“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 labour from their hands than they were fitted by nature to perform…”
This quote, from “The Physical Deterioration of the Textile Workers”, ties in with our previous discussion of the potential dangers of a laissez-faire economy. The “avarice of masters” drives this type of economy by almost dehumanizing the working class. Those with power feel no guilt about the conditions their workers labor under; their only concern is the amount of money they can make or the amount of resources they can have produced. We heard from Marx and St. Simon about how an economy might collapse if this alienation of proletariat from bourgeoisie continues and expands. Furthermore, it seems as if the concern for the conditions of the laborers is exacerbated when people begin to realize the suffering of children in the factories and fields. This, seemingly, becomes the breaking point for many people, where the “masters” have pushed too hard. “…Prompted many to exact more labour…than they were fitted by nature to perform…” Though the economy does not collapse entirely, surely these essays helped to produce legislation preventing child labor soon thereafter. In fighting back, the working class demonstrates that such an economy cannot function if the workers aren’t provided proper rights and conditions while serving those in positions of power.
With the start of the Industrial Revolution and the use of new technology and machines, more came to be expected of workers. Using machines increased the output and efficiency that was possible in factories, however, the conditions and treatment of the workers were awful. This quote reflects the points of some of the previous readings – that the wealthy class must realize and gain knowledge about the lives and conditions of the poorer classes, in order to have a properly functioning society.
It is interesting to note the horrendous conditions and wearing down these workers were made to endure. They were treated just as any other piece of machinery: fully replaceable.
Marx took an odd approach to the issues he wrote about. Instead of attempting to reform the system, he claimed that it would never work and must be abandoned entirely. However, he makes the wrong assumption that man is wholeheartedly selfish. He believed that man could never be happy producing a good or providing a service for someone else when in fact many people now achieve a great sense of self-fulfillment from careers helping others.