Working from home had its advantages, even in the 18th and 19th centuries
就算在18和19世纪,在家工作也有其优势

厂与家 Factories and families-书迷号 shumihao.com

SALLY BROWN, who was born in Vermont in the early 1800s, had a typically varied schedule for a working woman of the time. As her diary shows, one day she is finishing stockings; another she is milking a cow; another she is refining wool. All of her jobs were done from home.
莎莉·布朗(Sally Brown)于19世纪初出生在佛蒙特州。她的日程安排总是变来变去,带有那个时代职业女性的鲜明特点。她的日记显示,今天她在对长筒袜做最后的加工,明天在挤牛奶,隔天又在梳理羊毛。她所有的活都是在家完成的。

The shift from offices to kitchen tables among white-collar workers in 2020 seems unprecedented, and only possible with Slack and Zoom. But it is nothing new. Indeed, the history of home-working suggests some surprising parallels with today.
白领们在2020年这一年从办公室转移到了餐桌,这似乎前所未有,而且好像没了Slack和Zoom不行。但这并不是什么新鲜事。事实上,居家工作的历史跟今天有一些惊人的相似之处。

The emergence of capitalism in Britain and elsewhere from the 1600s to the mid-19th century did not take place primarily in factories, but in people’s houses. Workers made everything from dresses to shoes to matchboxes in their kitchens or bedrooms. When Adam Smith wrote “The Wealth of Nations” in 1776, it was perfectly common to work from home. Smith famously described the operation of the division of labour in pin-making, but not in a dark, satanic mill. He was describing a “small manufactory” of perhaps ten people—which could well have been in or attached to somebody’s house.
从17世纪头十年到19世纪中叶资本主义于英国和其他地方兴起时,它并不主要发生在工厂,而是在人们的家里。工人在厨房或卧室里制作从衣服、鞋子到火柴盒的各种东西。亚当·斯密在1776年写下《国富论》时,在家工作司空见惯。斯密对扣针生产过程的劳动分工有过著名的描述,但它并不发生在黑暗、邪恶的工厂中,而是一个十个人左右的“小制造厂”——它很可能就在某人的房子里,或者紧挨着某人的房子。

It is not easy to put exact numbers on how many people have worked from home during different historical periods. Even in Britain, where economic data reach farther back than in any other country, little reliable labour-force data exist until the mid-1800s. Other sources left clues, however. One relates to the meaning of the word “house”. Today it connotes domesticity. But up until the 19th century it had a much broader definition, with the suffix “-house” encompassing economic production, too. In “A Christmas Carol”, Scrooge works in a “counting-house”. Architecture offers other hints. In Britain, many 18th-century houses still have unusually large upstairs windows; cloth-weavers, who worked there, needed as much light as they could get.
不同的历史时期都有多少人在家工作?对此很难给出确切的数字。即使是在经济数据统计比其他任何国家都要久远的英国,也是直到1805年前后才开始有可靠的劳动力数据。不过,其他地方留下了线索。其中之一与“房子”(house)一词的意思有关。今天这个词会让人想起家庭生活,但在19世纪前它的意思要宽泛得多,“-house”这个后缀的意思也涵盖经济生产。《圣诞颂歌》(A Christmas Carol)中的斯克鲁奇(Scrooge)就是在一个“账房”(counting-house)里工作。建筑也留下了其他证据。在英国,许多18世纪建造的房子楼上仍有着异常大的窗户:当时在里面工作的织布工需要尽可能多的光线。

Around 1900 French administrators took the lead in asking people about their place of work, not only what they did. They found that one-third of France’s manufacturing workforce worked from home. Danish surveys around the same time found that a tenth of the total workforce did so full-time at home. These research efforts took place at the high point of the factory-based system of production; in previous decades the share of home-working would have been far higher. According to one estimate for America, using official data, in the early 1800s more than 40% of the total workforce laboured from home. Only by 1914 did the majority of the labour force work in an office or factory.
大约在1900年,法国行政人员率先调查人们的工作地点,而不仅仅了解他们的工作内容。他们发现法国有三分之一的制造业劳动力在家工作。丹麦大约在同一时间开展调查,发现所有劳动力中有十分之一全职在家工作。这些研究发生时正值基于工厂的生产制度发展的最高点,在此前的几十年里,在家工作的人的比例还要高得多。运用官方数据对美国的一项估计显示,在19世纪头几年,总劳动力中超过40%的人在家工作。一直要到1914年,大部分劳动人口才在办公室或工厂里工作。

