The Control of Time and Space
There is always a mediator between praxis and practices, namely the conceptual scheme by the operation of which matter and form, neither with any independent existence, are realized as structures, that is[,] as entities which are both empirical and intelligible.
Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Savage Mind
It has become commonplace to assert that the concepts on which we as social agents rely virtually constitute objects by bringing them into view. The categories of a culture thereby become instruments of power, for in defining the setting they demarcate the imaginable courses of action. This view of culture as a schema for representing the world offers a starting point for conceiving culture's effectivity. But it is incomplete. If accepted as a terminus, it obstructs our understanding of how culture is situated at the point of production and of how it is reproduced. By casting culture as a system of representations, practice appears in the first instance as a referent for signs.
Comparative study of procedures on the factory shop floor reveals that the micro-practices of production were constituted as signs, whether or not they served as the objects of a system of verbal representations. As the analysis of the piece-rate scales demonstrated, the bare instrumentalities of the mill had a representational function incorporated into their material operation. The commonsensical notion that culture is a schema that agents own and apply to interpret the environment imitates heroic visions of the taming of external nature: the environment presents itself as a brute fact which is mediated and thereby civilized by each individual's use of the possession of culture. But the factory is culturally constituted through and through: the producers need only follow its palpable logic. The template of labor as a commodity came to life not in the subjective outlooks of individuals but in the orchestration of practice to fulfill a signifying function.
Accordingly, the regulation of workers' conduct in time and space at German and British textile factories did not follow a logic that blindly multiplied the means of control and surveillance to create a common
"disciplinary regime." Rather, the instrumentalities of the production site were perspicaciously assembled in each country by unique specifications of the valorization of employees' labor time. As with the analysis of the piece-rate scales, so with the measurement of time we need to consider the relevant physical properties of the production process in order to discern the constitutive effect of cultural categories upon industrial institutions. Not only the monetized time of the workers but the very passage of time in the manufacturing process incorporated contrasting guidelines in the two countries.
The production of the mechanical loom may have been sensible to the naked eye, but it could be intelligibly organized only through its cultural inscriptions. Power looms in England and Germany by the end of the nineteenth century ran at speeds of 70 to over 200 picks per minute. (This means that 70 to over 200 times per minute the looms' shuttles traveled across the warp.) Foremen and overlookers determined the exact rate by adjusting and locking the loom's speed mechanisms. If managers isolated two figures from the flux of production—how long it had taken to weave a length of cloth and the total number of picks that had been woven into it—they could compare the actual total of picks with the hypothetical total the shuttles would have woven if the loom had run perfectly during the time interval,
without interruption. Comparing the theoretically possible with the actual output revealed the proportion of time that had been "lost" due to stoppages, a ratio of relative "efficiency" (Nutzeffekt ). In the decades before the First World War, textile journals on both sides of the channel devoted increasing attention to managerial strategies for quickening the tempo of production. Yet only in Germany did the concept of the efficiency ratio gain currency.
The efficiency ratio formed part of both material practice and discourse in Germany. In the "question and answer" columns of the country's textile periodicals, mill directors exchanged their calculations of this percentage for various makes of looms and asked whether customary ratios existed for various classes of goods—even for a product so specialized as "colored, light jute," for instance. The number of published questions points to grass-roots interest in the topic, and the level of responses sent in by mill owners who drew their estimates from practical experience indicates that the efficiency ratio held a place in the conduct of their everyday business. Max Weber, in his neglected study of a Westphalian weaving mill, referred to the efficiency ratio as a statistic in habitual use among textile firms. Samples of German production ledgers contained columns for listing the total number of weft threads actually woven, for recording the maximum that could in theory have been cranked out, and for reckoning the proportion between the two. The underlying content of the question, "How much ought particular looms to turn out in practice?" could have been reasoned out and formulated only in terms of the average or expected length of cloth, rather than in terms of this percentage. But in Germany the expression of production in terms of
length frequently appeared in conjunction with calculations of the efficiency ratio.
In Britain, by contrast, the concept of an efficiency ratio was not endorsed in prewar publications about mill administration. An article about "Weavingshed Management" in the Textile Manufacturer of 1907 furnishes eloquent testimony about its absence. This essay offered technical and managerial advice on productivity and recommended that managers tally the length of cloth woven on each loom, so that variations in work among looms and among weavers could be investigated. Despite its concern with quantities of output, with record-keeping, and with precise calculation, the article ventured no definition of efficiency and no comparison of the theoretical limit of production with the real level.
Equally instructive is an address which a Lancashire director, H. Dilks, delivered in 1916 to his peers in the British Association of Managers of Textile Works. He asked how the manager could abstract from the details of "daily routine" and represent to himself "the progress of the factory in a broader fashion"—in other words, how he could map factory productivity. Mr.Dilks argued that the graph he labeled Chart 3 (see Figure 5) offers a good way to picture day-to-day changes in efficiency. He explained: "It deals with individual loom stoppages, and indicates the cause of the stoppage and also its duration. It further shows graphically and clearly, by means of one curve, the total amount of loom stoppage in the shed from day to day." This diagram deals only with absolute quantities. It fails to convert these numbers into a ratio or percentage to tell us how much time has been lost, or what portion of possible production time has been lost. The author's description of his Chart 4 has the same feature: "The 'weavers average earnings' form an important measure of the efficiency of the individual loom or weaver, yet it may be high even when a proportion of the looms are stopped. It is therefore desirable to show also the total weavers' earnings for the whole shed—this is a figure that will probably be quite as useful as the other
in forecasting the colour of the half-yearly balance sheet." Mr. Dilks, in keeping with the treatment of labor as an output rather than a conversion process, saw time not as a continuous function but as a sum of separate days, for he figured how many days each loom runs without breaking, not how much time is lost due to breakdowns. This British manager put into words what the output records of other firms display in their arrangement of numbers. In everyday accounting as well as in prescriptive theory, British managers measured production as a substance, in terms of gross quantities of output.
The negotiations in Lancashire between managers and the powerful textile unions over the establishment of production norms for new varieties of cloth offer another context in which to search for mention of an efficiency quotient. The company managers and leaders of the textile unions met to conduct actual trial runs on the looms. To analyze the results of their tests, however, they measured only the number of threads that broke per hour and the total cloth length. When handbooks for weavers measured productivity, they calculated this in terms of pence per week per loom.
