The second industrial revolution or industrialization after the civil war, is regarded as the period after the Civil War and Reconstruction era which was marked by great economic change fuelled by a shift from a predominantly agrarian society to and industrial one. The change was fuelled by various elements including the increase in immigrant labor, abundant resources and markets for produced goods as well as availability of investment capital, among others. Fundamentally, industrialization after the Civil War had positive and negative influences on American society, the economy and politics but was quite instrumental in enhancing subsequent social, economic and political development and progress that formed the foundation on which the United States became a mature nation and rising world power.
The Second Industrial Revolution: Three Major Aspects
The three major aspects defining the second industrial revolution include commerce and entrepreneurship, mechanization and mass production as well as urbanization. In relation to commerce and entrepreneurship, industrialization led to establishment of big businesses involving factories which were supported by market/consumer availability. Positively, this led to creation of great wealth for industrialists which however led to class divisions as benefits of industrialization were restricted to a few people through a capitalist, laissez fair economic system. Negatively, it also led to family unit breakdown as all working class family members sought work to make ends meet but also which spurred creation of labor unions, uprisings and changes in legislations (progressives/populists) (Piott, 2006). Mechanization changed farming into big business with new production techniques allowing enhanced efficiency and mass production which further created more wealth for industrialists (Wolfe, 2015). This led to replacement of traditionally skilled labourers who were forced to engage in unskilled labour where jobs were many. Related to this, the revolution also led to urbanization where self-sustaining rural communities evolved into urban centers and cities as more people migrated from rural areas to cities in search of greener pastures (Wolfe, 2015). However, this subjected a lot of people to problems like diseases and crime due to overcrowding while the need for greater wealth led to displacement and death of natives.
The Second Industrial Revolution: Effects on Specific Groups
Women and children are two specific groups that were greatly affected by industrialization especially since they were preferred for employment because the landowners paid them less compared to men (Flaxner, 1959). This is alongside working in harsh working environmental conditions due to overcrowded and unsafe factories while being subjected to beatings as a way to control them (Wolfe, 2015). For women however, it enabled them to gain some independence from traditional male-dominated family structure by supporting themselves and their families. For underage children who were readily employed in factories and mines especially for chores that suited their unique characteristics (small bearing), they were exposed to dangerous toxins, gained little or no education, became maladjusted or stunted while infant mortality increased. However, this fate was not the same for the children of the elite and middle classes who flourished through education and provision of a good life that lacked hardships. The harsh working conditions were also subjected to immigrants such as the Irish, Italians and the Germans, rural skilled workers and dwellers as well as African Americans, who represent other groups that were affected by industrialization, alongside low wages (Zolberg, 2006). In the case of African Americans, harsh treatment was worse as they not only did not have any resources but also faced greater prejudice and discrimination in the workplace and society in general (Lieberson, 1980; Healey, 2007). The rural skilled workers and dwellers, like the natives, were displaced to make room for factories. They were forced to search for employment, which was increasingly being sourced to machines and therefore had to seek cheap unskilled work where labour itself became commoditized.
The Second Industrial Revolution: Effects on Average Working Americans
Since the benefits of industrialization were restricted to a few landowners and industrialists, the average working American had to accept the available low wage work in industries despite having varied craft skills which unfortunately could not be applied in the new workplace. This essentially led to a loss of status and pride in work especially since unskilled work was accompanied by harsh working conditions, replacement by machines and boring, tedious work. The replacement by machines was occasioned by development of large machineries which allowed for automated mass production even though this created new jobs for these people to work with machinery. Considering that the owners sought to maximize returns under a capitalist, laissez faire economic regime, the lack of resources for the average working American meant that all members of the family had to contribute by working for wages. This led to break-up of family unit as class divisions further subjugated them and forced the family members including children to such for work in different areas, hence less time for bonding as families. In addition, they were generally underpaid, worked long hours in unsafe working conditions and with few economic benefits (wealth to few industrialists) and were subjected to crime and diseases due to overcrowding in cities where the jobs were found (Wolfe, 2015). Nonetheless, the overproduction of goods basically led to accessible and affordable commodities for the average working American which served to improve their living standards (Wolfe, 2015).
The establishment of big businesses, increases in wealth and the rise of labor unions and change to legislations, among others depict positive influences and outcomes of the second industrial revolution. However, starving women and children working in harsh working conditions as well as other groups like immigrants and African Americans who faced prejudice and discrimination atop other forms of mistreatment highlight some of numerous negative influences and outcomes of the revolution. Nonetheless, these influences and outcomes engendered an environment of growth and progress such as changes in legislations (through labor unions) and new production methods (US as an agricultural/manufacturing behemoth), among other elements, through which the US matured with time and rose to become a world power. This means that though the second industrial revolution had positive and numerous negative influences on American society, the economy and politics, it was also quite instrumental in enhancing subsequent social, economic and political development and progress that formed the foundation on which the United States became a mature nation and rising world power.
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