William Morris

How Shall We Live Then? (manuscript notes)

What I have to say to you relates to matters that may be discussed amongst Socialists, mingled or not with their declared opponents, but is can not be altogether a matter of controversy amongst Socialists. I want to give you my personal view of the Promised Land of Socialism, with the hope of eliciting an account of the views of several of this audience; and I do not think the hour and a half so employed ought to be waste time if we tell each other honestly and as clearly as we can what our ideals are, if we have any, or confess to our having none if that is the case. We are engaged in a common adventure for the present, the destruction abolition of the individual ownership or monopoly of the means of production; the attainment of that immediate end will bring about such a prodigious and overwhelming Change in Society, that those of us with a grain of imagination in them cannot help speculating as to how we shall live then: and the expression of the results of our speculations, of our hopes and fears will certainly give our friends and associates some insight into our characters, and temperaments, will make us know each other better; and that in turn will save much friction and loss of time, will in short make us better friends; to come sometimes from out of the hedge of party formulas and show each other our real desires and hopes ought to be something of a safeguard against the besetting dangers of pedantry which besets the intellectual side of the Socialist movement and the danger of machine politics which besets its practical and work-a-day side.

It is true that as some of you may think that have anticipated my paper must necessarily under these conditions take a personal character and be somewhat egoistical. I do not offer an apology for that but I may offer 2 an explanation. I have had some 55 years experience, I won't say of the world, but of myself; the result of which is that I am almost prepared to deny that there is such a thing as an individual human being: I have found out that my valuable skin covers say about a dozen persons, who in spite of their long alliance do occasionally astonish each other very much by their strange and unaccountable vagaries; by their profound wisdom, their extreme folly, their height of elevation, and their depth of baseness. So that though it may be possible that the complex animal who has now the pleasure of addressing you has not his double in the world, (though I decline to admit that also) it is impossible but that some of the men inside my skin who go to make up that complexity are but types of many others in the world, and the probably even some of those are in this room at present. So that when I tell you of my so called personal desires for and hopes of the future the voice is mine, but the desires and hopes are not only mine, but are those of, I really think, many others, and you as practical men, as I hope you are, cannot afford to disregard them.

Now I will ask what creates draws men into the Socialist ranks at this stage of the movement? I mean of course what makes them genuine socialists. I do not think it can be any hope of personal advancement; such hopes would be much too wild to be entertained by anyone who had wits enough to feed himself with a fork; for the most sanguine of us know that there will be such heaps of trouble of one kind or another before the first serious blow has got any reason at all out of the monopolists, that mere trouble is pretty certain to be part of our reward for daring to hope that society can be improved. Is it intellectual conviction deduced from the study of philosophy or from that of politics or economics in the abstract? I suppose that there are many people who think that this has been the means of their conversion; but on reflection they will surely find that this was only the its second stage of their conversion: the first stage must have been the observation that there is a 3 great deal of suffering in the world that might be done away with. That is I think the first thing that draws a man toward the socialists, whether he feels the suffering in his own person, and becomes conscious of a wrong done to him by what we now call society; a wrong which is not accidental but can be fixed on a certain set of events; or whether he himself is unconsciously one of those who do the wrong, but has the ordinary good-natured wish which any one who is not a mere ill-conditioned blackgard will have, to see all men as happy as they can be.

