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2 THE DECLINE OF THE HANDICRAFT SYSTEM THE advance of industrialism meant ruin for the artisan class and for that form of economic and social organization which it had created, the corporate guild. To the casual observer the Restoration was a period of tranquil stability, interrupted here and there by short-lived manifestations of political discontent , but essentially devoted to hard work, material progress , and middle-class morality. Yet beneath the surface there was a struggle between the new dynamic of industrial capitalism and an old way of life built about the concept of economic equilibrium. The logic of historical development was on the side of the factory, but its triumph was bought with the sacrifice of the guildsman whose livelihood depended on a precapitalistic mode of production. The handicraft system had made possible an organization of manufacture suitable to a static communal order. It was designed to meet the needs of a stable population, to maintain an unchanging standard of living, to supply a market local in scope. As for the structure and outlook of artisan guilds, they reflected the pastoral economic world in which they had matured. They sought to regulate output in such a way as to assure an adequate supply of goods for the consumer and a fair return for the producer. Endowed by the state with quasi-legal powers, they sought to prescribe methods of manufacture, prices and wages, terms of employment, and standards of workmanship. Their ultimate goal was the achievement of a social justice appropriate to a rural polity composed of autonomous corporate interests. The advantages inherent in mechanical efficiency and competitive individualism were renounced for the sake of security and order. [ 21 ] PART ONE: RESTORATION During the eighteenth century, however, guilds began to decline in those countries most directly affected by the early Industrial Revolution. As new methods of finance, production, and trade developed, the functions of handicraft organizations lost their significance, and the state began to remove restrictions on the free development of economic initiative. In Western Europe the transition from a handicraft to a mechanized method of manufacture was more gradual and the process of social adjustment to the factory system less difficult than in Central Europe. For whereas by I789 the guilds of England and France had lost much of their economic importance, in the Holy Roman Empire they still enjoyed full possession of their ancient rights. It was the French Revolution which opened a new era in the development of Germany by violently thrusting upon it the tenets of liberalism , nationalism, and industrial freedom. In J79I the National Assembly of France removed all restrictions on admission to a craft and outlawed trade associations seeking to regulate the wages and hours of labor. The Napoleonic regime continued to uphold the laissez-faire principle in manufacture, extending it to all territories annexed to the empire. The first region of Germany to feel the effects of liberal economic legislation was therefore the left bank of the Rhine, which was under French rule after I793ยท As Bonaparte gained mastery over northern Germany, guilds were also abolished in Hanover, Oldenburg, and the Hanseatic cities. Finally, between I 808 and r810 the Kingdom of Westphalia and the Grand Duchy of Berg removed the legal obstacles to the free exercise of a trade.1 The states of central and southern Germany, although not immediately subject to foreign control, were impressed with the example of French economic policy. Napoleon, who dominated their diplomatic affairs through the Confederation of the Rhine, encouraged them to follow his precedent in domestic legislation as well. Thus in Bavaria the leading min- [ 22 ] DECLINE OF THE HANDICRAFT SYSTEM ister Count Maximilian von Montgelas, influenced by the teachings of enlightened despotism, pursued a course calculated to concentrate political and economic power in the hands of the state. In a series of industrial measures promulgated between I 799 and 18I 5 he reduced the prerogatives of the guilds by restricting their right to license tradesmen. The Thuringian principalities too began to transfer jurisdiction in economic questions from guild courts to government authorities , and in I8II Duke Karl August of Saxe-Weimar, "Augustus and Maecenas" to Goethe's generation, undertook a revision of guild statutes in order to encourage a freer exchange of goods within his small realm.2 The most far-reaching economic changes, however, were introduced in Prussia. The Treaty of Tilsit had reduced the proud kingdom of Frederick the Great to the rank of a thirdrate power. Deprived of half its...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781400882755
Related ISBN
9780691007557
MARC Record
OCLC
966782625
Pages
360
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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