News From Nowhere and ‘Garden Cities’: Morris’s Utopia and Nineteenth-Century Town-Design



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Boos, Florence S. “News From Nowhere and ‘Garden Cities’: Morris’s Utopia and Nineteenth-Century Town-Design.” Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies n. s. 7.2 (Fall 1998): 5-27.
In the opening scene of News from Nowhere (first published serially in 1890-91), William Morris’s narrator describes a branch meeting of the Socialist League at which six speakers, four of them “Anarchists,” have debated fiercely “on the future of the fully-developed new society.” Riding home afterward in the “vapour bath” of a railway carriage, disheartened by interminable quarrels, Guest yearns to “see a day of it . . . if I could but see it!”

Morris was not alone in his desire to “see it,” of course. His historically informed anarcho-socialist utopia reflected prior anarchist, anarcho-socialist, and municipal reformist ideals, including ideas about land use developed much earlier in the century in William Thompson’s Practical Directions for the Speedy and Economical Establishment of Communities (1830) and varied in more recent works such as William Thomson’s A Prospectus of Socialism (1894), Peter Kropotkin’s Fields, Factories, and Workshops (1898, assembled from essays published in 1889-90), and Morris’s own Socialism: Its Growth and Outcome (co-authored with Ernest Belfort Bax and serialized in 1886-87 as “Socialism from the Roots Up,” and revised for republication in 1893). Morris’s literary insights into the social and aesthetic implications of human living arrangements, in turn, anticipated and influenced Ebenezer Howard’s more gradualist views in To-morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform (1898, revised as Garden Cities of To-morrow, 1902), and through Howard’s work, many subsequent attempts to put cognate ideas into practice.

Many contemporary theorists recoiled from the gaping social wounds created by the unsafe and unlivable metropoles thrown up by the industrial revolution. Morris’s London, for example, newly engorged with almost six million inhabitants, was the largest city in Europe, and comparably brutal low wages and high rents, merciless overcrowding, and squalid sanitation inflicted great suffering and staggering rates of disease and mortality on the poor in Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, and other citadels of the new capitalism. Much of the traffic that jammed these cities’ filthy, narrow streets conveyed food and other goods hauled [page 6] in at great expense, often from depopulated and impoverished rural areas whose former inhabitants had been forced to seek economic survival in the cities.

In opposition to this squalor, nineteenth-century reformers and theorists developed a variety of ardent ‘isms’—mutualist anarchism, anarcho-socialism, socialism, social democratic cooperativism, and populist communitarianism—about which they disagreed almost as much as Guest’s contentious colleagues. But they also struggled to learn from each others’ insights, and proposed a variety of flexible and sophisticated remedies to a persistent breed of interrelated problems. News from Nowhere is only the most eloquent literary product of these efforts to make aesthetic means justify social ends.


Kropotkin’s Agrarian and Industrial Mutualism
Many nineteenth-century would-be reformers designed plans for improved living conditions for ordinary people, but only a few favoured communal ownership. Charles Fourier, for example, and William Thompson, a founder of the Co-operative movement, envisioned larger cost-efficient dwellings which would balance the privacy of small individual apartments with social gathering places. These would provide for the pleasures of sophisticated society (schools, theatrical productions, libraries) as well as the harmony and potential plenty of rural life with improved farming methods. The communities could be financed by contributions from co-operative societies and by individual sponsors, who might be able to advance (say) twenty pounds each towards a resident’s expenses until the community became self-supporting.

Another socialist planner was the late-century William Thomson, a member of Henry Hyndman’s Social Democratic Federation and an ardent Co-operator (co-operators sought to eliminate the divisions between owners, producers, and consumers, and to establish worker-and-consumer-owned enterprises which redistributed profits to their members). Thomson’s A Prospectus of Socialism (1894) advocated the establishment of Barbican-like “communal palaces,” which would incorporate the latest technology for sanitation, cleaning, and heating, and include both private apartments and larger social spaces, decorated with electric light displays and other forms of artistic ornamentation. Like his earlier near-namesake, Thomson also suggested that all who wished to do so should be able to eat together in large communal dining halls, and others could arrange for dishes to be brought to their apartments. The non-profit mail-order systems mentioned above were designed to obviate the waste and duplication of stores.

