The Industrial Revolution The Industrial Revolution was a period in history when mankind found innovative and efficient ways of producing goods, manufacturing services and creating new methods of transportation. This not only revolutionized the way the market system functioned, but also changed the way people perceived their status in society and what they required as basic necessities. However, the price that humanity was forced to pay for the emergence of the Industrial Revolution greatly outweighed the rewards that it brought alongside its origin. Prior to the Industrial Age, the Western European market operated on a simple “putting-out” system. The average producer was able to manufacture a product in the same area that he or she lived on and the demand for that product was usually set by a few local consumers. The process was easy and simple, provided that the product being created was always required by someone else. However, the invention of Machinery and all of its accompanying peripherals allowed producers to start manufacturing on a mass scale.
With factories placed in central locations of the townships (known as centralization), the previous system was dismantled and categorized into steps. No longer would one person be required to build, market or transport their product since the new system introduced the art of specialization. Specialization allowed a person to perform a single task and guarantee them wages as a source of income. However, as wonderful as this might seem, this new system led to the emergence of a n working class (proletariat) and forced them to depend on market conditions in order to survive as producers. Although seemingly content at first, those who became employed by these factories were immediately subjected to deplorable conditions. Arnold Toynbee made a scholarly assessment of this new wave of socio-economic behavior and concluded that the working class is suffering due to a series of hardships that make their lives miserable. He cited low wages, long hours, unsafe conditions, no provisions for old age, a discipline determined by machine and whole families being left with a low income rate as being a recurring problem that exploited the integrity and efficiency of Industrialization. This subsequently led to a period of “depersonalization” which meant that the employer-employee relationship was deteriorating in exchange for this new system.
No longer could a worker befriend his boss or maintain a stable friendship since the divisions between their market classes made this al most impossible. One relied on the other for subsistence and therefore this dependency gave the property owners an upper edge in terms of negotiating income and support. Since the proletariat owned nothing but his labour, his abuse was imminent at the hands of some ruthless bourgeoisie. Clearly, this revolution was not aiding all the citizenry of Western culture. Since European man had found a way to increase the amount of products being manufactured, he also found a way to speed up the process through specialization and Urbanization. The growth of giant factories in Manchester, England skyrocketed from 77,000 in 1801 to 303,000 in 1850. People began leaving their countryside rural areas in exchange for an Urban life lead by the clock.
The farm worker became the factory worker literally overnight in order to compete with these new market forces that had swept across Western Europe. T.S. Ashton, a prolific historian, saw this transition as being a positive force during the inauguration of the Industrial juggernaut. He believed that with Industrialization and Urbanization there existed a greater stability of consumption since a regularity in employment meant that goods were always being produced and transactions were ensuring that a greater proportion of the population was benefitting. He lauded the existence of a large class of workers since guaranteed lower prices because more people were well above the level of poverty.
Be this as it may, Karl Marx had a radically different opinion on the effects of Industrialization. He was disgusted by the fact that the new working class was always at the mercy of their own employers and depended too much on the market. This dependency, he preached, would lead to an uprising involving the collective powers of the proletariat. This prophetic warning would lead to many other revolutions, most notably the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, and opened a new age of human suffering and decadence. In conclusion, the Industrial Revolution presented mankind with a miracle that changed the fabric of human behavior and social interaction.
Eventually, it even influenced political ideologies and spread across the four corners of the Earth. However, in its silent and seemingly innocent way, the majority of the population in Western Europe were struck by a disease that was invisible to those in power and too obvious to those in the lower classes. The exodus from nature and the simple country life into a cornucopia of bustling cities filled with polluted factories is evidence of the influence of Industrialization. An influence so profound that the benefits were buried behind an avalanche of pain, poverty and abuse.