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The Industrial Age and Capitalism: Key Features and Impacts on Society

Industrial Age can be defined as the time when people became actively engaged in the development of manufacturing machinery. The given historical period is associated with many break-through technological advances and inventions, which consequently permeated almost every aspect of human life. The industrial revolution is closely related to the rise of capitalism as well. Together, these two phenomena substantially contributed to economic democratization through the mass production of goods and the promotion of consumerism. During that time, job opportunities were created along the opportunities for leisure, which stimulated and accelerated the growth of a productive middle class. Nevertheless, despite multiple positive effects of capitalism and industrial revolution on the economic growth at the individual, organizational, and national levels, mass production can negatively affect traditional, cultural livelihoods, as well as other aspects of social life. It means that capitalism produces both winners and losers. Considering that the given issue is highly controversial, the given research project will aim to provide detailed research of the matter.

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The Industrial Age. Key Features and Impacts on Society

Having originated in Great Britain in the latter half of the 18th century, the Industrial Revolution gained unstoppable nature, gradually spread over the globe, and ushered in the Industrial Age. This stage lasted for several centuries and encompassed a series of interrelated changes in economic and social structures, culminating in the shift of the Western world from agriculture-based systems towards predominantly industrial society (Casassas & Wagner, 2016). Although the time framework and some trends in industrialization-oriented transformations varied due to specific socioeconomic conditions in different countries, the core characteristics and impacts of the Industrial Age can be generalized to the following features:

  • Ongoing technological advancements, scientific progress, and inventions of new mechanisms;
  • Extension of transport networks;
  • Minimization of manual labor via adoption of new manufacturing techniques and increasing utilization of machinery in production processes (Phillips, Yu, Hameed, & Akhdary, 2017, p. 177);
  • Urbanization and an unprecedented growth of cities;
  • Growing property polarization of society;
  • Secularization of society, including the liberation of spiritual and social life from clerical influences, development of atheism, and assertion of free-thinking;
  • Democratization of political structures that generated preconditions for the formation of a rule-of-law state and civil society;
  • Creation of prerequisites for the market economy, freedom of commerce, mass production, banking development, and the rise of capitalism (Casassas & Wagner, 2016, p. 162; Phillips et al., 2017).

Capitalism. Core Characteristics

The aforementioned peculiar features of the Industrial Age contributed to the rise of capitalism as a socioeconomic formation. Embodying the liberal ideology that prevailed in the United States and Europe in the nineteenth century, capitalism denotes “a way of organizing the economy” (Casassas & Wagner, 2016, p. 160). Industrialization and modernization are inextricably linked with the development of capitalism-grounded socioeconomic structures (Casassas & Wagner, 2016; Phillips et al., 2017). Concerning the key features of economic relations in capitalist society, they involve the orientation towards profit making, the rule of private property, competition, freedom of entrepreneurship, distribution of produced goods and services through market mechanisms, and so on.

Influences of Capitalism on Contemporary Society. Positive and Negative Aspects

Capitalism undergoes a process of permanent transformations that predefine its impacts on society. The emergence of consumer society, formation of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, social stratification, mass culture development, and so forth are the basic societal transformations associated with capitalism. However, capitalist relations stimulate the development of initiative, practicality, innovativeness, entrepreneurial attitudes, and goal-orientation in individuals, thus, changing their viewpoints, reshaping social institutions, and modifying society as a whole (Casassas & Wagner, 2016, p. 164). What is more, capitalism-caused globalization has made society diverse and culturally heterogeneous, entailing the dissemination of tolerance, democratic principles, and liberal values throughout the world.

Furthermore, impacts of capitalist economies lead to the formation of the knowledge society. Knowledge and information are the main determinants of profitable economic relations. As noted by Phillips et al. (2017), market competition, demand for productivity, and struggle for consumer loyalty have become the driving forces of innovations, bringing about “fundamental changes in human values, ideological trends, social politics and economic structure” (p. 177). Individuals’ differences in educational and intellectual potential result in diverging employment opportunities and can be identified as the main factor of socioeconomic inequality. Accordingly, despite some alterations in its economic methods and underlying principles, capitalism is still influencing contemporary society.