Thomson’s idealized “high-rises” reflected an age of widespread confidence in urbanization, but other, more far-sighted reformers wished to preserve the natural elements of countryside and landscape for all. The agrarian aspects of News from Nowhere paralleled certain features of contemporary anarchist theory, as advocated by Peter Kropotkin, whom Morris knew well through their mutual [page 7] political propaganda from the time Kropotkin settled in England in 1886 until Morris’s ill-health and the changing composition of the Socialist League forced his semi-retirement from political activities in the early nineties. Though Morris expressed irritation at what he believed were the anti-social qualities of libertarian and terrorist strands of anarchism, Kropotkin’s ideas about the need for balanced land use could not have evoked such objections.

Indeed, Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921), a pragmatic and open-minded humanist, has always suffered from the opprobrium attached—ab ignorantia—to the word “anarchist.” His ideology might rather be called “decentralized communism,” and its communitarian insights and affinities have continued to surface in “green,” ecological, and back-to-the-land movements from his time to ours.

Born a Russian prince in Moscow, Kropotkin became deeply attached to the serfs who raised him after his mother’s death. Urged to seek a commission or civil-service post at nineteen, he sought a scientific appointment in Siberia rather than a career-enhancing post at court, and evolved into a gifted naturalist and self-taught anthropologist. In an impressive series of publications on Siberian meteorology, geography, and zoology, he developed the conviction that Darwinian and ‘social-Darwinist’ tendencies to explain evolutionary survival solely in terms of competition within and between species ignored observable benefits of organic cooperation under stress.

Kropotkin was hardly unaware of the role of competition and war in human affairs, of course, but argued that scientific and quasi-scientific speculations which aggrandized perturbative phenomena and hostile behaviour distorted reality, and suppressed study of equally remarkable but less conspicuous human capacities for social organization, coexistence, and “mutual aid.” Imprisoned by the Czarist government for his ‘subversive’ views in 1874, Kropotkin later escaped and made his way to England. With interludes of revolutionary activity in Europe and further imprisonment (described in his memoir, In Russian and French Prisons [1887]), he devoted the rest of his life there to the advocacy of mutualist anarchism.

In Mutual Aid (1902, assembled from articles which appeared between 1888 and 1896), Kropotkin undertook to rewrite the social history of “savage” and “barbarian” peoples to demonstrate the underlying presence and persistence of order and cohesion, and expressed his clear-sighted scholarly opposition to the imperialism and Eurocentrism of most nineteenth-century social science. He rejected with special force the view that organization of human society into competing nation-states represented any ideal of liberty, and argued that more informal, ‘primitive’ modes of organization into tribes and guilds realized human aspirations to freedom in deeper and more substantive ways.

Kropotkin also attacked as unscientific as well as morally pernicious the received Malthusian view that poverty, starvation, and wars are inevitable instruments in some sort of invisible hand for the control of excess population. In Fields, Factories, and Workshops, for example, he adduced detailed regional [page 8] economic studies in support of his view that better-conceived and realized methods of organization and production could enable relatively populous societies to feed their people. Unlike most Marxists and social-democrats—who typically considered large-scale urban-based industrial production efficient and desirable, and counted on redistribution alone to improve workers’ living conditions—Kropotkin also maintained that small and mid-scale industries are actually more efficient than larger ones, in ways that benefit naturally from informal planning and experimentation.

Kropotkin further argued that villages with a mixture of industrial, craft, and agricultural production provide healthier living conditions, more real wealth, and a more efficient and flexible economic organization than large, centralized forms of production, and that self-sufficiency and reciprocal local markets are more desirable than extended networks of transportation that served vast, disparate, and uncertain global markets. Respect for flexible small-scale efforts and undertakings that would grow and decline in ways adapted to different regional conditions was in itself neither “capitalist” nor “socialist,” but it was consistent with some applications of both, and certainly with Morris’s views. As practised by Kropotkin, this appreciation of the merits of (morally informed) local self-determination also added elements of pragmatism not always present in the schemes of visionary planners.

For example, Kropotkin also brought to his arguments an extensive knowledge of European and American agricultural methods, regional craft economics, and labour-saving technical advances. The stereotypical assumption that anarchists are, by definition, closed-minded practisers of rural stasis and opponents of technological advance, was thoroughly belied in Kropotkin’s case by his passion for technical and scientific discoveries, his radical advocacy of a basic scientific education for each child, and his ardent interest in the use of engineering advances for humane ends. As a person of scientific bent reared in an agricultural society, Kropotkin wished to foster an unillusioned concern for the possibilities and problems attendant on rapid economic change, but he also brought an outsider’s skepticism to his assessment of Europe’s largest megalopolis and most industrialized nation.

