X Close

Why woke capitalism works Josiah Wedgwood's life shows the value of mixing business with morality

Josiah Wedgwood was Britain's first 'woke capitalist'.


September 6, 2021   6 mins

It is an image of a black man kneeling. His hands are clasped together and chained, his neck upturned. Attached to the image are the words: “Am I not A Man and a Brother?”. Four years after this image was created, a portly doctor from the Midlands called Erasmus Darwin wrote a set of two poems entitled ‘The Botanic Garden’. In one of the poems, these lines feature in a stanza: “The Slave, in chains, on supplicating knee, / Spreads his wide arms, and lifts his eyes to Thee; / With hunger pale, with wounds and toil oppress’d, /’Are we not Brethren?’ sorrow choaks the rest”.

To describe Erasmus Darwin — the grandfather of Charles Darwin and Francis Galton — as simply a doctor would be selling him short. He was a figure the stature of Samuel Johnson. Unlike Johnson, however, he stayed in the Midlands and was transfixed by science. Darwin was a pivotal member of the Lunar Society, that constellation of thinkers who believed in the power of science to improve humanity. Coleridge, his friend and correspondent, described him as “the most original-minded man”.

He was also an abolitionist. The emancipation badge, the medallion with the inscription “Am I Not a Man and a Brother” that inspired Darwin’s verse, was made for the Society for the Abolition of the Slavery. It was the most popular symbol in the fight against the slave trade in the late eighteenth century. And it was created by Darwin’s good friend: Josiah Wedgwood.

Stoke has unfairly acquired the status of a provincial backwater. It is a Brexit city and its football team is a punchline: a foreign player can be good, but he can’t be that good if he can’t do it on a rainy night in Stoke. But Stoke’s most famous son was the emblematic figure of the long eighteenth century. Wedgwood’s work is mentioned in the novels of Austen and the letters of Gibbon. He made ceramics for Catherine the Great and the Georgian Royal Family; his family-surgeon and close friend was Erasmus Darwin; his other friends included Joseph Priestley, the minister and scientist who discovered oxygen.

Tristram Hunt, the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and former Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, has written a fluent and insightful biography of Wedgwood. Near the start of The Radical Potter, Hunt states: “Wedgwood’s marriage of technology and design, retail precision and manufacturing efficiency, transformed forever the production of pottery, and ushered in a mass consumer society”. But what is clear from the biography is that Wedgwood was also responding to the demands of a new consumer society.

By 1700, Britain was behind in terms of ceramic production. Japan and China were masters of exquisite design. British ceramics, by contrast, were crude. Lorenzo de Medici, the most powerful supporter of art in Renaissance Italy, loved Chinese porcelain. And so did Henry VIII. Louis XIV of France adored Chinese porcelain so much he even created a porcelain pavilion for, Hunt writes, “ceramic-themed assignations with his mistress Mme de Montespan”.

However, as Hunt notes, “over the course of the early eighteenth century, the need to substitute Asian and European imports with indigenous manufacture was vital in the development of a mass-market, consumer goods industry”. This need was satisfied by Wedgwood.

The Wedgwood family had been minor potters in North Staffordshire for two centuries before Josiah was born. What made North Staffordshire so useful was the proximity of clay and coal in the environment. Pottery ran through the veins of the family the way clay and coal veined the earth.

Wedgwood developed a leg disability from smallpox when he was 12. This meant he could never be a “thrower” — someone who operates the foot pedal on the potter’s wheel. Misfortune, was in this case, a stroke of luck. His disability allowed him to instead get stuck in on the more cerebral aspects of the business. “Design, innovation and business were aspects of the pottery trade”, Hunt writes, “to which Wedgwood could devote the attention that he could no longer apply to the thrower’s bench”.

The task of Wedgwood and his business partner Thomas Bentley was, in the words of Hunt, to “see off the attraction of luxury Chinese porcelain, dominate the fast-moving retail market, satiate the insatiable appetite of the middling sort with fashionable products sold at a healthy profit and soak up the emulative spending power of the increasingly taste-conscious Georgian consumer”.

