Time-based currency by Robert Owen

4 minutes

Gradations

2 minutes

Last acre

12 minutes

The wolf dividing Norway

29 minutes

The evolution of cynicism

5 minutes

One banknote per hour of work – Robert Owen’s utopian reboot of money

The Welsh-born manufacturer and social reformer Robert Owen (1771-1858) was a quintessential capitalist success story, having risen from modest origins to become a wealthy textile manufacturer in Scotland. However, he grew to reject the dehumanising excesses of the system that had ushered in his fortune, writing that Britain’s monetary structure ‘has made man ignorant; placed him in opposition to his fellows; engendered fraud and deceit; blindly urged him forward to create but deprived him of the wisdom of joy’. This led Owen to devise an audacious plan to recentre the financial system around ingenuity, community and justice.

Introduced in 1832, the radical idea was called the National Equitable Labour Exchange – a system of currency built on the idea that labour is the source of all wealth, and that goods should be bought and sold based on the time it took labourers to produce it. While the Exchange lasted only a few years, the idealistic project helped to lay the groundwork for some of Owen’s more successful later reforms, such as shorter working days, with the ultimate goal of a workday based on the principle of ‘eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest’. This brief video essay is part of a British Museum series in which curators examine objects of interest in their collections. Ben Alsop, curator of the museum’s Money Gallery, inspects a note issued by the Equitable Labour Exchange representing an hour of work.

Delight as the hard-edged world melts into a full-rainbow spectrum of reality

Created by the Japanese director and designer Daihei Shibata for the Japanese educational TV programme Design Ah, the short video Gradations relishes in the blurring and stretching of visual borders. With a Zenned-out soundtrack augmenting the pleasing imagery, the short serves up a series of brief sequences in which commonplace visuals – from city lights to coffee and milk – shift from binary to an increasingly gradated spectrum. Beyond its oddly satisfying effect, the piece suggests hidden worlds of complexity even in the most mundane places. For more design wizardry from Shibata, watch Unendurable Line.

Via The Kid Should See This

Director: Daihei Shibata

A world of shacks and shanties is a place of makeshift beauty on England’s margins

At the beginning of the 20th century, a number of impoverished Britons set out in search of their own Arcadia. They found it, for a time, in poorly developed strips of land that had been neglected or abandoned by others. This cheap or sometimes even free land gave these pioneers a place to build their own humble shacks out of old bits of wood and boat, creating utopias that came to be called ‘Plotlands’. Life in the Plotlands continues still, and is precarious, improvised and marginal – yet full of rugged beauty. The UK filmmakers Jacob Cartwright and Nick Jordan capture that makeshift, unconventional beauty in this short documentary, set to Peter Warlock’s inimitable composition The Curlew (1920-22) and filmed on the salt marshes of Lowsy Point near Barrow-in-Furness in northwest England.

Directors: Jacob Cartwright, Nick Jordan

Narrator: Judy May

The divisive debate over hunting Norway’s endangered wolves

During the 1960s, wolves nearly vanished from Norway’s landscape due to overhunting; now, there are no more than 70 wolves left in the country. Although the wild predators – known to prey on farmers’ livestock – received protection under law in 1971, the debate between hunters and conservationists over the fate of the remaining endangered population has been heated and divisive ever since. The Wolf Dividing Norway shows how this debate culminates in December 2019, as groups on both sides of the conflict wait to hear whether the government will authorise the annual winter wolf hunt. With unprecedented access to remote communities at the heart of the debate, the Norwegian documentary filmmaker Kyrre Lien humanises the frustration coming from both sides, providing a sensitive look at one of Norway’s most polarising topics.

Director: Kyrre Lien

Cynicism was born when Diogenes rejected materialism and manners

Plato once described the philosopher Diogenes of Sinope as ‘a Socrates gone mad!’ It’s a good comparison. Like Socrates, Diogenes gave the bird to respectable society. He undermined status and manners in the 4th century BCE with his bottomless reserve of shamelessness and irreverence, opting to live on the streets like a stray dog. But, of course, there was a method to his madness. In this short video by TED-Ed, the Irish philosopher William D Desmond explains how Diogenes lived an authentic and ascetic life in accordance with nature, and how in doing so he founded the philosophy of cynicism – an iconoclastic tradition that continues to illuminate and infuriate today.

Video by TED-Ed

Director: Avi Ofer

Writer: William D Desmond

One banknote per hour of work – Robert Owen’s utopian reboot of money

The Welsh-born manufacturer and social reformer Robert Owen (1771-1858) was a quintessential capitalist success story, having risen from modest origins to become a wealthy textile manufacturer in Scotland. However, he grew to reject the dehumanising excesses of the system that had ushered in his fortune, writing that Britain’s monetary structure ‘has made man ignorant; placed him in opposition to his fellows; engendered fraud and deceit; blindly urged him forward to create but deprived him of the wisdom of joy’. This led Owen to devise an audacious plan to recentre the financial system around ingenuity, community and justice.

Introduced in 1832, the radical idea was called the National Equitable Labour Exchange – a system of currency built on the idea that labour is the source of all wealth, and that goods should be bought and sold based on the time it took labourers to produce it. While the Exchange lasted only a few years, the idealistic project helped to lay the groundwork for some of Owen’s more successful later reforms, such as shorter working days, with the ultimate goal of a workday based on the principle of ‘eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest’. This brief video essay is part of a British Museum series in which curators examine objects of interest in their collections. Ben Alsop, curator of the museum’s Money Gallery, inspects a note issued by the Equitable Labour Exchange representing an hour of work.

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Elizabeth I of England (c1588), artist unknown. One of three known as the Armada portraits and on display in Woburn Abbey. Courtesy Wikipedia

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