Sunday, May 06, 2018

The deepening

Sometimes you hear people say that we live in a post-industrial society. I'm not so sure. It seems to me that we are pushing toward a deeper - a more raw - stage of industrial society.

There was, of course, an intense stage of industrialisation in the 1800s. But at the same time there were efforts to at least contain its impact on society.

For instance, men were subject to the demands of industry during working hours. But often their wives and children were not. The family home was supposed to be a haven from the demands and values of the industrial world.

There was a deliberate effort, also, to establish garden suburbs. And, over time, working hours for men were reduced. As early as 1856, workers in Melbourne began to enjoy an eight hour working day.

There was a time too when "slow leisure pursuits" were popular. People read poetry, spent time in the garden, went on picnics, spent a day at the cricket or fishing at the river.

So, although industrialisation had a major effect on culture and society, there were still spaces in which the logic of industrial organisation didn't penetrate.

Great Britain became a world superpower, in part, because it was the first to industrialise. It's noteworthy that other self-disciplined and ambitious nations, such as Germany and Japan, recognised the need to modernise their economies along similar lines.

When you look at Japan, you see a somewhat different path. The Japanese did not mitigate industrialisation the same way the the British did, with garden suburbs or with leisure time. Their industrial cities were concrete jungles and their men were expected to be work warriors.

They did, however, for a period of time attempt to fuse certain more traditional values with industrialisation. It was thought masculine to be a successful work warrior and to support a family with long hours of work. It was also thought to be patriotic to contribute to building up the Japanese economy.

It's possible that this intense industrialisation explains some of Japan's social ills. Japan may not have committed to liberalism as deeply as the Anglosphere countries, but they did commit in a raw way to the industrial organisation of society. Does this help to explain some of the decline in the Japanese family even in the absence of a strong feminist movement? The failure of some young men to commit to society?

Here in Australia we seem to be following down the Japanese path in the sense that there is no longer the same effort to offset the effects of industrial organisation. Some observations:

1. The family is not as much a haven from work as it once was. The advice to women in the 1950s and 60s to prepare a comfortable and relaxing home for their husbands to return to work from is now mocked. With women increasingly at work themselves, men are now expected to keep working when at home. With a high rate of divorce, family is no longer the centre of stable values as a counterpoint to the world of work.

2. On a related note, now that many women are at work, it is harder for men to conceive their work role in terms of family or masculinity. For instance, a man who worked in an office could have once thought to himself that his efforts at work were not dedicated to "the office" but to his role as a husband and father supporting a family and creating a protected space for a culture of family life to flourish. Now, though, he is more likely to be drawn into a corporate culture, in which his efforts at work are connected directly to his corporate role and identity, rather than to something beyond them.

3. There is a trend for the more ambitious kind of young woman to give up on motherhood. Such women are already living a pressured lifestyle at work and find it difficult to imagine taking on the extra duties and responsibilities of raising children. And, more than this, the lifestyle associated with modern, urban, industrial society is one of long hours at work, followed by and justified by, certain trappings of the "good life" such as dining out, travel, designer clothes, shopping and so on - a lifestyle that would be cramped by motherhood. The dramatic drop in the birthrate seen in the "raw" industrial societies of Japan and Germany is likely to happen here as well,  especially among middle-class women.

4. There is the beginning of a trend for workplaces to act as de facto families. When I worked in Japan it was common for the entire staff to holiday together - that was how strong the work relationships were supposed to be. I haven't heard of this happening in Australia, but, with the decline of family, work is starting to be the main source of personal relationships for some people, and some businesses are beginning to take on a paternal role in staff well-being. A friend of mine has been applying for work recently and he told me how he was put off some workplaces because they struck him as being cult-like - as requiring a commitment that went beyond the professional and into the personal.

5. We are also following the Japanese path in building more congested urban spaces. The Japanese have a sense of themselves as lovers of nature, but modern life seems to have largely cancelled this out, and the same appears to be happening to Anglo culture.

6. The increase in leisure hours stalled in the 1970s. The picture here is not clear-cut, as work stress will depend on the circumstance of each family. In a family where both husband and wife are working-full time, as well as raising children, time pressure will be relatively high; on the other hand, there has been a rise in part-time work during this period. What seems generally true, though, is that people are less committed to leisure pursuits that bring them back to a more traditional pace of life that connects them to nature or to the arts (and, perhaps, to religion). Anglo society has moved closer to that fast paced, mass, urban culture that, unsurprisingly, was thought characteristic of life in Berlin during its period of industrial modernisation, and that was certainly part of Japanese culture when I lived there in the 1990s.