It was impossible for the efficiency ratio used in Germany to remain completely unknown in Britain. The designers and manufacturers of looms,
who sold their machines in the international market, boasted that their inventions could sustain high levels of efficiency under test conditions. But British mill managers rarely adopted such a statistic in their everyday practice or professional conferences. In the exceptional cases where they did, they reformulated it to suit their cultural framework. At the Quarry Bank Mill in Styal, Cheshire, the accountants for the American-designed Northrop looms, installed after 1909, calculated "total efficiency" by comparing the sum of wages the weavers received as a group with their hypothetical earnings at 100 percent efficiency. This weaving department may have been unique in Britain for routine calculation of a version of an efficiency ratio before the First World War. The company records show that managers calculated this figure without considering the number of looms operated, however. Total looms in use at the mill fluctuated, so low earnings by weavers could result either from having fewer machines employed or from low productivity of each loom. The statistic measured success in obtaining a final output, not the process of using the equipment.
If German administrators, in the course of computing wages, also had to ascertain every week the number of shots executed on each loom, they had on hand the key figures needed for determining the efficiency ratio. Did the Germans decide to calculate this percentage as an incidental consequence of their adoption of the system of pay by shot? After all, their clerks already had a tally of shots carried out that was lacking among the British accountants. Or did use of the ratio carry a meaning of its own, based on the German designation of labor as a commodity? To answer these questions, we need to consider the functions that might have been served by its calculation.
The actual conditions of weaving on the shop floor contradicted the mathematical premises of the ratio in several respects. Given two looms of identical make, supplied with the same yarn and patterns, the loom with a low efficiency ratio could actually produce more than the loom with a high one. This contradiction arose because in the early twentieth century looms remained unreliable contrivances. They presented managers with a trade-
off between speed and stoppages: the higher the picks per minute, the more frequently weft or warp threads broke and became entangled. The efficiency quotient rested on an image of a self-contained machine whose operating speed was regular and given in advance. Looms of the era, in contrast to this ideal, had to be coaxed and felt out. Raising the speed of the shuttles might cause more stoppages and lower the efficiency ratio, yet result in more cloth at the end of the day. Taken too far, however, preoccupation with the shuttles' speed alone might lower output. "I have been in many factories where they pointed to their high speeds," one German manager remarked about his country, "but usually I could reply that I would let the looms run slower and bet that in each loom I would weave more cloth per day."
The efficiency quotient furnished an inaccurate index for a second reason: it supposed that weaving consisted solely of attending to the shuttles. In truth, weaving was not a uniform activity. Up to a quarter of the loom's possible running time could be "lost" while weavers took care of other essential jobs such as twisting in new warps or having the gears that regulated the warp beam changed. The shorter the warp, the greater the proportion of time consumed by these tasks, independent of any efforts of the weaver or the overlooker. The efficiency ratio could not measure different
weaving processes with a common yardstick, because the ratios for warps of differing lengths were incommensurable. Even within the same mill, Max Weber concluded, the efficiency ratio was unusable for comparisons of work on different types and lengths of warps.
We cannot leap to the conclusion that British methods remained intellectually backward in contrast with those of the Germans. Since the efficiency ratio mirrored the realities of production so poorly, its use cannot be explained as a rational adaptation to the circumstances of production. When Quarry Bank Mill installed American-designed Northrop looms with pick clocks on the eve of the First World War, and even paid their weavers by the shot, they still did not adopt the German form of the statistic. This indicates that the categories used for measuring production did not derive from convenience of calculation once the mode of payment was in place. Instead, the appreciation of production, too, depended upon the intervention of different concepts of labor as a commodity. But with all the imprecision and misrepresentations it introduced, how could the Germans have maintained an interest in their efficiency quotient at all?
Despite the inaccuracies of the ratio, German accountants used it to distribute production costs. Where the measure of the theoretically possible output embraced net factory time, the ratio served as an approximation in distributing overhead and general expenses to determine the manufacturing costs of various classes of goods. If accountants knew the firm's ratios of efficiency for diverse kinds of cloth, they could estimate how long it would take to weave a particular fabric on a loom and would know what level of general expenses or conversion expenses the cloth should bear. But here one notes that the same facts expressed in terms of how long it took to weave
cloth of a certain length could have served just as well to distribute the costs. As we have seen, the Germans had information about the length of the cloth on hand anyway, since they reckoned the number of shots on this basis. At least in this context, the efficiency ratio was not uniquely suited for the function. Its utility was more apparent than real and rested on the assumption that total output ought to be gauged by the actual versus the maximum possible output in a time period rather than, as the British preferred, by gross quantity of output during that period.
The German agents' use of the efficiency ratio to help construct piece-rate scales furnishes another context in which the ratio's utility was culturally defined. To find a base point for graduating the piece-rate scales for weavers, German business experts believed, the employer ought to proceed by first measuring the normal efficiency ratio of a loom at a certain speed to see on average how many shots weavers performed per day. Then to reach a target wage the managers would choose the pay per thousand shots. An observer outside the system notices, again, that the efficiency ratio remains arithmetically superfluous in this operation: one only needs to compute the average length of cloth produced per day to choose the pay per thousand shots. Yet German articles about the construction of weaving scales begin with the need to calculate the efficiency ratio, even those articles written by experienced mill directors who otherwise eschewed elaborate formulas. Here the efficiency ratio does not by itself convey any information or criteria of success that could not have been coded just as accurately in a statement about how much cloth of a certain type could be produced during a certain time interval.
In some instances the Germans employed the efficiency ratio, not to convey information about the known, but as a way of coping with the unknown. When factory owners accepted an order for a pattern of fabric they had not produced before on a large scale, they needed some way of moving from the amount of time taken to weave a similar pattern in the past to estimate how long it would take to weave the novel pattern. They carried out this operation by gathering together their hunches based on prior experience and by estimating then how much down time the new pattern would probably cause in comparison with the similar pattern. Once they had ascertained the picks per minute of the loom, they could calculate how long it would take, in comparison with the similar good, to make the requisite number of shots to fill the order. The fundamental yardstick they used to order their experience about relative weaving difficulty and comparative success was differential down time, not, like the British, simply differential output.
Let us not confound form and content: the Germans' greater concern for a particular concept of efficiency did not denote greater concern for the thing itself. On the eve of the First World War, the "Gospel of Efficiency" had become a standard turn of phrase in Britain. British managers manifested their interest in efficiency in their concern with the small details of production and with the causes of machine stoppages. Germany and Britain competed in the same export markets, especially in those for wool manufactures, where the British more than held their own in the decade before the First World War.