In “The Possibilities of Agriculture,” a chapter of Fields, Factories, and Workshops, Kropotkin argues as follows for cooperative—rather than collective or state-managed—farms, in terms which anticipated certain aspects of the developmental sequence later proposed for “garden cities”:
Two hundred families of five persons each, owning five acres per family, having no common ties between the families, and compelled to find their living, each family on its five acres, almost certainly would be an economical failure. . . . But the same two hundred families, if they consider themselves, say, as tenants of the nation, and treat the thousand acres as a common tenancy . . . would have . . . every chance of succeeding, if they know what is the best use to make of that land. In such case they probably would [page 9] first of all associate for permanently improving the land which is in need of immediate improvement, and would consider it necessary to improve more of it every year, until they had brought it all into a perfect condition. On an area of 340 acres they could most easily grow all the cereals—wheat, oats, etc.—required for both the thousand inhabitants and their livestock. . . . On twenty acres, two of which would be under glass, they would grow more vegetables, fruits and luxuries than they could consume. And supposing that half an acre of land is attached to each house for hobbies and amusement (poultry keeping, or any fancy culture, flowers, and the like) they would still have some 140 acres for all sorts of purposes: public gardens, squares, manufactures and so on. . . . The amount of labour required to grow food under a rational culture is so small, indeed, that our hypothetical inhabitants would be led necessarily to employ their leisure in manufacturing, artistic, scientific, and other pursuits. (237-39)
It is common now for cash-crop farmers in midwestern North America to argue that one cannot support a single family on less than several hundred acres, but there are interesting parallels between Kropotkin’s ideals and successful practices of self-sufficient farmers in certain areas—Amish and Mennonites, for example, in the midwestern United States.

In News from Nowhere, Guest also notes that Nowhere’s citizens are eager to discuss “the weather, the hay-crop, the last new house, the plenty or lack of such and such birds. They talked of these things not in a fatuous and conventional way, but as taking, I say, real interest in them” (359). One might compare this “real interest” with Kropotkin’s advocacy of a nature-based education and kindred ideals in his peroration to “The Possibilities of Agriculture”:


From the technical point of view there is no obstacle whatever for such an organization being started to-morrow with full success. The obstacles against it are not in the imperfection of the agricultural art, or in the infertility of the soil, or in climate. They are entirely in our institutions, in our inheritances and survivals from the past—in the “Ghosts” which oppress us. But to some extent they lie also—taking society as a whole —in our phenomenal ignorance. We, civilised men and women, know everything. . . . We only know nothing about whence the bread comes which we eat;. . . we do not know how it is grown, what pains it costs to those who grow it, what is being done to reduce their pains, what sort of men those feeders of our grand selves are;. . . we prevent our children from obtaining this sort of knowledge—even those of our children who would prefer it to the heaps of useless stuff with which they are crammed at school. (240)
Extensive further parallels and affinities can be traced between Kropotkin’s complex communitarian ideals and those of Morris, reviewed in the next section. This would include (among others) their shared distaste for conventional narrative historians’ obsessive preoccupation with the martial and oligarchic, their indifference to the heroism and struggles of ordinary people, and their strongly held beliefs that labour and art can complement each other in natural and sustaining ways. Striking resonances can even be found at the level of diction. Compare, for example, Kropotkin’s diction—
[page 10] How much the poet would gain in his feeling of the beauties of nature, how much better would he know the human heart, if he met the rising sun amidst the tillers of the soil, himself a tiller, if he fought against the storm with the sailors on board ship; if he knew the poetry of labour and rest, sorrow and joy, struggle and conquest! (407)
with Morris’s diction—
Nor would he who took to heart the piping of the wind and washing to the waves as he sat at the helm of the fishing-boat, be deadened to the beauty of art-made music. It is workmen only and not pedants who can produce real vigorous art.” [1] (“Society,” 2: 467)
Nineteenth-century capitalists and socialists alike tended to see various forms of industrial gigantism as “progress,” and most socialists of the 1880s thought more about class-warfare and industrial action than mutualist cooperation or the need for in egalitarian balance between regions and occupational ways of life. Kropotkin’s rigorous analyses of agrarian economics of scale and demands that land-use and industrial production be governed by middle-sized groups of workers and consumers provided an alternative set of economic ideals for reformers in the 1890s, and these ideals also underlay the semi-pastoralism of News from Nowhere and Ebenezer Howard’s epigonal “garden cities.” Like Kropotkin, Morris and Howard believed that many forms of economic activity could (and should) flourish in a common spatial domain of accessible size. Both valued self-sufficiency, local administration, and interdependent forms of craftwork and agricultural production—all significant, even essential, aspects of the carefully balanced society of “fields, factories, and workshops” Kropotkin envisioned.
Morris and E. B. Bax’s Socialism: Its Growth and Outcome
Critics have given relatively scant attention to William Morris and Ernest Belfort Bax’s joint treatise. Morris and Bax first serialized it as a series of Commonweal essays under the collective title “Socialism from the Root Up” (1886-87) and later gathered and reprinted them between covers as Socialism: Its Growth and Outcome 1893), with an expanded final section which bore the chiliastic title, “Socialism Triumphant.” Other commentators and I have traced some of the parallels between Morris’s convictions and the tenets of mutualist anarchism, but no one has ever imputed such sympathies to Morris’s collaborator and fellow Socialist League member, E. Belfort Bax, historian of German Marxism, philosopher of the English socialist movement, author of The Religion of Socialism (1891), and a virulently bigoted opponent of all forms of legal equality for women. Despite this marked divergence in their personal behaviour and wider social views, Morris and Bax did collaborate successfully on their articles for Commonweal, prompted perhaps by their common interest in the origins of socialism as a historical process, deep respect for the Paris Commune, and shared conviction that socialism might become “a religion of humanity.”