Now in this respect the corporation which I call I is not at all peculiar: from the earliest time that I can remember catching myself thinking (an operation which all healthy & happy young people avoid as much as possible) the thought was from time to time thrust upon me that the greater part of people were ill-fed ill-clad ill-housed overworked, and as a consequence nasty and disagreeable. These thoughts made me uncomfortable and discouraged and took the flavour out of my amusements and my work (there was not much distinction between the two) so of course I thrust them aside as much as I could. Yet I was conscious that I was acting a shabby part in doing so, for I was not such a fool as not to see clearly that these degraded persons that came between me and my pleasure had not degraded themselves, and that consequently there was something or other which a strong and honest man could attack. In all this there was nothing peculiar: you would say that a natural sense of the injustice of our Society was growing up in me, as it has surely in many others of my class and condition. But in what followed I was perhaps peculiar. I was indifferent honest, I was by no means strong; for I must tell you that one of those persons inside my skin is the peaceablest, and another the laziest of all persons — in that again I am not peculiar. illegible So it is probable that that rising sense of injustice would have been damped down till I had grown old enough & tough enough to bear it easily: but something happened to me that prevented that. Though my work was pretty much my amusement, thoughyet it was serious enough to me: I daresay some of you 4 would be astonished if you could understand the pleasure it has given me; but at last it gave me perhaps as keen a pain. It was a big job that I had taken in hand; no less than the regeneration of popular art as it used to be called. I was not fully conscious how big a job it was for a long time; though I was fully conscious of the complete degradation of the arts in general. Well the time came when I found out that those unpleasant thoughts about the greater part of the population were intimately connected with the very essence of my work, and at last that I had undertaken a quitejob quite impossible job under the present conditions of life. You may well think that I did not come to that conclusion all at once; in fact I tried to wriggle out of it for a long time till at last I was pinned, and there was the greater part gone of my pleasure in my work: which indeed was a serious matter for me, since I cared for it so much and so heartily. Well I cannot tell you whether it was about this time that I first heard of socialism as a definite movement, but I know that I had come to these conclusions a good deal through reading the John Ruskin's works, and that I focussed so to say his views on the matter of my work and my rising sense of injustice, probably more than he intended, and that the result of all that was that I was quite ready for Socialism when I came across it in a definite form, as a political party with distinct aims for the a revolution in society. My position then which I am sure has been and is the position of many others, was profound discontent with the whole of modern life, a feeling of the deadly sickness of the world of civilization, which if I could have found no outlet for it would have resulted in sheer pessimism, as I think it often does. That outlet as you know I found, and I was hindered from coming to the conclusion that the art to which I had devoted myself was a mere idle folly, that I must go on with partly because I knew no other way of earning my livelihood, partly because I must have something more or less pleasant to do on some terms or other. I became a My Socialism began where that 5 of some others ended, with an intense desire for complete equality of condition for all men; for I saw and am still seeing that without that equality, whatever else the human race might gain it would at all events have to relinquish art and imaginative literature, and that to my temperament did and does imply the real death of mankind — the second death. Of course with the longing for equality went the perception of the necessity for the abolition of private property; so that I became a Communist before I knew anything about the history of Socialism or its immediate aims. And I had to set to work to read books decidedly distasteful to me, and to do work which I thought myself quite unfit for, notin [sic] get myself into absurd messes and quarrel like a schoolboy with people I liked in order to become a practical Socialist — which rank I have no doubt some of you don't think I have gained yet. But all that did not matter because I had once again fitted a hope to my work and could take more than all the old pleasure in it; my bitterness disappeared and — in short I was born again.

Now I repeat that I would not have said a word of all this, but that I know that what has happened to me has happened to other people though not quite in the same way. We, (I will say we now) are alive in the world and not in the least pessimists, but we are most sorely discontented with all things as they are, except the bare elements of life, and the hope for the future which we have somehow or other got into our heads.

We are alive and we can take the keenest pleasure in all those elements of life which the barbarian has thein full measure of but which civilization has in a measure largely deprived us of: the sensuous pleasures of life is the technical word for them; or shall I say the innocent sensuous pleasures? E.g. We keep our eyes in our heads and take in impressions through them; whereas civilization bids us put them in our pockets, and is mostly obeyed. And it must be said that there is reason in this since Civilization is such a foul slut, and wherever she can manage it gives us nothing pleasant to look 6 at, so that we are driven to have to thank her, like my friend Shaw, for the wreaths of steam which float from the funnel of a locomotive; at all events when it is they are not defiled by the smoke of the coal which the Company has no business to burn but which it generally does. However in from such things impressions, we take our pleasure as well as our pain; but there is so much pain in them that on the whole they do but add to our discontent; for as things go whatever we see almost have has some share of that sickness in themit, and we long and long to better themthese things: we cannot look upon the world merely as if it were an impressionist picture, or be pleasantly satisfied with some ruinous piece of picturesque which is but the envelope for dullness and famine. But there again comes in our hope: for if we live in the present on such crumbs as we can pick up amidst the general waste and ruin, we live generously enough in the future; and one part of our pleasure in the ordinary life of today, the life of the fieldsthe animal life I mean and the goings on in field and flood and sky and the rest of it, comes from the fact that we see in them the elements of which the life of the future will be built up far more than of the thought of to day,its literature, its so-called art, its so-called science.

