Term Paper: Changes in the Standard of Living During the Industrial Revolution

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Standard of Living Industrial Revolu

The industrial revolution is a foundational period in human history. There is really nothing about society before the industrial revolution that has not changed in some fashion as a result of it. To some degree, everything that we consider "modern" be it lifestyle or means of production has in some way been influenced or even created by the industrial revolution. The revolution changed the face of society, on an international scale unlike almost any other economic/social change in history and the effects of it are global and can be seen even today on a global scale as the revolution continues to spread to nations that avoided it in the past but now see it as the only way to compete in the global economy.

The industrial revolution began about two and a half centuries ago. It has changed the world. Focused on new methods and organizations for producing goods, industrialization has altered where people live, how they play, how they define political issues -- even, many historians would argue, how they have sex. The industrial revolution was an international event from the first. It resulted from changes that had been occurring in global economic relations, and then it redefined those relations still further -- and continues to do so.

One of the most significant changes that resulted from the industrial revolution is evolving standards of living all over the world. This work will discuss emerging standards of living, first through a brief historical timeline, by assessing the level of urbanization that has occurred, by taking a look at class emergence in the wake of the industrial revolution, by assessing the wage economy, by analyzing the nature and structure of the family economy, and lastly by looking at the movement of the means of production as it applies to standard of living. Clearly, the manner in which people work, the place they live, the wages they earn, the way they receive goods and services and the changes that all these things create in the family are indicative of standards of living. The industrial revolution created massive changes in all these things for a great many people.

Industrial Revolution Timeline:

It would be irresponsible to assert that the seeds of the industrial revolution, i.e. beginning in Western Europe (mainly Britain) and the new United States should be studied in isolation as so much has happened since then that has changed the world, in traditional and nontraditional ways. For this reason this work will begin with a brief assessment of the evolving industrial revolution. According to Stearns, an expert of the industrial revolution industrialization has occurred in waves, accessing different economies as it went. "Industrialization has been the most fundamental force in world history in both the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. Outright industrial revolutions occurred in three waves." According to Stearns the first wave began in about 1760 occurring in the Western Europe and the United States. Then a second wave began in Russia, Japan, some isolated parts of eastern and southern Europe, Canada and Australia beginning around 1880. Lastly, according to Stearns an industrial revolution in the Pacific Rim, Turkey, Brazil and some isolated parts of Latin America in about 1960.

Each major wave of industrialization quickly spilled over into other societies that were not industrialized outright, altering basic social and economic relationships. Because industrialization was a global phenomenon from the first, it helps focus key comparisons: between specific revolutionary processes, such as the German and the Japanese, and between societies advancing in industrial growth and those lagging behind.

Stearns assessment makes clear that the industrial revolution is an emerging phenomenon that seems to have spread over time from its epicenter in Western Europe and America to most parts of the world and will likely continue to do so as time goes on. It is also important to note that even the industry that drives the revolution and drove it initially has changed and evolved considerably as well. This is particularly true at the epicenter as changing technologies, economies and social economic needs drive industry and therefore standards of living.

Change did not go without controversy, especially with regard to standards of living, as emerging technologies, economies and labor forces altered to such a degree that many considered the standards of living, i.e. long hours, poor wages, poor living conditions, deplorable and rapid urbanization, child labor and other aberrations of the industrial revolution so deplorable that they were intrinsically negative, regardless of overall gains. While still others believed that early deplorable standards of living were only a temporary, albeit necessary evil aspect of economic and therefore human growth and that the positive gains made by the industrial revolution made it all worth it, even for those in the most devastating of human conditions.

There is consensus that real wages rose, but some argue the increase was small before 1850 while others believe it was substantial. Flinn (1974) concluded that the gains in real wages during the second quarter of the nineteenth century were less than 1% per year. Lindert and Williamson (1985) estimated real wage growth for this period to be 80% for all "blue collar workers" and 116% for "all workers" (187). Recently, Brown (1990) has estimated that real factory earnings rose 50%. He argues, however, that the standard of living increased "at best 10%" during the first half of the century once the welfare costs of urbanization and the decline in hand-loom workers' wages were taken into account (613). Brown concludes that improvements in the living standards of textile workers began to appear during the 1840s and not earlier. Concurring with Brown, Huck finds when correcting for biases in earlier studies, that "1850, or some point in the 1840s, should be seen as the key turning points, as opposed to 1820s" for improvements in living standards (1992:22).

To some degree, both are correct assessments, as the standards of living among most families participating in the industrial revolution and particularly forced or marginalized workers was so devastating that it permanently changed the social order, but for the most part many of these conditions worked themselves out with much progress and toil and have changed to a large degree as many experienced a marked and extreme level of economic mobility if not in first generations then in later generations.

Urbanization:

One of the most striking changes associated with the industrial revolution was the level of urbanization that occurred concurrently with the industrial revolution(s). Though urbanization, when it occurs on a slow steady level does change aspects of standards of living the impact of rapid urbanization, that occurred during the industrial revolution was clearly at the root of many of the negative aspects of industrialization that much more clearly affected standards of living.

The urban world has emerged only very recently. Towns and cities have existed for over eight millennia, but fewer than three per cent of the world's population lived in urban places in 1800. According to Davis (1965; 1969) it was around 27 per cent in 1950, by which time most of the countries in what is now regarded as the developed world were predominantly urban.... This shift in the locus of urban development raises far-reaching questions concerning the causes of recent and current urbanization in developing countries and its links with that in developed areas.

To most historians and economists the most far reaching impetus to human urbanization is industrialization. Migration occurs as the need or desire for increased social mobility through wage labor takes hold or as changes in rural environment, such as industrialization of agriculture leaves many individuals with limited earning opportunities. Additionally, the more rapid such urbanization occurs the less affordable and available housing becomes, which often creates unsatisfactory conditions, such as those which were evident in many urban centers in the first wave of the industrial revolution. Rapidly, poorly built or overcrowded homes with limited infrastructure are one of the lasting legacies of the industrial revolution as are the many laws and ordinances that attempted to alleviate the problem.

Class Emergence:

Many people consider the development and increase in size of the middle class to be a direct result of the industrial revolution. To some degree, the opportunity for upward economic mobility was emergent to a greater degree during the industrial revolution than in times prior.

A class mobility is assumed to depend in part on four structural changes in the organization of production: (1) a shift from agricultural to industrial forms of production; (2) a decline in self-employment and personal or family ownership of farms and businesses; (3) an expansion of the industrial working class; and (4) an expansion of the industrial manager class location. Analysis of class mobility in six capitalist societies (the United States, Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia) reveals that the sizeable differences among them in total class mobility can be explained largely by differences in the structure of classes.

The middle class, especially is a mark of development and is according to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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