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What are the chief obstacles in the way of the emergence, from out the present chaos, of this social element equipped, organized, educated, conscious of itself and of distinctive aims, in the next hundred years? In the first place there is the spirit of trade unionism, the conservative contagion of the old craftsmanship. Trade Unions arose under the tradition of the old order, when in every business, employer and employed stood in marked antagonism, stood as a special instance of the universal relationship of gentle or intelligent, who supplied no labour, and simple, who supplied nothing else. The interest of the employer was to get as much labour as possible out of his hirelings; the complementary object in life of the hireling, whose sole function was drudgery, who had no other prospect until death, was to give as little to his employer as possible. In order to keep the necessary labourer submissive, it was a matter of public policy to keep him uneducated and as near the condition of a beast of burden as possible, and in order to keep his life tolerable against that natural increase which all the moral institutions of his state promoted, the labourer – stimulated if his efforts slackened by the touch of absolute misery – was forced to devise elaborate rules for restricting the hours of toil, making its performance needlessly complex, and shirking with extreme ingenuity and conscientiousness. In the older trades, of which the building trade is foremost, these two traditions, reinforced by unimaginative building regulations, have practically arrested any advance whatever.26 There can be no doubt that this influence has spread into what are practically new branches of work. Even where new conveniences have called for new types of workmen and have opened the way for the elevation of a group of labourers to the higher level of versatile educated men,27 the old traditions have to a very large extent prevailed. The average sanitary plumber of to-day in England insists upon his position as a mere labourer as though it were some precious thing, he guards himself from improvement as a virtuous woman guards her honour, he works for specifically limited hours and by the hour with specific limitations in the practice of his trade, on the fairly sound assumption that but for that restriction any fool might do plumbing as well as he; whatever he learns he learns from some other plumber during his apprenticeship years – after which he devotes himself to doing the minimum of work in the maximum of time until his brief excursion into this mysterious universe is over. So far from invention spurring him onward, every improvement in sanitary work in England, at least, is limited by the problem whether "the men" will understand it. A person ingenious enough to exceed this sacred limit might as well hang himself as trouble about the improvement of plumbing.
If England stood alone, I do not see why each of the new mechanical and engineering industries, so soon as it develops sufficiently to have gathered together a body of workers capable of supporting a Trade Union secretary, should not begin to stagnate in the same manner. Only England does not stand alone, and the building trade is so far not typical, inasmuch as it possesses a national monopoly that the most elaborate system of protection cannot secure any other group of trades. One must have one's house built where one has to live, the importation of workmen in small bodies is difficult and dear, and if one cannot have the house one wishes, one must needs have the least offensive substitute; but bicycle and motor, iron-work and furniture, engines, rails, and ships one can import. The community, therefore, that does least to educate its mechanics and engineers out of the base and servile tradition of the old idea of industry will in the coming years of progress simply get a disproportionate share of the rejected element, the trade will go elsewhere, and the community will be left in possession of an exceptionally large contingent for the abyss.
At present, however, I am dealing not with the specific community, but with the generalized civilized community of a. d. 2000 – we disregard the fate of states and empires for a time – and, for that emergent community, wherever it may be, it seems reasonable to anticipate, replacing and enormously larger and more important than the classes of common workmen and mechanics of to-day, a large fairly homogeneous body – big men and little men, indeed, but with no dividing lines – of more or less expert mechanics and engineers, with a certain common minimum of education and intelligence, and probably a common-class consciousness – a new body, a new force, in the world's history.
For this body to exist implies the existence of much more than the primary and initiating nucleus of engineers and skilled mechanics. If it is an educated class, its existence implies a class of educators, and just as far as it does get educated the schoolmasters will be skilled and educated men. The shabby-genteel middle-class schoolmaster of the England of to-day, in – or a little way out of – orders, with his smattering of Greek, his Latin that leads nowhere, his fatuous mathematics, his gross ignorance of pedagogics, and his incomparable snobbishness, certainly does not represent the schoolmaster of this coming class. Moreover, the new element will necessarily embody its collective, necessarily distinctive, and unprecedented thoughts in a literature of its own, its development means the development of a new sort of writer and of new elements in the press. And since, if it does emerge, a revolution in the common schools of the community will be a necessary part of the process, then its emergence will involve a revolutionary change in the condition of classes that might otherwise remain as they are now – the older craftsman, for example.
