Shift From Agrarian to Industrial Society a Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

shift from agrarian to industrial society a simple substitution of one form of economic behavior for another, hanging up the hat of the farmer to put on the hat of the factory worker. But there was in fact a substantial shift in nearly everything about daily life for those generations caught up in the transition from rural to urban worlds. The most obvious change was in the relationship between people and the land itself. No longer were people defined by their place of birth, by where they had always lived. They were defined - by others as well as themselves - by a series of portable skills.

The magnitude of this change is difficult for those of us who have grown up in a world in which mobility is the norm. But it must have been for those living at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution a shattering (as well as liberating) discovery: For the first time in millennia, since humans has given up the freedom of pastoralism for the greater security and wealth of agriculture people began to sever ancient connections, as Marx describes.

This shift was advantageous for some, disadvantageous for many, for the choice to stay and farm or go to the city was often that of landlords rather than poor workers. The overall effect of industrialization was an increase in wealth and in leisure for a growing percentage of people. In other words, the rise of a middle class was based on the increased wealth that industrialization produced. This was perhaps of some comfort to the poorest members of society in that they might believe that they too some day might become middle class.

As the majority of workers ceased to be defined by a particular position on the earth's surface and more and more on portable skills, at the same time they had to reevaluate what skills were important and valuable in this new world. Industrialization is, at its heart, the substitution of machines to perform the labor that once humans and other animals performed, and this shift in a dependence on the power of steam and coal rather than muscles required a fundamental reevaluation of the purpose of human labor.

Another fundamental change that occurred as societies industrialized was the separation of the family and the workplace. Farmers do not need to worry about who is caring for their children, for all members of the family live at their workplace. Once workers had to go somewhere away from home to perform their work (a necessity for factory work because the needed machines were too large for homes and too expensive to make or purchase for each worker), the sphere of men and women became dramatically more separate than it had been.

Just at the point at which machines were doing much of the heavy work and men should therefore have lost the social superiority that they held because of their ability to perform feats of strength, married women were mostly banned from the workplace. They would stay at home with children, far away from the family ties and feudal obligations that in the country had provided a network of support for raising families. The day-to-day help that family members could provide was lost. Women - without their own gardens or friends or families nearby - had to depend entirely upon their husbands. They would, as a direct result of this, soon begin to agitate for greater legal rights.

Agrarian life - Industrialized Life

Work/family life merged - Work separate


Connection to land key - Portable skills most important

Women and men - Women primarily at home work in same sphere Men in workplace

Tied to long-standing - Greater freedom,

Fewer safety nets community

Suicide in America and Europe

Emile Durkheim's model of suicide, as described in "Social Order and Control Via Close Social Ties: The Example of Suicide" is one of the foundations of modern sociological theory. In this paper, he demonstrated how even the most seemingly private, existential act of taking one's own life is in fact affected by the kind of society we live in.

Durkheim argued that society is not simply the sum of its parts and nothing more. Rather, he argued that the relationships between and among people in a society produce what he called "social facts," and that these "social facts" must be considered to be valid - to be "real" - when trying to understand the nature of society. These social facts create the integrated whole of a society that also must be seen to have a life of its own. We each interact not only with each other but with society as a whole; we each have a part to play in the greater drama (and structure) of society.

This view of society is referred to as a "functionalist" view of society because each element (including each individual person as well as every social fact) has a function, and they come together to produce a society that is reasonably able to maintain itself.

We should note at this point that Durkheim was not arguing that we are simply automatons: He certainly believed that every individual is unique and that we each possess a unique set of dreams and a unique set of skills for attempting to achieve those dreams.

Nevertheless - and this is the essential and undeniable point for Durkheim - that uniqueness that we each possess as individuals can never be considered apart from society. In fact, he might well argue that it does not exist except as a sort of reflection of society. For Durkheim, there is nothing at all that that is truly private, there exists nothing at all that is not influenced by the groups of which we are each a part.

This means that when a society fails to function as well as it might (for functionalists are certainly not so naive as to imagine that all societies function perfectly smoothly, like one of those physics problems in which friction can be dismissed with an airy wave of the hand), these failures have a significant impact on the individual.

But society cannot disintegrate without the individual simultaneously detaching himself from social life, without his own goals becoming preponderant over those of the community, in a word, without his personality tending to surmount the collective personality. The more weakened the groups to which he belongs, the less he depends upon them, the more consequently he depends only on himself and recognized no other rules of conduct than what are founded on his private interests.

Durkheim argues - and backs up this argument with his statistics on rates of suicide in various countries - that societies in which people are tightly integrated into the collective ethos are those that are most functional both for the continuation of the society and for the individuals. In those societies in which people are only loosely connected to each other (such as in the United States today with its high levels of divorce), suicide rates rise.

1. Divorce rises - People become disconnected from each other and society

2. Feelings of anomie rise - divorce rates rise

3. Divorce rates rise further - anomie is more common

4. Anomie is more common - suicide rates rise

5. Suicide rates rise - anomie rises, divorce rises

6. Divorce and anomie rise - suicide rises... In a continuing cycle

Managerial Power

Unless we ourselves have terrible bosses, most of us probably don't spend very much time thinking about the nature of managers. They are simply there, a part of the workplace landscape.

But if we pause to think about the way in which work is structured, it should become quite clear to us that managers have not always been with us. Neolithic people out gathering seeds and roots did not have managers: They worked together essentially as equals, with children having less say than parents and those who worked harder or who were more skillful probably having more say. The idea that the workplace should include a class of managers separate from other kinds of workers is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Durkheim was one of the scholars who made important contributions to our understanding of the ways in which managers work, for he believed that the work place was an ideal venue for him to study the relationship of group to individual. (More specifically, Durkheim believed that the workplace was an ideal setting in which to study the concept of anomie and how it is linked to what we do in the course of our daily lives.) Durkheim's 1893 doctoral thesis focused on this issue: Titled De la division du travail social (or The Division of Labor in Society) the work looks at how people tend to be isolated from each other at work.

Durkheim saw those social fractures that exist in the workplace as resulting in largest measure from the fact that the workplace in most important ways reflects the larger social world in which…

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