Friday, 19 June 2015

The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists

A novel that has social, and economic implications.....

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The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists
First edition
AuthorRobert Tressell a.k.a. Noonan, born Croker
CountryUnited Kingdom
PublisherGrant Richards
Publication date
23 April 1914
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists is a novel by Robert Tressell first published in 1914 after his death in 1911. An explicitly political work, it is widely regarded as a classic of working-class literature. It placed seventy second in the 2003 The Big Read survey conducted by the BBC.


Robert Tressell was the nom-de-plume of Robert Noonan, a house painter. Although born in Dublin (and baptised with the surname Croker), Noonan settled in England after living in South Africa at the beginning of the twentieth century. He chose the pen name Tressell in reference to the trestle table, an important part of his kit as a painter and decorator. Based on his own experiences of poverty, exploitation, and his terror that he and his daughter Kathleen — whom he was raising alone — would be consigned to the workhouse if he became ill, Noonan embarked on a detailed and scathing analysis of the relationship between working-class people and their employers. The "philanthropists" of the title are the workers who, in Noonan's view, acquiesce in their own exploitation in the interests of their bosses.
The novel is set in the fictional town of Mugsborough, based on the southern English coastal town of Hastings, where Noonan lived, although its geographical location is described in the book and is well away from the actual town of Hastings. The original title page of the book carried the subtitle: "Being the story of twelve months in Hell, told by one of the damned, and written down by Robert Tressell."
He completed The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists in 1910, but the 1,600-page hand-written manuscript was rejected by the three publishing houses to which it was submitted. The rejections severely depressed Noonan, and Kathleen had to save the manuscript from being burnt. She placed it for safekeeping in a metal box underneath her bed.
After Noonan died of tuberculosis, Kathleen was determined to have her father's writing published and showed it to a friend, the writer Jessie Pope. Pope recommended the book to her own publisher, who bought the rights in April 1914 for £25. It was published that year in much abridged form in the United Kingdom and in an even more abridged form (90,000 words, from the original 250,000), in 1918.[1] It was also published in Canada and the United States in 1914, in the Soviet Union in 1920, and in Germany in 1925. The publisher removed much of the socialist ideology from the first edition; an unabridged edition with Noonan's original ending was not published until 1955, edited by F.C.Ball, who also wrote two biographies of Tressell, Tressell of Mugsborough (1951), and One of the Damned:The Life and Times of Robert Tressell (1973).

Plot introduction[edit]

Clearly frustrated at the refusal of his contemporaries to recognise the inequity and iniquity of society, Tressell's cast of hypocritical Christians, exploitative capitalists and corrupt councillors provide a backdrop for his main target — the workers who think that a better life is "not for the likes of them". Hence the title of the book; Tressell paints the workers as "philanthropists" who throw themselves into back-breaking work for poverty wages in order to generate profit for their masters.
The hero of the book, Frank Owen, is a socialist who believes that the capitalist system is the real source of the poverty he sees all around him. In vain he tries to convince his fellow workers of his world view, but finds that their education has trained them to distrust their own thoughts and to rely on those of their "betters". Much of the book consists of conversations between Owen and the others, or more often of lectures by Owen in the face of their jeering; this was presumably based on Tressell's own experiences.

Major themes[edit]

The book provides a comprehensive picture of social, political, economic and cultural life in Britain at a time when socialism was beginning to gain ground. It was around that time that the Labour Party was founded and began to win seats in the House of Commons.
The book advocates a socialist society in which work is performed to satisfy the needs of all rather than to generate profit for a few. A key chapter is "The Great Money Trick", in which Owen organises a mock-up of capitalism with his workmates, using slices of bread as raw materials and knives as machinery. Owen 'employs' his workmates cutting up the bread to illustrate that the employer — who does not work — generates personal wealth whilst the workers effectively remain no better off than when they began, endlessly swapping coins back and forth for food and wages. This is Tressell's practical way of illustrating the Marxist theory of surplus value, which in the capitalist system is generated by labour.
The house that is under renovation in the book, referred to frequently as the 'job', is known by the workmen as 'The Cave'. Given the author's interest in the philosophy of Plato, it is highly likely that this is a reference to Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". A major recurring theme in Tressell's book highlights the inability and reluctance of the workers to comprehend, or even consider, an alternative economic system [other than free market capitalism]. The author attributes this inability, amongst other things, to the fact that they have never experienced an alternative system, and have been raised as children to unquestioningly accept the status quo, regardless of it being potentially inimical to their own interests. In Plato's work, the underlying narrative suggests that in the absence of an alternative, human beings will accept and submit to their present condition and consider it to be 'normal', no matter how contrived the circumstances.