Wedgwood came from a nonconformist religious tradition; he subscribed to political radicalism and popular democracy. His business success was nevertheless beholden to the patronage of the aristocracy. He made a creamware for Princess Charlotte, the wife of King George III “who set the fashion in London”. Hunt emphasises this ideological fissure when he notes that “a luxury product endorsed by high society was thus by far the most effective means for developing a profitable, mass-market commodity and if Thomas Bentley and Josiah Wedgwood were to secure the patronage of the trend-setting nobility they had to jettison their political radicalism, Nonconformist ethos and thirst for democracy”. The fissure, however, would be more brutally exposed by Wedgwood’s entanglement with the trans-atlantic slave trade.

The demand for ceramics was linked to a demand for other goods in the eighteenth century; porcelain was a pretty appendage to drink and grub. In particular, the period witnessed a tea craze. Tea was imported by the East India Company from China. The Company also imported sugar from slave plantations in the Caribbean. Sugar went from being a luxury product to a “dietary staple”. It was used to make chocolate, jam and treacle. But most importantly it was used to drink tea. 8,000 tons of sugar were imported to Britain in 1663; it was 97,000 by 1775. Britain had developed a sweet tooth.

But it was a sweet tooth that encouraged an industry characterised by savage cruelty. As Adam Hochschild makes clear in his book Bury the Chains: “When slavery ended in the United States, less than half a million slaves imported over the centuries had grown to a population of nearly four million. When it ended in the British West Indies, total slave imports of well over two million left a surviving slave population of only about 670,000”. Wedgwood was complicit in this industry: he exported pottery to slave plantation estates in Barbados and Jamaica. And he personally took commissions from slave-owners. But by the 1780s, he was passionately opposed to the slave trade.

The committee for the abolition of the slave trade was founded in 1787 by William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson and Granville Sharp: the Three Musketeers of British Anti-Slavery activism (With Olaudah Equiano as d’Artagnan). Wedgwood was subsequently elected to the committee. During this period, he “wrote impassioned letters, circulated petitions, attended meetings and joined boycotts”.

He also created the emancipation medallion, which was, as Hunt notes, “the dominant motif of anti-slavery activism until illustrations from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin became prominent in the nineteenth century.

Wedgwood was, so it seems, a bundle of contradictions. Much of his working life was spent trying to negotiate his desire for business success with his concern for social justice. Eric Williams, the Trinidadian statesman and historian, famously argued that the British ended the slave trade for financial rather than moral reasons. For Williams, this is an indictment of Britain. Many people today — on the Left and Right — denounce corporations and businesses who ostentatiously display support for social justice movements. The phrase ‘virtue signalling’ is typically used as an insult.

Although many critics denounce social justice warriors and woke capitalists as sanctimonious, the underlying criticism of them is that they are insufficiently moral; that they are engaging in activism to sell something or gratify their vanity or be in with the Cool Kids. They are not doing it simply because it is the right thing to do.

But what is clear from Hunt’s biography of Wedgwood is that the Staffordshire potter used our materialism and desire to emulate high-status people to advance the abolitionist movement. The materialism and trend-setting craze that fuelled the slave trade — the desire for sweetened tea and sumptuous ceramics to adorn them — also undermined it: this time by seeing respectable people wearing a beautifully-crafted medallion. As Hunt writes: “Even though the consumer revolution of the eighteenth century had helped to fuel the Atlantic slave trade, Wedgwood’s understanding of its ethos of emulation now enabled him to popularise abolitionism more effectively than any number of Sharp petitions or Equiano readings”.

Social movements, political ideologies and religions don’t spread because we individually analyse beliefs and say This is Obviously Good and This is Obviously Bad. We are sociable creatures: we care about what our peers do and the behaviour of charismatic people. This isn’t a normative judgement; it is a descriptive fact. Rather than bemoaning virtue signalling and woke capitalism, we ought to understand how we actually behave. The spread of an ideological movement through material interests is not necessarily a bad thing. 

