Reviews of Books

L. R. PHELPS
1889 English Historical Review  
of Working Men. By J. M. B/LKNBEITHEH. (London : Swan Sonnenschein. 1889.) FEW things are more striking in modern economical literature than tho increasing number of monographs on the facts of English industrial life by German savants. The works of Brentano have long been placed by common consent among those without which no economist's library is complete. Just lately we have had from the pen of the learned Dr. Aschrott the fullest and most lucid account of the English poor law yet published.
more » ... ow Dr. Biirnreither steps into the field with what promises to be the liber classicus on the subject of associations of English workin" men. When complete it will consist of three volumes, the first dealing with friendly societies, the second with trades unions, the third with cooperative associations. The first instalment is before us, admirably translated by Miss Taylor, with a graceful prefatory note by Mr. J. M. Ludlow. The author notices at once a great difficulty of his subject, viz. tho absence of any single, dominant theory, legislative or otherwise, and of any single great influence from the history of the question in England. The key to that history we find in the rise of the value of labour which this half century has seen, coupled with the tendency to connect wages more and more closely with work, payment with results-in a word, tho growth of contract. This movement he traces to two main causes-first, the expansion of empire, the increase of production and of wealth ; secondly, the growth of associations amongst labourers in the three forms of friendly societies, trades unions, and co-operative bodies. These associations are a counterpoise to capital, growing with its growth and strengthening with its strength. What has been their effect upon distribution ? Have they increased the wealth of the workman ? Have they increased his share of the product proportionately, wages as much as rent and profits ? Have they, again, bettered the condition of workmen as a whole, or is the improvement less and less as we pass down the social scale, from the best paid mechanic to tho worst paid labourer ? These are questions which our author proposes to himself, but thero are others involved. The intellectual, moral, and political effects of association have to be reckoned with and summed up. This gives rise to a discussion of the ' social question ' in England, and a digression on self-help and independence of state help as a feature in the character of the English working classes. There is much in these chapters with which every one must agree, but at the same time it may be doubted whether it was wise to introduce them, for they raise questions of great difficulty. To the solution of these questions Dr. Biirnreither's book, with its wealth of practical knowledge and historical research, is a contribution of the highest value, but it is a little premature to assume results as premisses, so to suv, of a deductive treatment of the subject. After all, associations and tliuir history throw light on one side only of what is at bottom a metaphysical question. The treatment of such points as the relation of tho state to the individual is sure to be inadequate when attempted in a work with a definite and a limited subject. Thus we miss in the book before us at
doi:10.1093/ehr/iv.xvi.803 fatcat:doolv65zonfq7nhktyy7yso27m