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The Working Class

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The Working Class

The Industrial Revolution consisted of scientific innovations, a vast increase in industrial production, and a rapid growth of urban populations which consequently shaped a new social structure in the European continent. Initially in the late eighteenth century, the new industrialization period produced dominant bourgeoisie employers and a united men, women, and children workers. The continued increase of factories coupled with a need for employees made the Proletariats within a short period of time a large, underprivileged, hungry, and desperate for money. Meanwhile, their bourgeoisie employers grew authoritative and wealthy as production and profit soared. Despite the common ties between proletariat workers upon the outbreak of the revolution, by the later half of the nineteenth century, these once-unified workers had branched into distinctly different classes based on their skill level, while the working spheres of men and women grew increasingly isolated from one another.

The Industrial Revolution’s foundation began with many new technical inventions that widened the need for industrial workers. Hargreave’s spinning jenny and Arkwright’s water frame both allowed inexperienced workers to spin yarn much faster than talented cottage weavers. Thus, these developments not only assisted the manufacture of cotton goods by making the process much quicker, but they also began the cultivation of a new class of factory workers. For the first time, men, women, and children united in a single working space with complicated machinery to work for middle-class employers. Critics defined this new class of workers as being made up of “part-humans: soulless depersonalized, disembodied, who could become members, or little wheels rather of a complex mechanism” who yielded to their boss’s every demand (Pollard 1). Once-skilled artisans and craftsmen were often subject to working routine processes as machines began to mass produce the goods formerly made by hand. This change in labor had a devastating impact on accomplished workers; they were no longer any different than their unskilled counterparts, women, and children in the eyes of factory owners.

Due to the noticeable difference between Proletariats and the Bourgeoisie, social relations came to be excessively discussed across the European continent. Many people adhered to the idea that individuals were members of economically determined classes with set interests because it explained the great difference between the Proletariats and the Bourgeois. Thus, it was believed that conflicting classes existed because individuals developed an appropriate sense of class-consciousness (Buckler 740). This consciousness is very obvious when looking at the mindset of the middle-class owners. They were primarily focused on production and gave little thought to the environment of their workers. As a result, most early factories contained extremely unpleasant work conditions. Mills and factories were dangerously loud, and they were sweltering hot in the summer while poorly heated in the winter. Work days consisted of endlessly long hours and holidays were rarely granted. Furthermore, no laws or unions stood protecting the early urban proletariat workers. Despite these horrid conditions, the proletariat workers were desperate for jobs and were entirely dependent

on their employers. Also, because of class-consciousness, they came to accept their positions in society as grueling factory workers. On top of terrible work conditions, the Proletariats’ living conditions were less than satisfactory due to the rapid population increase in urban cities. Until the Industrial Revolution, most of the continent’s population was rural. However, by mid-nineteenth century, half of all Europeans lived in cities and worked in the new industrial factories instead of farms. This transformation of Europe from a rural to urbanized society depressed the living standards of workers to horrendous levels. In doing so, however, it paved the way for reform.

As manufacturers continued to place high demands on their workers, public opinion about such awful working conditions came to a forefront. Karl Marx, a profound socialist of the industrialization era, stated in his world-renown Communist Manifesto that, “Differences of age and sex have no longer any distinctive social validity for the working class. All are instruments of labor, more or less expensive to use, according to their age and sex” (Marx 4). Marx believed that this rapid period of industrialization would essentially cause society to split into “two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat” (Marx 2). Although this Marx was initially correct, contrary to what he had envisaged, European society split into more than just two separate social classes. The urban working class found it difficult to remain united with

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