The emergence of an at-home industrial workforce had two main causes. The growth of global trade and the rise in per-person income from the 1600s onwards raised demand for manufactured goods such as woollens and watches. But the emerging new technology was more suited to small-scale working than large-scale factories (the spinning jenny, the machine which kickstarted the industrial revolution, was not invented until the 1760s). Homes were the obvious place to be.
在家工作的工业劳动力的出现有两个主要原因。进入17世纪后,全球贸易和人均收入的增长提高了对毛织品和手表等制成品的需求。但是比起大型工厂,新兴的技术更适合小规模的劳动(启动了工业革命的珍妮纺纱机直到18世纪60年代才被发明出来)。家成了顺理成章的选择。

What emerged was called the “putting-out system”. Workers would collect raw materials, and sometimes equipment, from a central depot. They would return home and make the goods for a few days, before giving back the finished articles and getting paid. Workers were independent contractors: they were paid by the piece, not by the hour, and they had little if any guarantee of work week to week.
由此出现了所谓的“散工制”。工人们从中央仓库领取原材料,有时也会领设备。他们会回家做几天活,然后上交成品,拿到报酬。工人是独立的承包商:他们按件而不是按小时计酬,而且基本上也不能保证周周都有活干。

Accounts of what it was actually like to work from home in the 18th and 19th centuries are few and far between. Many putting-out workers were women, who were less likely to write autobiographies (women’s dominance in the putting-out system also explains why generations of historians have not paid it much attention). Some characteristics nonetheless emerge from the archives. Average working hours were longer (see chart). Unlike today, where most people have one job, people flitted from one task to another, depending on where money could be made, like Sally Brown.
关于18和19世纪居家工作的真实情况的记述少之又少。许多散工是女性,她们写自传的可能性更小(散工制中女工数量之多也解释了为什么历代历史学家都没怎么太关注这个制度)。然而还是能从档案中捕捉到一些特征。当时的平均工作时间更长(见图表)。今天大多数人都只做一份工作,而那会儿的人会从一份活计跳到另一个,全看哪里有钱可赚,就像莎莉·布朗那样。

With fingers weary and worn
手指酸软渐磨伤

Some economic historians suggest that workers were mercilessly exploited under the putting-out system. Those who owned the machines and raw materials enjoyed enormous power over those they employed. With workers dispersed across a county, it was difficult for them to team up against exploitative bosses to demand better pay, let alone form trade unions. Bosses “could easily gang up against the rural spinner who faced a take-it-or-leave-it offer of work,” argue Jane Humphries and Ben Schneider of Oxford University, in a paper from 2019. Some workers truly struggled. Thomas Hood’s poem “The Song of the Shirt” evokes a home-working woman labouring in poverty.
一些经济史学家认为,工人在散工制之下受到了无情的剥削。对于自己雇来的人,拥有机器和原材料的人享有巨大的权力。由于工人分散在郡内各处,他们很难联合起来向剥削人的老板要求加工资,更不用说成立工会了。牛津大学的简·汉弗莱斯(Jane Humphries)和本·施耐德(Ben Schneider)在2019年的一篇论文中指出,老板们“很容易联合起来,打压那些没什么选择,‘要么干,要么走人’的农村纺织工人”。一些工人确实挣扎过活。读托马斯·胡德(Thomas Hood)的诗《衬衫之歌》(The Song of the Shirt),脑海中就会浮现在家工作的贫苦妇女辛苦劳作的画面。

As a result, some historians welcome the development of the factory system from the late 18th century onwards. Workers moved from a place where domestic life intermingled freely with economic production to a place solely dedicated to the pursuit of efficiency. It is hardly surprising that labour productivity was higher in the factory, nor that the factory system gradually outperformed the putting-out system and came to replace it. Crammed together in a factory, workers could more easily club together to ask for higher wages; trade unions started to grow from the 1850s onwards. According to English data, factory workers were paid 10-20% more than home-workers.
因此,一些历史学家很认可自18世纪末开始的工厂制度的发展。工人们从一个家庭生活与经济生产无阻碍交融的地方搬到了一个专门追求效率的地方。工厂的劳动生产率更高不足为奇,工厂制度的效益逐渐优于散工制并最终取代了散工制也不让人意外。在人挤人的工厂,工人可以更方便地聚结在一起,要求更高的工资;从19世纪50年代起,工会开始发展。根据英国的数据,工厂工人的工资比在家工作的工人高10%到20%。

But is that the whole story? Some home-workers resisted the shift to the factory system—most notably by joining the Luddites, a society of English textile workers in the 19th century who smashed up machines which they perceived were putting them out of a job. Another explanation is that factory owners, at least in the short term, had little option but to offer higher wages in order to entice workers from their homes. That suggests that home-working had its advantages.
然而这就是事情的全貌了吗?一些在家工作的人抵制向工厂制度的转变——最明显的表现就是加入路德派,这个由19世纪英国纺织工人组成的团体捣毁了他们认为会让他们失业的机器。另一种解释是,工厂主别无选择,只能通过提高工资来吸引工人走出家门,至少短期内是如此。这表明在家工作有其优势。

