Arnold Toynbee.

Lectures on the industrial revolution of the 18th century in England : popular addresses, notes and other fragments online

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each other in modern civilisation, from societies for the salvation
of souls and the spread of the gospel among the heathen, down
to associations for the reform of bread, the promotion of early
rising, and the burial of dead cats ! It is hinted in these descrip-
tions that most modern societies are trivial and ridiculous, or mere
vexatious impediments to healthy individual action ; and a com-
parison is sometimes instituted between them and the mediaeval
guilds, much to their disadvantage. The criticism is not entirely
undeserved, nor the contrast entirely false. Putting aside great
commercial companies, which are avowedly associations of capital
trading for profit, we must, I think, admit that a large number of
modern organisations are simply aggregates of money, with trivial or
transient objects, instead of being, like the mediaeval guilds, living
groups of men animated by common principles of religious and
industrial faith, and united for the satisfaction of the great per-
manent needs of human life.

I shall not here pause to consider the reason of this difference,
but the comparison and the criticism will be of value if they lead
us to ask what is the real function of the innumerable associations
of the present age. A careful examination wiU prove that though
not a few are useless and ridiculous, the majority of them are the
legitimate products of the extraordinary variety of men's wants

1 This paper was read before the Co-operative Congress held at Oxford in
May 1882.

The Education of Co-operators. 223

and aims, which, under the complex conditions of modern social
life, it is beyond the power of the individual to satisfy or achieve.
The Animals Necropolis Company, to which I have alluded, seems
at first sight te he properly included under those societies which
are foolish and useless, but it is in reality a fair if quaint illustra-
tion of the truth of the assertion I have just made. The tender-
ness for animals as companions, the crowding together of dwellings
in great cities without a foot of vacant space, the strictness of
modern sanitary regulations, are facts which explain and justify
the existence of a society so apparently repugnant to common
sense. I must resist the temptation which here presents itself to
trace the genesis of other forms of existing associations, and content
myself with drawing your attention to one singular fact, viz., that a
considerable number of them are the direct creation of that State
interference against which many co-operators entertain a generous
prejudice. For this activity of modern legislation, which some
co-operators censure, has strengthened, and not weakened the
sense of moral responsibility and habits of voluntary co-operation.
For example, the laws which punish the adulteration of food
called into existence societies of master bakers, and of vendors of
milk, to enforce the penalties against fraudulent tradesmen, and
the laws which punish cruelty to animals gave birth to a society
for the prosecution of offenders, thus rendering possible the effec-
tive expression of a moral sentiment which would otherwise have
fretted in impotence.

If now we turn from modern associations in general to the
consideration of workmen's societies, we shall find that though
their aims cannot be described as transient or trivial, yet they too
are in character usually aggregates of money limited to a single
object, and making no attempt to embrace the whole of human
life. Building societies facilitate the purchase of dwellings.
Friendly societies make provision for sickness and death. Trades-
Unions have rather a wider scope, and seem more nearly to
resemble mediaeval guilds in character and purpose. To the out-
ward eye co-operative societies are smaller things than Trades-
Unions and of slighter significance. Their aims — the promotion
of thrift and the reduction of the cost of living — appear narrow
and uninteresting; their energies seem entirely absorbed in the
purchase of chests of tea and sacks of flour, and the ordinary

2 24 The Education of Co-operators.

coarse necessaries of daily life. Nor are their members (I fchii
ia such close contact as those of a Union ; the majority of th
are often as unknown to each other as the shareholders in a gi
railway, and there are few opportunities of intercourse besi
the quarterly meetings or the managing committee. A dee
scrutiny, however, shows that though not endowed with
fervent united life of the mediaeval guilds, co-operative societies,
the possession of large ideals, approach nearer to them in real
than do Trades-Unions, which have a closer outward resemblar
I do not mean to disparage Trades-Unions, nor to assert that tl
have not moral aims because they have not large ideals; bu'
am inclined to think that the spirit which breathes in the f
inscription on the banner of the Glovers of Perth in the sevi
teenth century, " The perfect honour of a craft or beauty of a tr;
is not in wealthe but in moral worth, whereby virtue ga
renowne," is more characteristic of co-operative societies than
any association formed in any particular modern trade. Trad
Unions which accept the facts of the present industrial syste
and are engaged in a hand-to-hand fight with capitalists, have
time to indulge in dreams that are natural to bodies of n
whose aim is the radical transformation of the entire conditions
industrial life.

