This and That around the Society William Morris Wanted to Create
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 Is Growing Productivity Almigty?                       22/10/2015

  I saw how much waste we produce now. Historically its origin lies at the nineteenth century when our productive capacity shot up, as I argued in the previous section. At that period each manufacturer tried to make as many products as possible individually, hoping that he was the one to sell most and gain best profits. They devised new means and tried to create new demands as well. Thus, productive force grew rapidly. Never ending circle of supply and demand started rolling.

  Some would say this development of productive forces is necessary for human progress although it has some side effects, and that Morris’s utopia was just a grumble of the old man who could not catch up with a new society. Industrial Revolution and much-increased productivity was certainly an inevitable consequence of our history. It is true that people have been desperately running along with it since that time. However, when we consider the current situation that our consumerism and waste hurts us and our planet, is it a time now to reflect upon what it brought? In order to do this, I’ve found an interesting comment made by G. D. H. Cole, a renowned political theorist in the twentieth century. He admired Morris, while he saw mass production not only necessary but also desirable. I will discuss this issue, rephrasing my thesis.

  In his lecture William Morris as a Socialist in 1957, G. D. H. Cole said “from the day when I first read News from Nowhere my socialist convictions have remained firmly fixed”. Still he was dubious about the quality of Morris’s proposals in News from Nowhere, saying “I was of course aware, even from the first, that News from Nowhere had to be taken as a personal vision of a good society and not as a prophecy of what could come about in my own day or indeed ever, in any complete achievement of mankind”. Cole thought that Morris’s utopia was outdated in the twentieth century because it would not meet the people’s growing wants. Cole argued: “over a large part of the field, mass production will have to be continued for a long time”. He also added, “as far as we can see, there will be a shortage in the world of consumer goods to satisfy everybody’s actual wants, it does not follow that the right course is to subordinate everything else to the quest for higher output”.

  I must say that this was the attitude of the period. When Cole claimed this, many countries were recovering from the aftermath of World War II, and their economies were growing. Modern equipment was introduced and people were eager to have it. Indeed mass production enabled many people in developed countries to have more and more or developing countries such as Japan to recover from the ruin. However, the drive to possess more has been accelerated and changed our mindset completely. Now we face huge waste we can hardly manage. Something must be wrong.

  Cole died in 1959 and did not see the result of the never ending pursuit to satisfy consumer appetites half a century later. So it is probably unfair to him to say this, still Cole’s endorsement of mass production does not stand the test of time. The push for continuous mass production has brought us to a dead-end. Contrary to Cole’s criticism of Morris, Morris’s call for a simple but an aesthetic life for all sheds new light on tackling the saturation of goods in developed countries and the shortage of basics in developing countries. Productive power should be used fairly for the well-being of all, even if it means downsizing and altering the lifestyles of privileged peoples or countries.

  Of course I do not think that Cole endorsed mass production for its own sake. As a socialist, his intention must have been to bring economic equality to all and to calculate on meeting needs set by industrial production and consumption. Indeed this was the approach that most socialists took ? except Morris. However, in the light of the crisis we now face, is this approach feasible? Imagine whether we could raise the living standard of the world’s population, for instance, to the level of an average Japanese citizen who generates 320kg waste in one year. If we could ever manage to do it, it would strangle us and all other living things on this planet.

  This is why I think we must go back to what Morris was calling for ? simple but beautiful life in accordance with Nature and work not as toil for money but as the expression of pleasure for all the people on earth!

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