by Shi Hong Chao, 2016, Southeastern University Doctoral Paper
by Mark Girouard
Pg. 102, about Venice
Venice also escaped the labour troubles which afflicted other Italian cities. A successful industry in both silk and woollen textiles started up there in the early sixteenth century, and researched its peak around 1600 by when Venice was producing considerably more cloth than Florence. But this was a late arrival. In the Middle Ages, however, Venice had the unique phenomenon of a work-force of, by 1423, 1600 people all working in the same place and for the same employer, instead of being minutely subdivided both as regards employers and place of work, as in the textile and other medieval industries. These were the workers in the Arsenal, a conglomeration of storehouses, workshops and shipbuilding yards which had been first constructed in 1104, had been much enlarged in the early fourteenth century, and which built and serviced the Venetian fleet.
Here, one might have thought, was further potential for trouble, but in fact the Arsenal workers never presented the slightest threat to the security of the state. Once again, their quiescence was partly achieved by giving them a prominent role in state functions. They provided Doge’s bodyguard, which carried his litter in processions, kept the crow in order with wooden clubs, and served as the crew for his great gilded barge, the Bucintoro.
But as much as anything the power of the nobility was due to their own cohesion, and to a life-style which played down individual leadership, or any cultivation of the personality, in favour of loyalty to their order and readiness for public service. Young Venetian nobles were indulgently allowed to let off a little steam, wear extravagant clothes and run around the town. But once they had sown their wild oats they were expected to be sober and hard-working.
by Christine Moll-Murata, from the book, Return of the Guilds, edited by Jan Lucassen, Tine De Moor and Jan Luiten van Zanden, pg. 213-247
- gongshangye tuanti
- Functions: hostels, hostels, restaurants, entertainment centres, and palces of reference for those seeking work
- Process of ‘formalisation’ of Suzhou guilds (by Qiu Pengsheng)
- Individual artisans or merchants mobilize colleagues on grounds of common home, religious beliefs, and the necessity of mutual help, to form a group. They raise funds for a meeting place and seek the recognition of local administration. In a second step, the group negotiates and formalizes measures for the protection and use of its common property.
- The origins of the Chinese guilds established in the 16th century can be found in associations of travelling merchants, aliens who with increased geographic mobility and trade between regions started to settle down nearer their sales markets. Such autonomous initiatives stand in stark contrast to earlier types of business associations (hang, zuo, tuan) which had been installed by order of the government since the 18th century.
- The new types of guilds from the 16th century onwards… was rather to regulate access and homogenize markets and opportunities for the benefit of their members, since private markets and interregional trade had expanded greatly during the late Ming.
- One of the first aims of such associations (new guilds) was to support each other with information and bypass local brokers and middlemen, and guilds most often formed huiguan and were based on the membership criterion of common geographic origin.
- A marked difference between Chinese and European guilds is the fact that it was not necessary to be a formally registered citizen of a particular city or place in order to become a guild member, but – at least for the huiguan type – it was necessary to belong to a particular place of origin.
- Functions and Internal Organisation
- Chinese (guilds) combined economic, social and religious functions.
- Economically, they regulated wages and prices and tried to secure monopolies in their territories by inclusion of all the actors in the trade. As a rule, guild regulations stipulated that rather than keeping newcomers out, everybody in the trade should be forced into guilds. Other important tasks were to secure access to raw materials and the training of the labour force.
- The economic role of the Chinese guilds has been interpreted in two divergent ways. One view is that they enabled merchants to make a profit by reducing transaction costs, the costs incurred through brokers for example, and therefore expedited trade and production. The other view is that by restricting the number of players and generally curbing competition, they impeded the free flow of trade and in due course stifled the rise of capitalism.
- The social functions of the guilds included the provision to members of welfare facilities such as communal cemeteries, elementary schools, and some relief of poverty, as well as municipal services such as firefighting, policing and maintenance of general infrastructure including streets and bridges… They might provide entertainment in the form of theatrical productions of processions for guild patrons.
- Religious: in Hankou for example, virtually every guild was a religious fraternity too (William Rowe)
- Qing guilds were organised into management boards: ‘rudimentary democrazy, authoritarianism and customary law’ (Peng Nansheng)
- In guilds of (large) size(s), directors and managers had to deal with financial matters and the allocation of expenses for building and maintenance of guild houses and other things such as cemeteries and schools, or arranging sacrifices, theatrical performances, plenary meetings, or banquets.