In sum our hope is so generous that whatever there is which is distinctive of the sickness of civilization will disappear before our regained freedom: what we aim at, whatthe purpose for which we want to use the instrument of the transition, ?????? which is what some understand by the word Socialism is no mere rectification of our present society, but the construction of a new society in which we shall adore what we used to burn, and burn what we used to adore.

How shall we live then? Whatever system of production and exchange we may come to, however justly we may arrange the relations of men to one another we shall not be happy unless we live like good animals, unless we enjoy the exercise of the ordinary functions of life: eating sleeping loving walking running swimming riding sailing we must be in the habit offree to enjoying all these exercises of the body without any sense of shame; without any 7 suspicion that our mental powers are so remarkable and godlike that we are rather above such common things. Also I will say in the teeth of the very natural repulsion to bodily labour that our present conditions force upon us we must be strong and healthy enough to enjoy bodily labour, a good stout wrestle with the forces of nature which will make us feel our power. I do e.g. hope most sincerely that we shall manage not to [be] so driven for the production of food as not to allow ourselves the pleasure of getting in the harvest by hand, or, a great many of us, raising our own potherbs, of course with due knowledge and skill. (Also I should hope that we should not find it necessary to shorten our lives as we do now by spending a great part of them in the condition of parcels sent from one place to another. I hold that going from one place to another (on the surface of the earth) ismay be made by no means a waste of time if we don't do it as parcels, especially if one can be happy enough not to think on the road. Indeed even when I am sent on as a parcel I do my best to get my eyes out of the brown paper sometimes.) Now all this would mean that the our views on the subject of education would have to change somewhat: the equipment for life on the new terms would not and could not be the same as on the old: it is true that the capacities for dealing properly with the bodily side of life would grow to be a kind of habit: still I suppose except among the South-sea islands and such like places men have to ???? learn swimming, and except in the Pampas, riding. And I cannot easily conceive a lad knowing how to dig and plough and reap and sow without learning, although that learning would not be gained in the technical school method, but as apprentices learn when it is anybody's business to teach them. Besides I think most people would want to learn two or three of the elementary crafts whether they intended to practice them as a main occupation or not, smithying carpentering (not cabinet-making) and mason's or bricklayers work, I am thinking about, and that would need definite instruction, lasting some time. Various minor arts like 8 cooking and sewing would be learned very easily by children when they are very young; and they again would mean little more than the experiment gaining of an easily acquired habit. Here thenThe education set on foot we should have first a great body of out-door occupations,dealing with work necessary to be done in some way or other, agreeable to healthy & strong persons, and capable of developing being done excellently, that is of developing real pleasure in the doing, some of them perhaps to be done by individual effort work but most by means of cooperative effort; and all the parts of them in which ???? ????? excellence was not possible to be much developed ???? could be done with little effort, almost as a habit: Add to these occupations a few of what for shortness I would call indoor work, and you will havealso (an important addition) what we call art, in which I would include beside the plastic and decorative arts imaginative and measured literature and the pursual of knowledge for its own sake, andwhich I think will give you will have [sic] allmost of the occupations necessary for a happy community: and for the life of me I cannot see why we should bother ourselves with occupations which are unnecessary. Let me try if I cannot arrange these necessary occupations in groups a little more systematically adding some few perhaps doubtful ones.

1st. The open air arts; (I had better call them arts at once, because to my mind all work which is done by a man in the course of the due exercise of his faculties and therefore pleasurably is an art.)

Agriculture and its kindred arts; Gardening, Fishing, Butchering, Ship & boat-sailing. Driving carts, trains, omnibuses and the like (a cross division here with distribution). The habits of swimming, good walking & running, and riding would be mixed up with these, and also an habitual knowledge of the ways and manners of non-human beasts.