The process of attraction will not end even there; the development of more and more scientific engineering and of really adaptable operatives will render possible agricultural contrivances that are now only dreams, and the diffusion of this new class over the country side – assuming the reasoning in my second chapter to be sound – will bring the lever of the improved schools under the agriculturist. The practically autonomous farm of the old epoch will probably be replaced by a great variety of types of cultivation, each with its labour-saving equipment. In this, as in most things, the future spells variation. The practical abolition of impossible distances over the world will tend to make every district specialize in the production for which it is best fitted, and to develop that production with an elaborate precision and economy. The chief opposing force to this tendency will be found in those countries where the tenure of the land is in small holdings. A population of small agriculturists that has really got itself well established is probably as hopelessly immovable a thing as the forces of progressive change will have to encounter. The Arcadian healthiness and simplicity of the small holder, and the usefulness of little hands about him, naturally results in his keeping the population on his plot up to the limit of bare subsistence. He avoids over-education, and his beasts live with him and his children in a natural kindly manner. He will have no idlers, and even grand-mamma goes weeding. His nett produce is less than the production of the larger methods, but his gross is greater, and usually it is mortgaged more or less. Along the selvage of many of the new roads we have foretold, his hens will peck and his children beg, far into the coming decades. This simple, virtuous, open-air life is to be found ripening in the north of France and Belgium, it culminated in Ireland in the famine years, it has held its own in China – with a use of female infanticide – for immemorable ages, and a number of excellent persons are endeavouring to establish it in England at the present time. At the Cape of Good Hope, under British rule, Kaffirs are being settled upon little inalienable holdings that must inevitably develop in the same direction, and over the Southern States the nigger squats and multiplies. It is fairly certain that these stagnant ponds of population, which will grow until public intelligence rises to the pitch of draining them, will on a greater scale parallel in the twentieth century the soon-to-be-dispersed urban slums of the nineteenth. But I do not see how they can obstruct, more than locally, the reorganization of agriculture and horticulture upon the ampler and more economical lines mechanism permits, or prevent the development of a type of agriculturist as adaptable, alert, intelligent, unprejudiced, and modest as the coming engineer.
Another great section of the community, the military element, will also fall within the attraction of this possible synthesis, and will inevitably undergo profound modification. Of the probable development of warfare a later chapter shall treat, and here it will suffice to point out that at present science stands proffering the soldier vague, vast possibilities of mechanism, and, so far, he has accepted practically nothing but rifles which he cannot sight and guns that he does not learn to move about. It is quite possible the sailor would be in the like case, but for the exceptional conditions that begot ironclads in the American Civil War. Science offers the soldier transport that he does not use, maps he does not use, entrenching devices, road-making devices, balloons and flying scouts, portable foods, security from disease, a thousand ways of organizing the horrible uncertainties of war. But the soldier of to-day – I do not mean the British soldier only – still insists on regarding these revolutionary appliances as mere accessories, and untrustworthy ones at that, to the time-honoured practice of his art. He guards his technical innocence like a plumber.
Every European army is organized on the lines of the once fundamental distinction of the horse and foot epoch, in deference to the contrast of gentle and simple. There is the officer, with all the traditions of old nobility, and the men still, by a hundred implications, mere sources of mechanical force, and fundamentally base. The British Army, for example, still cherishes the tradition that its privates are absolutely illiterate, and such small instruction as is given them in the art of war is imparted by bawling and enforced by abuse upon public drill grounds. Almost all discussion of military matters still turns upon the now quite stupid assumption that there are two primary military arms and no more, horse and foot. "Cyclists are infantry," the War Office manual of 1900 gallantly declares in the face of this changing universe. After fifty years of railways, there still does not exist, in a world which is said to be over devoted to military affairs, a skilled and organized body of men, specially prepared to seize, repair, reconstruct, work, and fight such an important element in the new social machinery as a railway system. Such a business, in the next European war, will be hastily entrusted to some haphazard incapables drafted from one or other of the two prehistoric arms… I do not see how this condition of affairs can be anything but transitory. There may be several wars between European powers, prepared and organized to accept the old conventions, bloody, vast, distressful encounters that may still leave the art of war essentially unmodified, but sooner or later – it may be in the improvised struggle that follows the collapse of some one of these huge, witless, fighting forces – the new sort of soldier will emerge, a sober, considerate, engineering man – no more of a gentleman than the man subordinated to him or any other self-respecting person…
Certain interesting side questions I may glance at here, only for the present, at least, to set them aside unanswered, the reaction, for example, of this probable development of a great mass of educated and intelligent efficients upon the status and quality of the medical profession, and the influence of its novel needs in either modifying the existing legal body or calling into being a parallel body of more expert and versatile guides and assistants in business operations. But from the mention of this latter section one comes to another possible centre of aggregation in the social welter. Opposed in many of their most essential conditions to the capable men who are of primary importance in the social body, is the great and growing variety of non-productive but active men who are engaged in more or less necessary operations of organization, promotion, advertisement, and trade. There are the business managers, public and private, the political organizers, brokers, commission agents, the varying grades of financier down to the mere greedy camp followers of finance, the gamblers pure and simple, and the great body of their dependent clerks, typewriters, and assistants. All this multitude will have this much in common, that it will be dealing, not with the primary inexorable logic of natural laws, but with the shifting, uncertain prejudices and emotions of the general mass of people. It will be wary and cunning rather than deliberate and intelligent, smart rather than prompt, considering always the appearance and effect before the reality and possibilities of things. It will probably tend to form a culture about the political and financial operator as its ideal and central type, opposed to, and conflicting with, the forces of attraction that will tend to group the new social masses about the scientific engineer.28…
Here, then (in the vision of the present writer), are the main social elements of the coming time: (i.) the element of irresponsible property; (ii.) the helpless superseded poor, that broad base of mere toilers now no longer essential; (iii.) a great inchoate mass of more or less capable people engaged more or less consciously in applying the growing body of scientific knowledge to the general needs, a great mass that will inevitably tend to organize itself in a system of interdependent educated classes with a common consciousness and aim, but which may or may not succeed in doing so; and (iv.) a possibly equally great number of non-productive persons living in and by the social confusion.
