One of the most significant social consequences during the Industrial Revolution was child labor. During the late 1700s up until the Factory Act of 1833, children as young as six were working on average 12-14 hours a day in factories for little to no pay. The conditions in factories were deplorable, and the child workers were frequently forced to work with dangerous, heavy equipment. There were many accidents in these factories that resulted in children being seriously injured and even killed at work. Orphans were often taken advantage of and used as slave labor. The young children who were not old enough to work with the machines, often worked as assistants to adult workers in the factory, who would beat them. Punishments like weighting, where a heavy weight was tied to the child’s neck while he walked up and down the hallway to serve as an example for the other children, were often used when children showed up to work late or did not reach their quotas (Child Labor).
Another consequence of the Industrial Revolution was the result of pollution from all of the new factories. Smog was created by the burning of coal to run the factories, causing many people to develop respiratory issues. The smog caused the people of London to experience a general decline in health, including soldiers in the Crimean War, which caused their performance to suffer (Kasa).
The rapid growth of manufacturers lead to people investing in factories, new inventions and innovations, and increased production and higher demands for raw materials. Adam Smith, in his book The Wealth of Nations, wrote about the idea that production of wealth would increase if people pursued their self-interest in 1776, just before the Industrial Revolution took off. He went on to describe the division of labor, that is breaking the manufacturing of a product into several easier tasks to be done by separate people, commonly called an assembly line. The Industrial Revolution brought to life Smith’s ideas of division of labor and economic individualism with unrestrained competition, essentially birthing capitalism (Miller).
Prior to the First Industrial revolution, manufacturing of goods was done in people’s homes using basic machines and hand tools. Industrialization gave way to powered machinery, factories and mass production. This brought an increased variety of goods and a better standard of living for some, and for many of the poor and working classes it brought dismal living conditions and grim employment options (Industrial Revolution). Capitalism emphasized greed, relied on rankings, and failed to recognize the economic importance of the “women’s work” of caring and care giving. In these and other ways, capitalism sparked the beginning of Communist theory that society should be publicly owned and each person paid according to their abilities and society’s needs rather than a free competitive market (Capitalism & Socialism).
Under Communism, all property is owned by the community. There is no government or class division, and instead of an exchanging of money, each person contributes to society to their full potential and takes from the society only what they need, ideally creating a balance. The society makes decisions that benefit the people as a whole, not individuals. Capitalism as an economic and political system however, necessitates individuals owning property and industry and encourages competition for resources as a means of increasing wealth and individual success, rather than directly benefiting society as a whole (Anglin, Bronwyn. 2014).
Anglin, M.R., and Bronwyn, Harris. “What is the Difference Between Capitalism and Socialism?.” WiseGeek. Conjecture, 23 Aug. 2014. Web. 1 Sept. 2014. .
“Capitalism & Socialism: Two Old Economic Visions.” Center for Partnership Studies. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Sept. 2014. .
“Child labor in Factories During the Industrial Revolution.” Child labor in Factories During the Industrial Revolution. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Aug. 2014. .
“Industrial Revolution.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 1 Sept. 2014. .
Kasa, Sjur. “Industrial Revolutions and Environment Problems.” Cas Oslo. Norweigen Academy for Science and Letters, n.d. Web. 1 Sept. 2014. .
Miller, Donald L. . “A Bio. of America: The Rise of Capitalism – Transcript.” Annenberg Learner. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Sept. 2014. .
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