Friday, November 13, 2009

Knitting Philosophy: "Alienation of Postindustrialization"

We are experiencing a hand-craft revolution. (See, e.g. Etsy, Ravelry, the rise of "Stitch and Bitch," etc.) There are similar handmade/handgrown/local revolutions occurring in food consumption (community-supported agriculture, the slow and organic food movements) and other areas of our lives.

Cultural studies folks tell us that we are in a post-industrial age. I believe that, in a good way, handcrafters and localvores are responding to this post-industrialization. Let me tell you what I mean.

One of the consequences of industrialization was that items that folks used to make by hand--e.g. wool into thread, into fabric, into clothes--became commodities produced by factories located at a distance from the end consumer. This "distance" is called "alienation;" literally, we are alienated from the food we eat, from the clothes we wear, from nearly all items that we purchase and otherwise consume.

In a post-industrial economy like ours, where the labor that drives industry has been outsourced overseas, we have nearly no knowledge of the location where our daily consumer objects are produced or of the people who produced them. The alienation from production is absolute.

And for some of us, this doesn't feel good.

Enter handcrafts, urban gardens, local farm CSAs. On these fronts, we are fighting post-industrialization and its attendant abuses, and curing, at least a little bit, our alienation.

Hard-core Marxist scholars might disagree with me, saying that the alienation can't be cured, that we're stuck with it. I'm a little more hopeful than that.

I say: Knit On!

1 comment:

cedarstrings said...

For a lot of sad reasons, we live in the exurbs, and my 3 acres is part of urban sprawl. There is one serious working farmer left in the township; the family around the corner breeds prize sheep. Last week the FedEx driver went back and forth in front of the pasture, stopping for a few minutes, then proceeding down the road and coming back to pause again. After three or four rounds of this, the driver (mid-30ish in age) came to deliver my package, then asked "what kind of animals are in that field?" "Sheep," I replied. "Where do they come from?" he asked. "The farm down the road," I replied. "No," he said, "I mean are they from South America? Are they from India?" "Just plain old American livestock," I replied. "What do you do with them?" he asked. "Meat or what?" Not being in a position to offer a primer on sheep (I think these critters are pedigreed and registered, etc., but he didn't want to know that), I told him that sheep are prized for their fleece from which we can spin yarn; the meat of the lambs is very choice; and that responsible herd management is ecologically beneficial.
I think this man (obviously from the city) is about as alienated from the source as any I've ever run across.
This encounter was a wonderful reminder to me to take my daughter more frequently to the farm markets in the area, re-dedicate the veg garden to veg, and convert the garage to a hen house. When people no longer recognize the common animals that are responsible for producing so much of our foodstuff and fiber, the alienation may well be deep and permanent.