For we know that, however seemingly immersed in the pe
business of the shop co-operators may be, their real aim £
their real determination is to put an end to competition £
the division of men into capitalists and labourers — an aim e
determination which again remind us of the mediaeval guiJ
where labour and capital were associated, and competition held
abhorrence. It is this large spirit, this resolute refusal to ace
the present state of society as final, which marks off co-operat
from all other movements, and gives to it an interest whicli
unique. I know it is said that " the one loud and universal sh
of social regeneration," raised by Eobert Owen, has, not only to
undiscerning ear but in reality, sunk into a mere debate ab
dividends ; but this we will not allow to be true. The ideal
Eobert Owen had to run the course of other ideals ; it had to
that it might live. " That which thou sowest is not quicke:
except it die ;" the co operative ideal had to be cast into the soi
material prosperitj', in order that it might spring up into a i

The Education of Co-operators. 225

and more powerful life. The very fact that the subject I have to
discuss to-day is the subject of education shows that the ideal is
quickened, and is taking practical shape.

It may, however, be fairly asked why I have devoted so much
time to the discussion of the general aim of co-operation, and the
difference between mediaeval and modern societies, instead of pro-
ceeding at once to consider the subject assigned to me ? I reply
that, as a matter of fact, directly I began to deal with that subject
I foimd myself forced to determine what the exact work of co-
operative societies is among the crowd of associations that catch
our eye on every side ; and my inquiry at least brought out one
point very clearly, namely, that though they differ from other
societies by the possession of an ideal aim, yet they do not attempt
to cover the whole range of human life. Now if this be true, it is
obvious that co-operation can only claim a part of education as its
province, and that my business is to ascertain what that part
should be.

The absence of any definite conception on this point will per-
haps explain the hesitating and uncertain action of co-operators
in regard to education and the small fraction of money they have
hitherto devoted to it. Seeing that education is the function, not
of one but of many associations, co-operators have had difficulties
in deciding what their exact relation to it ought to be. Ele-
mentary education is provided by the State; intermediate edu-
cation is met by the old foundations in their reformed character,
and by the new high schools ; what is called the higher education
will be one of the principal functions of the university colleges
which are springing up in the great towns. No one proposes that
co-operators should venture to grapple with the seven times heated
problem of religious education: that task must be abandoned to
the Churches ; but the fact that it is impossible for co-operators to
adopt a distinct religious creed is again a point of difference
between them and the mediaeval guilds which is oi deep signifi-
cance. As regards technical education, it at first sight might seem
admirably fitted for co-operators to undertake, but I believe it will
be found that technical schools established by employers or by
Government for each particular trade will do the work far better
than could societies whose members are drawn from every trade. .

What part of education then is left for co-operators to appro-


2 26 The Education of Co-operators.

priate ? The answer I would give is, the education of the citizen.
By this I mean the education of each member of the community,
as regards the relation in which he stands to other individual
citizens, and to the community as a whole. But why should co-
operators, more than any one else, take up this part of education?
Because co-operators, if they would carry out their avowed aims,
are more absolutely in need of such an education than any other
persons, and because if we look at the origin of the co-operative
movement we shall see that this is the work in education most
thoroughly in harmony with its ideal purpose.

