Working Class in England First Book Review

Pages: 5 (1421 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sociology

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This connection between the centralization of capital and people as a result of industrialization is perhaps one of the most interesting parts of Engels' book, because it demonstrates the extent to which the central features of the "modern world" that arose over the course of the nineteenth century, meaning large cities and a new evolution in the development of capitalism, are inextricably intertwined. This is because Engels convincingly demonstrates that the same technological and social processes responsible for the concentration of wealth in the hands of factory and factory farm owners concentrated the population in city centers (Engels 75-76). Essentially, as new technologies made certain stages in the process of production more important than others, workers flocked to these particular jobs and factories (such as better looms convincing more farmers to become weavers), leaving the countryside for the concentrated space of the city.

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Engels draws on statistics concerning population movements, birth and death rates, and diseases in order to demonstrate how the industrialization of the English economy and the rapid move to cities had a demonstrably negative effect on the lives of workers. Children and adults died younger and in greater numbers, and disease was much more rampant in the close quarters of industrialized cities and factories. Furthermore, the sanitary difficulties inherent in managing a city-size population that has grown almost overnight (in the time-line of cities) led to an almost inevitable decrease in living standards for the working class, even as the upper classes became increasingly wealthy off of their labor.

Book Review on Working Class in England First Assignment

Engels' book tells the modern reader a good deal about England, and the industrialized world in general, during the 1840s, because it focuses on a number of different aspects of contemporary life while still orienting its discussion around how industrialization in particular changed that life. Thus, Engels' book simultaneously provides a snapshot of life for the working class in 1844 while also demonstrating how that snapshot fits within a larger-scale historical shift, a shift which had begun decades earlier but whose larger effects were only then becoming fully apparent. Again, while Engels' particular ideological position is abundantly clear, to the modern reader he does still not seem overly radical considering the conditions he is reporting on.

Engels' book is also particularly important because it not only provides a first-hand account of conditions in an industrialized city circa 1840, it also demonstrates that opposition to these conditions was well-developed by the middle of the nineteenth century. Considering the fact that the widespread rise of unions and the substantial regulation of business practices and working conditions would still not really occur for decades later, it is surprising to learn that Engels had cataloged and critiqued the working standards on industrial workers so early in the larger life cycle of the Industrial Revolution. Furthermore, it forces one to consider the role of radical journalistic and academic works today, when, for example, certain states are considering laws specifically aimed at barring the recording of and reporting on working conditions in factory farms and slaughterhouses.

While Frederick Engels' The Conditions of the Working-class in England in 1844 is written from a decidedly political and radical perspective, it nevertheless offers useful insights into the state of industrialized Europe in the middle of the nineteenth century. In particular, Engels offers a rigorous examination of the way the technology contributed to a consolidation of capital in the hands of factory owners and a consolidation of people into cities and factories. From here, he is able to show how this consolidation has had a demonstrably negative effect on workers' lives, ultimately arguing for a more equitable system. The book is highly recommended for anyone looking to have a more direct, empirically-valid understanding of how industrialization affected both people and their environments, because Engels is able to offer a first-hand, thoroughly-researched account of these shifts; an account that likely differs from secondary examinations of the time period, which can never capture the same degree of immediacy and accuracy as Engels work of direct journalism.

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