Managers in Britain calibrated output at each loom only between the start of a new piece of cloth and its completion. At some mills, their weavers complained that the warps were not marked with chalk or other signs at
standard intervals so that the weavers could judge how close they had come to the end of their piece. Managers tied measurement to the discrete events of assigning a fabric order to the loom and receiving delivery. In the German case, by contrast, managers conceived of production as a continuous function. One reason they gave for using the pay-by-shot system was that it permitted them to divide the worker's activity and output into minutely small segments. In later years, the introduction of the Schussuhr ("pick clock") permitted the output of the loom to be calculated or read daily. German managers urged workers to work at a regular pace and hoped that workers would even monitor themselves hourly or daily in order to learn how to do so. The workers obliged, but with unforeseen consequences. They became attuned to the manipulation of their labor power and used the efficiency ratio as an index of exploitation. At a meeting to induct weavers into the German Textile Workers' Union in Haan in 1899, a weaver warned that the wages workers received should be compared to the efficiency with which their labor power was used. An increase in take-home pay, he cautioned, might not equal capitalists' added profit "if manufacturers achieve a gain of 12 to 16 percent in efficiency."
It would be simple, but also simplistic, to conclude that the method of pay per shot, the reliance on the efficiency ratio, or, in later years, the use of the pick clock allowed German managers to impose tighter production quotas on workers than could their British counterparts. The timing of the introduction of pay by shot in German factories indicates that the practice did not originate as a strategy to control workers on the shop floor. For the new scales went into effect in Germany well before experts began to advocate "scientific management" or Taylorist methods to monitor the execution of labor. Moreover, the British elaborated their own methods for keeping track of the efficiency of individual workers. Especially in Lancashire, but in Yorkshire as well, British overlookers posted the weekly output of the weavers in their charge. The contrast between the countries arose not from the degree of surveillance but from its form.
For all the inaccuracies the efficiency ratio introduced, the Germans still favored a statistic that they could relate directly to the execution of labor during a time period and to the use of a timed potential. When British managers measured output by weavers' wages, they effectively took the price of the labor as a marker for the quantity of labor delivered. Had British analysts focused on the process of transforming a labor capacity into an output, however, they might have realized that such an index can be misleading: weavers on fancy patterns can earn high wages with only one loom in operation while they wait for repair of others in their allotment. On these grounds, Max Weber, in his study of a weaving shed, rejected wages as a measure of labor effort. Weber, like German manufacturers, recommended instead computing the total picks inserted. But principles for denoting output through time did not remain sequestered on paper; what bookkeepers wrote in the internal ledgers was externalized on the gates of the factory.
British managers marked the beginning and close of the daily cycle of production by subjecting their workers to exceedingly rigid controls on entry into and exit from the factory. The most common, though not universal, practice at mills in Yorkshire and Lancashire was to latch the doors at the start of the workday, compelling latecomers to return home. Only at the
breakfast or lunch break several hours after, when the factory as a whole made a ritual of stopping and resuming activity, could latecomers pass through the factory portal and commence work. Interviews with former workers and the complaints published in the union newspapers provide dramatic accounts of workers having the mill door literally shut in their face as they dashed to enter exactly at starting time. Many employers in Britain instructed their porters to secure the gate forcefully even if workers running to it were within sight. "At six o'clock, bang, that's it, shut the gate," remembered a spinner from Halifax. "The man there, his job was to pull it through a yard at once." A female winder in Preston, Lancashire, reported to her union in 1915 that the manager apprehended her entering the mill just as the door began to close. He "mangled and bruised" her arms:
On Monday morning when I went to work I had just got my foot on the threshold of the door when the door was slammed to and my foot was caught between the door and the door jamb. I pushed the door open with my hand and as I entered the manager was standing there who said to me "Outside—you are not coming through."
To be sure, some textile mills, especially in Lancashire, imposed fines for tardiness, generally standard amounts that served as a disciplinary tool
rather than as a carefully graduated form of recompense for the employer. Yet oral testimony and workers' newspapers show that locking out represented the expected and predominant routine. Mills also combined fines with locking out; workers less than, say, fifteen minutes overdue could pay a penny for admittance, before other latecomers were excluded for good.
In some instances textile firms carried the practice of locking out to such an extreme that latecomers were prohibited from entering the mill for the day. "This morning I was about five minutes late," a Lancashire weaver complained to the union in 1912. "The watchman would not let me through." Some mills prohibited latecomers from waiting near the mill entrance for access and instead sent them all the way home. In Lancashire the union received several complaints from weavers who were denied entrance to the mill for several days or even a week because of inconsequential tardiness. For example, in Preston a female weaver complained to the union in 1908 that when she arrived late one day the manager spied her as she was "going through the watch-house" and told her to stay home for the week. These severe penalties applied to the Lancashire mule spinners as well, the masculine "barefoot aristocrats" of the mills.
It would be tempting to explain the practice of bolting the gate as an historical residual, a carryover of primitive management technique from the early industrial age. Stories about locked gates abound in the folklore about the days of violent industrial change at the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth. When a Marsden woolen spinner, born in 1901, complained that the mill gateway resembled "a gaol—with spikes on top," his words echoed the exact comparison that cotton workers in Lancashire had voiced about the gates more than a century earlier. Could the legacy of this earlier transition in England at large have left its traces even in regions such as Yorkshire, which mechanized much later? The historical record does not support such a hypothesis.
So far as the textile unions could tell, during the two decades before the war the practice of locking the gate became more widespread. The Yorkshire Factory Times at the beginning of the twentieth century followed the exten-
sion of the practice to several mills previously free from its rigidities. One of Yorkshire's most popular dialect poets, James Burnley, in his tour of Bradford textile plants in the late 1880s found one instance in which a firm then shut tardy workers out but in earlier years had fined them. What is more, in these years the new generation of managers who had formal business education sometimes initiated the practice as they took over the reins of directorship. They did so even in neighborhoods where firms suffered from competition for scarce supplies of labor. Locking workers out in Britain thus by no means represented a survival from a previous era.
Could the heads of the British mills have imposed the practice to inculcate time discipline that would pay off in the long run by inducing prompt attendance? In contrast to their predecessors at the dawn of the factory age, mill directors in the late nineteenth century no longer thought it necessary to break an unruly work force to the novel stringency of indoor factory work. The businessmen's forum, the Textile Mercury , concluded that over the long term, the "diligence and punctuality of textile workers may be said certainly to have improved, and it is to their credit that their current lapses from perfection still shew favorably against those recorded in some trades." Even so, mill directors might have reasoned that bolting latecomers out would deter workers from arriving even the slightest bit late. It was not unusual for a mill to have a tardy worker every day. Many workers lacked the time-keeping devices necessary for precise adjustment of conduct to the employers' sanctions.
