of economic exploitation. In both cases, the costs involved, not being immediate and inescapable imposts on the producer, could be ignored in the interests of competitive pricing.

As in the 18th and 19th centuries, Western countries were again being told that they should accept the 'logic of the marketplace', and accept that an efficient economy would deliver social welfare rewards. And, once they were required to confront the issue, many economists also argued that, as the environmental impacts of industry became economically significant, they, too, would automatically be factored into production costs.

There is, however, as we have seen, no evidence from history that in the absence of legislation requiring social welfare and environmental costs to be built into price structures, improved 'market efficiency' will deliver social welfare returns and ensure the protection of the environment from pillage.

No argument is made that costs of extraction and processing should be removed from the pricing of material resources, on the presumption that, in some strange way, they will be returned to extractive industry through improved market conditions - the argument would be patently absurd. Yet, this argument has been made, with no apparent awareness of its absurdity, in relation to the social welfare costs of labor.

As Samuels and Shaffer claimed in 1982, the argument that regulation of businesses increases costs, while deregulation improves economic efficiency and will lead to benefits for both businesses and the communities which are required to support them in the deregulated environment, is based on a false premise:

... rather than creating costs, both regulation and deregulation shift them.

For example, regulation of an upstream polluter will increase the polluter's costs of production. But these are costs which hitherto had been borne by others. In this case, the costs formerly borne by the downstream pollutee will be lowered by regulation ...

Regulation has not created the costs, only reassigned them, and that is precisely what deregulation will do. Regulation and deregulation each consists of lower costs for one party and higher costs for the other.
(Samuels & Shaffer 1982, p. 467)

All that deregulation does is move the incurred costs from the 'economic environment' to other 'social' environments. By doing this, those costs are no longer 'economic' costs and are, therefore, irrelevant to economic enterprise. So it can be argued that "one should not require business to take responsibility for 'community' costs".

At the risk of belaboring the point - regulation is the process of expanding economic responsibilities beyond a narrowly confined 'economic environment' to include other community responsibilities. Deregulation is the removal of those other responsibilities from economic consideration. The question posed in considering regulation and deregulation is:

Does the economy exist independently of the community or is it the means by which the community ensures the supply of all its material needs and wants?

Economic Activity as Non-Social Activity Return to Chapter Index

It is the nature of 'market competition' that prices will be driven to the margins of profitability.

If no social welfare component is built into industrial costs then prices fall below levels at which social welfare can be sustained.411

In the absence of alternative means of ensuring social welfare, allowing social welfare costs to be excluded from calculation of the costs of production leads, inevitably, to the impoverishment of those who cannot obtain employment or who are not employable. It also leads to a necessary scaling down of 'non-economic' community activity and organization.

In a most peculiar way, 'economic activity' becomes a form of 'non-social' activity which only contributes to social welfare through the personal incomes generated by economic activity - which, themselves, will not include a social welfare component so long as competition for jobs keeps wage rates low.412 'The economy' becomes an environment which is separate from, and not responsible to, the community which sustains it.

A number of theoretical models emerged during the 1970s purportedly demonstrating the inadvisability of allowing 'political interference' in economic activity. Government regulations constraining economic activity are assumed to be detrimental to both the economy and to the community which depends on a healthy economy for well-being.

Since a prime assumption of economic theory is that all individuals act out of self interest, including those in government, the activities of government will, by definition, advantage special interest groups. The imposition of government imposts on economic activity is, therefore, not in the interests of the community but of privileged interest groups 413 .

If, however, government backs out of economic regulation, competition in the marketplace will lower prices, improve products and allow for the accumulation of profits. This will encourage investment which, in turn, will result in job creation, which will flow back to the community as increased community well-being. As Peter Kahn has described:

Support for the wave of deregulation that began in the 1970s came from liberal as well as conservative economists. But deregulation was pursued with single minded vigour during the 1980s at least in part for ideological reasons. It embodied a political theory which justified the administration's distaste for activist government.

That theory, called 'public choice', was espoused by a group of market-oriented economists and lawyers who claimed to demonstrate two things:

  • first, that an activist government is all but incapable of reaching efficient public-spirited decisions, and
  • second, that private markets do so routinely and automatically.

According to public choice theory, regulatory policy results from a badly flawed political marketplace, which makes decisions based not on economic efficiency, but on the power of interest groups to use government to pursue private benefit at the expense of general welfare ...

Public choice theory played an important role in the economic policy of Presidents Reagan and Bush. The proposed balanced budget amendment, and other schemes to limit government or place it on automatic pilot, grow out of this body of theory.
(Kahn 1991, p. 44)

'Public choice' theory, similarly, played an important part in the economic policies of Presidents Clinton and (in practice, through Senate activity) Obama.

As economic activity became internationalized and the demands of governments increasingly came to be seen as obstructing and distorting economic efficiency, economic justifications for freeing economic endeavor from political constraint became elaborated. Now, all the problems from the 1960s onward could be attributed to 'government interference' in the marketplace. The 'gains' made through the liberalization of international trade seemed to be obvious.

Globalization Lowers Prices, Frees Investment:
We're all Better Off!! Return to Chapter Index

By the late 1970s, people in Western countries were beginning to benefit from the lower-priced imported goods produced in low-wage countries as major retailers began to obtain the bulk of their merchandise from such sources. As the majority of people in Western countries felt the effects of this flow-through of lowered costs in the form of cheaper goods, they willingly bought these in place of higher-priced locally manufactured alternatives.

Within a short period the effect of lowering tariff barriers became noticeable. Unemployment began to rise in First World countries, with those who worked in labor-intensive industries being the first to feel the effects of low-wage competition. This resulted in increasing unemployment among low-skilled workers.

The effect was rapidly disguised, in Western nations, by altering the definition of employment to include all people who 'did any work at all for pay or profit'. This redefinition of employment for statistical purposes has been perpetuated since that time 414 . The U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics gives the current definition of employment,

...people are considered employed if they did any work at all for pay or profit during the survey week. This includes all part-time and temporary work, as well as regular full-time, year-round employment.
(USBLS 2010)

Even one hour of paid work in a week now qualifies an individual for definition as 'employed'. The definition has been completely divorced from any consideration of a 'living income'. The relation between 'employment statistics' and living standards was broken, allowing for the disguised growth of a low paid, marginalized workforce in Western countries.

This unequal competition forced First World manufacturing enterprises to consider a number of strategies to 'level the playing field'. They could:

  • relocate their manufacturing activities in overseas low-wage areas, thus avoiding the increased 'needs' related wage and welfare component costs of employment in First World countries;
  • focus on improving efficiency through altering production techniques and technologies. This displaced employees with cost-saving machinery, taking advantage of the new technological innovations which have accompanied the continuing computerisation of the First World. This, in turn, incidentally, avoided many of the social welfare costs which have been, in one way or another, levied in association with employment;
  • argue strongly for lowering wage rates and the removal of welfare oriented taxes and levies so that they could remain competitive within their present country; or,
  • move out of labor-intensive industry, investing in the newly emerging and rapidly expanding international bond, stock/share and money markets (see Capitalism: Sovereign Debt, Quantitative Easing (QE) and the Vortex Economy for more on this).

