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Page:Earth-Hunger and Other Essays.djvu/218

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I have before me an article produced by this discussion, but belonging, not to the socialist or semi-socialist but to the sentimental school, in which it is affirmed that manual or operative labor is brutalizing. This is in direct contradiction with the doctrine that labor is ennobling, which is what the sentimentalists have been telling us for a century. The contrast which the writer has in mind is between manual or factory labor and labor with a larger intellectual element in it; he seeks to establish his contention by describing the long factory hours, the close confinement, the irksome constraint, etc. What, then, shall we infer? Is the sweet doctrine that labor is dignified and ennobling all wrong? Were the ancients right? Is labor for pay always degrading, and does it become worse and worse as we go down the grades from those occupations which have the most brain-work and least manual work to those which have the most manual work and least brain-work? The issue is dear and it is not difficult; it would do great good to solve it completely, for it would clear up our ideas on many topics which are at present in confusion.

I maintain that labor has no moral quality at all. Every function in social work which is useful to society is just as meritorious in every way as any other; each being suitable and an object of choice to the person who performs it. The moral quality depends on the way in which it is performed. The social estimate and the personal worth which should be ascribed to social functions depends on the way in which the man we have in mind does his duty. It is not capable of generalization, and there is no reason for generalizing it.

The educational value of different social functions is equal, and the degree of human perfection which can be got out of them is equal. It develops a man in all moral