Had mill proprietors in Britain sought only a display of authority or a demonstration of their power to deny wages, they could have used more apt means. They could, for example, have imposed exceptionally severe fines for tardiness, but also have let latecomers onto the premises. This technique
might have encouraged punctuality without loss of labor power. British mill owners sacrificed some of the labor time available to them, even as they complained of labor shortages. Sometimes the services they cast away remained invisible. If workers were not sure they could get to the mill on time, they might not bother going at all until after the morning break. Shutting workers out also made it more difficult for managers to tell in the morning whether an absent worker had no intention of showing up or had simply met a latched door and might return at lunch time. But the "waste" of labor would have been palpable when, as was sometimes permitted, latecomers waited near the mill for the gates to open rather than make the journey home and back again before breakfast. The excluded labor could reach substantial levels. In Burnley, Lancashire, when the porter at one mill in 1897 allegedly shut the gate two minutes early, sixty-seven weavers who found themselves outside could not work until after the breakfast break. Since employers excluded tardy supervisory workers as well, they denied themselves the vital services of loom tuners who were not instantly replaceable. For example, the minutes of the Halifax Overlookers' Society indicate that in 1897 an overlooker was locked out for arriving a single minute late.
It is conceivable, but undemonstrable, that locking out conferred economic advantages upon British mill employers. If the humiliating experience of total exclusion at the gate stimulated punctuality much better than payment of any fine, locking out may have more than made up for the incidental loss of labor. Whatever the case, the influence of culture cannot be identified automatically in any departure from utilitarian ploys, only in the consistent symbolic forms through which agents strategize.
Could the practice of sending workers home have indicated nothing more than that the British employers did not want the bother of keeping records of fines for lateness or that they did not want to bear the expense of employing a porter to staff the front gate all day long? Oral testimony as well as the tips published in the Textile Manufacturer indicate that the porter at-
tended the entrance at all hours anyway, to receive salesmen and other visitors. During his free moments he did basic paperwork or small craft jobs such as covering rollers. In sum, a system that monitored workers' exact moment of arrival would have added no significant enforcement costs. Most telling of all, when tramways became a means of commuting to the mill for some workers at the beginning of the twentieth century, factory owners exempted workers from the lock-out rule if they arrived late through no fault of their own but because of transit breakdowns. In view of the administrative complications this exception introduced, it becomes clear that the practice of bolting workers out rested on an ideal standard rather than on a strategy of convenience.
British directors, as well as the workers themselves, viewed the technique of bolting latecomers out as part of the logic of running a factory. One manager from Marsden, who had worked his way up from the position of a simple weaver, formulated an explanation for shutting workers out. "If they're not here on time," he was fond of repeating, "they don't deserve to work." This Marsden manager became known for sending latecomers home even if they were his friends and neighbors. The British technique supposed that the worker had a responsibility to deliver products to the firm in prompt fashion. By locking workers out the British employers did not treat the workers' time itself as a form of property for whose loss they claimed restitution. Shutting workers out did not lay claim to the labor power lodged in the person of the offenders but treated them as though they were contractors who had not taken due care to meet delivery deadlines and therefore deserved suspension of the contract. The struggle was over the acquisition of the product. "Discipline," an early employer declared, "was to produce the goods on time." The ritual of locking workers out diverged
from the artisanal ideal of freedom to choose one's hours of work. Industrial practice did not develop from the habitual carryover of routines from the era of domestic and independent artisanal production but was shaped by the form labor assumed as a commodity in the industrial present.
The British workers themselves may have preferred being locked out to being fined, because the lock-out at least maintained the fiction that workers sold the product of their labor. In the earliest days of the factory system, workers reasoned that since they sold merely their output, the employer had no grounds to impose a penalty for lateness. For example, a writer for The Poor Man's Advocate complained in 1832 about the fines for tardiness at a cotton spinning mill: "The machines may not work while the workman is absent; but how can the employer lose, when he only pays for the work that is done?" This reasoning viewed the employment transaction as the delivery of output, not the guarantee of a capacity. At the end of the century, the editorial columns and correspondents' reports of the textile workers' newspaper still maintained that employers had no right to fine workers for lost labor time. The newspapers of the textile unions depicted the hardships imposed by the alternative technique of locking out but did not articulate any objection in principle to the custom. If workers failed to arrive promptly, they lost merely the right to continue the delivery transaction. Fining, by contrast, implied to the workers that the employer controlled the disposition over their labor power and could demand compensation for the loss of the owned time.
On occasion, workers' own actions expressed their acceptance of locking out more clearly than the exclamations of their newspapers did. Workers at a mill in the Colne Valley went on strike in 1910 to demand that latecomers who had been delayed by breakdowns in the public transport system on which they relied be exempted from the shut-out rule. Although the majority of workers there commuted to the mill by foot, they turned out on strike in solidarity with the tram riders until the factory owner granted the riders' demand. The workers never pressed for elimination of lock-outs altogether or for their liberalization by, say, having the employer introduce a grace period for all workers.
Whether locking out represented a spontaneous reflex by managers or a calculated policy, its principle did reach formal exposition. A popular Yorkshire handbook of the era, How to Make a Woollen Mill Pay , argued that the "enforcement of punctuality at work" represented the first and essential prerequisite for the enactment of a "mill routine." Discipline seemed not to rest on workers' mere presence at work, but on their ceremonial entering and exiting of the premises. In Germany, where the workday was conceived as the elapse of continuous time, not just a temporal succession, time discipline placed more emphasis upon the duration of production than on its beginning and end points.
The German approach could lead to anomalous time accounting. When the introduction of a stricter commercial code in Germany required that manufacturers issue factory rules in 1891 listing exact hours of work, German factory inspectors found that almost all mills already had definite starting and stopping hours. Yet many textile factories did not. They had been content until then with specifying that production would begin "in the morning" or "after sunrise" and last for a certain period. These cases revealed that the organization of a meaningful production process had not required a rigid starting point as an anchor for the passage of time.
German employers treated unpunctual attendance as a denial of labor power whose loss could be calibrated and precisely counterbalanced. Many textile factories applied a sliding scale of fines which either adjusted the penalty to the worker's average earnings or specified percentages of aver-
age earnings to be levied as fines for various periods of tardiness. This not only graduated the fine to the worker's ability to pay, but it also gauged the value of the lost time. Other mills in Germany applied a standard fine for each fraction of an hour lost. Rather than fixing the penalty at nominal amounts for gross intervals of tardiness—that is, rather than using the fine as a simple tool of discipline—the Germans thereby monetized the lost time itself and froze it with a metric. Due perhaps to their greater interest in minute-by-minute accounting, rather than in marking only gross intervals, textile mills in Germany introduced punch-in clocks on a wide scale at the turn of the century. German managers did not see punctual arrival as an unconditional preliminary for
undertaking work in the factory. The time of living labor became a form of property for whose loss employers exacted a refined compensation.
