How Did the Industrial Revolution Affect Society?

How Did the Industrial Revolution Affect Society?

The Industrial Revolution made manufacturing easier, and increased the population and average income. There was a greater rise in urbanization, which led to more crime. It also gave birth to new forms of political thought.

Factories and Labor
The Industrial Revolution led to the inception of the factory, which saw many people move from rural areas to the city. Since factories allowed workers to labor indoors, many adults were forced to work much longer hours than they had previously. Adult males typically worked 12 to 14 hours a day for five and a half days per week. Women worked on average 10 hours a day, and were still responsible for their chores at home and child rearing. Children also worked in factories and were exploited by their bosses who often used them to remove obstructions from machinery, which often injured them.

Workers demanded better conditions, and eventually governments passed laws to regulate companies. This started in England with the Health and Morals of Apprentices Act of 1802. It limited work to 12 hours per day and required employers to provide education, clothing and a place to live.

With the rise of the factory came a massive influx of people into the cities. Urbanization led to more crime since many agricultural workers found it difficult to keep up with the speed of machinery or didn't have the skills to work in factories, which meant a rise in homelessness. There were also very few social programs or financial aid for those who were unable to work if they lost their jobs or were injured and could no longer work. Therefore, many of these people turned to crime in order to feed themselves. The first professional police force was created to deal with the rise in crime. The prison system was also reformed so that it wasn't solely a method of punishment, but now sought to rehabilitate prisoners.

Overcrowding became a problem with the large migration of people into cities that were not prepared to receive them. With more people than ever living in cramped spaces, disease spread easily. Cholera and typhoid were prevalent due to a contaminated water supply, as well as smallpox and chest diseases. On the flip side, the Industrial Revolution improved the living conditions of factory owners and new members of the middle class. They were often able to purchase large homes that included gardens and comfortable living spaces. Public health acts developed a sewage system and implemented hygiene initiatives.

Political and Economic Thought
The Industrial Revolution was fueled by capitalism, which was the belief that science and technology would create more equality and wealth since it would increase the life expectancy and lead to fewer working hours since machines would reduce the amount of work done by people. The Industrial Revolution created a larger middle class and, in general, increased the wealth of people in the West.

With harsh working conditions for the lower classes emerged trade unions that sought better working conditions and rights for laborers. This movement ultimately led to the rise of socialist political parties. Marxism taught that industrialization fueled capitalism and divided society into the bourgeoisie, who owned the means of production, and the proletariat, who were the working class. As a result, Marx believed there could only be equality if the workers owned the means of production to avoid exploitation of the workers.