The Blue Books:
Marx’s Capital as guide for engagement at work.
Abstract: The figure of the factory inspector is set out by Marx, primarily in ‘The Working Day’ chapter of Capital, volume one, not as an uncritically approved person of unassailable credentials, but as an advocate of investigation that does a service for the working class ‘that should never be forgotten’. The Factory Inspector most often named is Leonard Horner, and his work in the Blue Books, parliamentary reports appearing at least annually, was read by Marx as raw material for his examination of conditions in the industrial factories of 19th Century capitalism. For this chapter Marx also read Dickens and Engels, and many other sources for his commentaries on the struggles over wages, hours, child labour and education. The introduction of the Factory Acts ensured a modicum of education for children, with limits on the number of consecutive hours they may be forced to work. Marx’s critique of these concessions develops within an argument that exhorts collective struggle, and investigation of the workers themselves involve in this struggle. That his argument was also against slavery, bonded labour, and exploitation worldwide is a contextual lesson that can suggest practical ways to engage ethnography and workplace inquiry today.
Key words: Factory, workplace, inquiry, ethnography, Marx, Dickens, Engels, Spivak
Read the whole draft here.