Economic and Social Importance of the Eight-Hour Movement
The wants of mankind are everywhere simple or complex according to the quality of the habits and Customs of the society in which he moves. Habit not only governs our social wants, but it exercises an important influence over our physical wants also.
As wages are governed by the standard of living, and the standard of living is governed by the social wants of the laborer, how then are the social wants determined? A little observation will show that the wants of mankind are everywhere simple or complex according to the quality of the habits and Customs of the society in which he moves. Habit not only governs our social wants, but it exercises an important influence over our physical wants also. While it does not determine whether or not we shall eat, it does decide how and what we shall eat, the clothes we shall wear, the kind of house we shall live in; nay, more, the very language we speak, the morals we adopt, and the religion we profess, are all determined by the habits and customs of those among whom we live. Whether we are Christians, Mohammedans or Buddhists; whether we eat with chop-sticks, or use knives and forks; whether we live upon rice, wear wooden shoes and a cotton frock, or eat black bread and dress in sheep-skins, or enjoy the comforts and luxuries of modern civilization, mainly depends upon the prevailing social habits and customs of the country we happen to live in. In fact, habit is the strongest force in human affairs. It is more powerful than governments, armies or absolute despotism. It is at once the motor force and ratchet wheel of human progress. Wants push the car of civilization forward, the habits and customs prevent it from slipping backward. In short, the habits and customs of a people constitute its real social character.
What is the reference here? The original text looks interesting.
I'm posting, in installments, the main argument of George Gunton's "The Economic and Social Importance of the Eight-Hour Movement" published in 1889 by the American Federation of Labor. It expressed the core philosophy of the federation in its founding period. I've summarized Gunton's argument into 17 "points" and, in around a week, will be posting an outline containing all 17 points, each linked to the extended argument containing that point.
Gunton's paper elaborated on Ira Steward's eight-hour theory, although there are some point upon which there is a clear divergence. In the future, I will also be posting a point form summary of Steward's argument and, eventually, a discussion of the important differences (and their relevance to current events).
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