Whereas British textile workers who worked in the textile mills before the First World War drew spontaneously in interviews upon many emotional memories about the lock-outs, former German textile workers described the controls of the threshold in the same period as relatively incidental. One woman's response from the Wuppertal was echoed by others: "Fines? Of course you got fined if you came late. That was not so terrible." Like the first generation of factory workers in Britain, the German home weavers who rebelled against the newly emergent factories labeled the mills "prisons." The derisory term for undertaking factory labor was "going to Spandau." In cultural comparisons, the form in which a grievance is articulated may prove more revealing than the simple occurrence of a complaint. In their indictment of the unprecedented indignities of centralized manufacture, the German workers focused on the state of internment rather than, as the British did, on appurtenances such as the locked doors
and spiked gates encountered in passing across the border. For the German workers, unlike the British, the procedure of entering the mill did not comprise a charged ritual that exemplified the industrial wage-labor transaction.
Can we discern statutory interdictions which prevented German directors from adopting the same practice of locking out as their British counterparts? Employers' work rules offer an answer from the domain of practice. The archives of many German cities safeguard a complete set of the factory rules submitted to the police for obligatory inspection. Of the several hundred work codes available from textile companies before World War One, only a handful exclude latecomers. In one of these rare instances, from a
silk mill near Bielefeld, the employer revised the ordinance from locking out in 1892 to fining latecomers in 1894. An exception such as this one, studied and approved by inspectors, demonstrates the absence of state constraints upon employers wishing to shut workers out. Legal experts and industrial
courts agreed that German employers, so long as they included this provision in their work code, had the right to block entry. In contrast with their British counterparts, however, they generally chose not to do so.
An investigator determined to find a utilitarian explanation for the difference in entrance customs between Germany and Britain might try to explain them by the balance of power between workers and employers. If, say, German textile employers suffered from a relative shortage of labor, this might have discouraged them from locking workers out or from stringently marking the start of the day for fear of provoking workers to transfer to other firms. We can reject this hypothesis by relying on comparisons within Germany itself. A comparison of regions that had surpluses of highly skilled workers, such as Krefeld, with areas such as the Münsterland, where directors complained of shortages, reveals no difference in the entrance customs. Conversely, as was noted above, British mill directors locked workers out even during periods when workers were scarce.
The German directors' rejection of shutting workers out becomes all the more significant when placed in its legal context. After 1891, German law forbade employers from holding in their general till the monies collected through fines. Factory directors in Germany had to put such withholdings into special funds devoted to the welfare of workers, such as factory health insurance funds or welfare committees. The German reliance on fining and the British reliance on locking out are the very reverse of the outcomes that would be expected if the employers had obeyed only the crude monetary incentives of the environment. In truth, the legislation in Germany merely affirmed from above what had already been settled from below: since the era of small shop production under subcontracting systems, German textile employers had deposited workers' fines into insurance and support funds,
although they knew perfectly well they were not required to do so. German practice ostensibly hearkened back to the guild ideal of depositing fines for infractions of artisanal rules into the association's treasury. British mill owners, under the same circumstances, could pocket disciplinary and restitutive fines as they pleased.
Since employers and workers in Germany conceived of work time as a continuous process of converting labor power into an output, they treated it as something that could be abstracted from its context and transferred. In the earliest days of the factory system, German workers themselves had proposed that tardy arrivals be allowed to make up lost minutes by working late. Many factory directors gave their work force the option of taking off early from work during unofficial religious or communal holidays under the condition that the lost hours be made up by working an hour of over-
time during the following days. There was nothing surreptitious about this practice, no attempt by managers in this fashion, at least, to gain hours for the week in excess of those allowed by law. Textile directors had specified in early factory ordinances that they could shift hours among the days of the week, so long as the total remained unchanged. In Britain, production time was anchored in discrete beginning and ending points and remained bound to this concrete setting.
The German managers' floating starting points for the measurement of the workday and their reliance on efficiency ratios both rested on their premise that time was transferable and unfastened. The efficiency ratios attempted an "objective" comparison between the use of time on different days, in different years, or in industrial eras that lay decades apart. Rather than comparing technological progress in terms of the length of the cloth manufactured per loom in the course of a day or of a year, as the English did, the Germans looked at progress in terms of the utilization of time. "If the old weaving mills used to get along with 50 percent efficiency," one journal contributor commented in 1914, "that does not come close to yielding a profit at the end nowadays." A German mill director judged the success of his tenure by looking for improvements in efficiency ratios rather than seeking only an increase in the value of output per loom, as
his British counterpart did. In truth, the physical characteristics of the weaving process did not permit any valid comparison of efficiency ratios for looms running at different speeds. The decision to contrast past and present in terms of this ratio therefore derived from an a priori assumption that change ought to be conceived as the differential utilization of abstract time.
The systems for controlling workers' entrances and exits in the textile industry can be generalized to other trades with large work premises. In Germany tardy metal workers and engineers were simply fined, whereas the custom of shutting late workers outside the factory gate emerged in many enterprises in Britain. In the metal-working industry a British manager judged in 1899 that "the usual practice" across the land was to shut latecomers out until breakfast. "The best timekeepers," he added, "are usually retired soldiers, who are accustomed to strict discipline." Likewise, a guide to the "commercial management of engineering works" recommended in 1899 that employers pare their disciplinary rules to keep them simple and memorable. But its author insisted upon the draconian exclusion of latecomers from the premises until the start of the next shift. The adoption of the custom in diverse circumstances—whether the work force consisted predominantly of men or women, whether labor was centralized under one roof early or late in the industrial revolution—implies that the practice embodied a fundamental premise.
Frontiers of Discipline
The entrance to the textile mill served not just as a regulator of the passage of time but as a marker of territory, the boundary of the employer's domain. In each country the walls of the factory furnished an empty slate on which contrasting messages were inscribed. British mill owners manipulated the doorways of the mill to emphasize their jurisdiction over the borderline of the domain. If workers threatened to strike, the employers impounded them by locking the gate. When an amendment to the Factory Acts in 1902 shortened the legal working hours on Saturdays, an employer in Leeds ordered that the workroom doors, previously locked only from the inside, henceforth be locked from the outside as well. Since only top supervisors had keys to unlock the doors from the inside anyway, his action may have been intended more as a signal than as a real safeguard: if this mill director could not choose the duration of labor as he pleased, he could in this fashion display his claim to prohibit movement across the frontier of the labor space during the workday. Other proprietors responded to the forced reduction in hours with the same tactic of heightened border controls. "Some say it is like being locked in York Castle," the textile union newspaper reported from Ravensthorpe. Command over the entry points represented the critical point of confrontation.
