STANDARDISATION - STANDARDISED MENTALITIES
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In 1929, a veteran
coach and motor decorator set out the conflicts that came between
achieving true colours and maintaining trade skills. The existence of
dozens of shades of the same colour threatened chaos. Paint
manufacturers, therefore, had sought to reduce that confusion and
increase their sales by “persistent advertising” with colour charts
and sample decks. These guides helped the decorator to know “the
actual constituents of the colour which he desires to obtain”. In
practice, however, he was likely to use products from more than one
firm, which, when blended, threw “the colour off shade”. Only from
rectifying such slippages could the decorator find “a shred of
individuality … to maintain some measure of dignity” since
“modernity has not quite succeeded in changing him into an
conscription for overseas service in 1916, the Secretary of the
Victorian Branch of the Builders Labourers Federation, Ben Mulvogue,
connected standardisation with the turning of craftsmen into machines.
That ??? was infecting the social order with “Militarism and
Despotism”. Mulvogue later linked mechanisation with monopolizing to
explain why “the individual can no longer make an independent living.
He has been reduced to utter dependence by the concentration of
The union’s founding secretary, Henry Hannah, pointed to the loss
since 1890 of a “common interest” between Master and men: “the
employer does not treat the labourer as a man. In his eyes he was a
machine, and wanted him to go at top speed all the time until, like the
machine, he gets worn out, and is then cast aside”.
By concentrating on
ideologies and politics, Judith Brett missed the key to the
individualism within the morality she attributes to the self-employed,
professionals and small employers whom she aggregates as the middle
class. She ignored their social relations of production. Instead, she
confined her reportage to their self-images. They were moral: they said
so themselves. “What service primarily meant”, Brett concluded,
“was putting the interests of the common good before those of the
self, and the term had wide applications”.
Indeed it did, and wider than she understood.
As much as Brett’s moral citizenry despised the solidarity of trade unionists, they clung to retail price maintenance. The President of the Master Engravers Association of Victoria, E. S. Bolle, identified “Loyalty” as the keynote at their 1936 National Conference. “Loyalty” was also the principle that his class had demonstrated during the war, in contrast to the “disloyalty” of workers seduced by Sinn Fein or Bolshevism. Bolle’s vocabulary embodied a dilemma faced by the individualist in the era of oligopolies and organised labour. On the one hand, he reached for the old school clichés by promising his members that they would all be better off if they “played the game” by sticking to an agreed schedule of prices. On the other, he could have been a trade union official when he concluded that their “industry was greater than the individual”. That conviction was also at the heart of fascist symbolism with its sticks bound together for greater strength..
Efforts to standardise
brought new attitudes, inscribing modernity as a culture of change. The
shift from handicraft to machine-facture
were torn between their fears of standardisation and their fears at
chaos, the subject of a run of editorials on the balance between
Individualism and Order in architectural design
Building and Construction late in 1929
Rudolf Eucken “The
Inner Movement of Modern Life” Got Nobel Prize for literature
B. Irving Babbit
Reflecting on Italy’s
fascist constitution, the conservative Melbourne Argus
decided that disorder could not be allowed to go on. Civilisation
demanded “a significant corrective to a too free play of individualism
which is in danger of exceeding the legitimate restraints due to family,
calling and country”.
A double sense of
“standards” operated. Was standardisation to achieve quality or
This dilemma was part
of a larger political debate about how to preserve the intellectual and
cultural quality of the middle class against the socialist equality
which would impose sameness. R. G. Menzies put it in The
Forgotten People with its coded eugenic message.
The more that
standardisation dominated material production, the more the machine age
impinged on individualism. The efforts to reduce unit costs and sustain profit rates assaulted ways of living
and “structures of feeling” as had any during the first industrial
In 1955, the Commonwealth
Jeweller and Watchmaker resorted to the language of industrial
militancy when it declared that only a “United Jewellery Trade
Front” could “hammer out” the practices needed to ward off
Professionals and small
business people held to individualism for as long as its values could
restrain “the machine age”.
James objected to standardised spelling ??????
