Back To Craftsmanship: Lessons from the Arts and Crafts Movement

Laetitia Vitaud
Jun 6, 2017 · 6 min read
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Why routine work is not the future of work

When you imagine the future of work, you tend to imagine a future made of robots on one side and alienated human workers on the other. The future of work is very often pictured as a negative dystopia with either no work at all — the end of work is another common trope — or more debilitating work, as humans become slaves to the machines.

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How the 19th-century Arts and Crafts movement can still inspire us today

In the late 19th century, Britain was already heavily industrialised and “alienated”. A movement of artists, “makers” and philosophers emerged to criticise industrialisation and offer an alternative to the standardised products churned out by British factories. Britain’s Arts and Crafts movement was both an artistic and a political movement, which flourished in Europe and North America between 1880 and 1910. It stood for traditional craftsmanship using simple forms, and often used medieval, romantic, or folk styles of decoration. It advocated economic and social reform that was essentially anti-industrial.

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A man at work, making something which he feels will exist because he is working at it and wills it, is exercising the energies of his mind and soul as well as of his body. Memory and imagination help him as he works. (William Morris)

The utopia Morris published in 1890, News from Nowhere, is now a classic. It combines utopian socialism and soft science fiction. In the novel, the narrator, William Guest, falls asleep after returning from a meeting of the Socialist League and awakes to find himself in a future society based on common ownership and democratic control of the means of production. In this utopian society there is no private property, no big cities, no authority, no monetary system, no divorce, no courts, no prisons, and no class systems. The people find pleasure in nature, and in their work. Nobody is anybody else’s master:

No man is good enough to be another’s master. (William Morris)

William Morris was convinced that craftsmanship was the only way to restore the workers’ lost dignity and wholeness. By making things both beautiful and useful, workers could express their unique personalities and find meaning in what they did. The mark they left provided ample satisfaction and inspiration. In other words art and craftsmanship were the only way out of alienation.


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Laetitia Vitaud

Written by

I write about #FutureOfWork #HR #freelancing #craftsmanship #feminism Editor in chief of Welcome to the Jungle media for recruiters laetitiavitaud.com

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Laetitia Vitaud

Written by

I write about #FutureOfWork #HR #freelancing #craftsmanship #feminism Editor in chief of Welcome to the Jungle media for recruiters laetitiavitaud.com

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We build profitable Business Communities through expertises

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