IV. CONSEQUENCES

The results of the Industrial Revolution were almost everything that followed in England, barring literature and art; they could not be adequately described without writing a history of the last two centuries. We must note merely the peaks of the continuing and unfinished process of change.

1. The transformation of industry itself by the proliferation of inventions and machines—a process so manifold that our present ways of producing and distributing goods differ more from those of 1800 than these did from the methods prevalent two thousand years before.

2. The passage of the economy from regulated guilds and home industry to a regime of capital investment and free enterprise. Adam Smith was the British voice of the new system; Pitt II gave it governmental sanction in 1796.

3. The industrialization of agriculture—the replacement of small farms by large tracts of land capitalistically managed, using machinery, chemistry, and mechanical power on a large scale to grow food and fibers for a national or an international market—goes on today. The family-tilled farm joins the guild among the casualties of the Industrial Revolution.

4. The stimulation, application, and diffusion of science. The primary encouragement was to practical research, but studies in pure science led to immense practical results; so abstract research too was financed, and science became the distinctive feature of modern, as religion had been of medieval, life.

5. The Industrial Revolution (and not Napoleon, as Pitt II expected) remade the map of the world by assuring for 150 years the British control of the seas and the most profitable colonies. It furthered imperialism by leading England—and, later, other industrial states—to conquer foreign areas which could provide raw materials, markets, or facilities for commerce or war. It compelled agricultural nations to industrialize and militarize themselves in order to obtain or maintain their freedom; and it created economic, political, or military interrelations that made independence imaginary and interdependence real.

6. It changed England in character and culture by multiplying its population, industrializing half of it, shifting it northward and westward to towns near deposits of coal or iron, or near waterways or the sea; so grew Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol … The Industrial Revolution transformed large expanses of England, and of other industrialized countries, into blotches of land fuming with factories, choking with gases and dust; and it deposited its human slag into reeking and hopeless slums.

7. It mechanized, extended, and depersonalized war, and vastly improved man’s ability to destroy or kill.

8. It compelled better and faster communication and transportation. Thereby it made possible greater industrial combinations, and the government of larger areas from one capital.

9. It generated democracy by raising the business class to predominant wealth, and, in gradual consequence, to political supremacy. To effect and protect this epochal shift of power, the new class enlisted the support of an increasing segment of the masses, confident that these could be kept in line by control of the means of information and indoctrination. Despite this control, the people of industrial states became the best-informed publics in modern history.

10. Since the developing Industrial Revolution required ever more education in workers and managers, the new class financed schools, libraries, and universities on a scale hardly dreamed of before. The aim was to train technical intelligence; the by-product was an unprecedented extension of secular intelligence.

11. The new economy spread goods and comforts among a far greater proportion of the population than any previous system, for it could sustain its ever-rising productivity only by ever-widening purchasing power in the people.

12. It sharpened the urban mind, but dulled the aesthetic sense; many cities became depressingly ugly, and at last art itself renounced the pursuit of beauty. The dethronement of the aristocracy removed a repository and court of standards and tastes, and lowered the level of literature and art.

13. The Industrial Revolution raised the importance and status of economics, and led to the economic interpretation of history. It habituated men to think in terms of physical cause and effect, and led to mechanistic theories in biology—the attempt to explain all the processes of life as mechanical operations.

14. These developments in science, and similar tendencies in philosophy, combined with urban conditions and expanding wealth to weaken religious belief.

15. The Industrial Revolution transformed morality. It did not change the nature of man, but it gave new powers and opportunities to old instincts primitively useful, socially troublesome. It emphasized the profit motive to a point where it seemed to encourage and intensify the natural selfishness of man. The unsocial instincts had been checked by parental authority, by moral instruction in the schools, and by religious indoctrination. The Industrial Revolution weakened all these checks. In the agricultural regime the family was the unit of economic production as well as of racial continuance and social order; it worked together on the land under the discipline of the parents and the seasons; it taught co-operation and molded character. Industrialism made the individual and the company the units of production; the parents and the family lost the economic basis of their authority and moral function. As child labor became unprofitable in the cities, children ceased to be economic assets; birth control spread, most among the more intelligent, least among the less, with unexpected results to ethnic relations and theocratic power. As family limitation, and mechanical devices, freed woman from maternal cares and domestic chores, she was drawn into factories and offices; emancipation was industrialization. As the sons took longer to reach economic self-support, the lengthened interval between biological and economic maturity made premarital continence more difficult, and broke down the moral code that early economic maturity, early marriage, and religious sanctions had made possible on the farm. Industrial societies found themselves drifting in an amoral interregnum between a moral code that was dying and a new one still unformed.

The Industrial Revolution is still proceeding, and it is beyond the capacity of one mind to comprehend it in all its facets, or to pass moral judgment upon its results. It has begotten new quantities and varieties of crime, and it has inspired scientists with all the heroic dedication of missionaries and nuns. It has produced ugly buildings, dismal streets, and squalid slums, but these were not derived from its essence, which is to replace human labor with mechanical power. It is already attacking its own evils, for it has found that slums cost more than education, and that the reduction of poverty enriches the rich. Functional architecture and mechanical excellence—as in a bridgecan produce a beauty that mates science with art. Beauty becomes profitable, and industrial design takes its place among the arts and embellishments of life.

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