Which is not to say it’s necessarily good either. The moral focus should be on the beliefs themselves, rather than how they are spread. I am critical of many contemporary vogueish social justice movements. However, I am critical of them because I think they are wrong and or harmful, not because many high-status people support them. 

The assumption which seems to underpin the view that it is necessarily bad if moral movements are spread by non-moral means is that we are solely motivated by ethical reasoning. Any deviation from moralising therefore constitutes a betrayal of the principles we claim to espouse. But this assumption is untrue. We don’t only care about right or wrong; we also care about status.

A part of me thinks we should be more moralistic, not least because I think people who espouse an essentialist form of identity politics, and companies that jump on the bandwagon of social justice, flatten rich individual experiences. But that’s probably my religious prejudice speaking: talk of individual moral conscience only makes sense by presupposing a coherent and distinctive self. That we have a soul.

But we are also mammals. The means through which our moral norms spread will always be somewhat imperfect, haphazard, bungling; reflecting the vagaries of status. Charles Darwin’s paternal grandfather was Erasmus Darwin. His maternal grandfather was Josiah Wedgwood.


Tomiwa Owolade is a freelance writer and the author of This is Not America, which is out in paperback in May.

tomowolade

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

36 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
2 years ago

To quote from your article:

“Although many critics denounce social justice warriors and woke capitalists as sanctimonious, the underlying criticism of them is that they are insufficiently moral; that they are engaging in activism to sell something or gratify their vanity or be in with the Cool Kids. They are not doing it simply because it is the right thing to do.”

This is not the criticism many of the anti-woke have. Many of us object to SJW policies because:
1.Those policies attribute innocence and guilt based on group membership and not individual behaviour. Assigning blame on the basis of group membership has been disastrous in Russia, Cambodia, Armenia, Rwanda and, basically, every country it has ever been implemented in.
2. We do not believe that disparities in outcome between one group and another on [choose metric] are necessarily proof of oppression. SJWs themselves do not even apply their own notion of disparity=oppression consistently. The 20:1 incarceration disparity between men and women, for example, is never taken as proof of a “war against men”, while the smallest disparity in incarceration rates across races are seized on as proof of racism.
3.We object to the selective application of the rule of law. SJWs frequently want in-groups to be absolved of accountability and out-groups to be punished extra-judicially. This is clearly visible with people like Harvey Weinstein, for whom accusation was proof enough of guilt, so much so that SJWs hounded his lawyer out of office in an attempt to thwart his basic right to a defence. Many of those same SJWs simultaneously insisted that Shamima Begum, the ISIL bride accused of murdering, maiming and beating infidels in Iraq, be returned courtesy of the tax payer to have a fair trial “without being judged”.

Many of the “anti-woke” simply believe that the presumption of innocence must apply to all people, regardless of the group they belong to, and that each individual is entitled to a trial based on their individual actions as a person of free will.

4.We believe that SJW identity-based policies will ultimately harm their intended beneficiaries.

It is at least politically intelligent to scapegoat white people in a country like South Africa, where they have no demographic power to elect leaders along the identity divisions being sewn.

It is, however, a very different proposition in countries where the majority white population can vote in despots to act on the very “them and us” divisions being sewn by identity agitators.

SJWs are currently so certain of their power that they give scant thought to the risk that their enemy will use the same preferential group treatment laws. A Nick Griffin government, for example, would inevitably use quota and victim-group legislation to protect his own favoured groups over those the SJWs would want.

Shots across the bow, like Brexit, or a Trump presidency, prompt no reflection on the folly of setting society against itself based on superficial immutable characteristics.

And so, sadly, history will likely repeat itself, with the same hard lessons being learned in the same hard way.

Last edited 2 years ago by hayden eastwood
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago

Excellent summing up.

