fields factories and workshops

(1912) by peter kropotkin

via 140 pg kindle version from anarchist library []

(mostly showing that small .. workshop.. home.. field.. as prevalent/productive .. and less abusive/wasteful.. than factory.. last 1/3 of book are ie’s.. 2nd edition)



preface to 2nd edition (1912)


preface to 1st edition (1898)

The main subject of social economy — that is, the economy of energy required for the satisfaction of human needs — is consequently the last subject which one expects to find treated in a concrete form in economical treatises.

critical that we grok legit needs first.. so we can org around legit needs

need: means to undo our hierarchical listening so we can hear/do that

bachelard oikos law et al

The following pages are a contribution to a portion of this vast subject. They contain a discussion of the advantages which civilised societies could derive from a combination of industrial pursuits with intensive agriculture, and of brain work with manual work.

and that man shows his best when he is in a position to apply his usually-varied capacities to several pursuits in the farm, the workshop, the factory, the study or the studio, instead of being riveted for life to one of these pursuits only.

the it is me ness


1 – the decentralisation of industries

Then, amidst the former, a series of further subdivisions: the manual worker and the intellectual worker, sharply separated from one another to the detriment of both; the agricultural labourers and the workers in the manufacture; and, amidst the mass of the latter, numberless subdivisions again — so minute, indeed, that the modern ideal of a workman seems to be a man or a woman, or even a girl or a boy, without the knowledge of any handicraft, without any conception whatever of the industry he or she is employed in, who is only capable of making all day long and for a whole life the same infinitesimal part of something: who from the age of thirteen to that of sixty pushes the coal cart at a given spot of the mine or makes the spring of a penknife, or “the eighteenth part of a pin.” Mere servants to some machine of a given description; mere flesh-and-bone parts of some immense machinery; having no idea how and why the machinery performs its rhythmical movements.

Dazzled with the results obtained by a century of marvellous inventions, especially in England, our economists and political men went still farther in their dreams of division of labour. They proclaimed the necessity of dividing the whole of humanity into national workshops having each of them its own speciality. We were taught, for instance, that Hungary and Russia are predestined by nature to grow corn in order to feed the manufacturing countries; that Britain had to provide the worldmarket with cottons, iron goods, and coal; Belgium with woollen cloth; and so on. Nay, within each nation, each region had to have its own speciality. So it has been for some time since; so it ought to remain. Fortunes have been made in this way, and will continue to be made in the same way. It being proclaimed that the wealth of nations is measured by the amount of profits made by the few, and that the largest profits are made by means of a specialisation of labour, the question was not conceived to exist as to whether human beings would always submit to such a specialisation; whether nations could be specialised like isolated workmen. The theory was good for today — why should we care for tomorrow. Tomorrow might bring its own theory!


A reorganised society will have to abandon the fallacy of nations specialized for the production of either agricultural or manufactured produce. It will have to rely on itself for the production of food and many, if not most, of the raw materials; it must find the best means of combining agriculture with manufacture — the work in the field with a decentralised industry; and it will have to provide for “integrated education,” which education alone, by teaching both science and handicraft from earliest childhood, can give to society the men and women it really needs.

oi.. ed/intellect ness has done the opp.. we have no idea what legit free people need/want


But enough! I have before me so many figures, all telling the same tale, that examples could be multiplied at will. It is time to conclude, and, for every unprejudiced mind, the conclusion is self-evident. Industries of all kinds decentralise and are scattered all over the globe; and everywhere a variety, an integrated variety, of trades grows, instead of specialisation. Such are the prominent features of the times we live in. Each nation becomes in its turn a manufacturing nation; and the time is not far off when each nation of Europe, as well as the United States, and even the most backward nations of Asia and America, will themselves manufacture nearly everything they are in need of. Wars and several accidental causes may check for some time the scattering of industries: they will not stop it; it is unavoidable. For each new-comer the first steps only are difficult. But, as soon as any industry has taken firm root, it calls into existence hundreds of other trades; and as soon as the first steps have been made, and the first obstacles have been overcome, the industrial growth goes on at an accelerated rate.


