Standard of Living Industrial Revolu Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Additionally, another class emerged, as a result of the industrial revolution and this was the industry wealth class, that to some degree replaced the aristocratic classes in old school societies, and especially those in Europe. These upwardly mobile individuals though they were few in number had a very large impact on social and economic change in all areas.

Wage Economy/Family Economy/Means of Production:

The emerging wage economy has had a serious impact on the standard of living of many people, during and after the industrial revolution. Changing from a barter system in combination with limited cash availability, a system than existed prior to the industrial revolution to one where the majority of workers are subject to the will of another has been a substantial change.

A two forces have had the greatest impact on the lives of ordinary people, the growth of capitalism and the extension of state power....Capitalism is an economic system based on non-coercive wage-labour....merchants practised capitalism every bit as much as factory owners did, and much earlier. Indeed,... The transforming capacity of commercial capitalism

Also the concept of proletarianization... 'a set of processes that increase the number of people who lack control over the mean of production and who survive by selling labor power'. 3...the growth of capitalism and of the state increased the portion of the population which had lost control over the means of production (their own land, looms, tools, etc.) and which had to work for wages.

Earning wages, and working under the constraints of another's schedule, in dependence or by choice is a standard of living change that transformed the home and family, as well as in later times increased the demand for goods to replace those not created or earned by other means in more traditional systems.

In a recent paper Horrell (1996) has employed household budget studies to test whether an increase in home demand between 1801 and 1841 indeed did take place at all. She finds indeed an increase in aggregate demand, but that many of the changes associated with the Industrial Revolution such as increased urbanization and a declining subsistence sector led to a retrenchment of working-class demand into the products of traditional industries and reducing demand for the new industries. The increase in middle class demand was far more substantial and clearly created large markets for the new products. Yet, as Horrell concedes, this is not at all tantamount to a demonstration that such an increase in spending on nonessential items fed back into the processes that produced the increase in income. In a growing economy somebody has to earn and spend the increased incomes.

In the early years of industrialization the switch was evident in every member of the family, including the wage earning of women and children. To some degree it is debatable as to whether the release of control of the means of production is an increase or a decrease in standard of living. This depends almost entirely on mitigating factors, such as work conditions, hours of work, real wage earned, and amenities offered by employer and living conditions that a family is willing and able to provide for itself, but there is no question that the switch from control of the means of production to wage earning is a substantial one.

One issue that is particularly important, on determining the impact of such changes is health. Some historians and economists see nutritional health, and the outcomes of it are essential to a complete understanding of the separation of families and individuals from the means of production. One research in fact names height or averages of height as a marker of overall health, as periods of high ore depraved nutrition, especially while very young can seriously influence the eventual height of an individual. "Although genes are important determinants of individual height, studies of genetically similar and dissimilar populations under various environmental conditions suggest that differences in average height across most populations are largely attributable to environmental factors." Some researchers call to mind the stature of those who lived during the industrial revolution, and the fact that their average size was less than in later times is a determinant that adequately explains standards of living during the time. This is even true of the urban vs. rural populations. "Unlike typical economic indicators, average height also reflects the degree of inequality."


The standards of living associated with the industrial revolution, cannot come to the modern researcher as a clear concise indicator of personal or family upward mobility or growth as there are many mitigating factors, as has been shown in the previous passages. Though in general it is agreed that the standard of living has seriously improved since the industrial revolution it is relatively bad, in many ways for those who directly participate in the extreme changes that create such an extreme economic shift in society. Trough a brief historical timeline, an assessment of the level of urbanization, by taking a look at class emergence in the wake of the industrial revolution, an assessment of the wage economy transition, an analysis of the nature and structure of the family economy, and lastly by looking at the movement of the means of production as it applies to standard of living have given the rather demonstrative effect of the truth that the industrial revolution changed the standards of living for many, and the level it either increased or decreased is almost exclusively dependant on the many environmental factors noted here. For some people the opportunity which was afforded by the industrial revolution increased the standard of living exponentially, while for the majority of those who participated the gains were seen not in their own family, but in the families of their children and grandchildren. The human equation of the industrial revolution, is therefore not a clear cut one but in fact is a multi-faceted demonstration of the power that where and how you work, where and how you live are essential to perception and reality of increased, stagnant or depressed standards of living in any wave of an industrial revolution.

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