Now as we shall live then I declare that anybody who did not take a pleasurable interest in these some part of these arts and was not capable of working in them, would have to be considered as a diseased person -- something less than a man,a burden on the community.*

2nd. The domestic arts: The arrangement of a housein all its details Cleaning Marketing Cooking baking & so on; sewing with its necessary concomitant of embroidery and so forth. Once more whoever was 9 incapable of taking interest and a share in some parts of such work would have to be considered diseased; and the existence of many such diseased persons would tend to the enslavement of the weaker sex.

3rd. The building arts: Masons, bricklayers, smiths, carpenters & the like and also the planners of buildings, engineers, and so forth. Of these arts what we now call art, i.e. decoration, appeals to the pleasure of the eye intellect through the eyesight, would form a necessary and integral part; therefore possibilities of excellence would here run high, and consequently only those would take a part in them who had some faculty for creation, as I believe most free men have; but doubtless there would be some lacking this faculty or possessing itself but little of it, who would prefer the rougher arts above mentioned; but as they would be doing some their share of the necessary work and with pleasure, they would not be injuring any one by disease. For the rest it is clear that these arts are cooperative in the highest degree, no one necessary person's work being really separable from the whole mass of it.

4th. The workshop arts weaving, pottery, dyeing, printing (textiles and book) etc. Into most of these also art would enter and much the same thing is to be said of these as of the last group. In cases where art could not be an integral part of the work it would if it turned out to be necessary work it would have to be done by machines as nearly automatic as possible; but I should consider it a matter of course that if those who tended such machines would have do other work at once more pleasurable and more responsible; and whatever drudgeryof this sort we could do without we should drop at once.

5th. The disagreeable arts. I will assume that though I am not sure that it is so, that there are would be such indispensable arts, and then proceed to divide them into:

By the first I mean such matters occupations as mining, skindressing, scavengering, and so on. By the second I mean -- well quill-driving of the less amusing kind, clerks work, 10 official sauntering & so on. Of both these groups I say the same thing; as above, machines where possible, and the workers to have other occupation: but also strict enquiry as to whether they are necessary; and if not, abolition.

6th. The arts concerning the distribution of goods; shipping of goods shopkeeping and market-managing of all kinds. I daresay it will be possible to find people who to like such work and let them do their best at it; but I am sure that they will find digging & reaping, or even perhaps skinning fill[?] more leather-dressing restful to them: and such rest they ought to have.

7th. The fineor intellectual arts: i.e. picture painting, sculpture, and the lesser or reproductive fine arts, such as engraving. Also imaginative literature, and the study of history and nature. Some of these in which a good deal of actual manual labour, is necessary might be followed exclusively; the others certainly not; and even in the first, or manual fine arts, rougher manual work would be desirable, unless in cases, if there be any such, (which again I doubt) where extreme finesse of hand is so necessary that it would not do to roughen the hand by harder labour. In any case I feel sure that it would not do for men to be absorbed entirely in such arts. It would tend to disease, to anti-social habits which would burden the community with a new set of idlers, and (if the others were such fools) in the long run to a new set of masters.

Before I go further I ought to say that though I don't doubt that a due amount of organization and direction would be required in all the diverse branches of occupation I am very far from thinking that it would be either necessary or desirable to prescribe to people what occupation they should follow; I am assuming only that opportunity will be afforded for people to do what they can do well, and that the work as far as the relations of men go will be voluntary; nature will be the compeller, in a sense the only enemy: yet an enemy that asks to be vanquished.

Now having given you my ideal as to the occupations of men in a free community, I have but to add my views as to the possibility of its com being realized sometime or other: ie. 11 what might be called the political side of the question.