As early as 1924, a
government-backed promoter of standardisation in the U.S. of A., Albert
Whitney, could lament that the standard objection to standardisation was
the threat of “uniform mediocrity”. Whitney countered by aligning
standardisation with a Darwinian notion that the generation of varieties
allowed for the creation of new species. Standardisation, he argued,
conserved this opportunity to adapt.
The inaugural chairman of the Commonwealth Engineering Standards
Association, Professor Chapman, recognised that standardisation in the
industrial domain could run production technologies “into a rut,
stopping progress”. His alternative was to lift standards by their
Other advocates argued that because the agreed standards were “the
best modern practice”, they led to “progress” by eliminating the
manufacturer of inferior lines.
Before George A. Taylor
had slipped away from eulogizing the machine and towards upholding
individual character. He still took pride in his prescience about the
importance that aircraft would have in modern warfare. Yet he worried
that Allied strategists were placing “more reliance upon the machine
than upon self”. Because Germany had trained its soldiers to fight
like machines they committed atrocities: “Character must be trained
along with the body”.
Also in 1918, a rival promoter of wireless, E. K. Fisk, argued that the
Germans, despite their “devilish devices”, would lose the war
because they did not “possess individuality”.
This attitude persisted into the late 1940s. The Standards
Association had to combat “an impression fairly widely held” that
standardisation is “a process of reducing everything to one pattern,
of stifling new ideas and killing enterprise – in short of mere
stereotyping”. Sameness had never been the aim. The objective was to
stamp out “frivolous variations, in size for example, which are so
slight that their presence may not be felt until the replacement
Advocates of absolute
standards in measurement, like the upholders of the Gold Standard,
convinced themselves of the ethical significance of their program.
Critics of standardization were as adamant that the morality of
individualism was under threat. The dividing line was never clear-cut.
Many of those who feared the loss of creativity from uniform production
resigned themselves to turning back the revolt of the propertiless
masses by giving in to Fascism.
Moreover, the masses
were not just the mob, the classes
dangereux or even the crowd in history. They included the middling
classes who had been brought into public affairs via the suffrage,
conscription and the mass media for marketing. They were city dwellers
– not rural idiots – yet not exactly citizens, not the political
animal of Aristotle. The censoriousness of this new public had
frightened John Stuart Mill more than had the state censors.
In reviewing Chase’s
study, Nettie Palmer observed that while few Australian men could fix
their own fuse or faucet, most were still at home with a water tank and
a wood pile.
Nothing like Ford’s assembly
Examine the German case
because surrender had made its symptoms the most extreme
The rest of the world
reacted to its Prussianism
Consider the novels of
???? Fontane, Robert Musil and Heinrich Mann for one personality type
Spokespeople for other
natoins exaggerated certain features of German life to deceive
themselves about how different – free individuals -
German industry assumed
to be the most advanced in its application of technology, allegedly the
most efficient and regimented.
A two-way trade in
ideas. German conservatives needed technology but spurned liberalism.
Problem in Australia of how to differentiate he Allies’ sacrifice in
battle from their militarism. Easier here because of voluntarism, but
complicated because of the campaigns to bring in conscription by popular
See article on
Since the 1890s, German
designers and architects had sought to integrate the creativity of the
artist with the standardisation required for mass production. From the
founding of the Deutsche Werkbund
in 1907, its membership had mixed three lines of ideals and practices:
first, a fringe who wanted to restore folk decorations; secondly, a
substantial minority hoped to put the artist in charge. The champion of Jugendstil,
the Belgian Henri van de Velde (1863-1957), inspired by William Morris,
declared “Art must conquer the machine”. Thirdly, a majority
accepted that their task was to provide a basis on which German exports
could excel. The founding President, Hermann Muthesius used Werkbund
as if it were an institute for imposing standards of quality on mass
production for the export market. He wanted to escape the volkish forms but not to simplify for its own sake.
improve quality where mass production was essential for trade and in
Divisions between the
standardisers and the individualists came to a head at the July 1914
Congress in Cologne where the Muthesius, contended:
normative, or another by-product of mass production?
A conflict between Type
and Individuality. Walter Gropius objected to the standardised method of
setting quality standards. Quality always required further research
through the spawning of variety, artistic experiments. Types needed to
be destroyed as well as built.