Since the factory proprietors rarely had contact with workers in the course of the daily cycle of production, the entryway itself remained as their primary zone of contact, at once symbolic and material. Both employers and workers viewed the threshold this way. Sir Titus Salt positioned his guests by the mill gate so that they could watch the ceremony
of the workers leaving. Salt's factory must be counted among the largest in Britain, offering less chance for exchanges between the employer and ordinary workers. For this reason, the ritual of entering Salt's mill took on added importance: if workers arrived late to his mill in the morning, they "knew they dealt not with delegated authority, but with the master himself." Isaac Holden, an owner in Bradford, listed as one of his key management principles for a mill he owned that "the hands going in and coming out must go tranquilly." Among workers at Crossley's Dean Clough Mill in Halifax, the legend persisted that the elderly mother of the owner had had a mirror installed in her room so that she could inspect the crowds of workers daily as they entered and exited the mill. From their countenances, the story maintained, she could deduce their current attitudes. This tale indicates, all the more so if untrue, the way workers at this mill saw entering as a ritual moment of contact with employers and point of exposure to scrutiny.
The everyday experience of the entry controls made the doorway a potent vehicle in popular thought for condensing relations between employers and workers. A tale circulated in the heavy woolen district of Yorkshire illustrates the displacement in folk culture of the mill owner's exercise of authority onto the entranceway:
A Queensbury mill-owner always stood at the mill gate each morning, watch in hand. One morning the carter, who had been at school with the mill-owner forty years before, and had worked at the mill since then, was late. The very next morning the carter was late again, and the mill-owner duly sacked him.
—"What? Sacking me for being five minutes late—after forty years?"
—"Ah'm not sacking thi for being late, Ah'm sacking thi for defying me!"
—"In that case Ah suppose Ah can go wheer Ah like for a job?"
—"Tha can go just wheer tha likes!"
—"Right," said the Carter, "Ah'm starting here again!"
Former textile workers recalled in their interview that one boss or another always stood at the office window peering out over the mill gate. When workers quit their job in anger or rejected an employer's authority, they cried out, "I'll not be passing through your gateway again!" "The gate" did not just become a familiar turn of phrase but came to signify an opening into the life of the textile worker. A periodical about life in the north of England, which began publication in Manchester in 1905, chose the image of the entryway for its title: The Millgate. The editors' column of observations in each issue of this journal bore the heading "From the Mill Window." A magazine edited by a Huddersfield socialist contrasting the factory of the present with the society of the future called itself The Gateway.
By comparison with Britain, the form in which labor was commodified in Germany depreciated the importance of the doorway as a zone of contact with employers. At many German mills the managers relinquished central responsibility for recording entry and shifted the onus of keeping track of workers' attendance and punctuality to the individual overlookers. Was
not the heart of the matter control of the workers' labor power, not of their crossing a line? In some instances the company rules for conduct in Germany defined late arrival as failure to set one's machinery in motion by the specified minute. The overlookers' prospects for keeping their jobs depended on their ability to make sure that the workers in their charge appeared at their machines on time.
The Factory Acts restricting the length of workdays in Britain defined the workers' period of labor by their presence in the factory, defined as including any area within the confines of the mill gates. Space marked the boundaries of employment. In Germany, by contrast, the laws regulating the length of employment in the factory referred to attendance at machines or in manual production. Accordingly, the courts determined that the period of work was determined by use of the employees' labor in the manufacturing process. They reasoned that workers could remain on the premises of the mill for any period if they were not engaged in material production. The courts naturally feared that employers might coerce workers to undertake miscellaneous tasks at all hours, so they were reluctant to exempt all categories of workers from time limits if they were not engaged in manufacture. In contrast to the unambiguous classification in Britain based on the
position of the worker in space, however, the German limits on time focused on the use of the labor capacity.
In regulating border crossings, British employers made more of a claim to the workers' presence in the confines of the factory than to their time at the loom. The most popular treatise on "scientific" management published before the war, Edward Elbourne's Factory Administration and Accounts , took care to define the worker's arrival as his standing on company property, not as being positioned at the machine. The Textile Manufacturer reported in 1901 in a matter-of-fact tone that directors did not force workers to begin work promptly after they were inside the gate. "Most men weavers consider it a disgrace to be in their places waiting for the engines to start," the journal claimed. "They knock the ashes out of their pipes just as the gates are being closed, and then saunter leisurely to their work." In this instance, crossing the border zone between the inside and outside of the mill carried more significance than beginning to produce.
In each country the workers' clothing on factory premises complemented the border controls. In Germany textile workers typically arrived at the mill in their street clothes and changed into work clothes before they reported to their machines. Sometimes the firm designed, procured, and washed the work clothing. The alteration in German workers' exterior signaled
the consignment of their labor power to the factory owner's dominion. British workers, who transferred labor time in products but not the labor power in their person, rarely changed their pants, skirts, or blouses when they entered and exited the mill. Even if work inside the mill coated them with waste, they wore the same clothes home. No wonder the lack of changing rooms was never debated in Britain as it was in Germany, where having to remove clothing in the mill became an important grievance among female workers where facilities for changing in private were lacking. Female textile workers in Britain, like their male co-workers, of course removed their outerwear, such as shawls or vests, but as a rule did not change to a company outfit. In Britain employers emphasized the momentary regulation of workers' bodies as workers stepped over the factory threshold. In Germany the dressing ritual used workers' bodies as a marker of the continuous alienation of the labor power lodged in the person of the worker.
The emphasis on the control of border points that characterized British textile factories prevailed in other trades. The general manager of the Salford Rolling Mills, in an 1896 guide to the administration of iron mills, devoted an
entire chapter to the layout and use of "The Entrance Gates." His depiction of the factory perimeter employed the military analogy of a citadel:
the gates of a factory should be as rigidly watched as those of a fortress, and for this purposes an official, viz. The Gatekeeper, should be appointed. . . . The gates must be absolutely closed at the prescribed time, such, for instance, as when the whistle has ceased blowing. No relaxation whatever must be tolerated.
The ideal of a walled fortress to which this writer referred influenced not only the use of factory buildings but the ponderable design of the structures themselves.
The Partitioning of Space
The differing physical layouts of British and German textile mills in the late nineteenth century furnished contrasting stage settings—true "foundations"—for labor's transmission. Technical manuals of the nineteenth century treated the selection of mill architecture as part of the "science" of manufacturing. Modern British woolen and worsted mills stereotypically were arranged like closed, defensive fortresses: the various rooms for spinning, for assembling the warps, and for weaving formed a ring enclosing a central courtyard or "mill yard." The entrance gate, often set under an archway, offered the only opening from the outside that led into this yard and into the workrooms (see Figure 6). Otherwise, the factory presented a solid barrier to the surrounding world, sometimes with no windows on the ground floor. The layout could also call upon a row of workers' dwellings
on one or more sides of its perimeter to form part of the barricaded zone. Naturally, these houses on the boundary had no openings into the mill yard.