Whether businesses invested in low-wage countries or in the rapidly expanding financial markets, they found the transfer of funds across national boundaries impeded by the range of regulations imposed on financial transactions in previous decades.

Businesses joined with importers and financial institutions in demanding removal of the fiscal and financial regulations imposed by Western governments to control both investment and the money supply. In the process, national controls on economic activity have been continually reduced, freeing an internationalising economy from the demands of the communities which supply the labor and other resources for their activities.

Over the past thirty years all the above strategies have been utilised by businesses seeking an advantage in the marketplace.

From the late 1970s, Western governments, at the instigation of 'economic experts', strongly encouraged the internationalization of home-grown businesses, providing tax and other incentives to such expansion. Successful companies were 'transnational'.

Most companies initially moved their labor-intensive operations 'off-shore', to take advantage of labor costs in countries where perceived needs were lower and no social welfare component was built into industrial costs. In the process they argued for further lowering of tariff and quota barriers to facilitate this 'internationalization' of economic activity.

Many of the Western-based firms which did not move to low-wage regions, altered their focuses and forms of organization, reducing their reliance on wage labor through automating production. Others, that continued to rely on unskilled labor, gained a clear advantage through increased competition for jobs in Western countries as the numbers of unemployed grew 415 .

Businesses, in the face of union opposition, argued that if automation was not allowed they could not remain viable in the new climate of international economic competition. Given the burgeoning unemployment and obvious 'globalization' of economic competition, neither governments nor labor unions were able to counter such demands and by the mid-1980s the move to automation was commonplace. The major costs of production now centered in technology rather than labor.

What started out as a move to automation by labor-intensive industries to counter international competition, became a general move by industry to take advantage of the new forms of automation made possible by developments in computer technologies.

Kukowski and Boulton (1995) described the Sony Corporation's moves to automation:

Sony management described the following as an example of the benefits gained from the company's factory automation activities: It took three to four months to start up Sony's original production lines in Japan, but it required only two to three weeks to bring replicated lines up to speed in Singapore and France. Changing models required only 9.1 % of additional capital investment in Sony's first changeover, 3.5% in the second changeover, and only 1.5% in the third changeover.

In addition, the move to automation resulted in improved quality. The best defect rate using manual labor was 2000 parts per million (PPM), compared to 20 PPM after the first week of automation.

Sony's personnel policy was to remove employees from manual labor jobs through automation so that 'they could become more creative in solving problems and improving operations'. Due to Sony's strong knowledge base in automation and its focus on design for manufacturability, between 1987 and 1990 it increased sales by 121 % with an increase of only 35 employees.
(Kukowski & Boulton 1995, ch. 5 s. 3)

The Sony policy of removing 'employees from manual labor jobs through automation so that "they could become more creative in solving problems and improving operations'" was, of course, disingenuous. Typically, the problem-solving skills required in the new plants required a level of expertise beyond that held by manual laborers. The numbers of such people in a fully automated plant, as Kukowski and Boulton showed, was far smaller than required in a non-automated factory.

Not only did low-skilled workers find their jobs under threat by these moves, increasing numbers of skilled workers found that their positions had disappeared as automated processes displaced them. As the authors say, a 121 per cent increase in sales by the company was accompanied by the employment of a further thirty-five workers416 .

Just-In-Time and Total-Quality-Control: Let's be flexible! Return to Chapter Index

The new catch-cry of industry, taken up and echoed by First World government, educational, health and other institutions became 'flexibility'. As a Report to the Alberta Government on new economic practices in the 1990s explained:

Human resource consultants Olmsted and Smith said that:

With much of foreign competitors' success credited to cheap labor and with technological advances that permit work to be performed by fewer but more sophisticated employees, American companies are focusing on assessing and redirecting labor costs in order to become more profitable
[1989, p. vii].

In 1993 the U. S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich said:

Firing workers to cut costs has gone so far that even reasonably healthy companies are cutting jobs. The cost of these butcher strategies is borne by all, not only in lost output but in higher taxes.

... With the worst of the layoffs behind them, companies are searching for ways to become 'lean and mean' but effective, and 'flexibility' is today's buzzword.

Flexibility is increasingly viewed as providing ways to manage time, space and people more effectively within the upswings and downturns of a global economy. It is also seen as a way to attract and retain good employees in a labor market that is steadily becoming more competitive.

Two different strategies have begun to emerge about how to create a more flexible workplace. The first strategy would create flexibility by using a 'core' workforce and a 'contingent' workforce to manage the workload. The second is to allow flexible working hours and various forms of reduced working hours to meet demand.
(Alberta Labor 1994, p. 3)

As Mittleman (1994) claimed, Fordist industrial organization was now most usually employed in the remaining labor-intensive industries. Those which had moved to new technologies usually also moved to new forms of organization.

These often included the networking of small, closely interlinked companies or company divisions, usually controlled by a 'parent' company, each of which took responsibility for production of a particular product component; accepted responsibility for 'managing' their workforces; and could be manipulated to minimize costs when their product component was in lower demand (insulating the parent company from such activity).

The new organization of production, often called Just-In-Time (JIT) production processes, coupled with Total-Quality-Control (TQC) systems of surveillance, emphasized direct worker responsibility for the quality of output, coupled with direct accountability to authorities for performance.

The term 'just in time' referred to the relationship which was anticipated between supply and demand. This form of organization aims to reduce the inventories of manufacturers to a minimum, relying on efficient production techniques to produce item components as they are required. It also has quality control built into the process of production, rather than relying on post-production testing417 .

JIT processes require a direct link between the supplier and the marketplace. This form of organization allows for rapid responses to increases, decreases and changes in demand. It therefore assumes rapid filling of orders, rapid scaling down of production as markets become saturated, and rapid retooling and reorganization as products are altered or displaced to meet new demand.

As in Sony's case, factories can be built quickly to meet particular demand, and dismantled and moved just as quickly. And the factory is built at the source of demand. This, in the 1990s, resulted in a shift of investment in industry away from low-wage countries and back into major markets.

It emphasized the development of a skilled, versatile, mobile and yet expendable labor force which could rapidly respond to changes in market preferences, rather than a workforce which supplied low-skilled, cheap labor inputs418 . It requires flexible employment arrangements, the use of short-term contracts rather than long-term commitment to maintenance of a stable body of employees and 'internationally competitive' wages and conditions.

In introducing these changes, businesses capitalised on the high (but disguised 419 ) unemployment levels in developed countries to institute new styles of relationship between managers and employees, based on employee uncertainty and 'management by stress' (Sewell & Wilkinson 1992, p. 279).

In a very real sense, businesses, in the 1990s, renounced responsibility for the social welfare of their employees along with renouncing responsibility for meeting the social welfare requirements of the communities within which they operated. Their responsibilities related to ensuring 'economic efficiency', not to contribution to the quality of life of those they employed.

Many businesses, since the 1990s, have become international organizations, geared to exploiting temporary markets wherever they arise and geared, equally, to the economically efficient use of all inputs, including labor 420 .