The positive sides of capitalism are extensively described in the contemporary literature. As stated by Frieden and Rogowski (2014), its major advantage is “the extraordinary productive power that modern capitalism has unleashed, combining land, labor, capital, and human capital in ways that have increased output and income at a previously unimaginable pace” (p. 384). By doing so, capitalism managed to free many people from hard manual work and to foster greater demand for intellectual workforce. However, the given tendency threatens the survival of traditional craftsmanship that is characterized by smaller volumes of output and, usually, higher costs. As Frieden and Rogowski (2014) note, many artisans and farmers, whose work structures are often in line with traditional cultural practices, do not suit modern international markets and cannot survive in them. Thus, the preference for cheap, mass-produced goods by consumers and the choice of more profitable business systems by local entrepreneurs may negatively affect the regional cultural environment and make many customs vanish.

A possible mediatory way through which capitalism and mass production may affect culture is the change of social value orientation. According to Shahrier, Kotani, and Kakinaka (2016), “culture-gene coevolutionary theory argues that human beings learn ideas and culture through a social learning mechanism, and this cultural transmission shapes human behaviors and preferences along with genetical properties” (p. 0165067). It is possible to say that capitalism serves as such a social learning mechanism. It promotes the value of mass consumption and shortened product manufacturing cycles. Additionally, Shahrier et al. (2016) observe that, in capitalist societies, people tend to prefer competition over cooperation. It means they strive to gain more wealth, status, and prestige than others have. These findings may indicate that capitalism can largely contribute to the deterioration of interpersonal connections in communities and consequently lead to the overall worsening of the quality of life in the long run.

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Conclusion

Summing up, while researching the identified problems, it is important to evaluate the underlying features and characteristics of capitalism and industrialism, and understand if the capitalist system can produce equally sufficient resources for all members of the society. It is essential to comprehend if it is appropriate for the elimination of inequality between people. In the given context, the expected results of the study will be the identification of links between capitalism and the quality of social life, as well as the correlation between mass production and the preservation of cultural conventions, namely, crafts and traditional livelihoods.

References

Casassas, D., & Wagner, P. (2016). Modernity and capitalism: Conceptual retrieval and comparative-historical analyses. European Journal of Social Theory, 19(2), 159-171. Web.

Frieden, J., & Rogowski, R. (2014). Modern capitalism: Enthusiasts, opponents, and reformers. In L. Neal & J. G. Williamson (Eds.), The Cambridge history of capitalism, vol. 2: The spread of capitalism: From 1848 to the present (pp. 384-425). Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Phillips, F., Yu, C., Hameed, T., & Akhdary, M. (2017). The knowledge society’s origins and current trajectory. International Journal of Innovation Studies, 1(3), 175-191. Web.

Shahrier, S., Kotani, K., & Kakinaka, M. (2016). Social value orientation and capitalism in societies. Plos One, 11(10), 0165067.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, December 30). The Industrial Age and Capitalism: Key Features and Impacts on Society. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/the-industrial-age-and-capitalism-key-features-and-impacts-on-society/

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StudyCorgi. (2021, December 30). The Industrial Age and Capitalism: Key Features and Impacts on Society. https://studycorgi.com/the-industrial-age-and-capitalism-key-features-and-impacts-on-society/

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StudyCorgi. "The Industrial Age and Capitalism: Key Features and Impacts on Society." December 30, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-industrial-age-and-capitalism-key-features-and-impacts-on-society/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "The Industrial Age and Capitalism: Key Features and Impacts on Society." December 30, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/the-industrial-age-and-capitalism-key-features-and-impacts-on-society/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'The Industrial Age and Capitalism: Key Features and Impacts on Society'. 30 December.

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