Post-industrial nostalgia for the pre-industrial

In last Friday’s class we talked about the Arts & Crafts movement, an international movement that reacted against the products of the industrialisation which were lacking in quality and aesthetic.
We also had to read an article, written by Justin McGuirk and entitled “The art of craft: the rise of the designer-maker”. In this article, the author explains how in our post-industrial society we romanticise the handmade and how we are starting to yearn for quality over quantity. What’s new, explains McGuirk, it’s not the product itself but the desire to reveal the process and not just the finished object, stating, in this way, the value of the handmade over the machine-made.

Many philosophers, especially Marx, have debated about the importance of the manual labour.
What Marx calls the “alienation” of the worker from the product and from the work itself is a reality that was born in the factories and that still affects many workers in some countries.
It is only through the manual labour that men gains independence and truth understanding of himself. On the contrary, in a system like the Fordist production line, men lose the relation between themselves and the product and can’t recognise it as the result of their own hands.
The result is that what was supposed to be the outcome of their work and the expression of their personality, becomes a real enemy that only causes sufferance.

I believe that Justin McGuirk really made the point with his article by calling this “craft fetishism” and distinguishing between what is just a fashion and what is actually a more profound need and necessity, “one path to a fulfilling life”.

I personally found really interesting the fact that although many designers feel the need to make things with their own hands and that design is a popular career choice, the opportunities to work with manufacturers are not growing at the same pace. It’s incredible how this feeling of nostalgia for the pre-industrial is something that just the western side of the world is experiencing while the developing countries aspire to industrialised products.

In conclusion, I think that the rise of technology has made us more distant from the material world and, as a result of this, we are missing the direct contact with nature and manual labour, which I believe is our essence and makes us different from the other animals. The point is not going back to a craf-based economy but finding, in my opinion, a harmony between technology and our most atavistic feelings.


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