In the 21st century the new employment arrangements have become common-place. This has led to a euphemisation of the term 'temporary workers'. They are now 'the contingent workforce', an established, central focus in 'human resource management' 421.

The move to temporary employment was also a move toward increasing stress amongst employees. Since any downturn in company performance resulted in the layoff of temporary staff, those who were in this category - or those who felt that they were next in line to be reduced to temporary status - felt a constant sense of insecurity. They were driven to perform by the fear that if they were seen as less than totally committed to improved performance they would be the first to go.

Not only have the new management techniques introduced increased 'economic efficiency', coupled with decreased contribution to social welfare costs of the communities in which they operate, they have also introduced endemic stress to those communities. Increasing numbers of people live in constant fear of losing their jobs, and therefore their incomes. More and more people live with a gnawing sense of threat which they cannot escape.

In the new climate which dissociates businesses from 'social responsibility', this increase in stress is seen as positively contributing to 'economic efficiency'. Of course, even in this area, such increases in stress are of short-term value. In the long term, they result in decreased not increased performance from employees422 . However, economic experts have not shown versatility in thinking through such consequences of their logically-constructed models.

These techniques veil a number of consequences for employees and for the businesses which employ them. First, although employees are grouped into teams, in the interests of quality control, team members are required to monitor the performance of colleagues. Since the teams are small, if the quality of production is poor, all members are under threat. There is no security of tenure 423 .

In this far more flexible era of production, what firms needed was rapid access to markets and a close relationship between design and production processes. That is, with social welfare costs being reduced through minimizing employment and a widening gap between labor productivity and hourly worker compensation 424 , firms could relocate production closer to markets.

Many companies relocated in Western countries or in maquiladoras on the borders of major markets. In consonance with this return to high-wage areas, there were concerted political campaigns aimed at lowering or removing the residual social welfare components of industrial costs in Western countries. There was an equally determined push to lower the real hourly compensation rate for employees in relation to productivity.

And then We Deregulated Finances and Currencies! Return to Chapter Index

{§} Concurrently with this move to JIT and TQC processes, all over the world there were insistent demands for fiscal and financial deregulation. It was claimed that this would both facilitate the 'internationalization' of productive enterprises, taking advantage of 'cost anomalies' in different parts of the world; and enable a 'healthy' speculation in currencies and stocks and bonds425 .

As the attack on investment and fiscal regulations became increasingly effective in the late 1970s and early 1980s, people began investing money in the rapidly expanding international currency, bond and stock markets. These provided more lucrative options for investors than developing alternative forms of productive enterprise. As Susan Strange described:

Changes in the global financial structure in recent decades can be considered under five main headings:

(1) the system has grown enormously in size, in the number and value of transactions conducted in it, in the number and economic importance of the markets and the market operators;

(2) the technology of finance has changed as fast as the technology in any manufacturing or productive sector in the world economy;

(3) the global system has penetrated national systems more deeply and effectively than ever before - though some people are apt to retort that there is nothing new in international banking or international debt, the degree to which both have played a growing part in national economies and societies is quite new;

(4) The provision and marketing of credit have become overall a much less regulated and much more competitive business than it used to be when national systems were less integrated in the global system; and, not least,

(5) the relation of demand for and supply of credit has changed rather radically, with very large implications for the world political economy and for the material prospects of many social groups and social institutions in the future.
(Strange 1994, p. 232)

{§} Although it is difficult to quantify the growth in international financial speculation, there is no doubt that it has eclipsed investment in productive enterprise over the past three decades.

Trillions of dollars are shifted daily to take advantage of fluctuating currency values and changes in the value of stocks and bonds based on short-term predictions related to movements in interest rates, government decisions, perceived threat to profits, and short-term profit-taking. Ralph Nader summarized changes over the past twenty years:

... financial market activity has skyrocketed in the past few decades: The value of transactions is now 70 times greater than the size of the real global economy. Trading volume has grown exponentially, skyrocketing from 188 billion shares of stock traded on the Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange in 1995 to nearly 1 trillion in 2011. Each year, the notional value of over-the-counter derivatives traded worldwide totals trillions more.
(Ralph Nader, Ralph Nader on a simple way to avoid the fiscal cliff: Tax stock trades, Washington Post Saturday, December 1, 2012)

The Triennial Central Bank Survey of foreign exchange turnover in April 2013 provided a picture of the size of Foreign Exchange and OTC Derivatives Markets activity:

The preliminary global results from the 2013 Triennial Central Bank Survey of Foreign Exchange and OTC Derivatives Markets Activity show that trading in foreign exchange markets averaged $5.3 trillion per day in April 2013. This is up from $4.0 trillion in April 2010 and $3.3 trillion in April 2007. FX swaps were the most actively traded instruments in April 2013, at $2.2 trillion per day, followed by spot trading at $2.0 trillion.
(BIS, 5 September 2013.
See, Triennial Central Bank Survey of foreign exchange and derivatives market activity in 2013, updated 7 November 2013, for more detail.
The 2013 Triennial Survey was published in the December 2013 issue of the BIS Quarterly Review. )

Government decisions around the world are increasingly made with an eye to 'market response' to their policies, and news bulletins almost obsessively report 'market fluctuation' based on reactions to policy decisions, or even to chance comments by politicians. And financial markets, conversely, react to such reports of their own responses, thus magnifying short-term investment responses to often marginally important (and sometimes barely relevant) government activity.

'Entrepreneurs', since the 1980s, are not 'industrialists' but players in international currency, bond and stock trading and experts in financial manipulation 426 . They know a great deal more about Wall Street possibilities than about new productive enterprise 427 .

Things have not improved in the 21st century. Movements in share and currency values usually have little to do with the world of productive enterprise. They are all-too-often driven by wild and fanciful speculations of 'expert commentators', self-interested predictions of predators in the 'marketplace of finances', and fanciful tales spun by purveyors of 21st century snake-oil 428 .

Transient Benefits of Globalization Return to Chapter Index

Effectively, in the short-term, what the removal of tariff barriers in the 1980s did was to transfer the difference in wage rates between laborers in First World and Third World countries into the pockets of those who retained their employment, and therefore their incomes, in First World countries429 .

For the bulk of the population, the lowering of prices meant an increase in discretionary income. This allowed middle-income earners to join in the new speculative investment boom of the 1980s. This, in turn, gave them a vested interest in changes in working conditions which might positively contribute to increased investment returns.

That, of course, led them to support arguments for further deregulation and 'streamlining' of business, reduction in government expenditures and taxation 'relief'.

The transfer of income from low to middle wage earners resulted in a transient sense of affluence. Consequently, there was less pressure on employers to give regular wage increases to provide increased income for expanding wants and needs during the first years of this transfer of work to Third World communities.

{§} In the 1980s real wages grew more slowly in First World countries (In the US, for 80% of the male workforce and 50% of all workers, real wages fell through the period)430 . Not only did real wage returns fall for more than 50% of workers in the US (a result experienced by workers in most other Western communities), for those who initially benefitted from this transfer in wealth, an expansion in discretionary income was followed by an expansion in perceived needs. As the initial flush of felt prosperity waned, more and more middle-income earners accepted neoliberal arguments for 'governmental downsizing' and tax reform, aimed at providing them with further discretionary income.

