At the threshold of the nineteenth century, the Art sand Craft movement has developed a new framework for dealing with the new spiritual and physical experiences that help artisans and workers discover cultural self-sufficiency. Their recoil of the new circumstance was a sign of recurring and enduring frictions in American culture.
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In the book No Place of Grace, the author mentions that the worker’s anti-modern reaction to the changes can also be considered a complex mixture of protest and accommodation, leading to formation of a much broader context for intense experience.
In an attempt to respond to an anti-modern alternative and to the changing cultural order, Lears mentions, “turn-of-the-century” elites facilitated the modernity upheaval to superiority, by placing all symbols in relation to easily adjusted to therapeutic purposes. At this point, the emergence of modernism led to the full prosperity and cultural reassessment of material values that stemmed from the moral crisis.
As Lears discovers “[antimodernism] drew heavily on Puritan and republican tradition – particularly the deep distrust of urban “luxury” and the faith in ennobling powers of hard work” (61). Another source of attention focuses on evangelical reform that had shaped republican moralism, leading to appearance of utopian communities.
Having introduced the problem, Lears deliberates further on the merger of different anti-modernist enterprises and ethical ideologies that were framed by William Morris and John Ruskin, as well as Arts and Craft Movement. Focusing on the discrepancies between American and British anti-modernism, the author argues, “the ideal of joyful labor, when it was not submerged by aestheticism, became a means of personal revitalization rather than a path to renewed community” (Lears 65).
By dividing the population into miserable workers, the industrial situation created a morally and socially dangerous situation. The large scale of the revolution brought in material wealth, but the value of manual labors became a source of pleasure and joy. Unlike Ruskin who focuses on the absence of violence and exploitation in industrial society, Morris accepts the feudal opposition and insists on the alleviation of medieval despotism. Therefore, Morris’s ideas became the underpinning for the revival of manual labor and handicraft.
The social transformation and revolutionary struggle against industrialization and automated working environment was also followed by the ideas of other important thinkers, such as Sidney Webb and Fabians Beatrice. The supporters of Webb encouraged the development of technocratic society controlled by dedicated managers that served the community.
By expressing rigid criticism, they were inclined to the idea of creating the connection between moral and material progress, predicting the transition “from corporate capitalism to bureaucratic state socialism” (Lears 64). Most of progressive socialists in Britain approved the Webb perspective and ignored the precaution measures introduced by Morris.
The evidence impact of British anti-modernist movement was ongoing, yet ambiguous. The problem is that industrial capitalism gave rise to sentiments for pleasant and green land, which were experienced throughout the twentieth century.
In contrast to British artisans, “American craft leaders were hampered from the outset by their class interests and anxieties, their individualist and idealist assumptions about the nature of social reform” (Lears 64). As these difficulties emerged, the society was gradually transforming from a protest to modern culture to a new form of accommodation. The revival of handicraft revealed accommodative tendencies through investment made to manual training.
The latter was adopted in public school as a means of reconciling the rebellious working class. However, the process of accommodation was more concerned with new kinds of social adjustment; it also implied the discouragement of craft leaders by the emergence of a new alternative culture. Influenced by spiritual ambiguities of the period, American workers immediately abandoned communal frameworks and developed new meanings of the self.
The confrontation between manual labor designed for pleasure and labor for earning money was on the rise. In this respect, the author insists that “do-it-yourself” jobs provided Americans with “a sense of autonomy and a change to confront the substantial reality of material things” (Lears 65). Such an opportunity could provide people with a sense of control as well, as well as a protection mechanism against bureaucratic civilization.
Despite the new forms of accommodation, the ideal of the American handicraft also met rigid criticism. As a result of this criticism, the newly created communities look forward to developing agrarian membership as an opposition to over-organized society.
Apart from this form of protest, Arts and Craft leaders were also represented as intellectual ancestors who reflected the frightening outcomes of rationalization and urgent need for using creative labor. At this point, the rebirth of the American crafted was marked by the mixture of protest and accommodation.
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According to Arts and Crafts ideology, anti-modern movement was directed at transforming modern elite’s culture. Specific emphasis was placed on aestheticism that embraced a new form of consumption relevant for the development of consumer economy. Additionally, the anti-modernist leaders introduced change to educational programs to offer a new mode of training for workers.
In this respect, Lears explains, “the transformation of capitalist cultural hegemony [was] not consciously plotted programs but largely unforeseen results of half-conscious yearning for “real life”” (73). Hence, the revival of handicraft was also associated with return to nature and domestic life as a source of moral regeneration. The reincarnation of rural life was also the key to national revitalization. The focus on rural rebirth provides an integral purpose required by modern capitalism at all levels.
Further transformation of industrial community led to the development of work ethics that was integrated into the American ideology of handicraft. Morris and Ruskin also supported this ideological framework, according to which the workers were fully absorbed in the working process because it provided them with both money and pleasure.
Although the American craft reforms failed to notice the difference between pre-modern and modern labor conditions, the medieval handicraft differed much from the modern system. The blend of medieval and modern trends, therefore, resulted into a new era of transformation into a new form of cultural accommodation.
In conclusion, transformation of industrial work into handicraft has been marked by educational training and revitalization of the aesthetic life. These new social functions fostered accommodation of handicraft norms. Although the emergence of handicraft movement was presented as a response to modern preoccupation, the rural revival was also connected with the necessity of fulfilling individual skills.
Hence, industrial revolution had a negative impact on human labor in terms of mechanism, as well as the gap between suburban leisure and urban capitalist environment. In general, the Arts and Crafts movement was considered as rigid protest of modern automation of the production, leading to intellectual delusion of medieval society.
Lears, Jackson. No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture. 1880-1920. US: University of Chicago, 1994. Print.