All these elements will be mingled confusedly together, passing into one another by insensible gradations, scattered over the great urban regions and intervening areas our previous anticipations have sketched out. Moreover, they are developing, as it were unconsciously, under the stimulus of mechanical developments, and with the bandages of old tradition hampering their movements. The laws they obey, the governments they live under, are for the most part laws made and governments planned before the coming of steam. The areas of administration are still areas marked out by conditions of locomotion as obsolete as the quadrupedal method of the pre-arboreal ancestor. In Great Britain, for example, the political constitution, the balance of estates and the balance of parties, preserves the compromise of long-vanished antagonisms. The House of Lords is a collection of obsolete territorial dignitaries fitfully reinforced by the bishops and a miscellany (in no sense representative) of opulent moderns; the House of Commons is the seat of a party conflict, a faction fight of initiated persons, that has long ceased to bear any real relation to current social processes. The members of the lower chamber are selected by obscure party machines operating upon constituencies almost all of which have long since become too vast and heterogeneous to possess any collective intelligence or purpose at all. In theory the House of Commons guards the interests of classes that are, in fact, rapidly disintegrating into a number of quite antagonistic and conflicting elements. The new mass of capable men, of which the engineers are typical, these capable men who must necessarily be the active principle of the new mechanically equipped social body, finds no representation save by accident in either assembly. The man who has concerned himself with the public health, with army organization, with educational improvement, or with the vital matters of transport and communication, if he enter the official councils of the kingdom at all, must enter ostensibly as the guardian of the interests of the free and independent electors of a specific district that has long ceased to have any sort of specific interests at all.29…
And the same obsolescence that is so conspicuous in the general institutions of the official kingdom of England, and that even English people can remark in the official empire of China, is to be traced in a greater or lesser degree in the nominal organization and public tradition throughout the whole world. The United States, for example, the social mass which has perhaps advanced furthest along the new lines, struggles in the iron bonds of a constitution that is based primarily on a conception of a number of comparatively small, internally homogeneous, agricultural states, a bunch of pre-Johannesburg Transvaals, communicating little, and each constituting a separate autonomous democracy of free farmers – slaveholding or slaveless. Every country in the world, indeed, that is organized at all, has been organized with a view to stability within territorial limits; no country has been organized with any foresight of development and inevitable change, or with the slightest reference to the practical revolution in topography that the new means of transit involve. And since this is so, and since humanity is most assuredly embarked upon a series of changes of which we know as yet only the opening phases, a large part of the history of the coming years will certainly record more or less conscious endeavours to adapt these obsolete and obsolescent contrivances for the management of public affairs to the new and continually expanding and changing requirements of the social body, to correct or overcome the traditions that were once wisdom and which are now obstruction, and to burst the straining boundaries that were sufficient for the ancient states. There are here no signs of a millennium. Internal reconstruction, while men are still limited, egotistical, passionate, ignorant, and ignorantly led, means seditions and revolutions, and the rectification of frontiers means wars. But before we go on to these conflicts and wars certain general social reactions must be considered.
We are now in a position to point out and consider certain general ways in which the various factors and elements in the deliquescent society of the present time will react one upon another, and to speculate what definite statements, if any, it may seem reasonable to make about the individual people of the year 2000 – or thereabouts – from the reaction of these classes we have attempted to define.
