The Industrial Age Impact and the Rise of Capitalism

It is a common truth that those people who do not remember the past have a limited opportunity to understand the real nature of things that happen to their society. The mindset of the society has experienced significant changes during the last centuries; however, the repercussions of older values can still be noticed in the opinions of modern people about business, money, and wealth. In particular, the project focuses on defining the key characteristics of the Industrial Age and analyzing their impact on the worldview of modern people in developed countries. As a result, the influence of the majority of tendencies on the contemporary society is confirmed.

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The Industrial Age and Capitalism

The rapid development of technology and growing population in many countries are known to have contributed to the rise of capitalist relations. Speaking about industrial capitalism, it is important to state that the presence of this social system is characterized by significant changes related to the agricultural sector that are believed to enhance economic growth (Hudson, 2014). The prerequisites for the development of industrial capitalism are believed to have appeared with the decline of mercantilist ideas in the middle of the eighteenth century.

Capitalism and socialism are always presented as two antagonistic social systems that cannot coexist peacefully due to the presence of unresolved differences between them. The rise of the capitalistic thought in countries whose economies were quite developed for the time was strictly interconnected with a few key tendencies.

To begin with, the number of plants and factories was growing during the discussed period. Therefore, the approach to task assignment was gradually changing. The success of industrial capitalism is inherent in the separation of tasks. The focus on the division of labor and standardization in all spheres of human activity was one of the factors allowing business people of that epoch to optimize production processes and maximize their profit.

Even though there are many researchers who claim that capitalism can be regarded as the most feasible social system, it is clear that the focus on profitability (sometimes, to the prejudice of quality) was one of its key features. Obviously, the financial success of many companies that were established after the Industrial Revolution could exist only due to the growing focus on mass production and active consumption that were gradually becoming the key features of the period.

However, common people that were mainly presented by factory workers have limited access to the material goods that they were producing due to the growing social stratification that can be seen as one of the most urgent problems connected with capitalist systems. Among other features of the discussed period that influenced the perception of money and business, there is growing economic power of wealthy people paired with the lessening control of competition.

Even though the European society experienced a significant economic growth and the quality of people’s lives was increasing due to the rapid development of technology, it was extremely difficult for people from low-income families to improve their financial position (Hartwell, 2017).

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Thus, it was almost impossible for independent handworkers and ambitious people from the poorest social layers to start their own business as the authority was concentrated in the hands of wealthy people. Obviously, the degree to which industrialization was a positive tendency was different for various social layers. The path from manual production to the mechanization of labor involved numerous obstacles, and the establishment of factory system was impossible without setting a series of rules that are still respected.

The majority of properties of factory system that appeared after the Industrial Revolution exist in modern world. Prior to that, factory systems in some European countries such as France were divided into various classes; the highest class of production facilities was protected by monarchs and, therefore, “it knew no competition” (Mantoux, 2013, p. 30). Theorists who are believed to be the founders of capitalist social system tend to critique the presence of the official control of production facilities.

The lack of control was an opportunity helping factory owners to set their own rules and use them in order to fire and hire new workers. Therefore, the key features of the time include the focus on profitability and mass production, social inequality, task separation, and the reduction of government control.

The social class that existed in many kingdoms during the industrial age has persisted to this day. Those who are in control of means of production have put in place systems and structures that help them to remain in power. They justify the existence of such systems, which often come in the form of laws and policies, with deceitful propaganda, which sometimes involve polarizing the country along ethical and tribal lines. The figure below shows the different social classes that existed then during the industrial revolution and still exist in the modern society.

The social class system.
Fig. 1. The social class system (Harrod, 2013).

At the very bottom of the pyramid is the majority of the population. They work in the industrial sector as manual laborers earning minimum wage. They are the domestic workers who ensure that their bosses can lead comfortable lives. They have no choice but to embrace their hard work with minimal pay. The system is structured in a way that if they do not embrace such manual tasks they cannot get the basic needs in their lives.

Because of the nature of capitalism, children of those at the bottom of the pyramid rarely rise to higher classes. They get the lowest standards of education. They all know that education is the only tool of empowerment, but they are denied this key to success because of the high costs set by the ruling class. As shown in fig. 1 above, sometimes children are forced to join their parents in their manual work to make ends meet.

The next section of the pyramid has the middle class. These are people with stable jobs in corporate world. The system creates an illusion in their mind that they have security offered by their permanent and pensionable jobs. However, the truth is just they are earning just barely enough. They cannot lack the basics as long as they go to work, but they cannot afford to take their children to the best schools. They are always the worst hit in cases of economic recession because they are forced to find a place at the bottom of the pyramid.

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Their children often find it challenging to climb to a higher social class. The next class has the military and law enforcement agencies. In the modern society, they fall in the same class as the middle working class (Harrod, 2013). They are used to ensure that there is law and order needed to protect the rich and the system of capitalism. Their absence may lead to a collapse of the system. For that reason, they are made to feel that they are the center of power.