[page 11] Bax’s lack of interest in aesthetic matters in his other writings also suggests that Morris was responsible for most of the work’s extended comments on architecture and town design. Designed as a reasonably acceptable didactic handbook for a wide socialist audience, Socialism presumably sketched only those aspects of the new society upon which its authors could agree, but these included a clearly stated need to do “away with all antagonism between town and country, and all tendency for the one to suck the life out of the other” (316).

The volume’s more detailed remarks about planning also show an informed interest in several alternate schemes for settlement, and a willingness to let future socialists choose among them. Among the authors mentioned so far, Thompson, Thomson, and Howard would all have found common cause with one or the other of the alternatives:
Again we give three theories of the transformation of the modern town, industrial or capital, into the kind of entity to suit the new social conditions. The first would leave the great towns still existing, but would limit the population on any given space; it would insist on cleanliness and airiness, the surrounding and segregation of the houses by gardens; the erecting of novel public buildings; the maintenance of educational institutions of all kinds—of theatres, libraries, workshops, taverns, kitchens, etc. This kind of town might be of considerable magnitude, and the houses in it might not be very different in size and arrangement from what they are now, although the life lived in them would have been transformed. . . . In view of the limitation above mentioned, no individual or group could be allowed to engross an undue area.

The second method of dealing with the unorganized and anarchic towns of to-day proposes their practical abolition, and the supplanting of them in the main by combined dwellings built more or less on the plan of the colleges of our older English universities. As to the size of these, that would have to be determined by convenience in each case, but the tendency would be to make them so large as to be almost small towns of themselves; since they would have to include a large population in order to foster the necessary give and take of intellectual intercourse, and make them more or less independent for ordinary occupation and amusement.

It is to be understood that this system of dwellings would not necessarily preclude the existence of quite small groups, and houses suitable to them, although we think that these would tend to become mere eccentricities.

Yet another suggestion may be sketched as follows:—a centre of a community, which can be described as a very small town with big houses, including various public buildings, the whole probably grouped about an open space. Then a belt of houses gradually diminishing in number and more and more spaced out, till at last the open country should be reached, where the dwellings, which would include some of the above mentioned colleges, should be sporadic. (314-16)