To begin with, it may prove convenient to speculate upon the trend of development of that class about which we have the most grounds for certainty in the coming time. The shareholding class, the rout of the Abyss, the speculator, may develop in countless ways according to the varying development of exterior influences upon them, but of the most typical portion of the central body, the section containing the scientific engineering or scientific medical sort of people, we can postulate certain tendencies with some confidence. Certain ways of thought they must develop, certain habits of mind and eye they will radiate out into the adjacent portions of the social mass. We can even, I think, deduce some conception of the home in which a fairly typical example of this body will be living within a reasonable term of years.
The mere fact that a man is an engineer or a doctor, for example, should imply now, and certainly will imply in the future, that he has received an education of a certain definite type; he will have a general acquaintance with the scientific interpretation of the universe, and he will have acquired certain positive and practical habits of mind. If the methods of thought of any individual in this central body are not practical and positive, he will tend to drift out of it to some more congenial employment. He will almost necessarily have a strong imperative to duty quite apart from whatever theological opinions he may entertain, because if he has not such an inherent imperative, life will have very many more alluring prospects than this. His religious conclusions, whatever they may be, will be based upon some orderly theological system that must have honestly admitted and reconciled his scientific beliefs; the emotional and mystical elements in his religion will be subordinate or absent. Essentially he will be a moral man, certainly so far as to exercise self-restraint and live in an ordered way. Unless this is so, he will be unable to give his principal energies to thought and work – that is, he will not be a good typical engineer. If sensuality appear at all largely in this central body, therefore, – a point we must leave open here – it will appear without any trappings of sentiment or mysticism, frankly on Pauline lines, wine for the stomach's sake, and it is better to marry than to burn, a concession to the flesh necessary to secure efficiency. Assuming in our typical case that pure indulgence does not appear or flares and passes, then either he will be single or more or less married. The import of that "more or less" will be discussed later, for the present we may very conveniently conceive him married under the traditional laws of Christendom. Having a mind considerably engaged, he will not have the leisure for a wife of the distracting, perplexing personality kind, and in our typical case, which will be a typically sound and successful one, we may picture him wedded to a healthy, intelligent, and loyal person, who will be her husband's companion in their common leisure, and as mother of their three or four children and manager of his household, as much of a technically capable individual as himself. He will be a father of several children, I think, because his scientific mental basis will incline him to see the whole of life as a struggle to survive; he will recognize that a childless, sterile life, however pleasant, is essentially failure and perversion, and he will conceive his honour involved in the possession of offspring.
Such a couple will probably dress with a view to decent convenience, they will not set the fashions, as I shall presently point out, but they will incline to steady and sober them, they will avoid exciting colour contrasts and bizarre contours. They will not be habitually promenaders, or greatly addicted to theatrical performances; they will probably find their secondary interests – the cardinal one will of course be the work in hand – in a not too imaginative prose literature, in travel and journeys and in the less sensuous aspects of music. They will probably take a considerable interest in public affairs. Their ménage, which will consist of father, mother, and children, will, I think, in all probability, be servantless.
They will probably not keep a servant for two very excellent reasons, because in the first place they will not want one, and in the second they will not get one if they do. A servant is necessary in the small, modern house, partly to supplement the deficiencies of the wife, but mainly to supplement the deficiencies of the house. She comes to cook and perform various skilled duties that the wife lacks either knowledge or training, or both, to perform regularly and expeditiously. Usually it must be confessed that the servant in the small household fails to perform these skilled duties completely. But the great proportion of the servant's duties consists merely in drudgery that the stupidities of our present-day method of house construction entail, and which the more sanely constructed house of the future will avoid. Consider, for instance, the wanton disregard of avoidable toil displayed in building houses with a service basement without lifts! Then most dusting and sweeping would be quite avoidable if houses were wiselier done. It is the lack of proper warming appliances which necessitates a vast amount of coal carrying and dirt distribution, and it is this dirt mainly that has so painfully to be removed again. The house of the future will probably be warmed in its walls from some power-generating station, as, indeed, already very many houses are lit at the present day. The lack of sane methods of ventilation also enhances the general dirtiness and dustiness of the present-day home, and gas-lighting and the use of tarnishable metals, wherever possible, involve further labour. But air will enter the house of the future through proper tubes in the walls, which will warm it and capture its dust, and it will be spun out again by a simple mechanism. And by simple devices such sweeping as still remains necessary can be enormously lightened. The fact that in existing homes the skirting meets the floor at right angles makes sweeping about twice as troublesome as it will be when people have the sense and ability to round off the angle between wall and floor.
