1937. The shift from home to workplace.


We have traded time at home for time at work. The result is that home is now the morning and evening utility, not a place we take creative pleasure in.

Economy serves the business world, owned be elites which is really the world of consumerism and the supporting infrastructure: accounting, computing, legal, service, police (and war).

Economics began as estate management by which Aristotle meant the whole thing, especially where people lived actual lives. From land to grain to cattle to slaves to family to community, but later economics became the management thinking for how to get more income from land, trade, manufacturing and finance for large landowners and later factory and finance owners.. At one point economics was conventionally called “the science of wealth”. “I need to know what to invest in” was not the need of the citizens but of a restricted elite.

The result is we have a vocabulary that supports a consumer economy: GDP, income, salary, investment, trade balance,, market. These are all aspects of consumerism: do people have enough money o buy the stuff we make for them? Economics is mostly interested in the flow of dollars from work to wages to buying to profit to investment. If it ain’t in that circle it doesn’t count. Economics does not much talk about the quality of life and the interactions of preferences. Identity economics looks to the dollar equity, not what people can do with it.

People used to live at home: whether mansion or cottage, and home was the center of family life and constructive crafts, children playing, adults making their space attractive and interesting and functional. Economics could have picked up at this point and made it much better.

But the economy split off the work projects and put these in factories and offices. People got up at home and left for work and came home tired.

The whole world has shifted from home to work and the pleasure of the home and its local community as places of creativity and relationships has fallen on hard times. Much of our social pathologies follow from the this split. The whole enterprise is a somewhat tuneable machine for producing wealth for those who have it.

Economics seems to have little interest in the resulting lack of quality of life. An alternative that did not survive the roaring 20’s was the Craftsman movement, “a democratic architecture for a democratic America,”

This splitting of work from home served the ex slave masters by having a system that approximated slavery. During the time people are being paid they are owned. Our “social capital” is bought by someone else. Good lives are subordinated to the economy.

If things are allowed to run to “natural”, no constraints, the stronger humans would eat the weaker.

We cannot go back to simple villages and cottages. But what is the goal forward? Certainly an assessment of what we have lost is a good place to start.



Laslett: The World we have Lost

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s