The larger point I am making in all this is that it may not be enough to challenge the liberal ideology that dominates the Western political classes. Even if this ideology was overthrown, traditional values would still be compromised within a society organised wholly along industrial lines.

If the individual is to be fitted to the most productive purposes within an industrial system, without limit, then not much will remain of a traditional culture. We do need to think through how best to respond to this problem.

Personally, I don't favour the nineteenth century approach of shielding women and children in the home, whilst subjecting men to industrialisation. Even if successful (i.e. in preserving family values as a counterpoint to an industrial culture), this only preserves the domestic aspect of life, at the expense of the larger civilisational commitments that men should ordinarily have.

I don't know if it's economically feasible, but I would prefer a dual system for men - to spend part of the week in an industrial role and another part in a "community" one set apart from both family and bread-winning responsibilities.

Another option would be to try to limit some of the unnecessary financial burdens in modern life (the high cost of housing, education and taxation) and to encourage men to achieve financial independence, allowing them a greater freedom to order their lives according to non-industrial criteria.

These are only musings at this stage, the important point being that you cannot curtail men's lives to the effort to survive within an industrial workplace and then expect the resulting culture to be imbued with traditionalist values relating to the distinct role of a father within a family, or to a man's role in leading his community or in contributing to his larger tradition.


  1. I'm unsure if we can say that women and children were excluded from the industrial workforce. While married women left the workforce upon marriage/childbirth, the textile industry was and still is predominantly female. It also took more than a century to eliminate child labor from the UK. The practice of "spousal abandonment" was somewhat common back then as well.

    Some "professional class" workplaces in the US have tried to generate "community building" activities among workers, but it is widely satirized. Japan is a bit different than the West due to the "lifetime employment" practice. Most bicoastal professionals in the US will move to several cities during their career and working for 10+ years in the same company is highly uncommon due to "up-or-out".

    I'm not sure why Germany has lower fertility than for example France, at least on paper Germany is a more religious society with higher living standards and lower unemployment. The Nordic countries also have higher fertility, but more feminism and nil Catholics. Perhaps they do emphasize work too much, but they work less hours than demographically similar US whites and receive more benefits. Possibly because Germans like prostitutes while the French prefer mistresses?

    South Korea has the highest working hours of developed countries and an abysmally low fertility rate. It also is more macho than any country except perhaps Israel, thanks to mandatory male conscription. The current leftist SK President is a special forces veteran.

    This is an interesting topic that I hope you write more about.

  2. I work in a large Australian professional services firm.

    It seems common for the new graduates on our office to go on overseas holidays together (this is of course in between their frequent individual short overseas excursions). A cult-like atmosphere is encouraged here by the HR team. Long hours are typical.

    Interestingly, my parents used to go on camping holidays with my father's workmates. My father worked in emergency services and was Anglo-irish. He liked relaxing with "blokes cut from the same cloth". I remember they had a strong camaraderie. But that is missing in my work environment, which is dominated by subtle competition all the time.

  3. Another option would be to try to limit some of the unnecessary financial burdens in modern life

    It would be helpful if people could be persuaded that many of these financial burdens are unnecessary. Most people have an inflated and unrealistic idea of what constitutes the necessities of life. Maybe we don't need quite so many consumer goods.

    the high cost of housing, education and taxation

    As a society we need to move away from the idea that the more money you spend on education the better the results.

  4. Driverless cars operated on the Uber model would go a long way to making car ownership superfluous in large cities, and we could see a significant reduction in congestion.

    Consumerism is a tough nut to crack, most Boomer right-liberals won't even boycott Starbucks. Tell an upper-middle class Boomer parent that their kid should perhaps not go to might see them burst blood vessels.

  5. "I don't know if it's economically feasible, but I would prefer a dual system for men - to spend part of the week in an industrial role and another part in a "community" one set apart from both family and bread-winning responsibilities.