- Characteristics: guilds were local in character and field in operation; their general objective was to conserve the welfare of all the members of the respective groups; in the guild, the relationship between employers, employees, and apprentices was close and personal; the intention of the guilds was to limit unrestricted competition between members; they exerted solidarity against opposing bodies, such as other guilds, customers, or employers, and the administration, and they owned corporate property derived from contributions by the members. (John Burgess)
- Similarities with European guilds: economic. cultural and religious functions varied in expression rather than in substance, but the differences seemed greater in the fields of training, education, and qualification, and the inclusion or exclusion of artisans or merchants because of gender or geographic origin, and most conspicuously, the political and legal setting of the guilds.
- Relationship to the government
- Bradstock: craft guilds were sanctioned by local authorities, and that in fact their main rationale was to assist the government in the administration of commerce and crafts, and especially to control unruly elements.
- Peng Zeyi: intensified control of guilds by local governments in the mid-19th century
- Morse: ‘The guilds were never within the law: they grew up outside the law; and as associations they neither recognised the law nor claimed its protection.’
- Qing legislation does not include any provisions on guilds:
- Handicraft regulations (jiangzuo zeli) issued by the central government for the officials who managed state building and production contain no references to guilds, although the artisans recruited from the open market were certainly organized into guilds.
- Informal existence was possible.
- Regional variance
- William Rowe: more instances of government support for guilds
- All-Hankou Guild Confederation… not common in other Chinese cities with high concentrations of guilds
- Towards the 20th century
- Qing state: reforms… the need to foster commerce through the chambers of commerce. The government allowed the chambers to be organized and to have their leadership recruited from and elected by elite merchants
- After Qing: Republican governments in Peking and Naking tried to strengthen state control of commerce and industries and by their legislation gradually eliminated the traditional forms of association
- 1918 regulations on industrial and commercial association
- Establish new associations for industries and commercial branches which until then had had no associations
- Craft guild people… felt a crisis approaching – not only in the form of mechanization, but also the threat to their self-determination posed by the authorities.
- For skilled labourers, membership of the occupational guild was obligatory. The guilds collected fees, set levels of wages, an did not allow for individual wage agreements.
- The trade unions, mostly organised by the Communist Party or the Guomindant… supercede(d) completely the traditional ways of labour organisation
- Labour unions united several trade branches
- Power and decision-making structures in unions were more democratic (compared to) pre-existing guilds masters… decided among themselves questions of price fixing, wages, or hours of work.
- 1927 regulations on craft associations
- The new regulations formally put an end to the traditional craft guilds… they… should be reorganized and should then report to the authorities. That ruling was to be applied to all production enterprises, regardless of whether they were mechanized or handicraft manufacturers.
- Guilds in transition
- These new (trade) associations had less autonomy than the guilds
- Belonging to an association brought little or no benefit
- After the foundation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the last remaining traditional guilds were phased out.
- 19th century engineering: a movement from hands-on knowledge to the dominant authority of explicit knowledge
- The workshop seemed increasingly merely the means to establishing another institution: the workshop as a way station to the factory
- Machine culture
- The craftsman… appeared ever less a mediator and ever more an enemy of the machine
- These cultural and social changes remain with us. Culturally we are still struggling to understand our limits positively, in comparison to the mechanical; socially we are still struggling with anti-technologism; craftwork remains the focus of both.
The Mirror Tool: Replicants and Robots
- Two types of mirror tools: replicants and robots
The Enlightened Craftsman: Diderot’s Encyclopedia
- The energy for Enlightenment lay in (that) man could take greater control over his material circumstances.
- Immanuel Kant, who wrote in the September 30 issue of the Berlinische Monatsschrift of 1784: ‘‘Enlightenment is mankind’s exit from its selfincurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to make use of one’s own understanding without the guidance of another. Self-incurred is this inability, if its cause lies not in the lack of understanding but rather in the lack of resolution and the courage to use it without the guidance of another. Sapere aude! Have the courage to use your own understanding! is thus the motto of enlightenment.’’ The emphasis here is on the act of reasoning. Freedom in reasoning improves the mind by casting off childish certainties.
- Encyclopedia by Diderot from Paris: sought to get its readers out of themselves and into the lives of artisan craftsmen in order, next, to clarify good work itself.
- Sympathy rather than pity
- The replicant (machine) teaches nothing about salutary failure, but the robot … can. The replicant may stimulate reasoning about ourselves, about our own internal machinery. The more powerful, tireless robot may set the standard against which all human being fail.
- Diderot’s Encyclopedia plunged into this matter by acknowledging from the outset the most basic of human limits, those of language to encompass the workings of the human body, especially the craftsman’s body at work. Neither the worker nor the analyst of labor can really explain what’s happening. Engaging in the process of craft labor to inform himself, Diderot discovered a further limit, that of talent; he could not understand intellectually work he could not do well practically.