In a time when wage increases had become closely linked with increases in 'productivity', that is with increases in company profits resulting not from price increases but from an improved ratio between wage costs and material output (e.g. German experience), one way of expanding incomes was through reducing government taxes and charges - introducing 'user-pays' schemes which placed the same demands on all people, regardless of income.

This new emphasis on reductions in government spending, once again effectively shifted income from low-wage to middle- and high-wage individuals. This resulted in further widening the gap between low-wage earners and middle- and upper-income earners431 .

As Mishel and Bivens (2011) explained,

The bottom 60 percent of households actually had less wealth in 2009 than in 1983, meaning they did not participate at all in the growth of wealth over this period.
(Occupy Wall Streeters are Right About Skewed Economic Rewards in the United States. Economic Policy Institute Briefing Paper No.331)

{§} In the 1980s, Western middle-income earners experienced a sense of affluence at the very time that unemployment statistics showed a rapid growth in the numbers of people who could no longer find work, and in the numbers of those who had to accept lower wages and deteriorating work conditions in order to retain employment.432

This, in turn, lessened the sense of threat amongst the more articulate members of Western communities which would otherwise have accompanied a rise in unemployment statistics in the community. Those most directly affected by the changes could, therefore, find little support from the bulk of the population.

Not even the labor unions, which were trapped by the dual effects of this shift, could mount an effective campaign against the relocation of industry and deteriorating work conditions for low-paid workers. Labor leaders found that they simply could not motivate the majority of Western employees in the face of their new-found affluence 433 .

Over time, however, the savings which middle-income earners had experienced with the lowering of tariff barriers, were whittled away. The wants of those whose real incomes had been improved by the import of low-wage manufactures expanded, so that, over time, the requirements of such people became greater, effectively reducing their discretionary incomes.

Now, First World countries had lost their labor-intensive industries - or had mechanised them, or had established 'informal sweat-shops' in which people are subjected to 'Third World conditions and pay' - and the initial advantages to consumers which had accrued from the internationalization of competition began to disappear.

Public-Private Partnership: We need to 'Stimulate' Private enterprise Return to Chapter Index

The lowering of tariff barriers in First World countries and the resulting distortion of First World economies gave doctrinaire, right-wing economic experts a platform from which to argue for drastic reformation of First World economies.

Pointing to the distortions and their effects, right-wing politicians argued that the burgeoning unemployment and its side effects in increased crime, increased youth unemployment, and ghettoizing of low-waged residential districts were the result of economic distortion within First World countries.

It was argued that well-meaning, but short-sighted governments had expanded governmental services beyond the capacity of their economies to absorb the associated costs 434 . The only way in which First World countries could regain the economic initiative would be for governments to step back from their failed attempts at 'economic management' and allow 'market forces' to rectify the problem.

High on the lists of remedies for unemployment and the renovation of economies were:

  • the establishment of 'individual contracts';
  • the removal of 'collective bargaining' by workers;
  • the lowering of minimum wage rates435 ;
  • the watering down of maximum hour rates;
  • the removal of price protection;
  • and the scaling down of social welfare benefits.

All those provisions which had been central to the 1930s 'New Deal' in the USA and which had been echoed in other Western countries were now under attack as 'economic luxuries' which no country could permanently afford.

In the climate of reform engendered by neoliberal arguments, rather than economic enterprises contributing to government social welfare expenditures, the emphasis was reversed. Government should provide stimulus to private enterprise.

Mitchell and Manning (1991) explained:

During the Reagan administration, the ideas of privatization, deregulation, and public-private partnerships became entwined in the USA, as they had during the Thatcher years in Great Britain ...

They are the primary components of an industrial policy founded in what has come to be called neo-orthodox economics. Along with supposedly tight fiscal policies and judicious monetary policy, they make up the core of both the Thatcher and Reagan approaches to promoting economic growth and development by unleashing the powers of the private marketplace ...

[With the emergence of the Third World 'Debt Crisis' in the mid-1980s, the OECD, UN, World Bank and IMF provided policy direction to Third World countries.]

Their prescription for Third World governments, economic adjustment, was drawn directly from the Thatcher/Reagan doctrines of neo-orthodox economics: cutbacks in public expenditures, privatization, deregulation, and public-private partnerships [PPP].

New loans from the Bank or the IMF today enforce the adoption of such policies ... and the USA Agency for International Development [US AID] promotes public-private partnerships as the key to achieving higher rates of economic growth ...

PPPs themselves, rather than being the centrepiece of a development strategy, are primarily a set of institutional relationships between the government and various actors in the private-sector and civil society ...

In the typical confusion of terms, US AID and other donor agencies promote privatization and government subsidies to private entrepreneurs in the name of building public-private partnerships ...

But privatization is privatization and subsidies are subsidies; public-private partnerships they are not.
(Mitchell & Manning 1991, pp. 46-9)

Under the New Deal, private enterprises were required to incorporate a public social welfare component into the costs of production. However, under neoliberal direction in the 1980s and 1990s, the 'public-sector' provided 'incentives' to private enterprise, believing that such stimulation of industry was needed to ensure a growth in employment and therefore increased social welfare436 .

At the same time, the social welfare costs of the past became illegitimate imposts which made productive enterprises uncompetitive and so cost jobs.

Social welfare imposts were, according to the new logic of the 1990s, counterproductive. Instead of promoting social welfare they created unemployment and consequent social misery.

By sleight of hand, social welfare demands made of economic enterprises were considered irresponsible, but the tapping of public resources by private enterprises was considered socially responsible437 .

Private businesses were now competing with businesses which were able to tap the resources of countries where no social welfare component was included in production. So, Western enterprises should be compensated by government for any continuing residual social welfare costs associated with production (see Conglomerates and the Progressive modernization of Poverty for more on the consequences of this activity over the past half century).

Only in this way could governments ensure that enterprises based within their territories were able to compete 'on a level playing field' with those based in Third World territories where they not only had few, if any, social welfare imposts, but were also publicly subsidised through a range of 'incentives' in order to ensure that they remained in the territory 438 .

Conclusion Return to Chapter Index

Rather than creating costs, both regulation and deregulation shift them... Regulation and deregulation each consists of lower costs for one party and higher costs for the other.
(Samuels & Shaffer 1982, p. 467)

`Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin,' thought Alice; `but a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!'
(Lewis Carroll Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)

The social welfare component of production and financial activity costings is disappearing. Like the Cheshire cat, in many countries around the world we are left with little more than the grin. Economic and financial activity have been globalized and public debt in Western countries has become a major concern:

The health care model in Canada is delivered through a publicly-funded system where many go to their doctor's office and show them a health card. But in this day and age of deficits, debt and costs, can Canada still afford this system?

The Canadian federal government's public debt stands at more than $526.7 billion and maintains a budget deficit of approximately $57 billion. Most provinces across the country are also attempting to sustain deficits, such as Ontario, which is running a $22 billion deficit.
(Rising costs, deficits could force Canada to revise heath system Andrew Moran, Toronto Headlines Examiner, June 2nd 2010)

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, whose government is close to collapse, unveiled a 15 billion-euro ($20 billion) four-year austerity plan that immediately drew accusations of overconfidence in assuming the crippled Irish economy can grow.