Writing in the Manchester Evening News in April 1946 George Orwell praised the book's ability to convey without sensationalism "the actual detail of manual work and the tiny things almost unimaginable to any comfortably situated person which make life a misery when one's income drops below a certain level." He considered it "a book that everyone should read" and a piece of social history that left one "with the feeling that a considerable novelist was lost in this young working-man whom society could not bother to keep alive."[2]
Jonah Raskin has described The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists as "a classic of modern British literature, that ought to rank with the work of Thomas Hardy, D. H. Lawrence, and James Joyce, and yet is largely unknown...Tressel's bitterness and anger are mixed with compassion, sympathy and a sharp sense of humour." [3]


See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]

  1. Jump up ^ Oxford World's Classics edition, 2005, edited and with an introduction by Peter Miles
  2. Jump up ^ George Orwell, Smothered Under Journalism, pp.256-257
  3. Jump up ^ "A Great Socialist Novel",In These Times magazine, August 22-28, 1979. (p. 17)
  4. Jump up ^ "Sony Award winners and nominees 2009" (Retrieved: 7 September 2009)
  5. Jump up ^ "Classic Serial: Mugsborough 1917" (Retrieved: 7 September 2009)

External links[edit]

New Economy Coalition

New Economy Coalition
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia/Blogger Ref

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New Economy Coalition
New Economy Coalition logo.png
Merged intoNew Economy Network
David M. Abromowitz, Gar Alperovitz, Jessica Brackman, Farhad Ebrahimi, John Fullerton, Neva Goodwin, Hildegarde Hannum, Leah Hunt Hendrix, Will Raap
AffiliationsSchumacher Society for a New Economics, New Economics Foundation
US$ 1.275 million (2015)[1]
11 (3 part time)
Formerly called
New Economics Institute
The New Economy Coalition (NEC) is an American nonprofit organization based in Boston, Massachusetts, formerly known as the New Economics Institute. It is a network of over 100 organizations working for what it describes as the New Economy movement.[2][3][4]


New Economics Institute[edit]

The roots of the NEC lay with the Schumacher Center for a New Economics (formerly the E.F. Schumacher Society) which was founded in 1980. In 2010, the NEC partnered with the New Economics Foundation (NEF) to create a new organisation called the New Economics Institute to promote alternative economic models. [1]

New Economics Network[edit]

The New Economics Network was created by Sarah Stranahan in 2009 as a loose network of about two hundred organizations working for the new economy.[5] In a lecture for the National Council for Science and the Environment Gus Speth said the organisation wanted to create a sustainable and caring economy.[6]

Rename and merger[edit]

In March 2012, Bob Massie became the president of the New Economics Institute.[7] In 2013, the New Economics Institute merged with the New Economy Network and became the New Economy Coalition.[1][8] Also in that year, Dave Pruett writing for the Huffington Post described the organization as one of two "leading the way toward economic viability".[9] Massie stepped down from being the coalition's president in October 2014.[10]


The NEC is a sister organization of the New Economics Foundation (NEF) in London. Selected NEF publications are featured on the NEC's webpage.[11]


E F Schumacher[edit]

The New Economy Coalition continue the work of British economist E. F. Schumacher. That is the of linking people, land, and community to build strong, diverse local economies.[12]

New Economy movement[edit]

The New Economy movement is often referred to as just 'new economy'. It considers that the current economic system needs to be restructured.[5] The theory is based on the assumption that people and the planet should come first, and that it is human well-being, not economic growth, which should be prioritized.[13] It draws on an aggregate of alternative economic thought that challenges the fundamental assumptions of mainstream neoclassical and Keynesian economics.[14] Some of the approaches it includes a ecological economics, solidarity economy, commons, degrowth, systems thinking and Buddhist economics.[15]
Gar Alperovitz described the New Economy movement as “... a far-ranging coming together of organizations, projects, activists, theorists and ordinary citizens committed to rebuilding the American political-economic system from the ground up."[16] In 2009, Sarah van Gelder wrote, “The new economy is about increasing quality of life, improving health, and restoring the environment."[17]
The movement is entirely distinct from the definition of a service-based new economy as popularized during the late 1990s by Stephen B. Shepard, among others.[18]