One such advantage was economic. Home-workers may have been poorly paid relative to factory folk, but they could earn income by other means. Wool-industry home-workers would receive a given quantity of material and were then supposed to return the same weight of material fashioned into stockings. But by exposing the wool to steam, it would weigh more, allowing the workers to keep some of the raw materials.
其中一个优势是财务上的。相比工厂工人,在家工作的人可能收入较低,但他们可以通过其他方式赚取收入。毛纺业的居家工作者会收到一定数量的原料,然后要按要求交还与所耗费原料重量相等的长袜。但是,将羊毛在蒸汽中蒸烫后可以增加重量,这样工人就能留下一些原料。

That was not the only advantage. Home-workers in rural or semi-rural areas could forage for fuel and food, and so boost their meagre incomes. One observer in 1813 noted sniffily that women in Surrey, a county close to London, were making three shillings a week from cutting down heath to make brooms—“miserable productions and trifling employments”, in his view. But three shillings a week was not far off average female earnings at the time.
这还不是唯一的优势。农村或半农村地区的居家工作者可以在外面寻觅燃料和食物,从而增加他们微薄的收入。1813年,一位观察者不屑地指出,在离伦敦不远的萨里郡,妇女砍伐灌木来做扫帚,每周能赚三先令——在他看来,她们的“产品可怜兮兮,工作也微不足道”。但是,每周三先令快赶上当时女性的平均收入了。

Home-workers also had more control over their time. So long as the work was done to the required standard and on time, they were not told exactly when or how to do it. That was in sharp contrast to the factory, where every aspect of life was planned in advance and workers were closely monitored. And home-workers could decide on the exact mix between work and leisure—in contrast to factory workers, who either worked the 12- or 14-hour days stipulated by the factory owner or none at all. Average working hours in the 18th century were shorter than they became in the 19th. After drinking heavily on Sunday evening, home-workers often took the day off before they went “reluctantly back to work Tuesday, warmed to the task Wednesday, and laboured furiously Thursday and Friday”, as David Landes, an economic historian at Harvard University, put it. People also got more sleep.
在家工作的人也对自己的时间有更多支配权。他们无需遵循具体的工作时间和工作方式,只要能依照标准按时完成工作就行。这与工厂形成了鲜明的对比,在工厂里,生活的方方面面都是预先计划好的,工人们也会受到密切监视。在家工作的人可以自主分配工作和休闲的时间,而工厂工人要么得按照厂主的规定每天工作12或14小时,要么一整天一点活也不干。18世纪的平均工作时长比19世纪要短。正如哈佛大学的经济史学家大卫·兰德斯(David Landes)所说,周日晚上喝个烂醉后,在家工作的人周一通常会休息一天,“周二不情不愿地回到工作岗位,周三找找工作状态,周四和周五再拼命苦干”。当时人们的睡眠时间也更多。

This greater autonomy was especially important for mothers. In a world where men did little by way of family work, women could combine child care with contributing to the family income. It was far from easy. Sometimes women would give their infants “Godfrey’s Cordial”, a mixture of sugar syrup and laudanum, to knock them out for a while. But home-working allowed for the combination of paid work and family work in a way that the factory system did not. As factories spread, female labour-force participation fell.
这种更大的自主权对母亲来说尤其重要。在一个男人几乎不做家务的世界里,这可以让女人兼顾照看孩子和增加家庭收入。这绝非易事。有时候,女人会给她们的婴儿喂一种叫“戈弗雷香酒”的糖浆和鸦片酊的混合物,让他们昏睡一段时间。但是,在家工作使得有偿工作和家务相结合成为可能,这是工厂制度不能给予的。随着工厂的扩张,女性劳动力参与率下降了。

In 1920 Max Weber, a German sociologist, argued that the separation of the worker’s place of work from their home had “extraordinarily far-reaching” consequences. The factory was more efficient than the home-based system which had preceded it—but it was also a space in which workers had less control over their lives, and where they had much less fun. Depending on how permanent it proves to be, today’s pandemic-induced shift back to the home could have similarly far-reaching effects. ■
德国社会学家马克斯·韦伯在1920年指出,工人的工作场所与家的分隔产生了“极其深远”的后果。工厂的效率要比之前基于家庭的制度高,但在工厂这个空间里,工人对自己生活的支配力更小,乐趣也少得多。今天,由疫情引发的向家庭的回归可能会产生同样深远的影响,待看它会持续多久了。