Decentralization and equality of condition are the necessary concomitants of my ideal of occupation: but I am not clear as to whether they should be looked on as the cause or the effect of the state of things foreshadowed by that ideal. As to the first But I think, that granted the second, the first will not be tend to come naturally. Difficult or if you please impossible, as it may be to conceive of such a change as will come of the abolition of the great central power of modern times the world-market as we know it with all the ingenious and intricate system which profit hunting Commerce has built up about it, because of it and by means of it, yet after all it must develop into something else, and that something else can hardly be a perfecting of its perfection, but rather its contradiction, which is the conscious mutual exchange of services between equals. Nay if things now going on can be fairly understood by us who live amongst them are there not signs of the coming change already visible to us? The Republic one and indivisible of 100 years ago is passing through a phase of bourgeois corruption and the only hope of France is that it will be able to into come out at the other end a Federation of Free Communes. The Unity of Germany has been accomplished but a few years; yet here are we waiting for but one event, quite certain to happen sooner or later, the defeat of the German Army, to break it up again into a federation of Social Republics with socialism as its aim. And at home the principle of Federation is conceded in the matter of Ireland by all but the stupidest of the reactionaries; while the Tories themselves, driven on I believe by a blind fate, have given us in the County Councils the germs of revolutionary local opposition to centralised reaction. Thus then before centralization is quite complete even, the change in the direction of its opposite seems to have begun, and once begun will surely go on till the necessary practical decentralization has been arrived at. That decentralization seems to me looking out from our present condition to be necessary in order to give all men a share in the responsibility of the administration of things which I hope to seewill take the place of the government of persons: you will understand that I admit the possible necessity of a certain amount of mechanical centralization, such as a central administration of railways in such and such a geographical district, which after all would not be centralization but the direct outcome of Federation.

12 I also admit that the form which the decentralization or Federation will take is bound to be a matter of experiment and growth: what the unit of administration is to be, what the groups of Federation are to be; whether or no there will be any cross Federation as e.g. Craft-gilds and Cooperative Societies going side by side with the geographical division of wards, communes, and the like — all this is a matter for speculation, and I don't pretend to prophecy about it.

I may say however in parenthesis that my temperament leads me to believe that we shall be able to get rid of theone outward and visible sign of commercial and official centralization; our great cities, and closely packed manufacturing districts.

As for the first, the great centres like London, Paris & Berlin, they are surely the outcome of the desperate struggle for life which competition under monopoly engenders on both sides the monopolizers and their slaves. They are counting houses of commerce; the jobbing houses of officialism; the lairs for the beasts of prey big and little that prey upon the follies and necessities of a huge mass of people who have no time to find out what they want; and must have all their wares from the bread they eat down to a new novel or a play at the theatre forced upon them like a sharper forces a card: lastly they are the sweating dens to which starvation drives up the reserve army of labourers starvelings of the rest of the country, so that they may eat a morsel of bread while they cast the dice desperately for that twenty millionth part of a chance to escape from the proletariat which is the thin yard of earth between modern society and the volcano it stands upon. I do not deny lastly that they are the camps to which the soldiers of revolution must flock if they are impelled to do anything to further their hope before they die. But granted the change of conditions which we all hope for, of what use will be these monstrous aggregations of confusion? ?? ??????? ??? No camp will be needed, for militant socialism will be over: ?? ???? ?? no man will hurry up to be sweated, for his decent livelihood will be assured to him. People will have leisure to think what they want and resources to have the reality of it; so that the parasites 13 above mentioned will not exist, for there will be no carrion for them to feed on. Official jobbery will be dead; and profit-hunting and its ???? will need no counting house or will have to seek it of the Father of Lies to whom it will have returned. There will be no use for this monstrous muck heap in which we swelter to-day. But in case anyone should be inclined to regret what I have heard called the stir and movement of a big city, I will just say two things: first, that in those post-monopoly days, when at the very least there will be more of an approach to equality, there will relatively to men be more intelligent and thoughtful men: we do everything wastefully now; so if you want a dozen highly cultivated and thoughtful persons you must have 12000 proletarians at their back in order to produce the due element of stir and movement for those 12 treasures: as a practical man I cannot approve of the plan. Again you must remember that the dullness and monotony of country-life at present, of which many complain (but not I) is the wrong side of the hubbub of town life; since the town sucks the blood of the country in all things: in postmonopolist days I hope, as I have already said that we should reform this.

As for the great factory districts, it seems to me that they also could disappear: granted that it is possible to produce goods cheaper when you have labour and material gathered together in the closest space possible; I am sure that in post monopolist days we should have no when the "sword of cheapness" is no longer necessary as an offensive weapon against other nations, we should come to the conclusion that we might buy cheapness too dear,that hell was altogether too high a price for it and that it would be worth while to work a little longer in order to live in a pleasant place. Of course we must all admit that these last centres are centres of profit-bearing manufacture and huckstering, but of nothing else -- save dirt. But now I must say that this decentralization with all the decent life and manly responsibility that will come of it can only be got in any measure at all as a forecast of advancing equality, and can only be reached fully when we have attained to practical equality; that Equality is in fact theour ideal.