"The size of the crisis means that no one will be sheltered from the contribution that has to be made toward national recovery," he told a news conference.

The plan includes thousands of public sector job cuts, phased-in increases in Ireland's value-added tax (VAT) rate from 2013 and social welfare savings of 2.8 billion euros by 2014, but does not touch the country's ultra-low corporate tax rate.
(Ireland austerity plan draws skepticism, Padraic Halpin and Carmel Crimmins, Reuters Dublin, Wed Nov 24, 2010)

It is important to bear in mind the definition of unsustainability: it is a circumstance when, regardless of the sovereign's efforts, debt relative to GDP (and therefore debt servicing relative to GDP) will grow indefinitely. In those circumstances, the economic net present value of the sovereign's debt is less than the face value of the debt; moreover, it will likely continue to fall until a restructuring is undertaken and growth resumes.
(Sovereign Debt Restructuring: Messy or Messier? Anne Krueger, January 4, 2003, International Monetary Fund, Washington, D.C.)

Greece reached agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Commission, and the European Central Bank (ECB) on a focused program to stabilize its economy, become more competitive, and restore market confidence with the support of a €110 billion (about $145 billion) financing package....

Greece faces a dual challenge. It has a severe fiscal problem with deficits and public debt that are too high; and it has a competitiveness problem. Both need to be addressed for Greece to be placed on a path of recovery and growth.

First, the government's finances must be sustainable. That requires reducing the fiscal deficit and placing the debt-to-GDP ratio on a downward trajectory. Since wages and social benefits constitute 75 percent of total (non-interest) public spending, public wage and pension bills - which have grown dramatically in recent years - have to be reduced. There is hardly any other room for maneuver in terms of fiscal consolidation.

Second, the economy needs to be more competitive. This means pro-growth policies and reforms to modernize the economy and open up opportunities for all. It also means that costs must be controlled and inflation reduced so that Greece can regain price competitiveness.
(Europe and IMF Agree €110 Billion Financing Plan With Greece , IMF Survey online, May 02, 2010)

The removal of social costs from production and financial activity costs in Western economies has produced its inevitable consequence. Sovereign debt has grown steadily over the past thirty years as governments have gone into deficit to cover those costs. In the past several years, as governments have been required both to provide rescue packages for banking systems and 'stimulate' their economies to avoid or minimize recession, that debt has blown out.

Nations which, prior to 2008, were largely coping with the costs of scaled down versions of earlier public social welfare costs, now find themselves with unsustainable debt. Another crisis similar to that of 2008 would introduce many of them to structural adjustment programs similar to that currently being implemented in Greece 439 .

Western nations are beginning to understand what 'structural adjustment' really means in a globalized neoliberal world. They just did not take the problems seriously when Third World countries complained about the effects of such programs over the past thirty years.

Nation-states, once firmly in control of economic activity within their borders are, in a new deregulated, privatized world, decreasingly able to shield their populations from the exploitative consequences of unregulated and internationalized market exchange.

Now, there is no international forum capable of limiting and directing the bargaining advantages of businesses whose holdings and turnover eclipse those of the countries with which they do business. No longer is the economy the means by which communities meet their needs and wants. Now communities service an internationalized economy which need accept no reciprocal responsibilities for their welfare.

In subordinating their interests and populations to the globalized market place, Western peoples have sacrificed the regulatory 'protections' established after the 1929 crash. It will be extraordinarily difficult to re-establish such protections.

End of Chapter

Chapter 9:
Global Capitalism, Third World Development:
Is the Sweat Shop the Destination or
the start of a Take Off into Self-Sustained Growth? Return to Index of Chapters

Close up of a Dharavi slum area, Mumbai, India

One of the saddest features of the 'Third World Development' drive is that, in the process of reorganizing utilization of their environments, non-Western communities have been disrupted.

Many of them are disintegrating, victims of the well-meaning 'development' activities of Western experts 440 .

As S. N. Sangmpam claimed:

modernization theory assumes an imaginary society because the real society in the Third World is perceived as 'transient'.
(Sangmpam (1994 p. 1))

The Imaginary 'Development Specialist' World: Return to Chapter Index

It is possible to identify all societies, in their economic dimensions, as lying within one of five categories: the traditional society, the preconditions for take-off, the take-off, the drive to maturity, and the age of high mass-consumption.

...Once it was demonstrated that growth was possible, the consequences of growth and modernization, notably its military consequences, unhinged one traditional society after another, pushed it into the treacherous period of preconditions, from which many, but not all the world's societies have now emerged into self-sustained growth...

We can be confident ... that to the degree that consumer sovereignty is respected and real incomes increase we will see similar - but not identical - income-elasticities of demand and, therefore, similar patterns of structural evolution in different societies as they go through the high-consumption phase.

Now, ... consider this question: what lies beyond? What will happen to societies when income provides such good food for virtually all that it raises questions of public health by its very richness; where housing is of an order that people are not tempted to exert themselves much to improve it; where clothing is similarly adequate; where a Lambretta or Volkswagen is within the grasp of virtually all... ?
(Rostow (1961 pp. 4, 90-1))

The Reality: Return to Chapter Index

Dharavi slum area, Mumbai India In 2001, 924 million people, or 31.6 per cent of the world's urban population, lived in slums. The majority of them were in the developing regions, accounting for 43 per cent of the urban population, in contrast to 6 per cent in more developed regions.

Within the developing regions, sub-Saharan Africa had the largest proportion of the urban population resident in slums in 2001 (71.9 per cent) and Oceania had the lowest (24.1 per cent). In between these were South-central Asia (58 per cent), Eastern Asia (36.4 per cent), Western Asia (33.1 per cent), Latin America and the Caribbean (31.9 per cent), Northern Africa (28.2 per cent) and Southeast Asia (28 per cent).

With respect to absolute numbers of slum dwellers, Asia (all of its sub-regions combined) dominated the global picture, having a total of 554 million slum dwellers in 2001 (about 60 per cent of the world's total slum dwellers).

Africa had a total of 187 million slum dwellers (about 20 per cent of the world's total), while Latin America and the Caribbean had 128 million slum dwellers (about 14 per cent of the world's total) and Europe and other developed countries had 54 million slum dwellers (about 6 per cent of the world's total).

... in many cities, there are more poor people outside slum areas than within them. Slum areas have the most visible concentrations of poor people and the worst shelter and environmental conditions, but even the most exclusive and expensive areas will have some low-income people. In some cities, slums are so pervasive that rather than designate residential areas for the poor, it is the rich who segregate themselves behind gated enclaves.
(UN Agency for Human Settlements, The Challenge of Slums: Global Report on Human Settlements 2003 p. xxv, xxvi)

Third World Communities are Changing - but into What? Return to Chapter Index

In this discussion we will examine the experiences of Third World nations as they became "unhinged" and attempted to "emerge into self-sustained growth" (to use Rostow's colourful, optimistic phraseology); as they attempted to 'develop' into capitalist success stories over the past 60 years. We will briefly contextualize that examination by looking at pre-Western forms of environmental organization and understanding.

