Working Class During the Early Industrial Revolution
Despite urbanization and higher wages, the standards of living of the working class were deficient during the early years of the revolution (Hartwell 20). The workers had to spend up to 14 hours a day in factories and did not have the power to change these conditions. The reason for it was that the first years of the Industrial Revolution were associated with an extremely low employment rate, which allowed the employers to set inhumane working terms because people needed the jobs. The production industry did not have a demand for skilled workers anymore since the machines could substitute them. The new equipment increased the risks of safety hazards; the employees were not protected from them. Moreover, the Combination Acts (1799, 1800) made strikes illegal, which deprived the workers of the opportunity to ask for better conditions (Makhlouf 23). The democratic political system could not ensure the improvement of workers’ labor as well since only wealthy people were allowed to vote.
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European Society During the Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution had an impact on various spheres of European society. Its primary consequence was urbanization; people started to move to cities to find jobs. The nature of work changed as well, as the focus on agriculture was shifted to the manufacturing of goods. Machines started to substitute humans; industries began to use new materials, including coal and iron, for production (Fernihough and O’Rourke 4). During the Industrial Revolution, the middle class started to emerge, which had not been largely present due to feudalism. The bourgeoisie became separated from the working class because of the increase in human capital. The revolution also resulted in the development of the sphere of traveling and communication. Steam engines allowed individuals to use railways and steamships, which presented new opportunities for trading and migration. The role of women changed too, as they have begun to work more hours. The demand for child labor caused the increase in birth rates. Finally, the revolution promoted changes in public health and life expectancy. The appearance of cotton improved the level of individuals’ hygiene, and the development of chemicals created an opportunity for medical advances.
Criticism of Capitalism
Based on the description, I can say that although the document shows a dramatic perspective of the workers’ class conditions, Marx’s and Engel’s criticism of capitalism is reasonable. They claimed that even though it was once a progressive historical stage, there were internal contradictions in it. In their opinion, capital should be based on the relation between people, not between people and things. The description provides evidence of why capitalism was destructive for the society, as it did not unite it but divided it into separate groups. The richer people, including the owners of the factories, were not involved in labor, they only set rules for the workers. The employees started to develop a distinct dialect and have different principles and thoughts; they became significantly different from the bourgeoisie. Moreover, capitalism was destructive for people’s health, as their working conditions were very poor. The workers were exposed to carbonic acid gas continuously; they did not receive an efficient supply of oxygen. Capitalism made the employees its victims by depriving them of a good quality of life. Thus, Marx and Engels are correct in their criticism of the Capitalist system.
Fernihough, Alan, and Kevin H. O’Rourke. Coal and the European Industrial Revolution. 2014, Web.
Hartwell, Ronald M. The Industrial Revolution and Economic Growth. Routledge, 2017.
Makhlouf, Hany H. “The Labor Movements in the United States and the United Kingdom.” Review of Social Sciences, vol. 1, no. 4, 2016, pp. 21-26.