Ludwig van Earwig
Ludwig van Earwig
2 years ago

I agree with your analysis of this muddled article. Surely pushing for the abolition of slavery was unambiguously positive, irrespective of Darwin’s or Wedgewood’s motives. But it’s not at all clear that refusing to stock or advertise books by Abigail Shrier or JK Rowling will help make the world a more humane place.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ludwig van Earwig
Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

I think there’s a big difference between being moral and being woke

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

I hung out there a bit – in the Post Victorian rust belt from Birmingham to Stoke, and around, amazing, there it all sat, just like abandoned, the Satanic Mills and communities which served them. I walked hundreds of miles of the towpaths when I was into my Industrial Revolution kick – so add, apropos of nothing, that England became the world leading industrial nation on the back of the canal system, 1770s to 1840s when the Rail took over. Those canals gave a huge advantage as they were before any other nation could move freight affordably inland – (roads mostly being ‘Unmetalled’ metalled being gravel layered in ranges of size till it is dry and hard all year) and so roads were seasonal and arduous to a great part.

So the potteries needed the clay brought in, and coal (as did the Iron mills), And also transporting the finished product on water to London meant no breakage, so cheap. Wedgwood was one of the first builders of major canals – for the potteries. One horse pulled over 30 tons of cargo. The average per capita income of low skill British populations then was – adjusted for 2020 inflation – I believe One Dollar a day, half what the UN says is now below the poverty line of $2. Life in the Industrial Revolution was exceedingly Poor and hard and short for the English then. If Wedgwood needed a cause he could find plenty close to home.

The potteries, and Wedgwood particularly, gave a very big investment in creating the canals, and all together made a huge contribution to Britain getting the lead in the Industrial revolution they kept for over 100 years. I find the new way of writing history tends to miss most of the history.

Last edited 2 years ago by Galeti Tavas
Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Social commentators always underestimate, or more often just totally miss, the significance of engineering innovation.

Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

That’s a strange inference to say that the British abolished slavery for financial rather than moral reasons. An enormous amount was expended on enforcing the ban in terms of time, money and men:
“ The slavers tried every tactic to evade the Royal Navy enforcers. Over the years that followed more than 1,500 naval personnel died of disease or were killed in action, in what was difficult and dangerous, and at times saddening, work 
 this little-known campaign by Britain to end the slave trade. Whereas Britain is usually, and justifiably, condemned for its earlier involvement in the slave trade, the truth is that in time the Royal Navy undertook a major and expensive operation to end what was, and is, an evil business.”

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

The idea is that Britain’s competitors in the sugar trade, France, Spain, the Netherlands, were winning. So by outlawing slavery, Britain was harming them more.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
2 years ago

That does not add up. Britain was harming herself in banning the slave trade by increasing sugar costs surely? So.itvwas a very moral and admirable act

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
2 years ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

It adds up because Britain was harming its competitors more. Those competitors were more dependent on sugar from the New World than was Britain, which was in the process of switching the main point of its empire to India.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
2 years ago

A very interesting essay as usual from Tomiwa. Good to see the importance of status tied in to the conclusion as this feature of human behaviour is going to have to be understood much better to make sense of the world we are creating.
One thing I think he misses though, is that the virtue signalling is a means of creating an elite class. As Henderson writes: “In the past, people displayed their membership of the upper class with their material accoutrements. But today, luxury goods are more affordable than before. And people are less likely to receive validation for the material items they display. This is a problem for the affluent, who still want to broadcast their high social position. But they have come up with a clever solution. The affluent have decoupled social status from goods, and re-attached it to beliefs.” (See Quillette, 16 Nov 2019).
This is the purpose of the virtue signalling. The England footballers taking the knee and condemning the supposedly racist Hungarian supporters (after provoking the formerly Soviet occupied nation’s fans with the gesture of a pseudo-Marxist organisation) are signalling their membership of this new elite class. Despite their working class origins, they have the wealth to raise their status to the level of the new elite. This is particularly noticeable in the imitative speech of the manager, Southgate.
Both Southgate and the player Rashford, who has been the most politically vociferous of England players will profit from the slave economy of Qatar, where the next World Cup will be held. And this is the problem with the new elite class. The virtue signalling is delineated by profit. Where financial loss may occur, virtue-signalling is absent. Where there is profit, there is no virtue signalling; Ben and Jerry’s may take a minimal financial hit from virtue signalling their refusal to sell ice-cream in the West Bank, they will do all they can to capture a share of the Chinese market.
Only the wages of the lower classes can be infringed upon by the virtue signalling class; Brexit is condemned as racist despite the main motives being to increase democracy and to reduce the wealth gap; already working class wages are rising in Britain. This hypocrisy is deliberate, it is calculated to promote the status of the elite class and to delineate them from the lower classes. It is most apparent in the environmentalists who jet-set around the world in first class to protest carbon emissions. The hypocrisy is a statement of power, of class superiority, it is a complement to the statements of virtue that are primarily used to justify this social superiority on the grounds of a moral superiority. Bound up with both is the direction of travel: the creation of an elite ruling class for the technological age. If you’re content to be ruled by them, then it’s fine, I suppose.
 

