To Extend the Word Art to All the Externals of Our Life

William Morris, Art Under Plutocracy:

And first I must ask you to extend the word art beyond those matters which are consciously works of art, to take in not only painting and sculpture, and architecture, but the shapes and colours of all household goods, nay, even the arrangement of the fields for tillage and pasture, the management of towns and of our highways of all kinds; in a word, to extend it to the aspect of all the externals of our life. For I must ask you to believe that every one of the things that goes to make up the surroundings among which we live must be either beautiful or ugly, either elevating or degrading to us, either a torment and burden to the maker of it to make, or a pleasure and a solace to him.

Cited in Kristin Ross, Communal Luxury: The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune, which I highly recommend.


  1. freespeechlover April 19, 2015 at 4:46 pm | #

    It’s interesting how academic freedom is deployed strategically, such that some speakers’ speech is protected, no matter how literally racist it is, while others is treated as “hate speech,” even if it doesn’t target people based on their race, ethnicity but instead targets a state and its policies.

    This seems to have been the case at Brooklyn College as Corey as documented and analyzed before. Judith Butler was beyond the pale but Pam Geller is not.

    For the record, I really do believe in freedom of expression, but I think it’s obvious that politicians think of freedom of expression on campuses in expansive terms for some, while wanting to shrink it or heavily “manage” it for others. And Geller is no distinguished professor as is Butler.

  2. Barbara winslow April 19, 2015 at 4:54 pm | #

    And don’t forget E.P Thompson’s brilliant William Morris: From Romantic to Revolutionary.

  3. Rob April 19, 2015 at 5:10 pm | #

    “Freedom is always, and exclusively, freedom for the one who thinks differently.”

    Those who disagreed with the woman who wrote that bashed her head in with rifle butts. “In her assassination Hohenzollern Germany celebrated its last triumph and Nazi Germany its first”.

  4. John T. Maher April 19, 2015 at 8:43 pm | #

    What this post describes is cognate with Bernard Latour’s work and Object Oriented Ontology.

  5. Vetty April 19, 2015 at 10:32 pm | #

    And yet the quoted excerpt contains the seeds of gentrification. Be careful what you wish for.

  6. jonnybutter April 19, 2015 at 11:35 pm | #

    And yet the quoted excerpt contains the seeds of gentrification.

    The speech most certainly does not contain the ‘seeds of gentrification’, assuming there is such a thing. If you can’t be bothered to even scan the whole to see what he’s talking about, why comment?

    In fact, this is a very beautiful piece. I do, however, find interesting/jarring his apparently rhetorical use (and multiple reuse) of the word ‘anarchy’ (to describe the chaos and waste of capitalism). I assume he means ‘chaos’, but ‘anarchy’ doesn’t mean chaos – it means ‘without a king’. He is such a fine writer that I assume he chooses every word with care, but his use of ‘anarchy’ is jarring, and so I assume it’s rhetorical. It is a value judgement to make ‘anarchy’ mean ‘chaos’ – but I’m guessing that that corruption was complete at the time he wrote this. ??

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