Under the present conditions of division into capitalists and labourers, into property-holders and masses living on uncertain wages, the spreading of industries over new fields is accompanied by the very same horrible facts of pitiless oppression, massacre of children, pauperism, and insecurity of life. The Russian Fabrics Inspectors’ Reports, the Reports of the Plauen Handelskammer, the Italian inquests, and the reports about the growing industries of India and Japan are full of the same revelations as the Reports of the Parliamentary Commissions of 1840 to 1842, or the modern revelations with regard to the “sweating system” at Whitechapel and Glasgow, London pauperism, and York unemployment. The Capital and Labour problem is thus universalised; but, at the same time, it is also simplified. To return to a state of affairs where corn is grown, and manufactured goods are fabricated, for the use of those very people who grow and produce them — such will be, no doubt, the problem to be solved during the next coming years of European history. Each region will become its own producer and its own consumer of manufactured goods. But that unavoidably implies that, at the same time, it will be its own producer and consumer of agricultural produce; and that is precisely what I am going to discuss next.


2 – the possibilities of agriculture

Continually we learn that the same scientific discovery, or technical invention, has been made within a few days’ distance, in countries a thousand miles apart; as if there were a kind of atmosphere which favours the germination of a given idea at a given moment. And such an atmosphere exists: steam, print and the common stock of knowledge have created it.

Those who dream of monopolising technical genius are therefore fifty years behind the times. 


Two great objections stand, however, in the way against the general acceptance of such conclusions. We have been taught, both by economists and politicians, that the territories of the West European States are so overcrowded with inhabitants that they cannot grow all the food and raw produce which are necessary for the maintenance of their steadily increasing populations. Therefore the necessity of exporting manufactured goods and of importing food. And we are told, moreover, that even if it were possible to grow in Western Europe all the food necessary for its inhabitants, there would be no advantage in doing so as long as the same food can be got cheaper from abroad. Such are the present teachings and the ideas which are current in society at large. And yet it is easy to prove that both are totally erroneous: plenty of food could be grown on the territories of Western Europe for much more than their present populations, and an immense benefit would be derived from doing so. These are the two points which I have now to discuss.


The British nation does not work on her soil; she is prevented from doing so; and the would-be economists complain that the soil will not nourish its inhabitants!


they say to us, “Heavy clay!” without even knowing that in the hands of man there are no unfertile soils; that the most fertile soils are not in the prairies of America, nor in the Russian steppes; that they are in the peat-bogs of Ireland, on the sand downs of the northern seacoast of France, on the craggy mountains of the Rhine, where they have been made by man’s hands.

The most striking fact is, however, that in some undoubtedly fertile parts of the country things are even in a worse condition.


And finally (3), if the population of this country came to be doubled, all that would be required for producing the food for 90,000,000 inhabitants would be to cultivate the soil as it is cultivated in the best farms of this country, in Lombardy, and in Flanders, and to utilise some meadows, which at present lie almost unproductive, in the same way as the neighborhoods of the big cities in France are utilised for market-gardening. All these are not fancy dreams, but mere realities; nothing but the modest conclusions from what we see round about us, without any allusion to the agriculture of the future.

While science devotes its chief attention to industrial pursuits, a limited number of lovers of nature and a legion of workers whose very names will remain unknown to posterity have created of late a quite new agriculture, as superior to modern farming as modern farming is superior to the old three-fields system of our ancestors. Science seldom guided them, and sometimes misguided — as was the case with Liebig’s theories, developed to the extreme by his followers, who induced us to treat plants as glass recipients of chemical drugs, and who forgot that the only science capable of dealing with life and growth is physiology, not chemistry. Science seldom has guided them: they proceeded in the empirical way; but, like the cattle-growers who opened new horizons to biology, they have opened a new field of experimental research for the physiology of plants. They have created a totally new agriculture. They smile when we boast about the rotation system, having permitted us to take from the field one crop every year, or four crops each three years, because their ambition is to have six and nine crops from the very same plot of land during the twelve months. They do not understand our talk about good and bad soils, because they make the soil themselves, and make it in such quantities as to be compelled yearly to sell some of it: otherwise it would raise up the level of their gardens by half an inch every year. They aim at cropping, not five or six tons of grass on the acre, as we do, but from 50 to 100 tons of various vegetables on the same space; not £5 worth of hay but £100 worth of vegetables, of the plainest description, cabbage and carrots, and more than £200 worth under intensive horticultural treatment. This is where agriculture is going now.


