Not quite the Book Review – The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – Robert Tressell

This is an introductory paragraph to the work in progress that is the ragged trousered philanthropists review. I have posted this because it has taken me a good portion of a day off to get this far and I didn’t want to just bury it until it is finished. Also, if I post this, then the finished article it looks like I have done loads of blogging ūüôā

Almost all the notes that I took while read the book listed below, you can get an idea of where it took me. I am planning to add a review of the book and split the notes into separate pages that start the creation of some new static pages that describe, define and catalog my investigation and understanding of some of the big words floating around me at the moment e.g. socialsim, capitalism, communism, etc. Have fun looking through the guff below.


I have been quoting this as a singular philanthropist when it is plural!

18 highlights and 25 comments


  • Different from today
    • mantle clock stops and it is dark – You forget the little things like watches that are reliable
    • the low ceiling showed the formation of the roof – that is a good thing these days!
    • first mention of religion “But she remembered that Satan often appears as an angel of light. Appearances are deceitful” – Hmm religion.
    • “Owen hesitated: he was wet through : it was a long way to Linden’s place, nearly twenty minutes’ walk. Still, he would like to let him know…” – How the world changes in 100 years. walk 20 minutes to pass on a message!!
    • “so long as the working class was contented to die twenty years before their time he failed to see what it had got to do with other people.” – This is in different from today because today most of these downtrodden, blackmailed people do not live in the first world.
    • “But what gets over me, is this: according to science, the earth turns round on its axle at the rate of about twenty miles a minit. Well, what about when a lark goes up in the sky and stays there about a quarter of an hour? Why, if it was true that the earth was turnin’ round at that rate all the time, when the bird came down it would find itself ‘undreds of miles away from the place where it went up from!”
    • “…reminds me of a conversation I ‘ad with Dr.Weakling the other day. You know, he believes we’re hall¬†descended¬†from monkeys.”

