Ferro e ouro em Mumford (1934)

Finally, it is possible that the animus of the miner had still another effect on the development of capitalism. This was in the notion that economic value had a relation to the quantity of brute work done and to the scarcity of the product: in the calculus of cost, these emerged as the principal elements. The rarity of gold, rubies, diamonds: the gross work that must be done to get iron out of the earth and ready for the rolling mill-these tended to be the criteria of economic value all through this civilization. But real values do not derive from either rarity or crude manpower. It is not rarity that gives the air its power to sustain life, nor is it the human work done that gives milk or bananas their nourishment. In comparison with the effects of chemical action and the sun’s rays the human contribution is a small one. Genuine value lies in the power to sustain or enrich life: a glass bead may be more valuable than a diamond, a deal table more valuable esthetically than the most tortuously carved one, and the juice of a lemon may be more valuable on a long ocean voyage than a hundred pounds of meat without it. The value lies directly in the life-function: not in its origin, its rarity, or in the [77] work done by human agents. The miner’s notion of value, like the financier’s, tends to be a purely abstract and quantitative one. Does the defect arise out of the fact that every other type of primitive environment contains food, something that may be immediately translated into life-game, berries, mushrooms, maple-sap, nuts, sheep, corn, fish-while the miner’s environment alone is-salt and saccharin aside-not only completely inorganic but completely inedible? The miner works, not for love or for nourishment, but to “make his pile.” The classic curse of Midas became perhaps the dominant characteristic of the modern machine: whatever it touched was turned to gold and iron, and the machine was permitted to exist only where gold and iron could serve as foundation. (Mumford 1934:76-7)

Granting these new instruments, this new environment, these new perceptions and sensations and standards, this new daily routine, these new esthetic responses-what sort of man comes out of modern technics? Le Play once asked his auditors what was the most important thing that came out of the mine; and after one had guessed coal and another iron and another gold, he answered: No, the most important thing that comes out of the mine is the miner. That is [360] true for every occupation. And today every type of work has been affected by the machine. (Mumford 1934:359-60)

MUMFORD, Lewis. 1934. Technique and civilization. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company.