and there is no fear of drought, because of the variety of crops, the liberal watering with the help of a steam engine, and the stock of plants always kept ready to replace the weakest individuals. Almost each plant is treated individually.

bush mono crop law et al

There prevails, however, with regard to market-gardening a misunderstanding which it would be well to remove. It is generally supposed that what chiefly attracts market-gardening to the great centres of population is the market. It must have been so; and so it may be still, but to some extent only. A great number of the Paris maraîchers, even of those who have their gardens within the walls of the city and whose main crop consists of vegetables in season, export the whole of their produce to England. What chiefly attracts the gardener to the great cities is stable manure; and this is not wanted so much for increasing the richness of the soil — one-tenth part of the manure used by the French gardeners would do for that purpose — but for keeping the soil at a certain temperature. Early vegetables pay best, and in order to obtain early produce not only the air but the soil as well must be warmed; and this is done by putting great quantities of properly mixed manure into the soil; its fermentation heats it. But it is evident that with the present development of industrial skill, the heating of the soil could be obtained more economically and more easily by hotwater pipes. Consequently, the French gardeners begin more and more to make use of portable pipes, or thermosiphons , provisionally established in the cool frames


And yet the Paris gardener is not our ideal of an agriculturist. In the painful work of civilisation he has shown us the way to follow; but the ideal of modern civilisation is elsewhere. He toils, with but a short interruption, from three in the morning till late in the night. He knows no leisure; he has no time to live the life of a human being; the commonwealth does not exist for him; his world is his garden, more than his family. He cannot be our ideal; neither he nor his system of agriculture. Our ambition is, that he should produce even more than he does with less labour, and should enjoy all the joys of human life. And this is fully possible.


But heating pipes give the same results as the fermenting manures at a much smaller expense of human labour.


The future — a near future, I hope — will show what practical importance such a method of treating cereals may have. But we need not speculate about that future. We have already, in the facts mentioned in this chapter, an experimental basis for quite a number of means of improving our present methods of culture and of largely increasing the crops. It is evident that in a book which is not intended to be a manual of agriculture, all I can do is to give only a few hints to set people thinking for themselves upon this subject. But the little that has been said is sufficient to show that we have no right to complain of over-population, and no need to fear it in the future. Our means of obtaining from the soil whatever we want, under any climate and upon any soil, have lately been improved at such a rate that we cannot foresee yet what is the limit of productivity of a few acres of land. The limit vanishes in proportion to our better study of the subject, and every year makes it vanish further and further from our sight.


Mr. Haggard’s conclusion is worth mentioning, as he writes as follows: “Broadly, however, I may say that where the farms are large and corn is chiefly grown, there is little or no prosperity, while where they are small and assisted by pastures or fruit culture, both owners and tenants are doing fairly well.” A recognition well worth mentioning, as it comes from an explorer who took at the outset of his inquest a most pessimistic view on unprotected agriculture.


Finding that impossible they invited no French gardener to Evesham, gave him three-quarters of an acre, and, after, he had brought his Paris marais his glass bells, frames and lights, and, above all his knowledge, he began gardening under the eyes of his Evesham colleagues “Happily enough,” he said to an interviewer I do not speak otherwise I should have had to talk all the time and give explanations, instead of working. 


The various data which have been brought together on the preceding pages make short work of the over-population fallacy. It is precisely in the most densely population parts of the world that agriculture has lately made such strides as hardly could have been guessed twenty years ago. A dense population, a high development of industry, and a high development of agriculture and horticulture, go hand in hand: they are inseparable. As to the future, the possibilities of agriculture are such that, in truth, we cannot yet foretell what would be the limit of the population which could live from the produce of a given area. Recent progress, already tested on a great scale, has widened the limits of agricultural prodaction to a quite unforeseen extent and recent discoveries, now tested on a small scale, promise to widen those limits still farther, to a quite unknown degree