    • Same as today (includes my religious views)
      • “It was not necessary to call in the evidence of science, or to refer tot he supposed inconsistencies, impossibilities, contradictions and absurdities contained in the Bible, in order to prove that there was no truth in the so-called Christian religion. All that was necessary was to look at the conduct of the individuals who were its votaries.”
        • mimics modern sentiments on religion.
      • If, as so many people pretended to believe, there was an infinitely loving god, how was it that this helpless creature that He had made was condemned to suffer? It had never done any harm, and was in no sense responsible for the fact that it existed. Was God unaware of the miseries of His creatures? If so, then he was not all-knowing. Was God aware of their suffering, but unable to help them? Then he was not all powerful. Had He the power but not the will to make His creatures happy? Then he was not good. It was impossible to believe in the existence of an individual infinite God.
        • The book is obviously getting quite deeply philosophical at this point, but I can’t argue with it!
      • “for there had arisen a new generation which cared nothing about craftsmanship or art, and everything for cheapness and profit.”
        • Like today, and we can say something about consumerism and the drive for profit and competitive markets.
      • About scripture “No: he said he didn’t believe there ever was [such a man as in the scriptures], but he told me to just listen to what the teacher said about such things, and then to think about it in my own mind, and wait till I’m grown up and then I can use my own judgement.”
        • This is about an atheist fitting into a religious school.
      • “A general murmur of approval greeted this. It seemed to be the almost unanimous opinion that, whether it were true or not, ‘religion’ what a nice thing to teach children.”
        • This shows a change in culture. When things are taught as fact, they are believed by adults and children. When people just turn up because that is what should be done, they have already made the big leap that this is not fact, just something to be done. The reality of this change is then taught and change is¬†inevitably.
      • I was¬†surprised¬†to find the word “Infidel“. The book uses the word a few times to describe people who do not follow¬†Christianity, or only follow it in part. The comment I made while reading the book was “how the worm turns.” I looked the word up as linked above. It appears that although this word is currently mostly heard from the lips of¬†Muslim¬†radicals, it would be equally appropriate for a Christian to hurl the word back. Both groups could label atheists, agnostics or believers of other faiths with it. It is a rather nasty word in my opinion. There should not be a “You’re not like me” word in common use.
      • “sich a lot of infiddles about who said that we all came from monkeys”
      • During one of Owen’s lectures: “the object of most¬†advertisements¬†being merely to¬†persuade¬†people to buy from one firm rather¬†than¬†another.”
      • “…the serviettes, arranged fanwise in the drinking-glasses”
      • Religion – There are comments in the book that suggest some of the working class, and at least Owen, are not Christian. This is a loose theme, but culminates in a couple of phrases used to describe the upper classes who are exploiting so many people. “Psalm-singing devils” and “the ‘Christian’ wolves”. Is it possible that the masses gradually accepted some of these more extreme ideas along with some of the socialist ones, and it is a watered down, more accepted version of these that has set us on a course towards equality and a reduction of Christianity in the UK (and other first world countries?)?
    • Consumerism is a function of Capitalism
      • “In order to succeed in the world it was necessary to be brutal, selfish and unfeeling: to push others aside and to take advantage of their misfortunes.” – about the traits required to succeed in a capitalist culture.
      • “Well, wot do you reckon is the cause of poverty, then?” … “The present system – competition – capitalism.”
        • While reading the book I found this true. Capitalism drives selfishness and greed for profit. The book clearly illustrates the problems with unchecked capitalism. I was about to argue that in today’s modern world, we have regulations that stop a lot of the bad practice and bad people doing what they want to make money, but I have stopped myself. The story of stuff illustrates perfectly the modern situation. Our Capitalists have just got better at hiding the dirty laundry. So how do we fix this. We become much more ethical,¬†conscious¬†consumers. We take it upon ourselves to understand where¬†our stuff comes from. Buy less better quality stuff that has no relationship with poverty unless it is taking it away. A quote from the book “Everybody¬†knows¬†that good clothes, boots or furniture are really the cheapest in the end.” we need to comment on fashion as a key driver to consumerism. Sometimes the reason for changing a perfectly good item is that it is out of date. This now rings true for technology as well as more traditional things.
      • Later in the book we see that modern capitalism as described in the story of stuff is already in place. The family could not afford the locally hand made toy, but “For sixpence they bought a cardboard box that had come all the way from Japan and contained a whole family of dolls.”
      • “It is the bad employer, the sweating, slave-driving employer, who sets the pace for the others. If any employer today were to resolve to pay his workmen such wages as he would be able to live upon in comfort himself, and if he did not require them to do more work every day that he himself would like to perform, he would be bankrupt in a month.” – This is another story of stuff related point. cost is very important. It is the juxta position between ‘pay for quality’, ‘get what you pay for’ mentality and the exploitation that still occurs while producing that quality product. Lets not talk about the lower quality items.
      • “What they wanted, they said, was not more work, but more grub, more clothes, more leisure, more pleasure and better homes. They wanted to be able to go for country walks or bicycle rides, to go out fishing or to go to the seaside and bathe and lie on the beach. But there were not many so selfish as this. the majority desired nothing but to be allowed to work, and as for their children, why, what was good enough for the, oughter be good enough for the kids.”
