Nostalgia for British industry

Owen Hatherley picks up on the veneration of industry over services, as a political cliche which unites Labour and the Conservatives:

For Ed Miliband, it’s a question of rewarding the ‘producers’ in industry rather than the ‘predators’ of finance capitalism; for George Osborne, ‘we need to start making things again’….What does it mean, this apparent divide between producer and predator, industrialist and speculator, this apparent desire to turn the long-defunct workshop of the world back into a workshop of some sort?

Despite appearances, this is not a modernist argument. It’s romantic nostalgia. Industry is old-fashioned, honest, straightforward, comprehensible. It’s what gave Britain the identity it has lost in these confusing times.

In other words, industry is taking on the role you would expect to see played by the countryside. And, as with today’s industrial nostalgia, rural nostalgia came from both left and right. Hatherley again:

Whether ostensibly conservative, like the Gothic architect Augustus Welsby Pugin, or Marxist, like William Morris, opinion formers in the second half of the nineteenth century agreed that industry had deformed the United Kingdom, that its cities and its architecture were horrifying, that its factories were infernal, and that it should be replaced with a return to older, preferably medieval certainties.

It’s a neat step through sectors of the economy: the prisoner of finance pines for industry; the prisoner of industry pines for farming. Go back far enough, and I’m sure you’d find Mercian villagers longing for the good old days of nomadic hunting

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