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

“And people are less likely to receive validation for the material items they display. This is a problem for the affluent, who still want to broadcast their high social position. But they have come up with a clever solution. The affluent have decoupled social status from goods, and re-attached it to beliefs.” (See Quillette, 16 Nov 2019).
This is the purpose of the virtue signalling. The England footballers taking the knee”

No, The well off go woke for two main reasons, they wish to not be challenged as being socially evil, and thus have the mob turn on them. Second, they also have been ‘Captured’ by the Education Industry. Now days 95% University teachers in Liberal disciplines (which is most of university) are hard Liberal/Left – which means they go along with Neo-Marxism and Post-Modernism, and so indoctrinate their young victims from grade K to Post Graduate.

The wealthy are as woke as most liberals – but try to touch their wealth and you find they are more about giving yours away, and not theirs.

edited to try to get out of ‘awaiting for approval’

Last edited 2 years ago by Galeti Tavas
Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago

No mention of African tribes selling captives into slavery. In 1823 there was protest in London by African Chiefs complaining at the end of slavery.
No mention of the ruling by Lord chief Mansfield in 1772 against slavery. In the 18th century a black man had the vote, if he was wealthy enough.
No mention of the Poor Laws and the Alms houses which were built.No mention of the Dissenters largely being responsible for the Industrial Revolution who built decent homes and workshops.
Bronowski has described the Industrial Revolution as Britain’s Social Revolution.
No mention that Wilberforce was a Tory MP for Yorkshire and had massive support from people from all walks of life.

Clive Mitchell
Clive Mitchell
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

“Wilberforce sat as an independent, resolving to be a “no party man”.

He was socially conservative, was criticised for caring more about the injustices abroad then at home. But he was no Tory MP.

Last edited 2 years ago by Clive Mitchell
Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Clive Mitchell

He supported Pitt the Younger

Clive Mitchell
Clive Mitchell
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Yes he did, they were old friends but he wasn’t a Tory MP.

He occasionally also supported the Whigs.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Clive Mitchell

Agreed.

Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago

There was a belter of an article in the Telegraph business section yesterday. It said that the correlation between the advertisements that win the Cannes Advertising Awards and the number of sales those ads generate has been severed. The high-prestige ads (which we all know are just highly polished left wing agitprop) are not even making half the sales that their equivalents would two years ago. Or to put it another way. Get Woke, Go Broke.

My favourite quote was one ad guy saying: it’s not enough to say “I just make bread”, bread manufacturers need a social message. At the same time his clients sales are plummeting. I suspect we are past Peak Woke now and soon the wheel will turn full circle.

foconor
foconor
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

Not so sure…the combination of self-indulgent consumerism with shiny moral contribution-lite delivers a BOGOF of magpie bling and getting one over on your wannabe-enlightened friends. I see that addictive wheel spinning faster, not turning.

Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago
Reply to  foconor

Perhaps I’m guilty of wishful thinking. But all fashions change and I think I see signs of use being over the worst. We can only hope.