Supposing, then, that each inhabitant of Great Britain were compelled to live on the produce of his own land, all he would have to do would be, first, to consider the land of this country as a common inheritance, which must be disposed of to the best advantage of each and all — this is, evidently, an absolutely necessary condition. And next, he would have to cultivate his soil, not in some extravagant way, but no better than land is already cultivated upon thousands and thousands of acres in Europe and America. He would not be bound to invent some new methods, but could simply generalise and widely apply those which have stood the test of experience. He can do it; and in so doing he would save an immense quantity of the work which is now given for buying his food abroad, and for paying all the intermediaries who live upon this trade. Under a rational culture, those necessaries and those luxuries which must be obtained from the soil, undoubtedly can be obtained with much less work than is required now for buying these commodities. I have made elsewhere (in The Conquest of Bread) approximate calculations to that effect, but with the data given in this book everyone can himself easily test the truth of this assertion. If we take, indeed, the masses of produce which are obtained under rational culture, and compare them with the amount of labour which must be spent for obtaining them under an irrational culture, for collecting them abroad, for transporting them, and for keeping armies of middlemen, we see at once how few days and hours need be given, under proper culture, for growing man’s food.

conquest of bread


3 – small industries and industrial village


Besides, the large factory stimulates the birth of now petty trades by creating new wants.


but not just factory.. any form of m\a\p.. gets/keeps us away from org-ing around legit needs


Much more ought to be said with regard to the rural industries of Russia, especially to “how how easily the peasants associate for buying new machinery, or for avoiding the middle man in their purchases of raw produce — as soon as misery is no obstacle to the association”. Belgium, and especially Switzerland, could also be quoted for similar illustrations, but the above will be enough to give a general idea of the importance, the vital powers, and the perfectibility of the rural industries.

In fact, the most prominent feature of the petty trades is that a relative well-being is found only where they are combined with agriculture : where the workers have remained in possession of the soil and continue to cultivate it. Even amidst the weavers of France or Moscow, who have to reckon with the coinpetition of the factory, relative well-being prevails so long as they are not compelled to part with the soil. On the contrary, as soon as high taxation or the impoverishment during a crisis has compelled the domestic worker to abandon his last plot of land to the usurer, misery creeps into his house. The sweater becomes all-powerful, frightful overwork is resorted to, and the whole trade often falls into decay.


However, such a change also implies a thorough modification of our present system of education. It implies a society composed of men and women, each of whom is able to work with his or her hands, as well as with his or her brain, and to do so in more directions than one. This “integration of capacities” and “integral education” I am now going to analyse.



4 – brain work and manual work


Plainly stated, the aims of the school under this system ought to be the following: To give such an education that, on leaving school at the age of eighteen or twenty, each boy and each girl should be endowed with a thorough knowledge of science — such a knowledge as might enable them to be useful workers in science — and, at the same time, to give them a general knowledge of what constitutes the bases of technical training, and such a skill in some special trade as would enable each of them to take his or her place in the grand world of the manual production of wealth. I know that many will find that aim too large, or even impossible to attain, but I hope that if they have the patience to read the following pages, they will see that we require nothing beyond what can be easily attained. In fact, it has been attained; and what has been done on a small scale could be done on a wider scale, were it not for the economical and social causes which prevent any serious reform from being accomplished in our miserably organised society.

oi oi oi.. supposed to’s of school/work.. killing us


If waste of time is characteristic of our methods of teaching science, it is characteristic as well of the methods used for teaching handicraft. We know how years are wasted when a boy serves his apprenticeship in a workshop; but the same reproach can be addressed, to a great extent, to those technical schools which endeavour at once to teach some special handicraft, instead of resorting to the broader and surer methods of systematical teaching. Just as there are in science some notions and methods which are preparatory to the study of all sciences, so there are also some fundamental notions and methods preparatory to the special study of any handicraft.

oi oi oi.. all the ed ness.. oi


Besides, none can be a good worker in science unless he is in possession of good methods of scientific research; unless he has learned to observe, to describe with exactitude, to discover mutual relations between facts seemingly disconnected, to make inductive hypotheses and to verify them, to reason upon cause and effect, and so on. And none can be a good manual worker unless he has been accustomed to the good methods of handicraft altogether. He must grow accustomed to conceive the subject of his thoughts in a concrete form, to draw it, or to model, to hate badly kept tools and bad methods of work, to give to everything a fine touch of finish, to derive artistic enjoyment from the contemplation of gracious forms and combinations of colours, and dissatisfaction from what is ugly. Be it handicraft, science, or art, the chief aim of the school is not to make a specialist from a beginner, but to teach him the elements of knowledge and the good methods of work, and, above all, to give him that general inspiration which will induce him, later on, to put in whatever he does a sincere longing for truth, to like what is beautiful, both as to form and contents, to feel the necessity of being a useful unit amidst other human units, and thus to feel his heart at unison with the rest of humanity.

