Culture & Entertainment
Slow Living: History Repeating Itself
The late 18th century to the mid 19th century in England and Western Europe marked a transition from hand production methods to machine made production. This transition known as the Industrial Revolution fostered a period of great economic growth and prosperity. New materials, new production methods and efficiencies allowed goods to be produced in large quantities at low costs, leading to the rise of the factory and the modern city. But, with new found efficiencies and prosperity came a host of challenges: poor working conditions, deteriorating urban standards of living, child labor, as well as the loss of many local craft jobs.
The Arts and Crafts Movement of the late 19th century, marked a rebellion of sorts to the Industrial Revolution, led by artisans and intellectuals such as William Morris. They believed that mass production had eroded good design, made us humans less creative, and overall resulted in lower quality goods. Further, they were convinced that the Industrial Revolution had led to social and moral decline. Morris and company advocated for production by small groups or individuals making high quality goods that involved high levels of skill and attention to detail. Morris once said “ have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
Fast-forward 100 years… Just as the Arts and Crafts Movement of the late 19th century was a reaction to the loss of traditional skills, creativity and machine-made mass production of the Industrial Revolution, today’s Slow Living, represents a reprioritization, a re-emphasis on authenticity as a reaction to the super sized, big box, one-size-fits- all, mass-production trend that has marked this century. In part, what’s driving the interest in local and in Slow Living, is: a post 9/11 and post recession shift in values and priorities emphasizing good design and quality; consumer product safety issues from some Chinese imports; and, a recognition of the importance of environmental and social responsibility. Sound familiar? With all of the excesses of the last several decades, leading to a hyper commercialized economy and product base disconnected from humanity – today the appeal is for real, the authentic.
In this era of disposable culture, it is important that we not lose the traditional methods, attention to detail, skills and quality of the past if were are to sustain the economy of tomorrow. History has shown that we are not that adept at learning from the past. But, let’s hope that the renewed emphasis on Slow Living is an exception.