The West has, over the past five hundred years, viewed such understandings as irrelevant; relics of prehistory; eclipsed by "the world of contemporary technology" and the rational understandings it has unveiled to the world. W. W. Rostow, that doyen of economic development specialists, explained it:

A ... challenge which clearly relates to the stages of growth is the fate of societies that appear still trapped in the preconditions for take-off. They are not traditional societies, because the world of contemporary technology is so powerful and intrusive that it has introduced elements of modernity in all nations. Nevertheless, perhaps 20% of the human race [441 ] - a billion or so men women and children - lives in countries that have not yet attained self-sustained growth...

The second stage of growth embraces societies in the process of transition; that is, the period when the preconditions for take-off are developed; for it takes time to transform a traditional society in the ways necessary for it to exploit the fruits of modern science, to fend off diminishing returns, and thus to enjoy the blessings and choices opened up by the march of compound interest.
(1961 pp. xxii, 6)

In the 1st decade of the 21st century, most Third World communities are transient. As we have discussed elsewhere 442 , most post-colonial territories are in various stages of change. They are slowly, but inevitably, metamorphosing into communities which exhibit similarities with the pre-colonial communities from which they came.

Western peoples are faced with a difficult decision:

  • ignore the changes and continue to assert with Rostow and his many followers that Third World communities are still in the process of metamorphosing into capitalist nations - it's just taking longer than we expected!
  • attempt to prevent the changes;
  • accept the changes and live with the consequences 443 .

I remember, as a young child, reading a story about a little Dutch boy who was walking to school alongside a dyke wall. He had been told by his father that if he ever saw a leak in a wall he should immediately warn adults of it so that the dyke could be repaired before disastrous failure. Being a conscientious little boy, he would scan the wall as he walked, acutely aware of his responsibility for protecting his community from disaster.

On this particular morning, he saw a tiny hole in the wall and, realizing that this could be disastrous, decided that the best thing to do would be to stick his finger into the hole to stop the water from breaching the dyke wall. The story 444 has poor little Hans dying in his successful attempt to save his community from disaster.

As I read the story my mind worked overtime (as the minds of small boys are wont to do). What would happen if little Hans was standing there with his finger in the hole and, a little further down the dyke wall, another hole should appear? Perhaps we would have little Hans attempting to save a small part of the wall while all the rest disintegrated around him!

Welcome to the 21st century!

Western governments and international organizations find themselves with their fingers in dyke walls. If they don't keep the holes plugged, the walls around them will collapse. And more and more holes are appearing all the time.

We're going to be busy people if we're going to keep all the holes plugged in this century!

As we examine post 2nd World War experiences in Third World countries, we need to bear in mind that these experiences mask a deep, historical disruption of non-western communities. Those communities were, all-too-often, forcibly included in Western European colonies, with scant regard for their own peculiar identities, to serve the interests of the colonizing powers.

That disruption, however, did not result in the loss of pre-European understandings of the world. It merely obscured them. The chaos and turmoil found in many non-Western countries in the early 21st century can be traced back to their experiences over the past 150 years 445 .

Examples of non-Western Understandings of Reality Return to Chapter Index

To understand the differences between Western capitalist communal organization and interaction and the pre-existing forms of organization and interaction in non-Western communities, we need to examine how such communities were organized before colonisation by Western European powers. This is, of course, how they still would be organized - with inevitable accommodations to outside influences - if left to their own devices.

To do justice to such a preliminary exploration of non-Western forms of understanding and organization is beyond a discussion of this kind. The best we can do here is refer to two explanations of such communities which can be accessed on the Internet. The discussion which follows will bounce off those explanations.

The first example is an excellent study by Paul Liffman of the "Wixaritari (Huichols) in the community of San Andres Cohamiata", living in 90,000 square kilometres of western and north-central Mexico. The study was part of a larger undertaking by a team of anthropologists studying the people of the region. The Journal of the Southwest, (Vol. 42 Issue 1, 2000), has a number of other research articles by team members, focusing on similar issues in the region.

In this study, entitled Gourdvines, Fires, and Wixarika Territoriality , Paul Liffman introduces us to an understanding of the world which is completely different to anything that people in Western capitalist communities experience or understand. Here is Liffman's explanatory summary:

Wixaritari (Huichols) in the community of San Andres Cohamiata say that the genealogies and social bonds constructed in ritual grow along divine ancestral migration paths, just as gourdvines grow out across the earth.

These ancestral vines connect the ceremonial fire of the xiriki (shrine) of a kie (rancheria), where people live, to a great temple (tuki), from which the kie's founding ancestors first "borrowed fire," to creation sites throughout 90,000 square kilometers of western and north-central Mexico.

If the rancheria expands and ramifies like a gourdvine, those ancestors' descendants must "borrow" and "register" (inscribe or legitimate) new fires, and their xirikite ultimately grow up to be tukite.

This historical process of establishing land tenure ceremonially entails fulfillling cargos (five consecutive annual cycles of ritual obligations) at the tuki, from which people make the growing gourdvine paths of divine descent extremely vivid by retracing them in sacrificial treks to the creation sites, most notably Wirikuta, the birthplace of the sun.

It is always extremely difficult for anyone to begin to see the world from a perspective that has so little in common with their own. This is why most Western people simply don't attempt it, convinced that, even if the Wixaritari and other non-Western communities do see their worlds and interact with them in such radically different ways, their ways must be riddled with superstition and highly illogical.

Concepts such as private property and public property, economic activity and political activity, fit very poorly into an understanding of the Wixaritari world. Liffman's description of Wixaritari understandings of and interactions with the land on which they live gives a graphic illustration of the differences:

Wixarika land tenure is based on a fundamentally reciprocal-although most certainly hierarchical-Mesoamerican sacrificial economy. As with other Uto-Nahuan groups such as the Nayari (Coras) and Mexika Aztecs, the ideological basis of this system is exchange between people and the divine ancestral owners of the earth, rain, and sun.

Living people, divine ancestors, and the cosmological divinities are connected through sacrifices and offerings, at key sites of the landscape (particularly at primeval emergence sites situated in caves and springs; cf. Coyle, this volume 446 ).

As a result, relating the origin myths of the landscape to the site where they are narrated and leaving offerings at key points of the landscape where divine history happened so that the earth will continue to produce are intrinsic to Wixarika land tenure and political legitimacy in general.

To rewrite their understanding of their polities and systems of land tenure and use in Western terms would result in the loss of most of the meaning which they consider inherent in the real world, objective reality for the Wixarika. To impose Western democratic political organization and forms of individualized land ownership and use on them would directly challenge and deeply undermine their communal organization and understanding of reality.

An entirely different set of communities, the San (commonly called 'Bushmen') of the Kalahari in south west Africa, illustrates a very different approach to understanding and interacting with their environments. In an article entitled Those who have each other: San relations to the land, Edwin Wilmsen (1989, pp. 58-9) examined a range of understandings of San kinship available in the literature and concluded that among that subgroup of the San known as Zhu,

Kinship in Zhu society, rather than being a static straitjacket, is a dynamic keyboard on which individuals play variations on a theme of options. It is, as Comaroff (1982:164) notes, up to the individual to "create and manage an effective social network."...