So one great lump of the servant's toil will practically disappear. Two others are already disappearing. In many houses there are still the offensive duties of filling lamps and blacking boots to be done. Our coming house, however, will have no lamps to need filling, and, as for the boots, really intelligent people will feel the essential ugliness of wearing the evidence of constant manual toil upon their persons. They will wear sorts of shoes and boots that can be cleaned by wiping in a minute or so. Take now the bedroom work. The lack of ingenuity in sanitary fittings at present forbids the obvious convenience of hot and cold water supply to the bedroom, and there is a mighty fetching and carrying of water and slops to be got through daily. All that will cease. Every bedroom will have its own bath-dressing room which any well-bred person will be intelligent and considerate enough to use and leave without the slightest disarrangement. This, so far as "upstairs" goes, really only leaves bedmaking to be done, and a bed does not take five minutes to make. Downstairs a vast amount of needless labour at present arises out of table wear. "Washing up" consists of a tedious cleansing and wiping of each table utensil in turn, whereas it should be possible to immerse all dirty table wear in a suitable solvent for a few minutes and then run that off for the articles to dry. The application of solvents to window cleaning, also, would be a possible thing but for the primitive construction of our windows, which prevents anything but a painful rub, rub, rub, with the leather. A friend of mine in domestic service tells me that this rubbing is to get the window dry, and this seems to be the general impression, but I think it incorrect. The water is not an adequate solvent, and enough cannot be used under existing conditions. Consequently, if the window is cleaned and left wet, it dries in drops, and these drops contain dirt in solution which remain as spots. But water containing a suitable solvent could quite simply be made to run down a window for a few minutes from pinholes in a pipe above into a groove below, and this could be followed by pure rain water for an equal time, and in this way the whole window cleaning in the house could, I imagine, be reduced to the business of turning on a tap.
There remains the cooking. To-day cooking, with its incidentals, is a very serious business; the coaling, the ashes, the horrible moments of heat, the hot black things to handle, the silly vague recipes, the want of neat apparatus, and the want of intelligence to demand or use neat apparatus. One always imagines a cook working with a crimsoned face and bare blackened arms. But with a neat little range, heated by electricity and provided with thermometers, with absolutely controllable temperatures and proper heat screens, cooking might very easily be made a pleasant amusement for intelligent invalid ladies. Which reminds one, by-the-by, as an added detail to our previous sketch of the scenery of the days to come, that there will be no chimneys at all to the house of the future of this type, except the flue for the kitchen smells.30 This will not only abolish the chimney stack, but make the roof a clean and pleasant addition to the garden spaces of the home.
I do not know how long all these things will take to arrive. The erection of a series of experimental labour-saving houses by some philanthropic person, for exhibition and discussion, would certainly bring about a very extraordinary advance in domestic comfort even in the immediate future, but the fashions in philanthropy do not trend in such practical directions; if they did, the philanthropic person would probably be too amenable to flattery to escape the pushful patentee and too sensitive to avail himself of criticism (which rarely succeeds in being both penetrating and polite), and it will probably be many years before the cautious enterprise of advertising firms approximates to the economies that are theoretically possible to-day. But certainly the engineering and medical sorts of person will be best able to appreciate the possibilities of cutting down the irksome labours of the contemporary home, and most likely to first demand and secure them.
The wife of this ideal home may probably have a certain distaste for vicarious labour, that so far as the immediate minimum of duties goes will probably carry her through them. There will be few servants obtainable for the small homes of the future, and that may strengthen her sentiments. Hardly any woman seems to object to a system of things which provides that another woman should be made rough-handed and kept rough-minded for her sake, but with the enormous diffusion of levelling information that is going on, a perfectly valid objection will probably come from the other side in this transaction. The servants of the past and the only good servants of to-day are the children of servants or the children of the old labour base of the social pyramid, until recently a necessary and self-respecting element in the State. Machinery has smashed that base and scattered its fragments; the tradition of self-respecting inferiority is being utterly destroyed in the world. The contingents of the Abyss, even, will not supply daughters for this purpose. In the community of the United States no native-born race of white servants has appeared, and the emancipated young negress degenerates towards the impossible – which is one of the many stimulants to small ingenuities that may help very powerfully to give that nation the industrial leadership of the world. The servant of the future, if indeed she should still linger in the small household, will be a person alive to a social injustice and the unsuccessful rival of the wife. Such servants as wealth will retain will be about as really loyal and servile as hotel waiters, and on the same terms. For the middling sort of people in the future maintaining a separate ménage there is nothing for it but the practically automatic house or flat, supplemented, perhaps, by the restaurant or the hotel.