Our society would not be where it is today without the industrial revolution. Because of the technologies produced by this era, we have everything from skyscrapers to computers to automobiles.
On the other hand, if the industrial revolution had never happened, we may not be facing the global warming crisis that seems to be knocking on our front door. Our oceans may not be as acidified and melting ice caps may not be a worry.
There are several industrial revolution pros and cons to consider. Here are some of the key thoughts to look at.
What Are the Pros of the Industrial Revolution?
1. It increased job opportunities.
The industrial revolution made it possible for more people to have jobs. Before this era, jobs were based on educational studies, family traditions, or a unique talent that someone had. When factories began to be built around the world, it allowed people to earn a living in a way that was very different in the past. It gave the average person an opportunity to change their stars. Numerous stories, from George Stephenson to Richard Arkwright, showed how one person could change the course of the world with these technologies.
2. It inspired innovation.
Great wealth was available within the industrial revolution. One example of this is the wealth that Andrew Carnegie developed in the steel industry, making him one of the richest people to have ever lived. His wealth was over $300 billion in today’s value. Because of the opportunities available to build wealth, many looked to create and innovate for their chance to take advantage of what the era offered.
3. Production levels increased.
Before the industrial revolution, many products were built or made by hand. This required a specific time investment by the creator, so mass production was virtually impossible. The industrial revolution changed that. Factories allowed for groups of people to be more productive than one person on their own. It allowed for better products to be made or improved services to be given. This allowed for communities to improve their quality of living over time because there was greater access to goods and services.
4. Competition was created.
Because multiple products could be made in any industry or sector, free market economies began to develop. Instead of consumers being reliant on a business or provider to give them what they needed, they could choose from a variety of products so they could best meet their own needs. The industrial revolution shifted power away from businesses and into the hands of consumers.
5. It improved processes in virtually any sector.
After the industrial revolution, buildings could be made better. Transportation no longer required a horse. Clothing could be more durable and wouldn’t need to be made at home. Food products became cheaper to produce. Almost every sector of commerce and industry improved during this period, making products and services better even if there wasn’t a direct influence on the industrial revolution.
6. It reduced the influences of borders.
Before the industrial revolution, trade and commerce were restricted to the national level at best. International trade was present, but difficult, because of the immense cost of transporting goods. The industrial revolution made transportation easier and cheaper, which allowed businesses to create an international presence for their brand. This allowed for communities to experience new goods or services while still enjoying local products.
What Are the Cons of the Industrial Revolution?
1. It changed the world from being a rural culture to an urban culture.
People flocked to the opportunities that were available thanks to the industrial revolution because even entry-level jobs were more valuable than agricultural work or family business opportunities. Many people moved out of their rural homes so they could be closer to the factories where they could get a “good” job. This made it difficult to access food products for close to a generation as societies struggled to adapt to the changes.
2. We still don’t know the effects of pollution on our planet.
According to NRDC, all but 1 of the 16 hottest years in the last 134 years of record-keeping have occurred since the year 2000. The industrial revolution is not the only source of atmospheric and global pollution, but it is a major contributor. The coal industry on its own generates 1.7 billion tons of carbon emissions every year. We do not know what the long-term consequences of this era will be.
3. Working conditions can be brutal.
Before unions were created and worker safety protections were mandated by national governments, businesses could focus on profit alone. The working conditions in many of the first factories during the industrial revolution were horrible. People would be forced to work long hours for low wages, have few breaks, and worked in close proximity with potentially hundreds or thousands of other workers. Disease, stress, and death were common in those early factories.
4. It wasn’t a global phenomenon.
Not every nation has experienced their own industrial revolution. Many of the poorest nations in the world today rely on the goods and services that are provided by industries outside their borders, which means what few resources they have go to products they need instead of building their own infrastructure. It has created a wealth gap between industrialized and non-industrialized nations that may never really be eliminated.
5. It requires natural resources.
Most of the processes developed during the industrial revolutions require fossil fuels to operate. Fossil fuels are finite by definition, which means one day they will eventually run out. Unless new technologies are developed to replace the complete reliance on fossil fuels that exists in some sectors, the developed world may one day revert to an undeveloped state and this will cause another societal shift – from urban to rural.
6. Local jobs got poached.
Because profits were the primary concern of businesses during the industrial revolution, it created a race to the bottom in terms of worker wages. Businesses could hire the workers that would work for the lowest amount. This meant local jobs could get poached by foreign workers who were willing to work for much lower wages. This poaching process also limited the need for individual craftsmanship and skill, so people began to conform to the needs of the business instead of embracing their individuality.
The industrial revolution pros and cons are a struggle.
On one side, we have the fact that our society wouldn’t be where it is today without it. On the other side, our society may not be able to continue to exist because of it. Only one thing is for certain: we must continue to focus on innovation without compromising safety or value. If we can do this, then we can continue to enjoy the benefits that the industrial revolution has provided.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.