oi oi oi


But there is also the time-saving celerity of the well-trained worker, and this is surely achieved best by the kind of education which we advocate. However plain his work, the educated worker makes it better and quicker than the uneducated. Observe, for instance how a good worker proceeds in cutting anything — say a piece of cardboard — and compare his movements with those of an improperly trained worker. The latter seizes the cardboard, takes the tool as it is, traces a line in a haphazard way, and begins to cut; half-way he is tired, and when he has finished his work is worth nothing; whereas, the former will examine his tool and improve it if necessary; he will trace the line — with exactitude, secure both cardboard and rule, keep the tool in the right way, cut quite easily, and give you a piece of good work.

This is the true time-saving celerity, the most appropriate for economising human labour; and the best means for attaining it is an education of the most superior kind. The great masters painted with an astonishing rapidity; but their rapid work was the result of a great development of intelligence and imagination, of a keen sense of beauty, of a fine perception of colours. And that is the kind of rapid work of which humanity is in need.


rapid prototyping to slow

Much more ought to be said as regards the duties of the school, but I hasten to say a few words more as to the desirability of the kind of education briefly sketched in the preceding pages. Certainly, I do not cherish the illusion that a thorough reform in education, or in any of the issues indicated in the preceding chapters, will be made as long as the civilised nations remain under the present narrowly egotistic system of production and consumption. All we can expect, as long as the present conditions last, is to have some microscopical attempts at reforming here and there on a small scale-attempts which necessarily will prove to be far below the expected results, because of the impossibility of reforming on a small scale when so intimate a connection exists between the manifold functions of a civilised nation. But the energy of the constructive genius of society depends chiefly upon the depths of its conception as to what ought to be done, and how; and the necessity of recasting education is one of those necessities which are most comprehensible to all, and are most appropriate for inspiring society with those ideals, without which stagnation or even decay are unavoidable.

So let us suppose that a community — a city, or a territory which has, at least, a few millions of inhabitants — gives the above-sketched education to all its children, without distinction of birth (and we are rich enough to permit us the luxury of such an education), *without asking anything in return from the children but what they will give when they have become producers of wealth. Suppose such an education is given, and analyse its probable consequences.

*huge oi.. any form of m\a\p is part\ial ness.. hari rat park law et al


Free pursuit in new branches of art and knowledge, free creation, and free development thus might be fully guaranteed.. And such a community would not know misery amidst wealth. It would not know the duality of conscience which permeates out life and stifles every noble effort. It would freely take its flight towards the highest regions of progress compatible with human nature.


we have no idea


5 – conclusion

It has also been proved — and those who care to verify it by themselves may easily do so by calculating the real expenditure for labour which was lately made in the building of workmen’s houses by both private persons and municipalities — that under a proper combination of labour, twenty to twenty-four months of one man’s work would be sufficient to secure for ever, for a family of five, an apartment or a house provided with all the comforts which modern hygiene and taste could require.

And it has been demonstrated by actual experiment that, by adopting methods of education, advocated long since and partially applied here and there, it is most easy to convey to children of an average intelligence, before they have reached the age of fourteen or fifteen, a broad general comprehension of Nature, as well as of human societies; to familiarise their minds with sound methods of both scientific research and technical work, and inspire their hearts with a deep feeling of human solidarity and justice; and that it i



We all know that the child ought, at least, to be familiarised with the forces of Nature which some day he will have to utilise; that he ought to be prepared to keep pace in his life with the steady progress of science and technics; that he ought to study science and learn a trade. Every-one will grant thus much; but what do we do? 


let go


if you utilise what experiment has already taught us, and call to your aid science and technical invention, which never fail to answer to the call — look only at what they have done for warfare — you will be astonished at the facility with which you can bring a rich and varied food out of the soil. You will admire the amount of sound knowledge which your children will acquire by your side, the rapid growth of their intelligence, and the facility with which they will grasp the laws of Nature, animate and inanimate.