Within this incorporative structure of kinship, the corporate unity of Zhu landholding devolves from one generation to the next.

Property right transfers consequent on marriage are, accordingly, largely matters of reshuffling priorities among latent claims by members of a kin consort. Negotiations for, and legitimation of, marriage ties are important moments in this creative process.

To condense Bourdieu (1977:34-36; original emphasis): "to treat kin relationships as something people make, and with which they do something, is not merely to substitute a 'functionalist' for a 'structuralist' interpretation ... it is radically to question the implicit theory of [kin relationships] 'in the form of an object or an intuition' as Marx puts it.

In this perspective, Zhu bride service can be seen... as a form of devolutionary marriage payment that mediates the conflicts over land that inevitably must occur among mutually interdependent groups....

For Zhu, bride service resolves the question of personal status and locates a marriage union with its offspring within the structure of relations between persons and places. The devolution of property begins with negotiations and prestations between principals to a future marriage, primarily future co-parents-in-law.

This process may extend over a period of many years....

Devolution begins to take more concrete form with the establishment of a new household located in association with the woman's parents. The period of bride service is measured in terms of offspring, its conditions having been satisfied when two or more children have been born to the union.
(1989, pp. 58-9)

Zhu social relationships and systems of land tenure and utilization are intimately intertwined. One cannot be understood without understanding the others. Zhu communities (like other Kalahari San communities), might appear organizationally simple to Western eyes, but the realities are a complex network of subtle relationships and negotiations which the Zhu consider features of the objective reality within which they live.

It is common to all human beings that they believe that their ways are the best ways and that where other people deviate from their ways they are less than rational. Western Europeans are not exceptions to this rule. They demanded change from these groups, not because the practices they opposed were inherently bad or evil (if there is a universally valid set of criteria in terms of which such judgments can be made) but because they conflicted with their own understandings.

The Wixaritari and San communities were not passive. They reacted to the changes brought into their communities with the expansion of capitalist activity into their environments by altering communal organization, land tenure and use to accommodate changed demands. In doing so, they attempted to ensure that the fundamental presumptions in terms of which they related to their environments were preserved and maintained.

This has always been the response of non-Western communities to Western demands for change. Human beings are not able to simply drop their own understandings and live by the understandings of others. They will always try to accommodate changes they can't resist, while retaining their own understandings of the world and of themselves.

When changes forced upon them become more than they can accommodate within their own understanding of the world, they begin to lose a sense of communal identity and their communities begin to unravel 447 . Wixaritari and San communities have experienced these consequences over the past forty years in central America and south west Africa.

Unraveling Communities and Population Growth Return to Chapter Index

Throughout the world, non-Western communities, subjected to unrelenting demands for massive change in their interaction with their material environments, have experienced similar loss of identity, with rapidly escalating crime and violence and uncontrollable population growth.

All stable communities (both historically and in the present) have both direct and indirect means of limiting population growth. As communities disintegrate, the means of population control become decreasingly effective and population begins to grow.

Many non-Western communities have experienced rapidly increasing population growth as their communities have unraveled. The current average annual rate of population increase through sub-Saharan Africa is 2.4 percent. At this rate of increase, populations double every 30 years. Through all of the non-Western regions of the world the average annual rate of increase is 1.6 percent, with populations doubling every 44 years.

The pressures put on both material and social environments by these rates of increase are enormous.

Through the Western world, the average rate of increase is a mere 0.5 percent, with populations doubling over 139 years. Given that there are always natural events over such a period which impact on growth, Western populations have either stabilised in countries like the United States or, as in Western Europe, with a -0.01 percent annual growth rate, are in decline.448 Population increase in Western countries comes through immigration.

People like the Wixaritari and San, don't simply reinvent themselves as Western capitalists when they are subjected to Western capitalist demands for change. They lose their sense of identity and self-worth as their indigenous status and prestige systems break down and their understanding of their environment and of themselves in terms of their environment decreasingly 'makes sense'.

Status, Possessions, Land Tenure and Utilization Return to Chapter Index

People in most non-Western communities determine relative status through competitive and/or cooperative involvement in non-material forms of activity (e. g. ritual events, festivals, religious activities, kinship and other social involvement and activities together with involvement in the material environment). They, then, very often, require people who attain particular statuses to demonstrate their fitness for the statuses attained by obtaining the material possessions deemed correct for the status positions.

If they cannot obtain the necessary possessions, their statuses come under threat. If, on the other hand, they accumulate more possessions than they should, or obtain inappropriate possessions, then the rest of the community reacts, wanting to know who they think they are.

People who are able to get more than they should have usually feel an inner compulsion to limit their acquisitions in some way. If they are not able to do this, they usually feel it necessary to give the surpluses away. In doing so they can strengthen ties with other community members.

There are, of course, communities which do not tie possessions to status in this way. In such communities (e. g. the San of the Kalahari or Aboriginal Australian communities) status is not clearly linked to the accumulation of possessions and owning things does little or nothing for either status or prestige. See Sahlins (1972) for a discussion of such communities.

The ways in which communities are organized and the ways in which they interact with their material environments are two sides of a coin. If the organization of the community changes, interaction with their material environment will also change. Equally, if interaction with the material environment changes, so does the structure of the community.

When those changes are forced from outside, based on understandings of which community members are often not even aware, then community members find it increasingly difficult to make sense of their experiences. The changes forced upon them often require forms of interaction which directly contradict the basic forms of interaction of the community.

Attack the systems of land tenure and utilization in a community and you attack the organization and interactions of the community. You cannot force change in land tenure and utilization without directly attacking the cohesion of the community which reflects and incorporates those systems in its organization.449

Brutality, Despotism, Corruption and Communal Disintegration Return to Chapter Index

One of the saddest features of the 'Third World Development' drive in which Western capitalist nations have engaged over the past fifty years is that in the process of reorganizing utilization of their environments, non-Western communities have been disrupted. Many of them are in various stages of disintegration, victims of the well-meaning 'development' activities of Western experts.

As the consequences of disruption have become increasingly apparent, in a classic 'blame the victim' response to the problems created, those same experts have urged further, deeper change to address the problems of social disintegration which their policies have induced.

Because they have been well trained as Western specialists, they take it for granted that their understanding of the world, and their forms of land tenure and utilization are the only 'reasonable' ones. So they force change upon those who don't see the world as they do or relate to the material environment as they do.

A leader in the magazine The Economist, entitled 'Hopeless Africa', put the Western perspective well,

No one can blame Africans for the weather, but most of the continent's shortcomings owe less to acts of God than to acts of man. These acts are not exclusively African - brutality, despotism and corruption exist everywhere - but African societies, for reasons buried in their cultures, seem especially susceptible to them.
(The Economist May 13th-19th 2000)

Brutality, despotism and corruption in communities are evidences of communal disintegration, not features of 'traditional cultures' as the Economist writer suggests.