The clergy also have their position in this social system. In the past, religious leaders also doubled up as the political leaders. However, the modern society developments have seen the two roles separated. The clergy remain very powerful and wealthy. According to Harrod (2013), they use religion as a tool to rule the masses. They insist on the need to follow the rule of law, respect authorities, and embrace capitalism for the sake of avoiding punishment in the next life.

Harrod (2013) says that some of the richest people on earth today are the clergy. The poor and the middle class make their monthly or yearly contributions religiously with the promise that they will have the blessings of the God. However, their contributions are used to purchase luxuries for the clergy, something that the faithful cannot afford. They work closely with the ruling class to ensure that the masses are always hypnotized to believe in the systems and structures without question.

At the next level of the pyramid is the ruling class. They are the political leaders who use various means to gain power. In democracies, they use deceit and other tactics to convince the public to elect them to these positions. They promise to change their lives but rarely do so once elected to office.

The deceitful process is repeated in every electioneering period at the expense of the masses. In dictatorial regimes, these leaders use threats and military force to ensure that their rule is not subject to questions from the masses. These rulers are always in constant pursuit of more wealth, which is at the apex of the pyramid. They steal from the public to ensure that they control means of production. They know that in capitalistic systems, the wealthier a person is, the more powerful he or she is in the society.

The Contemporary Society

When it comes to the perception of money, business, and wealth in the contemporary society, the majority of authors tend to find many links between the earlier period of capitalism and the twenty-first century. For instance, the point of view, according to which “the object of all industry is the production of goods or articles of consumption” is believed to be the focus of governments of different countries even now (Mantoux, 2013, p.25). In fact, capitalism as an economic system still presents a cycle that involves mass production and consumption. The focus on this cycle is the reality of the twenty-first century, and its roots are believed to lie in the industrial epoch.

Within the frame of the research project, a short survey including a few questions aimed at evaluating the perceptions of money, wealth, and production process that young small business owners demonstrate was conducted. The survey was anonymous, and there were ten participants who agreed to share their opinions on the impact of the Industrial Age on the society. The age of the participants was between 27 and 38.

Among the most interesting findings indicating that the studied epoch has a strong impact on the modern entrepreneurship, there is the fact that the majority (90%) of the participants agree that an increased consumption is the ultimate sign of progress. Apart from that, the participants were asked about their attitude to the conflict between the quality and quantity of products and services they provide. In fact, 60% of respondents acknowledge that large companies have to focus on the volumes of production to be able to gain competitive advantage.

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As is clear from the work by Amin (2014), the development of capitalism has contributed to increasing inequality in many countries. The participants who agreed to answer the survey questions partially support this assumption; thus, 80% of respondents agree that they know cases when people from the middle class had to make more efforts when wealthier people to achieve certain goals. It becomes obvious from the previous part of the assignment that the growth of production during the Industrial Age was associated with the difficult life of workers. As for the survey, the majority of participants (60%) support the idea that people are not regarded as resources in modern business.

According to Chase (2014), little has changed when one critically analyzes slavery during the Agrarian and Industrial Revolution ere and today. The use of force common during the slavery period no longer exists because the ruling class has found a better tool. Capitalism has come at the right time and it is just as effective as the use of brutal force seen during the slavery period. Capitalism has created a system where a section of the society has more than they need while the other section struggle to get the basics.

The poor become slaves, not by choice, but by the circumstances, they face. Hunger forces them to work at the mercy of the rules as they struggle with life. The more the system seem to change, the more lives of people remain the same (Chase, 2014). Fig. 2 below is a clear demonstration of the situation as it was then, and the way it is today.

Slavery then and now.
Fig. 2. Slavery then and now (Chase, 2014, para. 4).

Conclusion

In the end, it is clear that the Industrial Age and early capitalism have made a significant contribution to the perceptions of wealth and business in the contemporary society. Among the key features of the studied period identified during the research, there are the focus on profitability, task separation, social stratification, and the reduction of government control. As it follows from the survey that encouraged participants to share their opinion on modern business, the majority of these tendencies have an obvious influence on the society.

Despite that, there is another tendency noticed by the participants; understanding that employee happiness has a strong impact on employee effectiveness, more employers focus on the creation of positive work environment instead of treating their subordinates like a resource.

References

Amin, S. (2014). Capitalism in the age of globalization: The management of contemporary society (2nd ed.). London, UK: Zed Books Ltd.

Chase, C. (2014). Capitalism is a pyramid scheme. Web.

Harrod, J. (2013). Feudalism, capitalism, and corporatism: How the corporation is changing the world. Web.

Hartwell, R. M. (2017). The industrial revolution and economic growth (Vol. 4). Abingdon, UK: Taylor & Francis.

Hudson, P. (2014). The industrial revolution. London, UK: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Mantoux, P. (2013). The industrial revolution in the eighteenth century: An outline of the beginnings of the modern factory system in England. London, UK: Routledge.

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