Manchester capitalism is a phrase I introduced in a previous article, here. But what is it? Is it still around?
Now in the previous article I will admit to just touching on the concept. In actuality Manchester Capitalism was a movement which was based on equality and improving the everyday life of the working classes. This is how Wallace sums it up:
“Manchester Capitalism, Manchester School, Manchester Liberalism, and Manchesterism are terms for the political, economic, and social movements of the 19th century that originated in Manchester, England. Led by Richard Cobden and John Bright, it won a wide hearing for its argument that free trade would lead to a more equitable society, making essential products available to all. Its most famous activity was the Anti-Corn Law League that called for repeal of the Corn Laws that kept food prices high. It expounded the social and economic implications of free trade and laissez faire. The Manchester School took the theories of economic liberalism advocated by classical economists such as Adam Smith and made them the basis for government policy. The School also promoted pacifism, anti-slavery, freedom of the press and separation of church and state.” Wallace (1960)
This is all great in our view, we love it all.
“Manchester was the hub of the world’s textile manufacturing industry and had a high population of factory workers who were disadvantaged by the Corn Laws, the protectionist policy that imposed tariffs on imported wheat and increased the price of food. The Corn Laws were supported by the land-owning aristocracy, because, by reducing foreign competition, they allowed landowners to keep grain prices high and therefore, as the population expanded, increase agricultural profits.
However, the operation of the Corn Laws also meant that the factory workers in the textile mills in the textile cities of northern England were faced with higher food bills; consequently, the mill owners in turn suffered higher wage bills and therefore higher finished-goods prices which restricted their foreign trade competitiveness.”
On a more personal level however we also now have the beginnings, just a few short years later, of the industrial revolution. Factories spring up in towns and the hordes of workers needed to operate these factories needed somewhere to live. As a solution to this the factory owners built street upon street of similar, terraced houses for the workforce. This is fantastic, the workers now have decent places to live and they may even have a day off in the week to be at home, unprecedented. They are still working class however so they are paid just enough to survive on, just enough to get by, not enough to move on. Let’s not forget now that if they aspired to leave the company they would loose this housing and the lifestyle they have come to love. Their lifestyle is worth keeping as well, never in living memory have working people had so much and lived so well, everything is relative!
So where does that leave us today? We have come on so far now, people are rarely given housing by their employers any more right?
We are however still caught up in a lifestyle we can’t really afford and afforded luxuries we can no longer do without. The beautiful house we just bought, the large screen TV, the ipad and the latest car. These are all luxuries we are told we need and the ability to have all this is within our grasp, get a new credit card, take a loan or arrange finance. We are bombarded with daytime television telling us how we need to get on the property ladder!
If we get on the ladder we will then have a mortgage which ties us to the bank for the next twenty five years. We can’t leave that job we hate because then we’ll loose the house and the TV, we may even have to get a pay as you go phone, imagine the horror.
Are we seeing a pattern here?
“Choose a life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television. Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers… Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit crushing game shows, sticking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away in the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourself, choose your future. Choose life… But why would I want to do a thing like that?” Irving Walsh
That’s how society works.
I’ve mentioned once before how England is no less corrupted than more third world destinations, just more sophisticated. The same applies here. Our ability to opt out has never changed and the pressures to remain part of the system are also constant.
It is possible to break out of all this but it is hard. In fact it is a constant fight because if you do break out then you loose all those things which we all desire so much, the computer upon which I type this article, the wine in the fridge and indeed the fridge itself. Leaving all this behind is a major effort and most of us will not do so, that is absolutely fine as long as we are that little bit more aware.
You cannot desire freedom until you know you are imprisoned!
Read about a man who has broken out here.