He had entered the robot’s dangerous lair, in which the machine’s ‘‘talents’’ provide a model of perfection against which human beings measure their own inadequacy.
- Only a generation after the Encyclopedia appeared, Adam Smith had concluded that machines would indeed end the project of enlightenment, declaring in The Wealth of Nations that in a factory ‘‘the man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations . . . generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become.’’ Diderot’s circle reached for another conclusion, which I would formulate as follows:
- The enlightened way to use a machine is to judge its powers, fashion its uses, in light of our own limits rather than the machine’s potential. We should not compete against the machine. A machine, like any model, ought to propose rather than command, and humankind should certainly walk away from command to imitate perfection. Against the claim of perfection we can assert our own individuality, which gives distinctive character to the work we do.
The Romantic Craftsman: John Ruskin Battles the Modern World
- Craft workers have fought technological change on three fronts: the employers, the unskilled labourers who took their jobs, and the machines. The American Federation of Labour (AFL) became an emblematic union in this regard… On the third front they did not fight well against the machine. The unions under the AFL umbrella failed to invest in alternative strategies of mechanical design; the craftsmen did not sponsor research… Mechanical change came to the labour rather than from within the labour movement… Technological advance comes in this way to seem inseparable from domination by others.
- A ‘‘flamboyant’’ worker, exuberant and excited, is willing to risk losing control over his or her work: machines break down when they lose control, whereas people make discoveries, stumble on happy accidents. The surrender of control, at least temporarily, now gives Ruskin a recipe for good craftsmanship and how it should be taught. In The Stones of Venice Ruskin invents this figure of a draftsman who has temporarily lost control of his work:
- You can teach a man to draw a straight line; to strike a curved line, and to carve it . . . with admirable speed and precision; and you will find his work perfect of its kind: but if you ask him to think about any of those forms, to consider if he cannot find any better in his own head, he stops; his execution becomes hesitating; he thinks, and ten to one he thinks wrong; ten to one he makes a mistake in the first touch he gives to his work as a thinking being. But you
have made a man of him for all that, he was only a machine before, an animated tool.
- Ruskin’s draftsman will recover, and his technique will be the better for the crisis he has passed through. Whether like the stonemason one leaves in the nicks and mistakes or whether like the draftsman one recovers the ability to make exact, straight lines, the craftsman is now become self-conscious. His is not the path of effortless mastery; he has had troubles, and he has learned from them. The modern craftsman should model himself or herself on this troubled draftsman rather than on Count Dunin’s Man of Steel.
- Definition: a productive space in which people deal face-to-face with issues of authority.
- Focuses on who commands and who obeys in work but also on skills as a source of the legitimacy of command or the dignity of obedience. In a workshop, the skills of the master can earn him or her the right to command, and learning from and absorbing those skills can dignify the apprentice or journeyman’s obedience.
- Take into account… autonomy, self-sufficing work conducted without the interference of another.
- In craftsmanship there must be a superior who sets standards and who trains. In the workshop, inequalities of skill and experience become face-to-face issues.
- The successful workshop will establish legitimate authority in the flesh, not in rights or duties set down on paper. In the failed workshop, subordinates like the Russian construction workers will become demoralised or, like British nurses at the medical convention, grow angry in the physical presence of those whom they much nonetheless obey.
- The social history of craftsmanship is in large part a story of the efforts of workshops to face or duck issues of authority and autonomy.
- Workshops do have other aspects, in their dealings with markets, their quest for funds and profits
- The social history of workshops emphasizes how the institutions have organised themselves to embody authority.
- A significant moment in the history of workshops occurred at the end of the medieval era…
The Guild House: The Medieval Goldsmith
- Medieval craftsman’s authority rested on the fact that he was a Christian
- Early medieval monasteries like Saint Gall in Switzerland
- The workshops followed the precepts of authority according to the dual canon of the faith: the Holy Spirit can appear to mean and women under these conditions; the Spirit is not, however, contained within the walls.
- The guilds: Legal documents partly sustained the guilds, but even more then hands-on transmission of knowledge from generation to generation aimed to make them sustainable. This ‘‘knowledge capital’’ was intended as the source of the guild’s economic power. The historian Robert Lopez pictures the urban guild as ‘‘a federation of autonomous workshops, whose owners [the masters] normally made all decisions and established the requirements for promotion from the lower ranks
[journeymen, hired helpers, or apprentices].’’
