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Re: Guilds (SCA or Medieval)...rather lengthy 8^)

Greetings to all the good patrons of the Merry Rose and those hanging from the 
net outside.

Now, now, young Earl...I'm not so easily put aside. This topic warrants further 
discourse...though I hope we don't empty the hall in the process.  8^)
> Tadhg, you totally missed what I said.  I said the SCA guild isn't 
> anything medieval.  
I'm not sure I missed everything...but I may not have expressed myself 
as eloquently as I would like to have claimed. Actually, what you said 
>> Well, I would have said it another way: "the problem is that the SCA 
>> guild doesn't correspond to anything medieval."  
...and left me with the impression that you were comparing SCA guilds to 
fairies, unicorns, and dragons, and wish we would please stop. 
(HMMM...I wonder what that big RED one does...yeah, the one marked 
Of course, I answered your absolutes with SCA generalities...but let's take a 
look at your questions (after all, you didn't say guilds weren't useful...just 
not genuine...well, let's make that, not accurate). For my own consideration, I 
will use the brewer's guild...but that was a given when we started this, wasn't 
it?  8^)
> a. Why choose a "guild" structure?
> b. What does this structure buy you? 
> c. What disadvantages does it have?
> d. Are there any other structures that would work as well, or better?
<SNIP...a most interesting case history>
<Partial SNIP from a fine analysis of your earlier endeavors>
> a. Why choose a "guild" structure?
> It seemed like a good idea at the time.  In retrospect, the idea 
> sucked.  
<SNIP...to illustrate my point>
> d. Are there any other structures that would work as well, or 
> better? Anything more flexible would have been better.  The only 
> advantage of the guild structure was an initial sense of identity.  
> This sense of identity served well for the first year or so, but 
> was tied to the lifepulse of the group, and started to fade 
> quickly.  Part of this was because some people started to use the 
> hierarchy for their own purposes (to start an extended household, 
> basically), and this reduced the sense of identity and unity.
However, you need to reconsider question 4. Your answer could be 
condensed to "Not that I know of." And if you'll permit me this 
point, if your answer for #4 is "No", then your answer for #1 should 
be something like "Because it's familiar and addresses *most* of the 
concerns". I believe the logic #4 undercuts your #1.
Now, back to the brewer's guild.
First, my four contentions and your critiques {}...with replies:
1)  Provide a service or commodity. 
        {Few SCA guilds do (1); Medieval guilds had a very 
        different focus, which I would describe as 
        "1--monopolize a skill/commodity/service".} 
     I believe the brewer's guild does, in fact, provide such a 
     service. I know of many a feast with root beer, ginger beer, or 
     short mead--to say nothing of the tourney prizes and gifts to 
     the crown to be distributed as royal largesse. And I reiterate, 
     "Monopoly is not consistent with nonprofit, educational 
2)  Teach.
        {All SCA guilds attempt to do (2), and it is the most 
        worthwhile thing about them; Medieval guilds had a focus 
        I would characterize as "2--restrict teaching to a very 
        small group (us)".}  
     I agree wholeheartedly with that assessment. And I mentioned in 
     my earlier post, we don't do monopoly (see above).
3)  Framework for recognition.
        {All SCA guilds seem to worry overmuch about (3) and (4) 
        (which are really the same), and this, too, is a modern 
        (4-H club) focus, nothing to do with medieval guilds...}
     Some guilds undoubtedly worry too much about (3). However, you 
     cannot overlook certain elements of the artisan, such as pride 
     and showmanship. You may call it "4-H club focus" but I consider 
     it natural competitiveness...similar to what is found on the 
     tourney field but in a different setting. Of course, that also 
     raises the bugaboo about how to have A&S "competitions"--but I'll 
     leave that for another time.
4)  Promote individuals. 
        {...(where a Master was someone with a certain amount of 
        wealth and status in the community, not someone with a 
        certain level of skill in the craft).}
     I think you are implying that a Master was a politician rather than a 
     skilled artisan. I would disagree with that somewhat--a Master was 
     *both*. You could not earn the respect of your peers without talent-- 
     and you would not become recognized as a Master without command of 
     that respect. Of course, the better you were at politics, the less 
     talent you required--but you required a minimum of skill to get there. 
     REMEMBER, I am speaking of the medieval Master--not necessarily in the 
     SCA. We place less import on politics and more on skill--but there 
     will always be politics. I forget which wise person once observed, 
     "Politics exist in any group greater than 2."
I believe that the brewer's guild addresses my initial contentions. 
Also, I believe it differs from the Archery Guild: we meet the 
first three conditions of your "typical SCA guild":
> -- it started with significant energy and enthusiasm 
> -- it had an internal hierarchy
> -- it attempted to foster teaching of the art
However, it doesn't fit the latter two:
> -- there never was a medieval guild anything like it
     There were certainly brewing guilds--some of extraordinary power, such as 
     the Hanseatic League. The Atlantian Brewer's Guild differs in that it 
     attempts to address *all* aspects of brewing.
> -- it ran for two years with energy, then faded out over two more years with 
> less energy, as the original leadership burned out or took on other projects
     Thankfully, ours isn't dead yet. In fact, it seems to resemble some of the 
     medieval guilds--it ebbs and flows, its influence waxes and wanes, and its 
     leadership changes hands. Perhaps, that was the additional flexibility you 
     found wanting.
And now to your questions...let's see if we can stand Dafydd's trials:
> a. Why choose a "guild" structure?
     To borrow from my earlier discussion, because it's familiar and 
     addresses *most* of our concerns. In addition, guilds of this general 
     type existed in medieval times and in several different places.
> b. What does this structure buy you? 
     To borrow from Dafydd's discourse, sense of identity and teaching 
     structure. Above and beyond the structure of the university, the guild 
     serves to promote private instruction and development. I believe that 
     it also makes positive use of competition within the A&S arena.
> c. What disadvantages does it have?
     As Dafydd has pointed out, loss of energy, loss of focus, and internal 
     politics. However, regardless of the structure, these pitfalls remain. 
     It doesn't matter what you call it--guild, commune, household, or 
     academy--these potential problems will *always* exist. The name 
     matters little, if at all.
> d. Are there any other structures that would work as well, or better?
     As I quoth earlier, not that I know of. I would gladly entertain other 
     suggestions...but we already tread this path. Show me a better way, I 
     will follow--but remember, your evidence should counter what already 
I hope, as did Dafydd, this discussion was of interest...surely, whoever came 
this far was patient, if nothing else.  8^)