14 In factdeed I can only explain the fact that some socialists do not put this before them steadily by supposing that their eager pursuit of the means have somewhat blinded them to the end.

Surely there are but two theories of society; slavery on the one side; equality on the other. The first theory supposes that use must be made of the natural diversity of capacities in men to cultivate a class of superior beings, who are to live on the lack, the unhappiness in short, of the other inferior class. The second theory says, this cultivation must be unsatisfied affair, because you can by no means be sure that when you have got hold of the strongest and cultivated him into a stronger, you can by no means be sure that you have got hold of the best; he is only the strongest under certain artificial conditions which you yourselves have made; and you can never tell how many far better than he you have oppressed into nothingness by your masterful folly: satisfy a man's needs, and what there is in him will come out of him for your benefit orand his, and you can't get out of him more than he can do. That is what communism says, and the only way I can see to traverse it is to say, I intend to have that man for my property, and all that he does is mine, whether it is little or much, andonly if he doesn't make more than enough to keep himself, he will be of no use to me and I will kill him as I would an old worn out horse. Any stage between these two theories I can only understand on the grounds that the antislavery man is bribing the slave owner to keep him quiet until he becomes too weak to resist having his slave taken from him and made free. As a transitional step I say nothing about itthis proceeding, as an ideal I cannot fail to see that it is incomplete & illogical. No other ideal on this matter of livelihood in a post-monopolist community appears to me worth considering than the satisfaction of each man's needs in return for the exercise of his faculties for the benefit of each and all: to me this seems the only rational society. And this means practical equality. For when you have satisfied histhe man's needs what else can you do for him?

15 You will say doubtless what are his needs? Well of course in such an audience I need not deal with the usual quibbles of people who think that we socialists have never thought of any of the difficulties which arise in anyones mind when such questions are started. But those of you, if there are any here, who think that one useful person should have (compulsorily) a different scale of livelihood than another useful person I want to put a point or two to you that have occurred to me (and very likely to you also). 1st. - Given a poor community which could satisfy the average elementary needs of each man for food clothes and shelter, but could do nothing else; would you think it right (or ideal let us say) for the so called more useful man to have anything moreextra for his excellence? If he did so, wouldn't he starve the others, since they would then have so much less of necessaries as he had so much more? wouldn't they be his slaves then, whatever the nature of the compulsion was which he used? for they clearly wouldn't do it without compulsion. Well carry it further and suppose the community somewhat wealthier, even quite wealthy. There is still surely a due standard of livelihood, of leisure and pleasure which can be upheld for the citizens in general, why should they be deprived, ??? involuntarily against their will of what they can have if there is a compulsion on them to give up some of the desirable things which they have helped to make to ??? others who have also helpedand what they desire, of what they can have if they are not compelled to give it up. Either they have more than they need, in which case they had better not produce so much, or they have only as much as they need, and in that case if they are compelled to give up some of that, they are not free men. Again I seem to see another draw-back to this new class of ability: I assume that all men's needs will be satisfied according to the measure of the general wealth: well the superior man will have his needs satisfied; and once again what more can you do for him than satisfy his genuine needs. It seems to me that even at the best what he would do with his extra pay would be to surround himself with extra luxuries, and that the result of that again would be the creation of a new parasitical and servile class which could not 16 fail to be an injury to the Community. In short I can think of no special reward that you can give to a man of special gifts but licence to do harm to his fellow citizens, which is a strange reward for having been of special service to them. Lastly remember that when a man has special gifts the exercise of those special gifts are a pleasure to him which he will not forego if he can help it; therefore while on the one hand it is unjust and unsocial to compel the citizens to give up their ordinary advantages for the nourishment of this Queen Bee, so on the other hand nature does not compel them. Whatever is in him he will give freely if you leave him free and provide him with due opportunity for the exercise of his faculties. That is if you let him have due unprecarious livelihood with leisure & pleasure according to his desires, and the free use of raw material and the instruments of labour.

