Political Consciousness and Class Consciousness

Class experiences gave rise to class- consciousness on the part of the different sections of society, which was expressed through differing political affiliations. The bourgeoisie  expressed its political consciousness initially through representing the general demands of society against privilege and despotism. Increasingly it began to give specific form and content to its class interests through promoting economic policies opposed to agriculture and landed aristocracy and through gaining dominance in the representative institutions. Although ideologically it stood by liberalism, in practice it supported and initiated centrist and right wing parties as well to counter the working class pressure.

The working people were the first to challenge the capitalist order. Theirs is a story that began with  food  riots  and  machine  breaking  and evolved into varied forms of organized protests that  assumed  great  political significance.

In Europe, with the emergence of capitalism, landlords and the peasantry were integrated with the economy in different ways. At the same time, in some countries the dominance of landed interests continued to shape the society and economy. This dominance of landed interest did not allow the emerging bourgeoisie to attain an independent identity or hegemony. Elsewhere, the newly emerging classes had to struggle politically  to  attain  a  new consciousness.


Impact over social and economic systems

Industrial revolution is synonymous with certain technological and economic changes, with important social consequences and social origins. It denotes the extensive application of water, steam (and later electrical) power in production systems; the focus of production in the factory and its formidable mechanization; major changes in the character and exploitation of “home” and “foreign” markets, and  the  near  disappearance of  subsistence agriculture.

Industrial society cannot survive without universal literacy. Education which was a cottage industry in the agrarian world, must now become full-fledged, impersonal and organized modern industry to turn out neat, uniform human product out of the raw material of an uprooted anonymous  mass population.

An industrial society is one in which work is not manual but semantic. Modern economy does not just need a worker; it needs a skilled worker. It is mobile society; it is an egalitarian society; and it is a society with  a  shared  high-culture and not exclusive as it was in the agrarian  world.

A peasant’s son need not be a peasant; what occupational position he occupies will depend, not on his heredity or community’s status, but   on  his  own  competence  and training.

Land inevitably attracted investment and loans, but industry, with its few guarantees was   a different matter. Until mid-eighteenth century, entrepreneurs lent to themselves within the same trade, or drew on the funds that merchants made available to them. They could also call for loans on goldsmiths and others who dealt in precious metals. With a pickup of commercial activity  in  agriculture  and   industry,  such “bankers” were joined by various country banks which were set up during periods of expanding trade after mid-century. They were also backed by London banks in times of difficulty. A network existed, therefore, for redistributing resources at the time that manufacturing industry increasingly came  to  require it.

Industry was increasingly rationalized. Here, rationalization implied the subordination of production to calculation—a development which had been less important earlier, since hired labour and technology were rarely concentrated in one place, where the influence of the capitalist could exert itself effectively. Among the consequences of such change were economies of scale, where, as production increased, each unit of manufacture became cheaper in  terms  of  costs of production. A diminution of dependence on natural forces (climate, cardinally) followed from the  integration  of markets

Major changes in ecological balance resulted from the scale of demand and production: well known here is the deforestation of large sections of the United States and Russia, and the destruction of wild herds in the  United  States. An important feature was also the rigorous subordination of economic activity to the troughs and booms of the trade cycle, whose nature varied in accordance with alterations in investment  and  consumption.

‘Gradualist’ argument which stressed continuities with earlier demographic regime and slow growth of industrial productivity has been criticized for not taking into account the substantial contributions of female and child labour and for not taking a connected regional picture  of  emerging industrialization.

The peculiar importance of youth labour in  the industrial revolution are highlighted in several instances of textile and other machinery being designed and build to suit the child worker. The spinning jenny was a celebrated case; the original country jenny had a horizontal wheel requiring    a posture most comfortable for children aged nine to twelve. Indeed, for a time, in the very early phases of mechanization and factory organization in the woollen  and  silk  industries as well as in cotton, it was  generally  believed that child labour was integral to textile machine design.


Bureaucratization can be said to encompass the processes both of the centralization and expansion and of the professionalization of  all institutions. Bureaucratization has been a result & cause of and similar to industrialization. Generating and exploiting material resources took the form of industrialization; doing the same with human resources took the form of social mobilization. Entirely new institutions and professions were required for these activities; and the emergence of professional bureaucracies takes place against this background. The first of these were the direct servants of the state, the civil servants and the armed forces. Bureaucratization was accompanied by a campaign against “corruption”  and  in  the  cause  of “efficiency.”


Geographical Spread of IR United  States

As in Britain, the United States originally used water power to run its factories, with the consequence that industrialization was essentially limited to New England and the rest of the Northeastern United States, where fast-moving rivers were located. However, the raw materials (cotton) came from the Southern United States.    It was not until after the American Civil War in the 1860s that steam-powered manufacturing overtook water-powered manufacturing, allowing the industry to spread across the entire nation.

Samuel Slater (1768–1835) is popularly known as the founder of the American cotton industry. As a boy apprentice in Derbyshire, England, he learned of the new techniques in the textile industry and defied laws against the emigration of skilled workers by leaving for New York in 1789, hoping to make money with his knowledge. Slater started Slater’s mill at Pawtucket, Rhode Island, in 1793, and went on to own thirteen textile mills.

While on a trip to England in 1810, Newburyport, Massachusetts merchant Francis Cabot Lowell was allowed to tour the British textile factories, but not take notes. Realizing the War of 1812 had ruined his import business but that a market for domestic finished cloth was emerging in America, he memorized the design   of textile machines, and on his return to the United States, he set up the Boston Manufacturing Company. Lowell and his partners built America’s first cotton-to-cloth textile mill at Waltham, Massachusetts. After   his death in 1817, his associates built America’s first planned factory town, which they named after him. This enterprise was capitalized in a public stock offering, one of the first such uses of it in the United States. Lowell, Massachusetts, utilizing 5.6 miles of canals and ten thousand horsepower delivered by the Merrimack River, is considered the “Cradle of the American Industrial Revolution.’ The short-lived, utopia- like Lowell System was formed, as a direct response to the poor working conditions in Britain. However, by 1850, especially following the Irish Potato Famine, the system was replaced by  poor  immigrant labour.



About the Author

You may also like these