A fine line between
integrating creativity with industrial production and subordinating the
former. In practice, the latter was going to win
At most, the corporations would use the names of artist-designers a form of advertising
reach for the best in the present and shed the reproduction of 
His ally, Peter Behrens
joined AEG (Allgemeine
The theme of the 1911
Congress was “The Spiritualisation of German Production”. Rembrandt
became an honorary German for the purposes of extollings his ??? against
a scientistic approach to art.
standardisation as virtuous, and located aesthetics in design for mass
products. Forms were spiritual though they had to find expressions
appropriate to time and palace, as they had with the Greeks and again in
the Eighteenth century. (Badham, p. 72)
The war decided the
struggle in favour of the standardisers. “Kultur” became a
propaganda weapon rather than a spiritual value and the regimentation of
terminology was integral to the standardization of science and industry.
The clarification of vocabulary did not extend to “standardization”.
Simplification, Fordism, mechanisation, (and later automation)
Americanism, etc Dispute extended to the meaning of “standard”: was
it a moral statement or a ?????????.
The translator of Le
Corbusier’s Vers une
Architecture carried this blurring to the point of
is governed by Standards. Standards are a matter of logic, analysis and
precise study. Standards are based on a problem which has been well
is imposed by the law of selection and is an economic and social
necessity. Harmony is a state of agreement with the norms of our
universe. Beauty governs all; she is of purely human creation; she is
the overplus necessary only to men of the highest type.
returned to French in the 1850s
est le superfluite necessaire seulement a ceux qui ont un ame eleve. (p.
we must first of all aim at the setting up of standards in order to face
the problem of perfection.
slipped between using “standards” as aesthetic-cum-ethical
judgements to an acceptance of standardisation as the new basis for
beauty in building. The ease with which he made this transition in
terminology was faster than he could in his practices. In the 1920s, he
called for simplification. Not until the 1950s would he embrace “the
module”. Even then, he ??????????????? Fibonacci series allowed for
The “Manifesto of
Sarraz” found some adherents here shortly after Le Corbusier’s
writings had been translated.
One criticism was that the “Modernist” designs were inferior to
“the comfort and convenience in the best type of modern English
But also freak house
design from Bauhaus attacked as “socialist” and “anti-beauty”.
Despite the uneven pace
of his approval of standardisation, his welcoming of it remained
exceptional. Most people feared that mass production would spread
“shoddy” and - after 1945 – artificial “plastic” goods.
In Germany after the
surrender, a conflict developed between reactionaries who turned back to
Nature and “blood and soil”, and those who embraced a refurnished
concept of “blood and steel”. The reactionary modernists, as Jeffrey
Herf calls them, distinguished technology from the other aspects of
modernisation such as individualism and commercialism, summed up as Americanismus.
Ernst Junger, for example, portrayed the subordination of the individual
to the speed of mass production as a metaphysical process.
The individual will no
longer be redeemed by “faith in land”, but by sacrifice in battle
and by a willing submission to technology. Speed in the factory and city
erodes personality and ego. The new Germany seeks redemption in a leader
who embodies the absolutism of the machine age. In the 1922 words of
Junger: “But it is precisely these masses who will produce a decisive
and unrestricted type of leader, one who will have far fewer
restrictions on his actions than even the sovereign of the absolute
monarchy did.” SOURCE
perceived these developments in The
Salaried Masses (1930) and Wilhelm Reich ????? in The
Mass Psychology of Fascism
Modernists retained a Romanticism without the Pastoral. The soul of the
nation was not to be found by trekking through the forests. The
anonymity of the city had educated Germans to the loss of personality
of technology was a “steel translation of our blood and our brains”.
Junger presented acceptance of this slavery as the fulfillment of “our
innermost will”. The surrender of personal liberty in the economy was
another heroic sacrifice, like that of one’s life during the war.
Putting the Geist
back in the machine in an irrational devotion to the rationality of
Hand, head and heart in
the phrase of the Anthroposophist, Rudolf Steiner.
