[This is from an earlier semester. It’s not perfect (nothing is for a survey class like this one (lack of time guarantees that), but it is thoughtful. The only other thing I’d mention is that I wasn’t pushing quotations in earlier semesters because I didn’t want to have teach footnotes. I’ve changed my mind on that issue and would now highly recommend two or three direct quotations from primary sources in your essays for Friday, each one at least marginally footnoted.]
The industrial revolution is an incredible time period in history. So many substantial changes occurred during this time period, and so many glorious benefits for our nation transpired because of these many changes. However, when thinking about the many benefits of the industrialization; it is also necessary to reflect on the bad effects that that occurred as a result of the industrialization. When thinking of how far our nation has come as a result of the industrialization, it is easy to conclude that these bad effects do not outweigh the good and the benefits were certainly worth the bad effects. Looking back at history, we can see how greatly we advanced from then to now. On the other hand, when thinking only of humankind, it is worth arguing that maybe these bad effects that emerged were not worth the benefits.
As can be seen in the textbook, one of the key benefits that came from the industrial revolution was the ability of companies to have more efficient production. Inventions like Ford’s assembly line made this possible by showing that it was possible to mass produce goods quickly and cost effectively, which in return made these goods affordable to more people and not just the elite or wealthy. Also, other inventions such as the telegraph and railroad made transporting these goods through the nation more convenient. All these thing transpired into more demand for the product all over the nation and more revenue for companies; which then led to increase in job opportunities. All of these changes led to a different lifestyle for all.
In Andrew Carnegie’s articled entitled “Wealth”, he speaks of the days before the industrial revolution, stating that during this time there was very little difference between classes. Clothes, food, and homes were the same for all. He illustrates an example of a master and apprentice working side by side, and discusses how they were subject to the same living conditions, so even when the apprentice became a master no change really occurred in their quality of life. In the article he state “There was, substantially social equality, and even political equality”. However, once the industrial revolution hit, this equality was no more. Now the distinction between classes was much more observable and noticeable. Also, not only was there just the elite and the poor; but a working class also emerged from the industrial revolution. In “Wealth” Carnegie states “Human society loses homogeneity”.
So, now no longer existed the similarities in classes, but instead much different conditions for each social class. The article by Jacob Riis entitled “How the Other Half Lives” clearly depicts the harsh conditions that the lower classes were now subject too. In the article he describes and documents the living and working conditions of the poor. Very cheaply made, unsanitary, and extremely small tenements were made for the poor city workers to live. His work undoubtedly shows how the lower classes were easily taken advantage of. The Brands textbook also discusses how the laborers were taken advantage of by employers, by being given low pay and unsafe working conditions; and the picture of the ruins of the Ludlow Massacre shows the horrific and sad effects of these laborers trying to take action by striking. Additionally, skilled workers were being replaced by machinery, contributing more to the poverty of this class.
It is evident to see in these few examples that humanity was changing for the worst. Greed and unconcern for the poor by the wealthy and elite was becoming more evident throughout this time. The rich were getting richer, while the poor were getting poorer. No longer was there the homogeneity that Andrew Carnegie once spoke of. It seemed that society was no longer working for the improvement for all society, but instead individuals were becoming selfish and self-centered. In Thorstein Veblen’s article he speaks of an idea called “conspicuous consumption” which refers to a consumer who doesn’t buy a good based on needs, but rather buys an expensive item to display income and wealth in order to gain higher social status. This article really portrays how competition and rivalry really sprung up in society during this time.
Ultimately, I think that the effects that the industrial revolution had on society are not worth the benefits that we gained. In today’s world we can see how greediness, self-centeredness, and corruptness has very negatively affected our world. We as a society are not focused on coming together to help each other, but instead only do things to benefit ourselves instead of others. I think that the more distinct separation of classes during the industrial revolution truly may have damaged us in this way. There will never be a time in our world where we can all be equal, or experience the same benefits. The separation of classes has forever ruined this concept. I personally find it sad that there is such a difference in the way different classes of people are treated and how not everyone gets the same benefits just because of the social class they are born into. I believe we are all equal and should be treated equally, but this is a concept that our nation has lost. However, it is important to note that without these negative changes all of the wonderful advancements in society we do have may not exist. Although social classes may not be a good think for humankind or for peace and equality, it is important to remember how conditions haven’t only changed for the worse but have also changed somewhat positively for the poor.