We all know what the circumstances were under which co-
operation arose, and a hurried glance at the main features of the
great industrial revolution of a hundred years ago will be sufScient
to remind us of the nature of the problem with which Eobert Owen
had to grapple. The slowly dissolving framework of mediaeval
industrial life was suddenly broken in pieces by the mighty
blows of the steam-engine and the power-loom. With it disap-
peared, like a dream, those ancient habits of social union and
personal affection which had lingered on in the quiet homesteads
where master and apprentice worked side by side at the loom and
in the forge. Industry was dragged from cottages into factories
and cities ; the operative who laboured in the mUl was parted from
the capitalist who owned it ; and the struggle for the wealth which
machinery promised withered the old bonds of mutual trust, and
made competition seem a new and terrible force. Of the innumer-
able evils which prevailed in this age of confusion, Owen fixed his
eyes on two — isolation and competition : and to restore the ideas
of brotherhood and citizenship, which had been trampled under
foot, he proposed the formation of self-complete communities, with
property in common, and based upon the principle of equal associa-
tion and the pursuit of a moral life. The societies actually formed
were not successful, but the aim of their founder is still the aim of
the co-operative societies of the present day. Their task, however,
is a more difficult one than Owen's, for whilst he bade men retire
from the world and regain the idea of brotherhood in the life of
small independent communities, co-operators are content that men
should remain in the world, and seek to make them good citizens
of the great community of the English people. Owen, in fact,
would have replaced the isolation of individuals by the isolation

The Education of Co-operators. 227

of groups, ■which was to go back instead of to advance. The com-
pact, close-knit life of the towns and guilds of the middle ages had
to be broken up in order that the inhabitants of this island might
, become one nation. A great writer who brooded over the same
problem that filled the mind of Eobert Owen has cast a glance of
regret upon the life of which the mediaeval castle was the centre ;
but the isolation typified by the mediaeval castle was infinitely
greater than that suggested by the long rows of artisans' dwellings
upon which its ruins look down, for it was the isolation of men
united in close bonds by the spirit of aggression and the fear of
violence ; and it is the disappearance of the evils that produced
•union in the past which makes possible the seeming estrangement
in which men now live. That estrangement is the price we have
paid for national life and for individual independence ; the problem
for us is not to re-create union at the cost of national life, but to
reconcile the union of individuals with national life ; not to pro-
duce union at the cost of independence, but to reconcile union with

Further, the workman is now not only independent, he shares
likewise in the government of the State ; yet at the very time that
this responsibility is laid upon him he has entered upon conditions
of industrial life which seem to exhaust his energies and dull his
intelligence. A law of political development has slowly raised
him from the position of a serf to that of a citizen ; a law of
industrial development has degraded him, by division of labour,
from a man into a machine. These are the difficulties we have to
face: the complicated character of modern citizenship and the
deadening effect of minute subdivision of labour ; and these it is
which make the education of which I speak, the education of the
citizen in his duties as a citizen, indispensable.

I shall draw, only in outline, a scheme for such citizen-educa-
tion, it being my desire to prove to co-operators that they should
undertake this work, rather than to discuss in detail what such
education should be. The following is a sketch of the principal
subjects which ought to be dealt with : —

I. Political Education. — 1. A description of existing political
institutions in England, loca,l and central. 2. The history of these
political institutions in England. 3. The history of political ideas,
as found in -the great writers, such as Burke or De Tocqueville.

2 28 The Education of Co-operators.

4. The political relations of England to other countries and to her

II. Industrial Education. — 1. A description of the present in-
dustrial system in England, and the main causes of the production
and distribution of wealth. 2. A history of industrial institutions,
e.g. the mediaeval guilds, the Poor-Law, and Trades-Unions. 3. A
history of the material condition of the working classes. 4. The
history of social ideas, and of schemes of social reform.