J Hop
J Hop
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

I agree. It’s becoming a bit to church lady to stay cool for long. Moral scolds never really sell well and it’s a wonder they’ve been able to sell it as rebellion for this long already.

Mel Shaw
Mel Shaw
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

I find i have to make a conscious effort to work out what product is being advertised in many TV ads. And, I usually forget almost immediately. They are often very nice little films, though.

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

As I understand it, the origins of “woke” lie in the “coming-out” of Hollywood female stars about their treatment at the hands of exploitative producers/ agents – the “Me-Too” movement. (Am I wrong ? If so, someone please correct me). This “coming-out” gave a signal to different groups who were, or who felt oppressed, to express their own right for equality and redress, the whole amplified 1,000x by social media.
One cannot argue with the origins of “woke”, I believe. And the treatment of black people up until a few years ago (and even now, in some cases) does need to be shown up, discussed and acted upon.
But how do we put “woke” into its proper place ? How do we prevent the slashing of Churchill portraits because WSC was apparently connected with colonialism? And so on.
My point is that “woke” has a point, a very important point, but only a point. It does not have the right to trash all in its path. The trick is to put “woke” in its rightful place ( was about to say “in its box”, but that’s not right), while preserving and acting upon its important message which is and should be integrated into our society.
As for business and morality: The Sackler family in America provides an extreme example of using philanthropy to compensate society for the harm done by their profit-making – opioids, in case you don’t know. The Sacklers are just one example of myriads of business people who place profit above all else, always have done, and always will do, while building churches and financing artists to “make it OK”. I came back last week from Belgium, where we saw the magnificent altarpiece by the van Eycks of 1430 in Ghent cathedral, paid for by a merchant and his wife (featured in the painting) who doubtless wanted to pay their dues so they would go to heaven, and not to the other place. We need regulations to place civilised limits on the more harmful and outrageous behaviour of others; and we need common decency (call it morality, if you will) to limit peoples’ capacity for harming others, either wilfully or in the course of reaching for a higher goal (either profits, or, in the case of Afghanistan, the evil Taliban and their medieval cruelty).
Plus ca change, plus la meme chose.

hayden eastwood
hayden eastwood
2 years ago
Reply to  Giles Chance

I have to disagree with this – I think the current woke thinkers are very different to those of the 1960s. Back then the request to society by civil rights activists was for people to be judged by their individual characteristics, which, if practiced, would have made skin colour (and other characteristics) irrelevant.
The woke thinkers today do not want this. They want people to be primarily judged by the group they belong to.
Though they may frame it as a continuum of the progression of a move for fairness started in a previous time, it is, to my observation, a smoke screen for racism by another name.

Last edited 2 years ago by hayden eastwood
Matt M
Matt M
2 years ago

By any measure Britain is one of the least sexist or racist or homophobic places in the world. What’s more, all those things have improved over time so we are, for instance, a lot less homophobic in Britain than we were 50 years ago.

So you would think that people would talk about these things less. But instead we have seen an explosion in discussions about these isms to the point that even adverts -traditionally catchy, feel-good affairs – can’t avoid them.

This is what Woke means – the deliberate magnification of societal ills so that you can present yourself in opposition to them. It is completely self-serving and is fashionable with people – rich ad men, public school educated students – who feel they need some extra badge of virtue. But in reality it is the opposite of virtue.

Last edited 2 years ago by Matt M
John Private
John Private
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

I agree with your description of 21st century Britain which is why I conclude that ‘wokeism’ is more about showing off one’s virtue. It’s a parasite thing with easy kudos.