The fortress-like enclosure of a mill yard by the workrooms appeared in the design of mills in Lancashire and elsewhere in the northwest, once factory design had come into its own. The arrangement became an emblem not only in the actual conduct of manufacturing but in the fancies of literature. The frontispiece to Andrew Ure's famous tract The Philosophy of Manufactures , published in 1835, portrayed a factory whose wings were shaped to enclose a courtyard. The assumptions of this graphic depiction achieved verbal expression. Ure, an advocate of the mill system's satanic regimen during the youthful phases of industrial growth, emphasized the textile workers' encapsulation by referring to the hapless operatives as "factory inmates."
To be sure, the enveloping design occurred more frequently in built-up urban areas, where the need to mark off one's own territory and to guard against intrusions was greater than in the countryside, where isolated mills, which expanded incrementally, sometimes consisted of small, scattered buildings, without a comprehensive model. Therefore the castle design was far from universal and, indeed, was realized in pure form in only a minority of cases. Yet it represented something of an architectural stereotype, a
layout which appeared when unprompted by the environment. For instance, Sir Titus Salt in the 1870s built his mill in the middle of an undeveloped parcel of land large enough to accommodate an entire town, yet he, too, adopted the fortress structure. This arrangement struck German observers of British developments as representative of British thinking. Once it was crystallized in factory layouts in the north of England, the British carried it to contexts where land values, the landscape, and the infrastructure were far different. For example, in his treatise on mill construction William Fairbairn presented a blueprint for building a woolen factory in the open countryside of a foreign country, Turkey. He incorporated the classic sealed yard into the design of the U-shaped building itself. The Platt Brothers' plans for integrated cotton mills in Brazil at the beginning of the twentieth century came in various sizes, but they arranged the workrooms in an unbroken circle around a secured yard. The transference of this pattern into such diverse habitats offers a hint that it conformed, not to the physical requirements of the surroundings, but to a cultural model.
Apart from their structural emphasis on control of access points, British mills were distinguished from German ones by the attention they gave to the design of the main portal. The entrance exterior was some-
times flanked by imposing towers or crowned by intricate ornamentation. On the inside, the entrance hallway might feature extra doors which managers used as backup devices to seal off access to the main workrooms or, from the other direction, access to the main gate. This design appeared in the very earliest mills. The Poor Man's Advocate investigated a spinning mill in 1832 where the gates were "numerous, being placed one within the other, in order, we suppose, that if any of the wretched inmates should escape through the first they may be secured by the next." Similar arrangements appeared in later facilities. At the West Vale textile works near Halifax, constructed during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, owners even installed a special lever for the gatekeeper which ran from his office perch to a second door on the inside of the entry corridor, permitting him to inspect the arrivals a second time in the corridor and decide whether to let them proceed.
What information did the factory's design encode? Let us extract the elementary structure behind the visible architecture by mapping the passages between rooms on the premises. Figure 7 delineates the apertures between the compartments of the illustrative floorplan. The diagrams reveal, first, that the fortress design could turn the mill yard into a nodal point. The yard served not just as an unloading or storage area but as a connector for human traffic. In fact, movement even between work rooms that were contiguous frequently had to flow through the central yard. Each of the major rooms is organized as a self-sufficient space, which opens to the others via an interchange that serves every room in the
complex. In sum, once workers negotiated the entry passage into the facility, the design gave them easy access to every corner of the interior. This basic principle underlay the design of some mills, such as that of the Blackburns in Batley, Yorkshire, even when at first glance the mill buildings did not seem to be arranged as a castle, but all of whose rooms nonetheless fed into two courtyard passages. The layout created an encompassing perimeter while permitting rapid movement in the interior.
Surveillance of the central yard could give a comprehensive view of important traffic at a glance. To take advantage of this, British textile
directors occasionally incorporated large lookouts or jutting bay windows into their mill offices. These impressive windows did not face away from the factory perimeter for an enjoyable view, but looked instead toward the interior mill yard. At Grecian mills in Bolton, Lancashire, the management offices had such an obtrusive bay window facing the main gate that it may well have shunted entering traffic to the side. At Bean Ing mills in Leeds, Yorkshire, the surveillance windows were placed at the curved tip of a projection that pointed toward the middle of the inner yard. A visitor to a coarse cloth factory at Knightsbridge during the 1840s described a more elaborate contrivance at a rotunda-like factory: "On the summit of the building, at a considerable elevation, is a small square room, provided with windows on all four sides. From this an extensive view may be obtained in every direction." Of course, a simple window peering inward could serve as the observation site almost as well: the strategy was to position the management complex so that it could receive vendors and customers from without but also scan the interned laborers within.
When the Germans constructed their facilities, they consciously imitated other, superficial features of British mill design, such as styles of ornamentation. The Germans also followed the English methods of
transmitting power from the steam engine to the machines. But they incorporated different structural principles into the layouts of the buildings themselves. Their factories did not arrange the workrooms to cordon off the outside world and impound laborers inside. Where German mill owners fenced in their property, as was often the case, this did not form an integral part of the design of the building itself. Rather than arrange workrooms as a fortress to accentuate the frontier between outside and in, the German facilities emphasized the constriction of movement once laborers were engaged in the labor process. Except for the essential transport of materials, the German building layout segregated the principal workrooms from each other and from the ancillary rooms that housed processes such as carding raw cotton or preparing warps for the looms. Moving from one corner of the mill to another required workers to proceed through intermediate chambers of the interior. Figure 8 reproduces the floor plan of a German mill. Figure 9 diagrams its basic structures. In contrast to the British mills, traffic does not converge on a nodal point but flows among links on a chain. There is no "center" from which the privileged observer can inspect traffic on the premises as a whole, yet the lack of central oversight is balanced by greater obstacles to movement between distant points. Counterfeit instances of symmetrical fortress-like structures appear in Germany. With one plan, sketched in 1849 for
a Saxon village, the castle layout may have fit an aesthetic ideal of a noble court, but it actually contained multiple entrances and was ill adapted for forming an impenetrable perimeter. With another, the Spinning and Weaving Factory Ettlingen in Baden, erected in 1838, the constructor designed the mill according to the same plan he had drawn up earlier for an army barracks. The mill was inserted in a complex that created numerous openings and did not direct traffic through the central court. This was representative: the editor of one set of German mill plans even boasted that an exemplary weaving building was accessible from three separate points after workers had entered the grounds. When large German complexes were erected at once around a central space, such as the Flax Mill of Schoeller, Mevissen, & Bücklers in Düren, they could have emphasized the enclosure of workers and observation of their movement through a central yard. Instead, they opened up onto the adjacent gardens and fields. In Britain, the fortress design could be employed in "rationalized" mills, where each processing room was located around the perimeter for the most efficient movement of raw materials, as well as in haphazardly organized older mills, where the stages of processing the materials were not necessarily assigned sequentially in adjacent work rooms.