These alternatives could be blended and varied in many ways, but Morris’s outline of them shows how carefully he wished to consider the socialist implications of architecture and regional design.
[page 12] The Depopulated City of Morris’s Utopia
Morris’s revolutionary-apocalyptic view of contemporary society and condemnation of Fabian gradualism precluded the sorts of tidy calculations that endeared To-morrow to philanthropic capitalists, but Morris anticipated many of Howard’s prescriptions and recommendations. Generations of readers of News from Nowhere have puzzled over the scene in which Guest awakens in the garden-surrounded Guest House (former site of the Morris family’s Hammersmith home), and learns that “the great clearing of 1955” has returned the northeast London suburbs of Walthamstow and Woodford, among many other London sites, to forests and pasturage. One of the chief plot elements of the early chapters of News from Nowhere, in which Guest travels with his guide from Hammersmith in West London, eastward through Kensington, Charing Cross, Piccadilly, and Trafalgar Square, is the traveller’s mounting amazement at gardens, gracefully spaced and eclectically designed houses, new public buildings, open and enclosed arcades, and even forests in the centre of the nineteenth-century city he has left.

As a spatial paradigm for the inversion of capitalist priorities, Morris’s pastoralized London provided a socialist thought-experiment about what complete “renewal” of an existing city might mean. In the reality of the 1990s, by contrast, the highway that runs in Morris’s book “through wide sunny meadows and garden-like tillage” (202) is the arterial “Great West Road” (A4), a sluiceway of flyovers and thundering lorries, but Guest learns that the Victorian royal Kensington Gardens have become part of a wooded ring which surrounds inner London. Dick adds that the woodland


goes from here northward and west right over Paddington and a little way down Notting Hill: thence it runs north-east to Primrose Hill, and so on; rather a narrow strip of it gets through Kingsland to Stoke-Newington and Clapton, where it spreads out along the heights about the Lea marshes; on the other side of which, as you know, is Epping Forest holding out a hand to it. (206)
Ebenezer Howard’s later plans for “garden cities,” described below, provided for the preservation of a green ring around each city of the sort described in News, as well as easily accessible arcades for goods and produce. Drastic depopulation has transformed Bloomsbury and other areas of central London, and those public buildings which still stand have found other uses. The former British Museum in Bloomsbury, for example, ‘now’ surrounded by trees and parkland, has become a public gathering place and arcade for people’s wares:
[Dick] turned the horse under an archway which brought us into a very large paved quadrangle, with a big sycamore tree in each corner and a plashing fountain in the midst. Near the fountain were a few market stalls, with awnings over them of gay striped linen cloth, about which some people, mostly women and children, were [page 13] moving quietly, looking at the goods exposed there. The ground floor of the building round the quadrangle was occupied by a wide arcade or cloister, whose fanciful but strong architecture I could not enough admire. Here also a few people were sauntering or sitting reading on the benches. (231)
Dick observes that on Fridays the place is usually “thronged, and gay with people, and in the afternoon there is generally music about the fountain.” The new society requires its books and memorials, but these are diffused more evenly and accessibly throughout Nowhere’s green and pleasant land. At the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square (which still stands), Dick remarks that “I have sometimes puzzled as to what the name means; anyhow, nowadays wherever there is a place where pictures are kept as curiosities permanently it is called a National Gallery, perhaps after this one. Of course there are a good many of them up and down the country.”

Morris’s most notorious transvaluation of spatial and political values is probably Nowhere’s use of the neo-Gothic Houses of Parliament to market nominally coarser wares (the “Dung-market”). This ironic detail was not without oblique relevance to contemporary city planners, many of whom commented on ways better to recycle waste. Guest also remarks (with relief) that the new society no longer uses coal-based steam power, and other advocates of small-scale and reciprocal consumer markets have noted from time to time that (some) natural wastes can be conveyed to urban gardens, parks, and nearby farms for use as fertilizer. Morris’s ‘Central London’ might indeed benefit from a convenient location by the river for such a redistribution-centre.

Piccadilly Circus, London’s vestigial town centre, also survives, for its multi-storied buildings serve in Nowhere as visitors’ hostels:
We came suddenly out of the woodland into a short street of handsomely built houses, which my companion named to me at once as Piccadilly: the lower part of these I should have called shops, if it had not been that, as far as I could see, the people were ignorant of the arts of buying and selling. Wares were displayed in their finely designed fronts. . . . On each side of the street ran an elegant arcade to protect foot-passengers, as in some of the old Italian cities. . . .

Said Dick: “Here, you see, is another market on a different plan from most others: the upper stories of these houses are used for guest-houses; for people from all about the country are apt to drift up hither from time to time, as folk are very thick upon the ground, which you will see evidence of presently, and there are people who are fond of crowds, though I can’t say that I am.”

