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The Industrial Revolution and Class Conflict

Introduction with Thesis Statement

Industrial revolution has impacts which are both economical and social with social scientists and philosophers working hard to have a clear understanding of the changes that are taking place. Marx found that there was class conflict between the proletariat and the capitalists where modern industries have many laborers resulting in overcrowding. Hierarchy exists where workers are overworked like slaves in bourgeois class and employers are the masters. Introduction of machines enslaved workers every hour due to increased production. The laborers are paid minimum wage even if they generate huge profits from the work they do making them unable to cater for their daily needs. The issue of laborers working to increase capital need to be dealt with by the ruling class that includes the rich people so that strikes by workers to have wage increase is avoided and their demands are met without terminating their employment. Industrial revolution has destabilized society due to the need for advanced technology that is expensive and requires a lot of skills for it to be effective. (Stearns, 1972)

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Main Body

There has been an evolution of practices in an effort to solve the problem of limited supply of goods and services. The process of industrial revolution is going on well without interference of forces from outside. Modern technology has been putting pressure on traditional societies, making them try and adapt to the new improved technology which is expensive. Technology has been changing every now and then everywhere in the world because of the need for raw materials for use in the industry, demand for high quality products for trade as well as political influence. (Foster, 1974)

In the beginning, only traditional economies were in existence but people have improved in the means of earning a living. People used to produce goods and services and exchange them with what they do not have, making their life difficult because; they produced goods in small quantities and had no sources of funds for development except the rich minority. The problem of limited supply of goods was solved since merchants were able to trade, farmers engaged in farming and other goods were created by artisans. People were fully committed to areas where they were talented and worked together through understanding each other. (Calhoun, 1982)

The Industrial revolution came with social changes and advanced technology. Manufacturing industries used the modern advanced technology to ensure that employees have improved in their productivity due to the new skills and expertise. Specialization helped employees to concentrate in one area where they are best talented where they did similar task everyday. The workers would use less skill but there was a serious problem because, their wages and salaries were reduced. For example, many textile industries preferred to hire children because; they could reach places that were dangerous where adults were not able to access and only required to be paid very little.

In the whole of 19th century, there was a decline in salary for employees in the industry, oppression increased and work environment was dangerous and risky making workers to be treated like slaves. This took place when new improved technology increased productivity of workers meaning that, industrial revolution did not cause scarcity of resources because, technology increased production of goods making them increase in supply. This made societies to start looking for solution to the increased supply of products because; the problem of poverty was not solved but it still persisted since the rich people were becoming richer and poor people had increased level of poverty.

According to Karl Marx, class conflict existed, making capitalist system to be overthrown. Capitalists used many machines thereby reducing the number of employees. This made profits to fall and this resulted to harsh treatment to the workers. The working environment was intolerable since industrial workers who were alienated controlled production to ensure that progress in the industries was for the benefit of community as a whole. (Stearns, 1972)

Industries experienced strikes, labor unrest and revolution which brought to an end child labor, the number of work hours every day was specified and health conditions and safety of employees was introduced. Workers were told the minimum wages that they were supposed to receive and old people were supposed to have social security so that they may not be affected by poverty. Welfare state developed to deal with capitalist and classes of workers. Workers were paid well to make their lives better and capitalist had no choice but to surrender part of the revenue generated. (Calhoun, 1982)

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Predictions by Marxists showed that alienated employees led a revolution and communists tried to educate workers by giving them ideas and organizing them. However, China and Russia adopted communist system with small minority having the ownership of land. This means that, class conflict was experienced more in nations where the dominating class was monopolists of the rural land. Those who criticized Marxism said that, when land, monopoly and capital are taken to be means of producing goods, Marx failed to consider the processes involved to ensure work is done properly. For example, capital is taken to mean capital goods which are goods required by laborers for production to take place. Capital that is owned can not abuse labor or even exploit it because, unless labor uses capital, capital can not be put into use. Labor cannot be exploited through advanced technology or capital because; workers can engage in self employment even if employers are not willing to employ them. Therefore, labor is exploited once it is able to get its own wealth and distribute it. Class conflict play a major role in the economy today and change in technology has been lifting rich people high and bringing down the poor. Class conflict does not come as a result of owning means of production but having monopolies and privileges that make some people benefit more from progress that is made at the expense of other.

In the capitalist system, employees receive wages as payment for the work done in production of goods and services. Profit is the reward to the entrepreneur after taking risks and using land and machinery. Workers put more effort and become productive but the employers pay them very little in order for employers to profit from the rest. Once the workers realize what happens, they demand salary increase according to their productivity and demand even full payment for all the work done leading to conflict between them and the employers. History of the economics show that, class conflict is still going on between those who have and have-nots since it increases capital to those who are already rich, creates monopoly and results to war. (Calhoun, 1982)

Production remains high with reduced cost of labor resulting in high profits. The people who receive low payment and unemployed are not able to purchase goods due to the low purchasing power of the working class. Capitalism has been assaulting laborers since the time the industrial revolution began. This has made unions to be dysfunctional and remain in a chaotic state with leaders becoming either corrupt and co-opted or jailed. Class conflict is still continuing and will eventually reach a turning point where digital technology will be attained and have a planned economy. (Stearns, 1972)


Analysis of Marx concentrates on production in the industry and social relationships of people in the course of production. This results in class conflict due to the way work is coordinated. Engaging in a means of production was the beginning of power of capitalists which later resulted in industrial conflict. Capital was used in production together with labor, but due to the desire of employers to exploit employees, who did a lot of work and received less pay, there was a contradiction and conflict because; some people became too rich while others remained in poverty. According to capitalists, class conflict arose due to variations in status quo because; employers received huge profits from production of goods and services but could not pay good salary to the workers to motivate them and reward them according to their level of productivity. The Industrial Revolution brought about global changes, social divisions and urbanization. These changes made people question the direction they are heading to and many social upheavals. There was tension that brought about new ideas in the society and people were torn apart. This raised the challenge of how to maintain equality to everyone without favor or discrimination. (Foster, 1974)


Calhoun J. C. (1982): class struggle; social foundations of popular radicalism during the industrial revolution: University of Chicago Press

Foster J. (1974): class struggle and the industrial revolution, London: Methuen & Co Ltd

Stearns, P.N. (1972): The Impact of the industrial revolution; New Jersey: Prentice-Hall

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