What was the impact of industrialization on late- 19th century institutions?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that late 19th Century social institutions were profoundly impacted by industrialization.  The process of moving the nations from one of farms to factories had made Industrialization impact nearly every element of daily life in America.  No institution was really "safe" from it as it became a transformative agent of social, economic, and cultural life.  Consider Howard Zinn's perspective on this:

Control in modern times requires more than force, more than law. It requires that a population dangerously concentrated in cities and factories, whose lives are filled with cause for rebellion, be taught that all is right as it is. And so, the schools, the churches, the popular literature taught that to be rich was a sign of superiority, to be poor a sign of personal failure, and that the only way upward for a poor person was to climb into the ranks of the rich by extraordinary effort and extraordinary luck.

Industrialization ends up impacting social institutions such as churches and schools by teaching the idea that being rich and possessing wealth was an intrinsic good.  Schools were organized in a manner where control of the teacher was not questioned, helping to reaffirm the Industrialist power structure.  Instruction was predicated upon grasping rudimentary concepts, segmented from a larger aim of questioning social and economic reality.  The concentration of population into cities made it easier for the religious authority to stress the idea of hard work and dedication to one's economic labor will result in afterlife benefits.  The notion of being wealthy, participating in a game that was heavily stacked against the middle class or the factory worker, was seen as something "blessed" or inherently good.  There was little questioning of the structure, ensuring that the Industrialists claims were not doubted and received in the highest of lights.  The institutions of schools and churches were just two of many institutions that reflected such a Industrialist reality.


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