Other things I can see of the way in which we should live then, which you can also see I suppose: the splendour of public life and the quiet dignity of private life, and in general all the real pleasures which would come of our being wealthy and no longer rich; of all which pleasures doubtless the greatest would be now seems to be a negative one, the relief of no longer living in one or the other of two opposed camps of enemies, which we feel certain must one day fall upon each other ruining many a hope and many a quiet life in the process; while in the meantime ethics are in hopeless confusion and pessimism increases in days when we find it hard to weigh vice and virtues of understand what vices and virtues ???mean since the collective crime of class wrong is so overshadowing & overwhelming. and our Of course I do not pretend to have given anything like an inclusive account in detail of what our ideal of the new world is ; since I feel I have been somewhat disjointed in what I have said, I will very briefly run over the points concerning which I may differ with some here.

First the change when it comes, and however it comes, from Monopoly to Freedom, when it is complete, will make a new world for us, and will be far greater than any change that has yet taken 17 place in the world.

2nd. -- We may have in appearance to give up a great deal of what we have been used to call material progress, in order that we may be freer and happier and more completely equal.

3rd. -- This would be compensated (a) by our hav taking more pleasurable interest in all the details of life, and (b) by our regaining the pleasure of the eyesight, much of which we have already lost, and more of which we are losing everyday.

4th. -- Instead of toiling for some blind force, a mixture of necessity and nightmare, we should be conscious of workingdoing useful work for our neighbours who were doing the like for us. As a result there would be no waste of labour, as useless occupations would be got rid of speedily.

5th. -- Work ????thus obviously useful, and also adapted to the capacity of the worker would mostly be a pleasant exercise of the faculties; necessary work that would otherwise be drudgery would be done by machinery or in short spells: no one being condemned to work at unpleasant work all his life.

6th. -- As no incentive to work would be needed save its obvious necessity and the pleasure involved in it; and as the division of labour into more or less worthy work deserving different standards of livelihood would create fresh classes, enslave the ordinary man, and give rise to parasitical groups, there would be no differentiation of the "reward of labour". (This last phrase I consider a badmisleading one, involving a begging of the question). I am aware that this implies the abolition of private property.

7th. - Nationalities as rival corporations would have ceased to exist and centralization in our present sense of the word would give place to Federation for definite purposes of small units of Federation administration, so that the greatest possible number of persons might be interested in public affairs.

Some such ideal as this seems to me to be needed I believe will be realized, and I earnestly hope it will be. We have been told that the logical sequence of the development of man's ingenuity will ???? involve the gradual loss of his bodily faculties, and this seems probable: but the logical 18 sequence of events is sometimes interrupted and turned aside by the historical; and my hope is, that now we know, or have been told that we were once have been evolved from unintelligent germs (or whatever the word is) we shall consciously resist the reversal of the process, which to some seems inevitable, and do our best to remain men, even if in the struggle we become barbarians; which latter fate I must confess would not seem to me a very dreadful one.

William Morris


* Here an extra sentence appears in the transcription by Paul Meier, which is not visible in the online manuscript:

If there were many such persons it would tend to the creation of a class of slaves, people doing the rougher work of the world only.

Bibliographical Note


How Shall We Live Then?


How Shall We Live Then? is taken from the manuscript of the lecture. The manuscript is available on the website of the International Institute for Social History, and was first published by Paul Meier as An Unpublished Lecture by William Morris in the Institute's journal, International Review of Social History, vol. XVI (1971). In the MIA version, Morris's additions and corrections to the text are shown using superscript text and strike-throughs.


  1. 1st March 1889 at a meeting sponsored by the Fabian Society at Bloomsbury Hall London
  2. 3rd March 1889 at a meeting of the Hammermith Branch of the Socialist League
  3. 22nd January 1890 at a meeting sponsored by the North London Branch of the Socialist League for the Club Autonomie, 6 Windmill Street, Tottenham Court Road, London
  4. 2nd February 1890 at a meeting sponsored by the Leicester Radical Club at the Club Rooms, Vine Street, Leicester
  5. 2nd March 1890, North Kensington Branch of the Socialist League, Clarendon Coffeee Tavern