Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton

Hitherto, developments naturally tended to centralize industry in huge establishments. This was absolutely necessary to heavy industries such as steel manufacture. It was done to reduce cost, but it was also done irrespective of the human factor involved. It promotes neither mental nor physical health for people to live dreary diurnal lives under a smoky sky and work in factories where giant machines pound at their nerves. The owner-worker--that is, the little capitalist who labours for himself, the workman who prefers independence, and the peasant with a small land-holding--each of these has a right to exist. Under a wiser arrangement he could still do so without having to compete with the owners of factories, for he could collaborate with them.

A nation ought not to abandon itself to the hypnotic glamour of gigantic factories for the mass machine production of huge quantities of goods. On the other hand, it need not abandon such factories for the medieval notion of making everything by hand. It could make in factories whatever is best made there, such as automobiles and pencils, but it ought to encourage hand manufacture wherever that will serve best. A balanced industrial economy is ideal and will require both the big manufacturing, assembling, and distributing units in cities and the decentralized cottage crafts in villages. Small parts such as components and accessories can be made in the village workshops, and larger articles such as heavy goods and mass productions in the former. If the old idea was to take the worker to a machine in the factory, the new idea will be to take the machine to a worker in his or her home. The principle of mass production can still be employed, the most modern machinery may still be used, and yet the worker may have his freedom and retain his individuality by making part or all of an article in surroundings and under conditions where he can still be himself. This has indeed been done for many years in Switzerland, where village workshops carry out many of the processes needed in that country's famous watch and clock making industry. Such a scheme, of course, could be applicable only where the worker lived in a cottage or house of his own and not where he lived in an apartment or tenement situated in a building housing several other apartments or tenements. It would be ideal for "garden cities," which ought in any case to represent the type preferred in future town planning. Small-scale industries should be regarded as complementary and not contradictory to large-scale ones. The value and practicability of this arrangement have been well demonstrated by wartime experience, when a great diffusion of subcontracting enabled stupendous programs to be completed on time.

Why should not the towns themselves be converted into "garden cities" where every family has its own little house and its own little garden surrounding that house? In the garden city, beauty and use have demonstrated under the test of time a happy and successful marriage. Nobody who has seen Letchworth and Welwyn in England, understood their significance and appreciated their worth, would again be satisfied with disorderly drift. There should be a feeling of space and air, a presence of green grass and leafy trees in the modern town. The garden city idea, which balances industrial, residential, and aesthetic needs, is the best for dealing with the problem of placing manufacturing plants and housing their workers. The Lever Brothers at Port Sunlight and the Cadburys at Bournville have shown how clean, artistic, individuality-preserving, and kindly the factory system can be made when those who administer it have taste and heart as well as minds.

Metropolitan towns exist already, however, and have become too indispensable a part of each nation's economy to be eliminated. The solution of the problem they pose is to turn part of them into a group of connected garden-city units, arranged like concentric circles around a common centre.

A metropolis like London or New York needs at least half its population transferred to a dozen different newly built garden cities set in the clean healthy spaciousness of the green countryside. When the size of towns is kept moderate, their streets will be quieter and the health, happiness, and outlook of their inhabitants better.

A proper relation must be found between town and country life, between existence in the large factories and in the little workshops. A healthy modern society will be neither excessively industrial nor exclusively agricultural. A well-balanced society will enable its members to choose their work from a wider set of activities than merely industrial or solely agricultural ones. The worth of a sane equilibrium between such antithetical factors of life as machine toil and hand toil needs remembering. The decentralization of advanced countries is only part of the answer to the evils associated with their present industrial economy. We must think out an economic structure which will still make use of people as human beings, even while they themselves are making use of machines.

-- Notebooks Category 13: Human Experience > Chapter 4: World Crisis > # 253

The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.