German commentators believed that contrasts in building materials and climate could not account for differences in structural design between their country and Britain. Taste, they said, determined the ultimate format. As early as 1844, the engineer Ludwig Kufahl of Berlin observed a crucial difference between British and German plans:
I am familiar with the example of an extremely large flax spinning mill in Leeds. . . . With very scrupulous concern this building ensures above all that the workers can be watched over with complete ease. With us this very important point is often neglected. In fact, one could say that our factory buildings often appear to have been deliberately laid out to hinder surveillance of workers. For this one cannot combine every conceivable kind of work process together; but this is by no means necessary, just so the various jobs are grouped in such a way that a suitable control is possible and so that raw materials pass through the hands of the workpeople in the proper order, proceeding in their conversion from a raw condition to a completed manufacture.
Kufahl did not think that work processes should be combined or connected to a single open space simply for the sake of comprehensive oversight of workers from afar. He considered it sufficient to organize traffic to move components through the mill in a logical sequence. The German factory designs were "cellular," with numerous partitions and no centralized pathway for movement between chambers.
The fortress layout in Britain rested upon a combination of technological limits and opportunities. It took the liberty of breaking up the total production space of a factory premises into smaller units to form the fortress wings. Given the engineering techniques of the day, this represented a useful way of partitioning the land parcel. The width of work rooms in multistory spinning mills had in any case been limited by reliance upon iron frameworks to support the weight of the building. Rooms were long and narrow, a shape that was easy to configure around a large court. Beginning in the second half of the nineteenth century, however, an increase in the size of machines and in the scale of production made it preferable to unify floor space. Cotton spinning
mules, for example, reached a length of 140 feet, so that the width of new buildings had to triple to organize aisle space efficiently. Meeting this requirement became possible only with changes in construction methods. The introduction of steel girders and new techniques for supporting weight in the 1890s permitted the development of huge, squarish rooms that used space efficiently but were no longer arrangeable around a yard.
These innovations in engineering changed the visible edifice of the labor process in newly constructed spinning facilities in Britain. Yet the principles of the underlying structure were preserved and manifested in fresh ways. The cavernous new buildings built in the British towns that were still expanding production were distinguished by an absence of dividing walls between the work processes. Managers in the Bolton cotton trade, for instance, suggested that the preparatory processes be housed on the first floor without boundaries between the drawing, slubbing, and jack frames and the carding engines. At Gil mill, expansion of the mill allowed the preparatory and spinning processes to be installed in the same room as the weaving machines without partitions. By contrast, German mills of equal capacity retained internal walls between departments. This became a characteristic difference between British and German mills that did not escape the notice of contemporaries. A technical writer based in Manchester presented a cotton mill plan in 1897 borrowed from the Continent but made a suggestion on how to adapt the foreign blueprint to British expectations: "The supervision and management of the mill is greatly facilitated," he said, if "the whole of the machinery can readily be
seen. If desired . . . the internal division walls can be removed and columns substituted." As with the fortress design, the undivided British layout in giant mills depreciated control over the rapid circulation of workers once they were inside the mill, but it lent the observer a sweeping view of their movement. In contrast to the "cellular" design of German factories, the British designs were "circumferential," emphasizing the outer boundary but not partitions within.
The definition of labor as a commodity did not conjure the factory layouts out of thin air, but started from the technical preconditions of building design. Despite changes in these requirements in the late nineteenth century, the tangible materials of production could still be sculpted into shapes that carried the same implications for the treatment of labor as a commodity. Mill architecture and rituals for entering the factory in Germany and in Britain reified contrasting fictions about the employment relation—again, the disposition over labor power versus the appropriation of labor incorporated into products. In Germany, the production process was conceived as the continuous transformation in time of labor power into a product. In this process the worker's labor activity was consumed inside the factory owner's domain, so the divide between inside and out
did not become marked as the crucial zone of subordination. The layout of the German mills corresponded to an emphasis on the overlooker's responsibility for attaching the worker to the machine and a comparative depreciation of controls at the perimeter of the building. In Britain, by contrast, the workers retained ownership of their labor power but conveyed labor through products that were appropriated; since the workers' labor was not incorporated into the employers' domain through a continuous process in time , it was incorporated at a discrete moment through the ritual event of entering the factory. Rather than being transformed in the factory, labor was merely circumscribed and observed at a distance, by emphasizing the boundary between the factory and the world outside. Both the centripetal paths for traffic in older British mills and the atrophy of room partitions in the newer cotton spinning mills relaxed controls over rapid movement. Within the German factory, by contrast, the workers were segregated in compartments that curtailed passage between various corners of the mill. Their activity itself was appropriated in space.
Because German and British factory buildings concretized information about the labor transaction, they could take on the task of imparting and reproducing—truly, "holding in place"—definitions of labor among the
workers. To receive this knowledge, the participants did not study messages; they enacted and lived them. In the critical mind of the analyst, the tendency for a conformation between architecture and accounting, between spatial and temporal demarcations, makes for a charming coincidence; in the experience of the producers it created an encompassing constellation. For those who lived through the procedures of entry and the partitioning of space under the factory roof, concepts of labor became influential not because they were embodied in literature but because they were literally embodied. The enclosed mill yard and internment of workers in a centripetal space characterized factories in other British trades, including leather-making and sewing.Vide et crede: the fictive inventions of labor as a commodity were written in stone.
Theory in the Mill Yard
The present study suggests that powerful impressions of labor as a commodity, which showed prominent variations between countries, were not deliberately generated by formal organizations for the dissemination of ideas. They were not subsidized by the state or by a class but were born in the producers' lived experience at the point of production. Cultural formulations are transmitted through the form of instrumental practice, in addition to conventional verbal communication. For example, the procedures for entering the mill comprised both a humdrum action of individuals' daily routine and a public ritual through which the meaning of labor was communicated and re-endorsed in a shared setting. The ideologies of labor as a commodity were sustained not because they were consistent with or corresponded to everyday procedures but because they were part and parcel of them, brought to life because practice was designed as a mode of communication. Unless analysts reconstruct the signifying function of the forms assumed by the instrumentalities of everyday life, they will pass over the lived context in which verbal discussion assumed its meaning and its power. Furthermore, they will necessarily miss the lucid ideas of a culture that are incarnated in material techniques, transferred from enactment to enactment
and visibly articulated without passing through a moment of verbal elucidation. Individual agents borrowed the specifications of labor but never became their appropriators and owners, for these designs remained lodged in the shared house of public, sensuous practice.