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Gray was born in Derbyshire and attended Repton School. He was, by his own admission, a poor scholar, who spent most of his time fishing, climbing trees and playing marbles, and his final school report described him as "possessing abilities, rising barely to mediocrity".He left school at fourteen and was employed by a wholesale and manufacturing company in Cheapside, London. His job took him all over London and the conditions that he witnessed convinced him that there was something wrong with the way that the economy functioned. He later wrote, "I saw clearly that goods of every description are made either because they are ordered, or because there is every prospect of their being so; and continued reflection satisfied me that this state of things ought to be reversed,— that production, instead of being the effect of demand, ought to be the cause of it".After reading Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, Gray wrote a manuscript called The National Commercial System, but friends persuaded him that it was poorly written and should not be published. At his brother's suggestion he started to read the writings of Robert Owen and soon realised that their views coincided. His revised thoughts were published in a pamphlet, A Lecture on Human Happiness (1825).=== A Lecture on Human Happiness ===Gray's Lecture contained some of the key tenets of both Owenism and what would later be called Ricardian socialism. His starting point was that humans are by nature social creatures, imbued with a desire for happiness. This desire can only be achieved when basic human wants are satisfied, and the fact that there is so much misery in the world proves that society is constructed upon the wrong principles.He said that the entire wealth of the country was created by productive labour, which he defined as "labouring people, employed in agriculture mines and minerals; artisans, handicrafts, mechanics and labourers employed in manufactories, buildings, and works of every kind". He regarded everyone else as unproductive and therefore a direct tax on the productive classes. Furthermore, those who failed to give an equivalent for what they consumed were, he said, useless members of society.Using statistical evidence from Patrick Colquhoun's Treatise on the Wealth, Power and Resources of the British Empire (1814), Gray analysed how much every section of society contributed to the wealth of the nation and compared that to their actual income. To this he added comments, based primarily on his own moral judgements, about the utilitarian value of each occupation to society as a whole. For example, he dismissed the labour of servants as useless, because the only beneficiaries of their work were their wealthy employers.The productive classes, Gray calculated, only received about one-fifth of the wealth that they created, the other four-fifths being taken from them by rent, interest and capitalist profits. The root cause of this, he argued, was underconsumption. He said that production should only be limited by either the satisfaction of all the wants of society, or the exhaustion of its productive powers. Capitalist competition, however, introduced an artificial barrier to production, limiting it to "demand", which was measured by the amount that could be sold at a profit. This led to job losses and wage cuts, so that labourers could not afford to buy the goods that they needed.Although he disassociated himself from Owenite views on the formation of character, Gray praised Owen's economic ideas, which he said would abolish the artificial limit of production and give producers the wealth they create. He supported the formation of co-operative communities, where competitive exchange would not exist, and added an annex to his pamphlet containing the Articles of Association for the formation of such a community, drawn up by the London Co-operative Society. Due to production problems, the pamphlet had only limited distribution in Britain, but sold well in the United States and has been credited with influencing the development of socialist ideas in both countries.=== Edinburgh ===In 1825 Gray moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, intending to join the community which was being set up by Abram Combe at Orbiston, near Motherwell. He bought shares in the Orbiston Company, but following a brief visit to Orbiston, during which he had been alarmed by what he saw as a lack of management planning, he decided against becoming a community member. In his pamphlet A Word of Advice to the Orbistonians (1826) he warned that too many activities were being undertaken by people who lacked the necessary skills to carry them out and that unless a skilled workforce and a professional manager were brought in the project was doomed to failure. These criticisms, however, would not prevent Gray from writing a generous tribute to Combe after his early death.Gray remained in Edinburgh, where he founded a free newspaper consisting entirely of advertisements, The Edinburgh and Leith
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