How did the Industrial Revolution change the way Americans worked?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The Industrial Revolution, and the Market Revolution that accompanied its first wave in the United States, fundamentally changed society and the economic structures of the United States.  For many people, industrialization meant the decline of the master-apprentice system in various crafts. Rather than being built from scratch by skilled craftsmen who trained in their craft from childhood, manufactured goods were put together using machinery crowded under a single roof and manned by unskilled workers, or the very same craftsmen forced to accept lower-paying unskilled jobs. Similarly, textiles, formerly produced in the home by weavers, were produced on mechanized looms.

All of this ushered in a fundamental shift in what historian E.P. Thompson has called "work time."  In short, production shifted from homes and small shops, where work was typically done by task and on the worker's own timeframe, to a far more disciplined setting, where work was done on management's time, and workers' behavior and productivity was carefully monitored. Even as production boomed, workers were paid for their time, not for the work they did.


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