III. Sanitary Education. — The duties of citizens in relation to
the prevention of the spread of disease.

You wiU observe that the whole scheme is framed, not with
reference to the education of the individual man, but of the citizen,
with a view of showing what are his duties to his fellow-men, and
in what way union with them is possible. The mere vague impulse
in a man to do his duty is barren without the knowledge which
enables him to perceive what his duties are, and how to perform
them ; and it seems to me that only through associations like yours
can an efi&cient citizen-education be given to the great masses of
the working people. Men who still dream of the reconstruction of
industrial life by the union of capital and labour will recognise at
once that this education is the necessary preliminary to any such

Several objections to the proposal will, however, occur to every
one. Is there not a danger of political science being made a vehicle
of partisan virulence ? Is there not a danger that the attempt to
deal with the perilous passing questions of the hour may sow divi-
sion amongst co-operators? I answer that it is no doubt difficult to
handle the sensitive living interests of human beings in the same
neutral and disinterested spirit in which it is so easy to approach
the facts of physical science. But just because" the matter requires
a larger spirit than that of men swayed by the ordinary petty con-
siderations of a party or a class, is it one which co-operators, who
seek to win such a spirit, should be eager to undertake. It is for
them, above all others, to prove that men's deepest interests are
not the peculiar possession of factions and parties, but the rightful
inheritance of every citizen.

But again, it may be objected, that even if co-operators were
willing to adopt such subjects as part of their education, there are
few teachers with the requisite impartiality of mind and width of

The Education of Co-operators. 229

knowledge. I do not think this objection a weighty one. In the
ranks of co-operators themselves, and in the Universities, there are,
I am convinced, persons who have studied political and social
questions with all the keenness of partisans, but without their
prejudice. The fact that these men will often, of course, have
reached definite practical conclusions will not destroy their influence
as scientific teachers. Another objection is that the expense of
providing lecturers of this stamp would be greater than co-operators
would be willing to incur. I do not deny that the cost might be
considerable, but I think that if you adopt the suggestion thrown
out by Professor Stuart, in his address at Gloucester (p. 23), that
a Central Board should appoint lecturers to certain districts within
which they should move from town to town, you would reduce the
cost to a sum which co-operators ought not to grudge.

The greatest obstacle, in my opinion, to the success of the plan
would not be the difficulty of finding competent teachers nor the
greatness of the expense, but the apathy of co-operators themselves
in the acquisition of knowledge. The difficulty of persuading
workmen to listen to anything which does not concern pleasure or
profit has long been acknowledged, and is, I think, even stronger
than it used to be. Let me give you an example from the writings
of one who was himself a workman, and spent the best years of his
life in ardent and daring advocacy of the workman's cause.
Speaking of the eager groups of artisans who could be seen
discussing political questions forty years ago, Thomas Cooper
remarks, with bitterness, in his autobiography : " Now you will see
no such groups in Lancashire. But you will hear well-dressed
working men talking, as they walk with their hands in their
pockets, of 'co-ops.,' and their shares in them, or in building
societies. And you will see others, like idiots, leading small
greyhound dogs, covered with cloth, in a string ! They are about
to race, and they are betting money as they go ! And yonder
comes another clamorous dozen of men, cursing and swearing, and
betting upon a few pigeons they are about to let fly ! As for their
betting on horses — like their masters ! — it is perfect madness. . . .
Working men had ceased to think, and wanted to hear no
thoughtful talk; at least, it was so with the greater number of
them." We may, perhaps, allow something for the disposition of
an old man to praise the generation to which he belonged but I