George Glashan
George Glashan
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt M

hopefully your right Matt M, I’ve noticed in my local supermarkets,, Ben and Jerrys ice cream has been on promotion ever since they 1, insulted Pritt Patel and the UK immigration policy and then 2. refusing to sell to Israel. I’m sure its still selling but now there having to flog for less than before. it might be unrelated but I’m not sure cutting the price in summer is a winning business strategy for ice-cream sellers.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
2 years ago

For me it is a turn-off, if big international companies jump on the bandwagon of woke. I will never eat Ben and Jerry or drink Coca Cola again. The political messages many companies are propagating has nothing to do with their products, but pushing a left-wing political agenda, whilst selling their unhealthy stuff to the young.
One of the great new multi billionaires, who is king of woke and pushing green/red politics, is a hypocrite of a whole new order. My son took a job in his company as a young robotics/control engineer with awards and promises relating to his working time (10 hour day or night shifts, but 3 days off), but all the young engineers ended up was working 12 hour shifts for 6 days a week. Half of them already left, which puts even more pressure on the remaining ones. There is no time for family or a private life. Maybe the woke spouting CEO/founder should first make sure that he doesn’t exploit his staff, before he wants to change the world into a green/red paradise


Andrew Lale
Andrew Lale
2 years ago

The woke moral world is utterly abhorrent. For a start, it professes to care about certain people’s lives, while displaying a complete callousness towards them when there is no mileage in it. Real caring is derived from an understanding of how all human life is intrinsically valuable, and is an unmoving principle. The woke don’t do principles, they do tactics.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Lale
J Hop
J Hop
2 years ago

If these companies were indeed being moral it would make a difference. Instead they make a donation to BLM, hang a rainbow flag (except in their ME locations) and then continue to exploit and plunder all peoples, usually having the worse impacts on the BIPOC communities. It’s a sham. Hence the term Woke Washing.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

How depressing. The days are mostly gone when pottery and ceramics could influence much at all. My husband is a (very good) potter and if we relied on art and craft alone to put food on the table, we would almost go hungry.
As with so much else the trend is mainly mass manufactured jiggered or slip cast goods, with some wheel thrown produce being churned out in the most part by cheaper labour.

Paul Marshall
Paul Marshall
2 years ago

Josiah Wedgwood was very far from being a woke capitalist. He was driven by faith, not fashion. He embraced an unpopular cause which was bad for his business. Woke capitalists virtue signal their support for fashionable causes without doing anything about them and without understanding the theories behind them. They would never take on a social justice issue which might hurt their bottom line.

Marcus Scott
Marcus Scott
2 years ago

Does anyone know the reason the slave population fell to 670,000 in the British West Indies?  
The growth in numbers of slaves in the United States doesn’t necessarily speak to the relative cruelty of the two systems.  The value of slaves in the US rose on the back of an extraordinary commodity cycle, one that ultimately led to war, a near 50-year continuous increase in the price of cotton.  That motivated plantation owners to encourage large families among their slaves and “traders” to kidnap free born Blacks and ex-slaves from the free states.
In principle, the more valuable your slaves are the more likely you are to want to keep them alive and in reasonable health, so long as they can work.  However, you are more likely to adopt very punitive measures as a deterrent to escape and make considerable efforts to recapture escapees.
Manumission was fairly common up until about 1800 but as the value of slaves increased and slave revolts took place in Haiti and Virginia it was effectively outlawed in the slave states.  Even if it was difficult, it was not usually the case in slave systems that manumission was made impossible.  That “inflated” slave numbers in the US.        

Giles Chance
Giles Chance
2 years ago
Reply to  Marcus Scott

Simple. Farming sugar cane in tropical heat is brutally hard. The life expectancy of a prime black slave in the Caribbean was months, not years. That’s why the laws for black slaves in the W Indies were so harsh: the loss of a hand if the hand was raised against an overseer or proprietor, and so on. In the American southern states, the main crop was cotton. Cotton-picking is not easy, but it’s easier than sugar cane. Sugar was an immensely profitable crop (as the article indicates).

Carmel Shortall
Carmel Shortall
2 years ago

I would recommend Woke, Inc. by Vivek Ramaswamy on this subject. Much more on the nose, I think.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
2 years ago

There are capitalists who use their profits to support causes they believe in and there are capitalists who use causes to support their profits. There should be no confusion between the two.