      • “‘We’ll give the swines Socialism!’ shouted Crass, who was¬†literally¬†foaming at the mouth. ‘We’ll teach ’em to come ‘ere trying to undermine our bloody morality !’ howled Dick Wantley, as he hurled a lump of granite at one of the cyclists.
    • Other
      • There is a description of one of the rooms in the house that is being decorated throughout most of the book, “The Cave”. It reminded me of a National Trust house in the UK, these are typically old stately homes and country houses. The book makes you think of the ragged trousered philanthropists who decorated the house. It puts a different perspective on the beauty that you see.
      • There is part of the book where a council meeting is occurring at the same time as a meeting of the workers. There is a comparison of the two meetings. ¬†One held in an ordered way, but with every decision corruptly worked out and agreed before hand. ¬†The other honest, but un-prepared and chaotic.¬†
      • “Slyme was heard to say that Socialism meant Materialism, Atheism and Free Love, and if were ever to come about it would degrade men and women to the level of brute beasts.” – in the eyes of the church?? Interesting that ‘Socialism meant Materialism’ is this the christian stating that a socialist concentration on more leisure and free time would inevitably lead to gluttony? if so, he was probably right.
    • socialism
      • “These people seemed to thing that the children were the property of their parents. They had not sense enough to see that the children are not the property of their parents at all but the property of the community. When they attain to manhood and womanhood they will be, if mentally or physically inefficient, a burden on the community; if they become criminals they will prey upon the community; and if they are healthy, educated and brought up in good surroundings, they will become useful citizens, able to render valuable service…”
        • Consumerism and capitalism are based around “things” but they are always created by and consumed by people.
      • Part of Owen’s utopian socialist future. “… and the establishment of an Industrial Civil Service, a National Army of Industry, for the purpose of producing the necessaries,” – The Civil Service was one of the devices described in the book to allow everyone to work at tasks that contribute to the community and produce for the basic needs of all, while allowing reduced hours, less stress and more comfort for it’s employees.
      • There is a section of Owen’s description of socialism in action where he describes state made items that do not need to factor in the cost of advertisement and profit, and because of the scale of works, raw materials would be bought at very good prices. The result would be the required materials of a comfortable life, provided at a much reduced cost, given that the whole monetary system would also be usurped.
        • This is not far from the way of things that I would like to see, except it is not the government doing it. Socialism and communism both rely on a few good people to run them, to stay true to the ideal without becoming corrupt with all the power. I guess my aim is to find products that are fairly priced and do not exploit people. If I ever make a product and sell it, I would aim to price it fairly against the effort that went into its production. I suppose that this means trading profit for worker’s pay and comfort (a mute point if the worker is me!) but that is the reality of the situation. Fair trade. I wonder if they will be under priced or over priced compared to the competition?? Fair Trade gives workers in other countries better pay and conditions. It would be interesting to see what conditions this allows, what the range of wages is, and to see how much profit the fair trade companies still make?? This would be very interesting, but potentially dangerous. If it turns out that fair trade is still not fair, as it surely isn’t, it is still a damn sight better than the rest!
      • Owen describes a difference between the normal ‘Metal money’ and the new Socialist ‘Paper money’. Paper money was therefore not in common use in 1900’s.
      • Cadbury created Bournville in the late 1800’s. In the 1890’s, Sheffield, an industrial center, saw a great expansion of theaters, music and the arts. It appears that the tide is changing at this time. Although we never saw the socialist dream, the government became involved enough to make sure that people were paid enough to live better lives and have some leisure time. The knock on effect? off shore the pain. Story of stuff…
      • “The shops and stores where these people were formerly employed will be acquired by the state, which will pay the former owners compensation..”
        • Where does socialism end and communism start??
      • “Actors, artists, sculptors, musicians and others will go on working for their own pleaseure and honour. Some will devote their leisure to science, art or literature. Others will prefer to travel on the state steamships to different parts of the world to see for themselves all those things of which most of us have now but a dim and vague conception. This, for the first time in the history of humanity, the benefits and pleasures conferred upon mankind by science and civilsation will be enjoyed equally by all, upon one condition, that they shall do their share of the work in order to make all these things possible.”
        • compare this to the life of stuff video. We have a good chunk of this in the first world , but on the work of others.
      • “‘Even if you no longer believe in working for Socialism, there’s no need to work against it,’ said Owen. ‘ If you don’t want to help to bring about a better state of affairs, there’s no reason why you should help to perpetuate the present system.’ The other man laughed bitterly. ‘Oh, yes there is, and a very good reason too.’ ‘I don’t think you could show me a good reason,’ said Owen. The man with the scar laughed again, the same unpleasant, mirthless laugh, and thrusting his hand into his trouser pocket drew it out again full of silver coins, amongst which one or two gold pieces glittered. ‘That’s my reason…'”
        • This part of the book goes on for some time both before and after this snipped. It describes in detail a huge problem. Money is used to control, and even those who truly believe in something may put that aside to have the chance to be comfy.

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