In my post about Steve Jobs I quoted William Morris’s famous dictum ‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’.
I just wanted to say: yes, I am aware of the irony of quoting a socialist and anti-industrialist in praise of a great capitalist, a titan of industry who sold products by the hundreds of millions, each one assembled by low-paid workers in vast, sterile, soulless factories in China.
But then Morris’s vision of handmade, artisan production was quixotic even when applied to things like furniture and books; he couldn’t uninvent the industrial revolution. It certainly wouldn’t work for smartphones.
And to leave the politics to one side for a moment; aesthetically the Arts and Crafts movement was a reaction against the way that mass production cheapened and coarsened material culture. It was a reaction to all those second-rate industrially produced imitations of traditional craftsmanship. Well, Apple’s best products have also fought against the shoddy and second-rate; but instead of rejecting mass production, Jobs wanted to do it right.
I suppose Morris would argue that was little consolation to those workers in their factory in China.
» The wallpaper is Morris’s ‘Fruit’ pattern. I picked it because it includes some apples.