230 The Education of Co-operators.

am sure that there are many workmen who could give similar
evidence. Of course one explanation is, that workmen are less
eager now about political and social questions, because they are
more prosperous, and this is the danger co-operators have to meet
— the danger that material comfort may diminish spiritual energy.
We ought, moreover, in fairness, to recognise that it is not
unnatural for men wearied by long hours of monotonous toil to
indulge in sports and coarse amusements ; that for them to devote
their scanty leisure to intellectual exertion requires extraordinary
efforts. But if political progress is not to end in political
degradation, the efforts must be made. Languor can only be
conquered by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can only be kindled by
two things : an ideal which takes the imagination by storm, and a
definite intelligible plan for carrying out that ideal into practice.
The plan I have ventured to hint at in this paper ; the ideal is
yours by inheritance — it is nothing less than that of brotherhood
and a perfect citizenship. We have abandoned, and rightly
abandoned, the attempt to realise citizenship by separating
ourselves from society ; we will never abandon the belief that it
is yet to be won amid the press and confusion of the ordinary
world in which we move. If, however, this great task is to be
accomplished, if co-operators are to arrive at a correct solution of
the social problems which are every day becoming more grave, if
workmen are to rightly exercise the unparalleled political power of
which they have become possessed, then they must receive a social
and political education such as no other institutions have offered,
and which I believe co-operative societies, by their origin and
their aims, are bound to provide.


. The State and Freedom. — Plato's Eepublic is the ideal of a
Greek state. In this ideal Plato does not introduce the distinction
of Church and State ; for to him Church and State are one. Let
us try and see, in the modern world, what the State is, what the
Church is, and what are their relations.

Man has two wants — freedom and religion. What is freedom ?
The power to do what I like. How do mankind obtain freedom ?
By the State, the organised power of the people. The visible
embodiment of the State are judges, magistrates, courts of law,
officers of justice, armed men. The primary function of the State
is to secure freedom by compulsion.

If we think for a moment of a great nation we shall under-
stand this. What is the picture which rises in the mind? A
picture of myriads of separate living beings spread over the face
of the land — thronging the streets of cities, tending sheep on
lonely hills, going down to the sea in ships, hewing coal in mines,
pondering in inner chambers, praying in churches — crossing eaqh
other's paths iq ceaseless motion — a picture of millions of men, each
doing what is right in his own eyes — thinking, preaching, sowing,
reaping, weaving. What makes this possible? The State. To
the eye of the senses these countless human beings move without
restraint : to the eye of the mind they move within a network of
compulsion. A web is cast around them within which they move,
without which they could not move. Break that web and the
picture vanishes; tumult unspeakable and bewilderment appear.
The order of motion ceases, the plough is left untouched in the
furrow, the sheep untended on the hills, the student closes his-
books, factories are ruined, arts and learning lost. That wonderful

' Notes of an Address delivered at a private meeting in Balliol College in
the spring of 1879.

232 The Ideal Relation

web of restraint is woven by the State ; within its meshes man
is safe, on breaking it he loses all. The primary function of the
State now is to secure freedom by compulsion. To Plato the
primary function of the State was io pu,t every man into his place;
to us it is freedom — to enable every man to find his place. There
is no mention of freedom in Plato's ideal State ; but the whole
history of Western Europe is the history of the effort to obtain it.
Freedom — the power to do what we like — a little thing it seems,
but it has been bought with a great price. Only to-day has free-
dom ceased to be the gospel of English life ; slowly has it been
realised. For long the State, instead of the guardian, was the
oppressor of freedom ; only to-day do we see a just and transfigured
State securing freedom for all.


Religion. — But this moving life-pageant that we behold, what
does it mean ? "What is the end of this freedom] slowly won
with tears? Eeligion alone gives the answer — religion the end
and bond of life. Man loved freedom that he might love God ; the
right use of freedom is religion. But what, cries man, is religion?
"What is the right use of freedom ? The ancient answer was — to
love God. But to love God, I must have faith in God — how shall
I have faith in God ? The beginning of religion is the cry of man
for a law of life to restrain his freedom. The consciousness of an
ideal self which includes the good of all, the consciousness of this
ideal enshrined within the temple of the mind gives the answer to
that cry. "When a man is aware of the presence of this ideal, the
first stage of faifh has come. The consciousness of an ideal is the
first stage, the recognition of this ideal as the shadow of God, the
beginning and end of all things, the eternal spirit of the universe,
is the second stage. Faith is complete when a man beholds this

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Online LibraryArnold ToynbeeLectures on the industrial revolution of the 18th century in England : popular addresses, notes and other fragments → online text (page 25 of 28)