    Another option would be to try to limit some of the unnecessary financial burdens in modern life (the high cost of housing, education and taxation) and to encourage men to achieve financial independence, allowing them a greater freedom to order their lives according to non-industrial criteria."

    Chesterton/Belloc and others would claim that the capitalist-industrialist system is antithetical to such goods.

  6. Japan, like its close neighbour South Korea, is a pagan economic slave state. Europe's industrialisation was modified by Christianity. The Churches limited capitalism and initially most businesses were family owned which limited their expansion.

    Modern capitalism is fueled by two important forces; the decline of Christianity and consequent descent into paganism and the collapse of the family business into large corporations owned by anonymous institutional shareholders or the state which demand a constant flow of profits and seek monopolistic status within their operational markets.

    Both paganism and the large corporation lead to economic slavery.

    The only escape from this scenario, is a return to Christianity and the abolition of the current financial model of company ownership.

    1. South Korea is about 30% Christian. In observance it is probably higher than the UK.

  7. It was credit-based capitalism that destroyed the West, not socialism. It is very hard for Anglos or Australians to understand this. A little too late now.

    1. It was credit-based capitalism that destroyed the West, not socialism.


      It is very hard for Anglos or Australians to understand this.

      Almost impossible. The problem is that so many "conservatives" in the West (especially in the US) are still obsessed about the menace of those goddamn commie pinkos. They truly believe the enemy is Marxism.

    2. Last I checked Marx's 200th birthday was cheered on by leading EU politicians and the New York Times. Democratic Socialists of America is now the most popular political club on US college campuses.

      Elites might be the bigger threat, but Marx and his followers will always be an enemy.

    3. Hello
      Would you mind expanding on this for my knowledge? I'm curious. Or could you recommend a book?

    4. Elites might be the bigger threat, but Marx and his followers will always be an enemy.

      Marx has no more than a tiny handful of followers today. The idiots celebrating Marx's birthday are not Marxists in any way, shape or form.

  8. This journal entry Mark's another way-point in men's descent from manhood. What will we realize that we've done to ourselves next, or will do to ourselves next?
    Where can we take our children to show them men fully formed in tradition? Any where other than old, mostly black and white movies?
    We're evolving all right. Like Darwin's ironic and telling title; The Descent of Man, we are descending from apes or from traditional men. It seems that we aren't actually ascending as men. Should I look to my ape or Neanderthal heritage for some back bone? Were they smarter or dumber when it came to male/female dynamic? Who was hitting on who, is my question. (Anyone see Defending the Cave Man, a one-man show by Rob Becker? He has a few answers.)
    Maybe we're close to the mocking "very manly, virile, manful person, and firm believer in strict discipline, corporal punishment, and nude apartment wrestling" of Captain Ned aboard the Raging Queen, as portrayed by a live John Belushi back in the 70s; "manly men, doing manly things, in manly ways" for months alone at sea.
    When exactly, did Western men cave in? Was it when they heard that whiteness was a recessive trait? That nature had ordered them out of Africa to prepare the world for the ascent of their women and the sexually confused? Men have done everything to themselves. Men, as a manhood, long ago subordinated their authority over the sphere of their own manhood, and over manhood in general.
    This century may be known as the century of the engineer, for the ongoing science and technology revolutions evolving in our material world. Today that's still mostly men. Will that last as a bastion of maleness? (No, or I doubt it. I attended a University of Maryland Engineering school function that was half female and half geek.) It may also be known as the century of the female, since men have so dramatically neutered themselves.
    Is this really where we are? Or, is God going to snap His finger and wake men up?
    I heard at the water cooler that the new demiurge is a lesbian.

  9. MM, I take it you are referring to usury and fractional reserve banking (e.g.). Fine, but it is the runaway success of a strictly utilitarian (not moral or spiritual) endeavor like credit-based capitalism that can invite parasitic ideologies like socialism to show up later and become established.

    Economic success and generations living in peace cradle-to-grave peace have dulled our senses and made us vulnerable to ideas that we think will fill the empty space inside us. The latter is what any system seeks to "capitalize on" in order to win.

    As another commenter noted, Christianity provides answers both for the empty feeling problem and socio-economic worriment.

    Perhaps you do not see socialism as having done very much damage because it is still losing in competition with capitalism. Yet ideas that lead to tyranny or destruction are still bad things, regardless of the processes that enabled their establishment.