Some disquieting similarities between the Edwardian Age, the flowering of capitalism in the era of Thorstein Veblen, running into the tide of modernism and consumer culture ; and today’s dawn of post modernism on the cusp of the service economy hitting the wall of technological unemployment and globalization…
The Edwardian age was one obviously at war with itself, creating tension and strain within the growing and socially powerful classes. Although there were still myriads of self satisfied Victorians, the more sensitive and intelligent men and women were horrified by the double standards of both life and thought.
How could one reconcile the lavish dinners of a noble establishment with the terrible discoveries of Seebohm Rowntree that the average unskilled laborer in the town of York could not earn enough to keep his family from starvation? How could one reconcile social attitudes toward sex- repressive, terrifying, harmful- with the known facts of life and living? How could one reconcile the avalability of expensive pornography with the attempt to suppress Well’s Ann Veronica? How could one reconcile the lewd innuendoes of Marie Lloyd in the music halls with the banning on the stage of Shaw’s The Shewing Up of Blanco Posnet? More and more men and women could not, and he voice of protest grew from a squeak to roar. Still, it was the tensions that double standards caused in private as well as public that provided much of the creative stimulus of this great literary and artistic age.
And it was inevitable. The stately sweep of traditional England concerned with the preservation of status and deference meeting a new tide that was beginning to run towards its flood: mass education, almost universal literacy, growing affluence for the lower middle class; an army of men and women who did not want subjection and restrictive morality, but a taste of the joys that the aristocracy and wealthy Edwardians had never denied themselves.
The old world was cracking, a the new mass consumer society with its tensions and conflict, its demands for innovation and change, its call for personal freedom of every kind, was beginning to seep through in an uncheckable stream. New attitudes had at last been ventilated and the self-complacency of the Establishment seen for what it was.