Sunday, 4 August 2013

Work and knowledge - reading Kropotkin

'Thousands of inventors, mostly unknown, mostly dying in poverty and neglect, have elaborated the machinery in which man admires his genius. 
Thousands of writers, philosophers and men of science, supported by many thousands of compositors, printers, and other labourers whose name is legion, have contributed to elaborating and spreading knowledge, to dissipating errors, to creating the atmosphere of scientific thought, without which the marvels of our century never would have been brought to life... 
These men of genius themselves are, in their turn, the children of industry thousands of engines had to transform heat into mechanical force and mechanical force into sound, light, and electricity had to do so for years, every day, under the eyes of humanity before some of our contemporaries proclaimed the mechanical origin of heat and the correlation of physical forces, and before we ourselves became prepared to listen to them and understand their teachings. 
Who knows for how many decades we should continue to be ignorant of this theory which now revolutionises industry, were it not for the inventive powers and skill of those unknown workers who have improved the steam-engine, who have brought all its parts to perfection, so as to make steam more manageable than a horse, and to render the use of the engine nearly universal?
Who is, then, the individual who has the right to step forward and, laying his hand on the smallest part of this immense whole, to say, "I have produced this; it belongs to me"?'
And on another topic on which I've been interested:

'It is becoming evident that it is merely stupid to elect a few men, and to entrust them with the task of making laws on all possible subjects, of which subjects most of them are utterly ignorant.' 

- Peter Kropotkin, 1887

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