- In the medieval guild, male authority was incarnate in the three-tiered hierarchy of masters, journeymen, and apprentices. Contracts specified the length of an apprenticeship, usually seven years, and the cost, usually borne by the young person’s parents. The stages of progress in a guild were marked out first by the apprentice’s presentation of the chef d’oeuvre at the end of his seven years, a work that demonstrated the elemental skills the apprentice had imbibed. If successful, now a journeyman, the craftsman would work for another five to ten years until he could demonstrate, in a chef d’oeuvre élevé, that he was worthy to
take the master’s place.
- The apprentice’s presentation focused on imitation: learning as copying. The journeyman’s presentation had a larger compass. He had to show managerial competence and give evidence of his trustworthiness as a future leader. The difference between brute imitation of procedure and the larger understanding of how to use what one knows is, as we saw in the previous chapter, a mark of all skill development. The medieval workshop was distinctive in the authority invested in the teachers and judges of this progress. The master’s verdicts were final, without appeal. Only rarely would a guild interfere in the judgments of individual masters in a workshop, for in his person the master united authority and autonomy.
- [Does your craft guild begin with the master’s workshop? Where he worked?]
- The apprentice goldsmith was place-bound while learning how to smelt, purify, and weigh precious metals. These skills required hands-on instruction from his master. Once the apprentice had locally presented his chef d’oeuvre, however, he could move from city to city as a journeyman, responding to opportunities. The traveling goldsmith journeyman made his presentation élevé to the corporate body of master craftsmen in foreign cities. Through his managerial talents and moral behavior he had to convince these strangers that he could become one of them. The sociologist Alejandro Portes observes about modern economic migrants that they tend to be entrepreneurial in spirit; the passive stay home. This migratory dynamism was built into medieval goldsmithing.
- Ibn Khaldun (one of the greatest sociologists): The goldsmiths seemed to him like Berbers, made strong by travel and mobility. Sedentary guilds, by contrast, appeared to him inert and ‘corrupt.’ The good master, in his own words, ‘presides over a travelling house.’
- On the other side of the coin, migrant labor and the flow of international trade in the medieval era provoked some of the same fears we experience today. The great worry of urban guilds was a market flooded with fresh goods the guilds had not made. Guilds of medieval London and Paris in particular mounted defensive actions against the growth of trade in northern Europe. This threat they warded off by imposing punishing tolls and tariffs at the gates of cities and by strictly regulating the operations of fairs within cities. Itinerant guilds such as the goldsmiths sought contracts that would maintain the same conditions of labor wherever a goldsmith worked. Like ancient Greek weavers, these medieval craftsmen sought to hand down craft practices intact from generation to generation. Hannah Arendt’s rhythm of ‘‘natality’’ and extinction was their enemy, for reasons of keeping the craft practice internationally coherent.
- If adult goldsmiths formed a kind of analogue to modern flexible workers, moving to where the work is, still guild members forged a strong sense of community. The guild network provided contacts for workers on the move. Equally important, the guilds emphasized the migrant’s obligations to newly encountered goldsmiths. Elaborate ritual did the work of binding the guild members to one another. Many goldsmithing guilds had, moreover, associated fraternities that included women, the fraternities supplying help for workers in need, from organizing social occasions to buying burial plots for the dead. In an age when written contracts between adults had little force, when informal trust instead underpinned economic transactions, ‘‘the single most pressing earthly obligation of every medieval artisan was the establishment of a good personal reputation.’’ This was especially an urgent matter for itinerant goldsmiths, who were strangers to many of the places in which they worked. The ritual life of guilds and their fraternities provided a frame to establish their probity.
- ‘‘Authority’’ means something more than occupying a place of honor in a social web. For the craftsman, authority resides equally in the quality of his skills. And in the goldsmith’s case, the good skills that established
the master goldsmith’s authority were inseparable from his ethics.
- Honesty reinforced… the repute the truthful craftsman mattered politically as well as economically… he certified that the wealth of a nobleman or of a city government was genuine.
- … workshop conceived as a craftsman’s home – a place that unites family and labour
- All medieval guilds were based on the hierarchy of the family, but these were not necessarily blood ties.
- The workplace… a surrogate family… however… (this) also restrained the authority of the surrogate father. The master was enjoined by a religious oath that no father had ever to swear in words, that of improving the skills of his charges. This contract, notes the historian R. S. Epstein, protected apprentices against ‘the opportunism of their masters. They were [otherwise] liable to be exploited as cheap labour’ without any benefit to themselves.
