John Lilburne's journal about Allan Carlson's "From Cottage to Work Station".



About John Lilburne







1915 L Sun 23 Dec 2001

I have been thinking about families and economics today. In The Sunday Age newspaper there was an article introduced by "What now? Its the question everyone who loses their job asks. This year, around 10,000 Victorians have been made redundant. Behind the statistics are thousands of stories of families, disrupted, sadness, financial strain -- and sometimes, a chance at a new life. Peter Wilmoth reports."

I have started reading "From Cottage to Work Station" by Allan Carlson (Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1993). It has the subtitle "The Family's Search for Social Harmony in the Industrial Age". James Schall, SJ has wrote a forward to it, where he discusses the Ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle:

... In Aristotle, the family -- the household was not the state ... Aristotle, of course, developed his thesis as a direct result of a famous proposal in Plato's Republic about the communality of wives, children, and property. This common ownership, or communality, was, it was said, the best and necessary condition for the philosophical guardians in any polity. ...

Aristotle, in the second book of The Politics, argued very carefully with Plato about the feasibility of these proposals. He thought that communality of wives and children was exactly what we did not want. The whole meaning of love and friendship was to have particular, lifetime relationships with specific individuals. ... Aristotle maintained that property would not be at all well taken care of in a communal ownership and that human initiative would be subverted in such a system.

I bring these classical references up because, in reading Carlson's modern history of the family, it will become clear that this classic controversy, in one form or another, is at work in the evolution of family policy. We find proposals for putting children in day-care centers and women in the army or in the work force not unlike Plato's proposal was in its purity. ...

Chapter 2 of the book has the title "The Family Wage Experiment". Australia is credited with being at the forefront of government attempts to limit market forces in order to construct a family wage economy. "Under mounting public pressure generated by reports of "scandalous exploitation" of women and children, the parliament of the state of Victoria approved the "Factories and Shops Act of 1896". ... In his 1907 "Harvester Judgment", which governed Australian wage boards until 1934, Higgins chose a family" as a basis for determining wages.

I am finding it too difficult to be succint, but I am finding it interesting reading.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 23 December 2001.