As Gustave Speth, Administrator of the United Nations Development Program, said of Africa in 1994:

We conveniently forget Africa's history. We forget that the transatlantic slave trade robbed Africa of about 12 million of its able-bodied men and women. We forget that colonialism which followed the slave trade introduced a system of exploitation of Africa's natural resources to feed the industries of the West.

We forget the 1884/1885 Colonial Conferences of Berlin which crudely Balkanised and divided Africa into geographic areas of control by the West, with scant regard for ethnic groupings. We even forget that during the period of the cold war's geopolitical fight for spheres of influence, Africa became a focal point for the ideology and the arms that today contribute to the havoc we find in Rwanda and Burundi, in Zaire and Angola and Somalia.

Western capitalist developers have intruded into communities and changed the face of the material environments of peoples. They have forced new land tenure and utilization practices upon them, extracted huge 'surpluses' from their environments and now blame them for the ensuing social, political, and material environmental disintegration.

Open-ended and Closed Utilization of the Material Environment Return to Chapter Index
(The Key to Sustainable Lifestyles)

We need to understand the single most important difference between almost all non-Western orientations to the material environment and that of Western capitalism.

  • Western capitalist utilization of the material environment is open-ended, with no upper limit to its use and a built in inflation of demand for natural resources.
  • Most non-Western forms of utilization are closed, with a built in upper limit to demand.

This is not because non-Western people are 'more attuned' to their environments or because they are 'natural conservationists' or 'closer to the environment' than Western people.

As many studies have shown, non-Western people have shaped and molded their environments to their needs. Their aim has not been to 'live in harmony with nature', as sometimes suggested by environmental activists in Western countries, but to utilise their environments to supply their needs and wants.

However, because their status and prestige systems have not been anchored in the accumulation of material goods and services but in some other form of activity and organization, there has been no inbuilt pressure to over-use their material environments.

Where they have done so (and this has often happened), it was the growth in population living in a region which produced problems450 , not a constantly escalating demand from a stable population for more and more material possessions and ever-increasing levels of consumption, as in Western communities.

Most human activity is related not to subsistence but to the promotion and maintenance of social position and self-esteem. People in communities like those of the Wixaritari and San are focused on something other than 'private enterprise' and competitive individual material accumulation and consumption as the basis of status. So, they spend less time in material production/ consumption activities and more time in what Western capitalist people would consider 'waste' activity: in religious, ritual, social and kin-based activity of various kinds.

If they are being 'productive' what they are producing is not material goods and services but various forms of ritual, religious and social activity and organization - whatever is required of the status system which is built into the structure of their communities and into their forms of interaction with each other. So, in many non-Western communities such activities seem extravagantly elaborated to Western people.

The upshot of this focus away from the material environment is that, in the past, they more or less matched their material needs and wants to what was available in their own environments or could be traded for goods from their environments without needing to expand into the territory of neighboring groups.

Sahlins (1972) argues that many communities underused the resources available in their material environments. Since they matched their material needs and wants to the usual productive capacity of their environments, in good years they had surpluses and in bad years they had less than they required, but things averaged out over the years.

With material needs and wants socially circumscribed, the technologies necessary for their production remained relatively stable. There is little need to develop more sophisticated, efficient, and streamlined production techniques and technologies where those which have been developed provide both the quantity and quality of goods required and where requirements do not constantly escalate 451 . Rather, people spend their time in pursuits which directly relate to the requirements of the social templates of their communities, through which they achieve increased social status and respect.

When Western people arrived in non-Western regions, they demanded that those communities produce a 'surplus' from their material environments for export to Western countries. This required local inhabitants to use their material environments not only to supply their own needs and wants, but to supply, additionally, a range of products sought by Western traders and 'developers'.

Utilization of their environment was, therefore, almost immediately, raised to long-run unsustainable levels.

Inevitably, the environments of communities where these demands were made became progressively more degraded as the years passed. As Gustave Speth (1994) claimed 452 , most of the soil and other environmental deterioration of the past fifty years has occurred in non-Western regions of the world. Westerners use their own environments to the limits of sustainability, but readily, and unthinkingly, push the environments of other communities over the edge. (For more on this, see Rights and Resources 2011-2012)

In the jargon of Western capitalism, non-Western communities, prior to Western intrusion, were naturally oriented to 'sustainable lifestyles', to living within their environmental means. This is why such advanced material cultures as those of Han China, Korea and Japan, although well aware of the existence of other lands and peoples, and although placing neighboring peoples into tributary relationships, did not greatly expand their accumulative and productive activities into their environments.

For the Chinese, Koreans and Japanese, throughout thousands of years of elaborate political organization and advanced material culture, North America was less than a week's sailing time away. And they had the sophisticated craft necessary to make such journeys with ease on a regular basis. Yet, when Western Europeans invaded and subjugated the indigenous inhabitants of the North American continent there were no communities of Chinese, Koreans or Japanese to deal with.

Why not?

Because, despite their elaborate material cultures, status and prestige were not primarily determined by competitive individual material accumulation and consumption. They, more or less, lived within their environmental means.

This is equally true of Aboriginal Australians. Of course they reshaped their environment to better suit their requirements, and of course that meant that Australia, after their arrival, was a different land to Australia before their arrival. But they did not utilise their material environment to, and beyond, its limits. They did not, in Western capitalist terms, 'realize the potential' of their material environments.

As Tonkinson (1978, p.18) put it, Aboriginal people stressed, not the mundane skills and techniques for surviving in harsh surroundings, but "the imperative of conformity to Dreamtime laws... it is spiritual rather than ecological imperatives that have primacy in guaranteeing their way of life".

The Aboriginal people of Australia, like non-Western peoples in most parts of the world, understood reality, and interacted with the world in ways which are difficult for Western peoples to understand.

Enter the Europeans Return to Chapter Index

With the advent of capitalism in Europe as the driving force to individual and communal activity, Western Europeans set out to discover the riches of the world and appropriate them.

From the early predatory adventures of traders, explorers and privateers, to state and capitalist enterprise organized invasions of the rest of the world, Western Europe imposed its self-interested ambitions on the planet. Over five hundred years it metamorphosed from an insular feudally organized region into a rampant colonizing power. By 1914 it controlled more than 80% of the world. And it controlled it for one reason; to exploit its resources.

Not only was there very little interest in the organization and understandings of the communities they invaded, there was little or no understanding of, or interest in, the consequences of their activities for invaded populations. As Gilbert Murray explained for the British (and his explanation could be applied with equal or greater force to the other Western European colonizing powers),

A slave is ultimately a man spared in war; a man whom you might kill, but whom you prefer to keep, in order to make him work for you.

It is abundantly clear, if one considers the question, that this has historically been the position of most of the subject races in the British Empire. And it is in a sense their condition still. Those whom we cannot utilize we exterminate; those whom we can utilize we protect, and often enable to increase in numbers.
(1900, p. 152)

Obafemi Awolowo was equally clear in describing the British invasion of Nigeria,

Britain ... sought to impose her rule on the various tribes that inhabited the country in order to attain her own selfish ends.

There was... no question of trusteeship. This was the result of a later compunction of conscience which usually dawns on