- Correspondingly, the apprentice was contracted by religious oath to keep the secrets of his master… The guild’s religious oaths established reciprocal honour between surrogate father and son rather than simple filial obedience.
- [There is a separation between honour and love]
- Treating the child as an incipient adult…
- The surrogate father’s sworn oath to pass on a skill was a surer guarantee than the biological father’s power to pass on a business so that the young adult could be master in his own house.
- Decline of the medieval workshop – most important reason is the knowledge it could pass on by imitation, ritual and surrogacy.
The Master Alone: The Caftsman Becomes an Artist
- Artist workshop – originality
- ‘Originality’ (from Plato and others): ‘something where before there was nothing. Originality is a marker of time; it denotes the sudden appearance of something where before there was nothing…
- Medieval craftsman… (also) innovat(ed), but their craftwork changed slowly and as the result of collective effort.
- Salisbury Cathedral for example:
- For instance, the immense Salisbury Cathedral began, in 1220–1225, as a set of stone posts and beams that established the Lady Chapel at one end of the future cathedral. The builders had a general idea of the cathedral’s eventual size, but no more. However, the proportions of the beams in the Lady Chapel suggested a larger building’s engineering DNA and were articulated in the big nave and two transepts built from 1225 to about 1250. From 1250 to 1280, this DNA then generated the cloister, treasury, and chapter house; in the chapter house the original geometries, meant for a square structure, were now adapted to an octagon, in the treasury to a sixsided vault. How did the builders achieve this astonishing construction? There was no one single architect; the masons had no blueprints. Rather, the gestures with which the building began evolved in principles and were collectively managed over three generations. Each event in building practice became absorbed in the fabric of instructing and regulating the next generation.
- [is there an example of this in Chinese context?]
- Cellini’s story does, in sum, enable a certain a sociological contrast between craft and art. The two are distinguished, first, by agency: art has one guiding or dominant agent, craft has a collective agent. They are, next, distinguished by time: the sudden versus the slow. Last, they are indeed distinguished by autonomy, but surprisingly so: the lone, original artist may have had less autonomy, be more dependent on uncomprehending or willful power, and so be more vulnerable, than were the body of craftsmen.
- Unmotivated workers … suffer not so much
from the work they do as by how it is organized. This is why we should not give up on the workshop as a social space. Workshops present and past have glued people together through work rituals, whether these be a shared cup of tea or the urban parade; through mentoring, whether the formal surrogate parenting of medieval times or informal advising on the worksite; through face-to-face sharing of information.
- Originality resulted in: the mater’s own mastery changed in content; claims for his distinctiveness and originality now posed a motivational problem for him. He would need the will to fight in order to validate these claims. His honour took on an adversarial character. The workshop would serve him as a refuge from society.
‘His Secrets Died with Him’: In Stradivari’s Workshop
- In a workshop where the master’s individuality and distinctiveness dominates, tacit knowledge is also likely to dominate. Once the master dies, all the clues, moves, and insights he or she has gathered into the totality of the work cannot be reconstructed; there’s no way to ask him or her to make the tacit explicit.
- The open market shrank the time frame of the master’s dominion. E.g. the Stradivari workshop of violin making
- Secrets of the genius (poet John Donne) imagines the innovator as a phoenix rising from the ashes of received truth and tradition.
- The history of the workshop shows, in sum, a recipe for binding people tightly together. The essential ingredients of this recipe were religion and ritual. A more secular age replaced these ingredients with originality— a condition separate in its practical terms from autonomy, originality implying in the workshop a new form of authority, an authority frequently short-lived and silent.
- One mark of the modern world is that we have become as worried about paying obeisance to authority in this personalized form as to authority of an older, more religious sort. To quote just one instance of this worry: Cellini’s near-contemporary Étienne de La Boétie was one of the first to question submission to higher authority through either admiration or imitation. In his view, people are more capable of freedom. In the Discourse of Voluntary Servitude, he wrote: ‘‘So many men, so many villages, so many cities, so many nations sometimes suffer under a single tyrant who has not other power than the power they give; who could do them absolutely no injury unless they preferred to put up with him rather than contradict him. . . . It is therefore the inhabitants themselves who permit, or rather, bring about their own servitude.’’ Servitude through admiration or tradition must be cast off. If correct, then the workshop cannot be a comfortable home for the craftsman, for its very essence lies in the personalized, face-to-face authority of knowledge. And yet it is a necessary home. Since there can be no skilled work without standards, it is infinitely preferable that these standards be embodied in a human being than in a lifeless, static code of practice. The craftsman’s workshop is one site in which the modern, perhaps unresolvable conflict between autonomy and authority plays out.