Moral and ethical
standards the standardised could incorporate the good, the true and the
beautiful. Came to dominate.
automobile: Of all the machines that contributed to modernisation,
none was more pervasive than the automobile, with its antiphonal images
of workers chained to an assembly
line against motorists’ touring wherever fancy took them. Although
the automobile in Australia never embodied class distinctions as keenly
it did in Britain, “the modern device of aloofness” promised a
personal space against the crush on public transport. Yet, no sooner had
the NRMA titled its magazine The Open Road in 192???
than motoring parties were accused of “Babbitising of the Bush”.
The family car
contributed to the spread of “villadom”, and to the debates over
whether suburbia offered a scope for personal expression, or crimped
both community and creativity.
The anonymity of faces in the street extended from the footpath, as
recorded by Henry Lawson in 1890 and Lesbia Harford around 1920, to the
roadway as framed in John Brack’s “The Car” (1955).
In 1918, that early
advocate of flying-machines over the battle-field, George A.
Taylor, defended the military utility of horses. They could jump
fences and take mounted troops over country where armoured cars and
tanks could not go.
The gratitude that the socialist Lesbia Harford felt when a businessman
sold his trucks to revert to horse-and-lorry deliveries was but one
instance of the disquiet that people of several persuasions harboured
towards the automobile as the vanguard of the machine age.
No less surprising is that the managing-director of BHP, the “Steel
Master”, Essington Lewis, also preferred a horse, dying in the saddle
in 1961, his eighty-first year.
to man’s search for relief from the restrictions of the machine age,
we are entering upon the most colourful epoch of modern history. All
about us we see the results of a demand for colour, more colour”. 
an almost irresistible attraction … largely due to the unique
circumstance that the most modern and impressive industrial enterprise
of the period was situated in an exceptionally romantic landscape. It
thus became, as it were, the test place for studying the new
relationship between men and nature created by large-scale industry.
The “horrors” and
marvels from coal and iron exhilarated artists towards the imagery of a
paradise being lost.
The Sydney Harbour
Bridge became the largest industrial undertaking in the country. The
engineers set up a iron-and-steel works on site, employing 2,000 men. By
1928, few Sydney artists could keep their pencils off its spans as they
curved out, thrusting steel-grey geomorphs
which not even the brightest of palettes among the Sydney Moderns could
camouflage. To look through their efforts is to be overwhelmed by a
metallic life form which seems to reach out like a mechanical plant.
Arthur Streeton charged 325 guineas for one of his canvases of the
harbour viewed from a patron’s porch. He never attempted to include
the bridge. Those who did depict it either left the workforce out of
their picture, or confined them to corners, where they lounged in
groups, never working on the bridge itself. Cossington Smith was typical
in concealing the human labour, and the 156 deaths, consumed into the
bridge’s construction. For Streeton, its existence was brutal enough
to remind him that the era when the harbour had been an artists’ camp
had been killed during the War. For those of his persuasion, the
bridgework was more a gravestone than a bright promise.
Brisbanites built two
bridges across their river in the 1930s. The Grey Street Bridge opened
in the same month as Harbour Bridge. A commentator contrasted its simple
curves favourably with the “historical” adornments cluttering
Brisbane’s Colonial Mutual office block.
DUHIG Another local critic relied on the stone of the Grey Street to
locate it within the domain of Nature:
spans one of the majestic parts of the river, throws its grey arches
over the placid bluish waters; and at night, causes, through its
lighting, the river to brighten up in scintillating brilliance, giving a
charm to the surroundings that adds to the aesthetic value of an already
attractive spot blessed with a number of Nature’s charms.
bridge, though dumb, speaks. It illustrates the wealth and application
of the crafts, paints its own picture, and revels in the lights and
shades that fall upon it. We may, in due course, find the art student
make it a most appropriate subject for his brush, and poets and
poetesses versing its virtue and value in a manner that prose can hardly
Storey Bridge was all steel, and hence closer in comparison to the
Harbour bridge and article????Glenn
Cooke from art and antiques??????
higher above most viewing points and approaches than Grey Street
painted her way through the dangers that mechanisation posed to her
determination to be both “mathematical and adventurous”.
She worked her way around the danger of that mechanisation posed to her
art by drawing on the regionalism of Indigenous Australians and
traditions from East Asia. She located symmetry within the
irregularities of Aboriginal patterning and discerned the Fibionacci
series in the formality of her native flower paintings. She accepted the
machine age in her 1927 essay “Eggs to Electrolux”, and for her
streamlined kitchen scene, “Still Life” (1927). Next year, she
condemned “The Robot in Art” before disparaging “Meccano as an
Ideal” in 1932.
