Briefly summarize major ideas that appeared during the Industrial Revolution.
One major idea that appeared, or at least flourished, during the Industrial Revolution was laissez-faire capitalism. Emerging during the early Industrial Revolution in Great Britain through the writings of political economists like Adam Smith, the idea was that governments could best manage business and industry within their borders by essentially leaving them alone. Smith was referring mostly to mercantilist attempts to protect business through tariffs and other means, but by the late nineteenth century, many theorists believed that the government ought to steer clear of any type of regulation of economic activity, including workplace safety regulations, anti-monopoly laws, and minimum wage legislation. Many business leaders did, however, advocate government assistance for business, including railroad subsidies.
Another major idea that appeared was Social Darwinism. Social Darwinists applied the theories of natural selection and survivial of the fittest used to explain the evolution of species in the natural world to human relations. They argued that the industrialists who had become wealthy due to the Industrial Revolution had become so because they were better suited than others to the cutthroat world of business. They also believed that the enormous poverty that was a consequence of industrialization was a result of the laziness and lack of moral fiber (the weakness, in other words) of the poor. Attempts to help the poor, they thought, would only encourage their weakness.
A third influential idea that emerged during the Industrial Revolution was the ideological concept of socialism. There were a wide range of socialists, ranging from Karl Marx's revolutionary socialism to the utopian socialism of Saint-Simon and Charles Fourier, but all socialists agreed that the Industrial Revolution had ushered in an ethos that was contrary to humanity. Most also believed that it created the opportunity by which people could cooperate instead of compete, and that society could be structured in a way that would allow all people to benefit from the wealth generated by industry. From the central strains of socialism came other theories, including anarchism and communism.
There were many other ideas that emerged in response to the Industrial Revolution, but these three perhaps stand out as the most significant.
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