What Is the Political Impact of the Industrial Revolution?

The ultimate impact of the Industrial Revolution was the formation of an unprecedented regulatory state designed to protect workers and consumers. Mechanized manufacturing brought immense consequences for labor, placing the lives and livelihood of workers at the mercy of factory owners. Consumers became exposed to harmful, low-quality products. To remedy these consequences of industrialization, the government stepped in with a series of sweeping reforms.

The Industrial Revolution permanently changed the relationship between worker, employer and government. Workers in factories labored under extremely dangerous situations and performed repetitive, uncreative tasks that were very unlike the skilled labor typical of workers prior to the Industrial Revolution. Despite these changes in the work environment, employers had an outdated attitude toward labor. They paid workers only the bare minimum for subsistence, employed scores of children and refused to compensate workers injured on the job. Governments responded with minimum wage laws, child labor laws, safety requirements, injury compensation and pension requirements. Workers also fought for their interests by forming labor and trade unions.

Food manufacturers packaged their products in highly unsanitary environments. Rotten food, animals and animal waste and even human body parts ended up in food. Government stepped in with laws regulating food processing practices and instituting inspections.

The Industrial Revolution allowed certain men to amass great fortunes and build monopolistic corporations. Industrialists like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller dominated their fields. As a way of curbing the negative effects of monopoly, the government enacted antitrust laws, much to the chagrin of the magnates.