Despite her many woodcuts of harbour scenes, and unlike most Sydney
artists, she Rarely only once
depicted the Bridge. She attacked the addition of faux
In a 1943 article,
Preston distinguished “modern” from “contemporary”. She
announced that she had reached a pivotal moment in her own development.
Modern artists, she recognised, drew on the traditions of art in an
individual way. She was moving on to the “Contemporary”, where the
artist’s “forms and symbols will show the conditions and ideas of
This change did not mean that
Preston wanted to endorse prevailing attitudes. Indeed, the war had left
her “bored stiff with the uniformed mind and body”.
Her 1942 depiction of a smashed Japanese midget submarine included a
placard reading “Do Not Ask Questions”, the opposite of her practice
as an artist. The English painter Paul Nash exemplified Preston’s
notion of the “contemporary”.
For ‘Totes Meer’
(1940-41), he re-worked images of crashed Luftwaffe
planes. Like Nash, Preston responded to war machines by showing their
wreckage, not their destructive power.
By contrast, Grace
Cossington Smith did not go back to the social themes that she had
portrayed around 1920, although the threats to her social class were no
less intense. In the main, she spent her time achieving prettiness
through high-keyed fractured brushstrokes. An exception was “Dawn
Landing” (1944) where robotic troops march out of a hull which looks
like a metallic birth canal. In an act of manual reproduction, she based
the painting on a newspaper photograph.
The pre-1915 appeal
that the machine had made to the Futurists and Vorticists was buried
beneath the actuality of slaughter. Nevison
switched from the machine to the pastoral.
mechanization and standardisation drove Modernists towards the
irrational as a escape. Naturalism attracted fewer painters during the
Second World War.
Most accepted that an
element of abstraction was necessary to depict the mechanisation of war,
especially with aerial bombardment.
(1936), Picasso established the aircraft as the source of terror. Yet he
did not include that machine in his vision of the slaughter. The
dominant figure is of the horse, as if in a bullring. Picasso did not
confront the mechanization of battle until his Korean War image of
robots entering battle like creatures from War of the Worlds????.
The war artist Dennis
Adams was as mechanistic in his manner of depicting ships’ engines as
were his subjects. In England, Stanley Spencer brought life to the
armaments industry through employing a Super-Realist manner to focus
attention on the collective power of ship-builders in his 24-metre long
“Shipbuilding on the Clyde” (c.1941)
Arthur Boyd, Russell
Drysdale, James Gleeson, Sid Nolan, John Perceval and Albert Tucker, and
THE SOWER is anti-Pastoral the rest of nature is indifferent to our fate
Eric Thake took
a whimsical glance at the machine age.
Expressionism of Ivor Hele
Nolan as “The Dream of the Latrine Sitter” went AWOL
A soft Modernism
Led to fabric designs
The chance to be
involved in the making through Alcorso silks etc and to collaborate with
Reliance on landscape
and indigenous patterns as a way of keeping some distinct between the
artists’ creativity and their involvement with an industrial process.
The more that
standardisation dominated production and distribution, the more the
machine age and monopolising impinged on individualism, the more artists
The enterprise of the
corner shopkeeper had fewer chances than ever of outlasting
oligopolisers, with their advantages from productive capacity and in
publicity. Marketers deflected the individual’s quest for freedom away
from the workplace and governmental control and into the domestic
sphere. Consumption became the means to express a commercialisation of
character. Just as politicians promoted home ownership as a bastion of
individual liberties, so did marketers sell home-making as the way to
retain “some shred of
Levitt and home owning
communists too busy???????
NEEDS AN ENDING?????
promised truth and goodness. Ambivalence around standardisation appeared
there too. Consumers of soft-drinks complained about the lack of flavour,
fruit growers attacked artificial flavourings, and supply houses filled
pages with their name and “Quality” as their slogan.
August 1929, pp. 311-13; this account
points to the multiple ways by which work could be de-graded,
cf. Harry Braveman, Labor and Monopoly Capital, Monthly Review Press, New York, 1974.