I couldn’t help smiling to see how long a tradition would last. Here was the ghost of London still asserting itself as a centre—an intellectual centre for aught I knew. (213)
Morris—who derived most of his actual income in middle-age from the production and sale of elegantly designed furniture and interior decorations—obviously wished to eradicate, or at least mitigate, the ill-effects of money and commercial exploitation. But he was hardly insensible to the pleasures of variety and individual [page 14] choice. Other contemporary projections had also tried to accommodate such desires in different but possibly complementary ways. The more technologically-minded William Thomson, for example, had envisioned in his Prospectus a socialist community without banks or stores, whose citizens were served conveniently by an elaborate catalogue order system.

In any event, Morris’s utopian London also provided a good deal of architectural variety, from cottages and houses to large public buildings. At one extreme are the bucolic dwellings of Nowhere’s Hammersmith:


There were houses about, some on the road, some amongst the fields, with pleasant lanes leading down to them, and each surrounded by a teeming garden. They were all pretty in design, and as solid as might be, but countrified in appearance, like yeomen’s dwellings; some of them of red brick like those by the river, but more of timber and plaster. (202)
At the other, of course, are Morris’s British Museum, National Gallery, and Piccadilly Circus.

But how many larger communal buildings of the latter sort should utopian-socialist societies build or preserve? Other socialist town planners had already commented on the extra expense, labour, and danger created by multiple passageways, fireplaces, kitchens, gardens, and so on, but even so, most utopian designers favoured Morris’s preferred model of smallish but comfortable private cottages.

In Nowhere, Guest enjoys several meals hospitably served in counterparts of tribal folk-halls and nineteenth-century phalangsteries and communes, but the housing and domestic arrangements are noticeably traditional (almost all servers of food are women, for example). Old Hammond, Morris’s principal spokesperson for the new society, is well aware of nineteenth-century socialist plans for communal dwellings, but he defends the prevalence of household-sized units as follows:
“Phalangsteries, eh?” said he. “Well, we live as we like, and we like to live as a rule with certain house-mates that we have got used to. Remember, again, that poverty is extinct, and that the Fourierist phalangsteries and all their kind, as was but natural at the time, implied nothing but a refuge from mere destitution. Such a way of life as that could only have been conceived of by people surrounded by the worst form of poverty. But you must understand therewith, that though separate households are the rule amongst us, and though they differ in their habits more or less, yet no door is shut to any good-tempered person who is content to live as the other house-mates do.” (247)
Several concrete nineteenth-century prototypes existed for the more or less benignly balanced industrial, farm, and craft societies envisioned by socialist planners. These included factory-communities such as George Cadbury’s quasi-pastoral Bourneville (Marsh, ch. 14), and Morris and Company’s Merton Abbey [page 15] “works,” which the Firm had established in 1881 on the River Wandle. Kropotkin and other contemporary planners believed that newer sources of power could permit redispersion of industrial work once again from large factories to outlying areas or homes, and Morris observes of Nowhere’s miniature “workshops” that
“We don’t call them factories now, [Dick remarks] but Banded-workshops; that is, places where people collect who want to work together.”

“I suppose,” said I, “power of some sort is used there?”

“No, no,” said he. “Why should people collect together to use power, when they can have it at the places where they live, or hard by, any two or three of them; or any one, for the matter of that? No; folk collect in these Banded-workshops to do hand-work in which working together is necessary or convenient; such work is often very pleasant. In there, for instance, they make pottery and glass—there, you can see the tops of the furnaces.

I see no smoke coming from the furnaces,” said I.

“Smoke?” said Dick; “why should you see smoke?” (227)
Most readers of News from Nowhere have sensed that the effortless minimalism and self-sufficiency of its pastoral utopia reflect forms of economic equilibrium possible only with exquisitely nuanced cooperative planning, if at all. Morris provided no such prescriptive or managerial scaffolding, but the very fluidity of Morris’s ideal order—in which Nowhereans move from harvesting to road maintenance to shop-keeping or the entertaining of guests—was an ardent desideratum for Kropotkin and other contemporary socialist and social-reformist planners. Intentionally or not, Morris sketched and ‘applied’ several hypotheses placed in contemporary circulation by Kropotkin’s expositions of village economics and the proposals of other fin de siècle city and social planners, and background awareness of such expositions helped his audience “see it” as Morris hoped they would.

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