The NEC focuses on issues in North America and organizes there.[2] Writing for The Guardian Jo Confino noted the NEC's approach of getting organizations to work together that share common aims if not strategies.[4]


New economy movement advocacy[edit]

The New Economy Coalition works to promote anyone it considers part of the New Economy movement.[2]

Student Organizing[edit]

In 2012, the New Economy Coalition launched a student organizing initiative entitled The Campus Network: Campus Leadership in the New Economy. The initiative provided campuses across the country with financial and educational assistance in promoting the ideas of the New Economy through conferences, workshops, and other forms of strategic summits.[19]


Strategies for a New Economy Conference[edit]

The New Economy Coalition hosted a conference entitled "Strategies for a New Economy" as a convening summit for diverse economic reformation efforts.[20] The conference was held from June 8–10, 2012 at Bard College in New York.[21]The conference featured workshops, strategizing sessions and lectures. More than 500 people were in attendance, representing over 300 organizations.[22]


In June 2014 the CommonBound conference brought together movement leaders, activists and practitioners.[3] Nathan Schneider writing for Al Jazeera saw the conference as part of a wider commons movement.[15]

The Global Transition to a New Economy map[edit]

This project aims to make a global map of all the projects self identifying as 'new economic'. The user-generated online map will plot a sampling of different projects happening around the world. The project is in collaboration with the Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Economy, New Economics Foundation, and the Green Economy Coalition. [23] The map was presented at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro.[citation needed] Also in June, the map was awarded the 'map of the week' by the Google Geo Developers blog.[24]
As of February 2015 the site stated it would 'relaunch soon'.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jump up to: a b c "Executive Director, New Economy Coalition". Third Sector New England. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  2. ^ Jump up to: a b c "About the New Economy Coalition". New Economy Coalition. Retrieved 7 February 2015. 
  3. ^ Jump up to: a b "About CommonBound". New Economic Coalition. Retrieved 7 February 2015. 
  4. ^ Jump up to: a b Confino, Jo. "Driving social and environmental justice into the heart of the US economy". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 February 2015. 
  5. ^ Jump up to: a b Alperovitz, Gar. "The New-Economy Movement". The Nation. Retrieved 18 February 2015. 
  6. Jump up ^ Speth, Gus. "A new American environmentalism and the new economy". Grist. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  7. Jump up ^ Henderson, Hazel. "New Economy Coalition Appoints Bob Massie President/CEO". Ethical Market. 
  8. Jump up ^ "New Economics Institute Merging with New Economy Network". CSRWire. Retrieved 22 February 2015. 
  9. Jump up ^ Pruett, Dave. "The Myth of Exponential Growth". Huffington Post. Retrieved 18 February 2015. 
  10. Jump up ^ "Leadership transition at NEC". New Economy Coalition. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
  11. Jump up ^ Boyle, David. "Why John Kerry’s only half right on climate change". New Economics Foundation. 
  12. Jump up ^ "A Briefing on the New Economics Institute". Retrieved 18 February 2015. 
  13. Jump up ^ Speth, Gus. "Toward a New Economy and a New Politics". The Solutions Journal. 
  14. Jump up ^ Boyle, David (2009). The New Economics: A Bigger Picture. Routledge. 
  15. ^ Jump up to: a b Schneider, Nathan. "The commons are making a comeback". schneider. Al Jazeera. Retrieved 17 February 2015. 
  16. Jump up ^ Alperovitz, Gar. "The Rise of the New Economy Movement". AlterNet. 
  17. Jump up ^ van Geder, Sarah. "The New Economy Starts Now". 
  18. Jump up ^ Shepard, Stephen B. "The New Economy: What It Really Means". Business Week. 
  19. Jump up ^ "The Campus Network: Campus Leadership in the New Economy". New Economics Institute. 
  20. Jump up ^ "Strategies for a New Economy". 
  21. Jump up ^ Revkin, Andrew. "Searching for a New Economy". New York Times. 
  22. Jump up ^ Kando, Paul. "Strategies for a New Economy Summit at Bard College". New Maine Times. 
  23. Jump up ^ "Global Transition to a New Economy". Retrieved 11 April 2012. 
  24. Jump up ^ "Google Geo Developers blog". 
  25. Jump up ^ "Global Transition to New Economy". Retrieved 7 February 2015. 

External links[edit]

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