What effect did the shift in economic system (from a largely agrarian society to an industrial society) have on workers and their families?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

When society shifted from being largely agrarian to largely industrialized, workers and their families generally lost autonomy and some degree of solidarity.  Workers no longer had control over when and how they worked.  In addition, they no longer worked at home with their families.

In an agrarian society, farmers are generally somewhat autonomous.  Of course, their work is dictated by the seasons and the needs of their crops.  However, they have some degree of control over when they work.  If they want to work particularly hard one morning and then go fishing in the afternoon, they can often do so.  They are, within limits, their own bosses.  When society becomes industrialized and farmers become workers, they lose this autonomy.  Factory workers have to work when they are told to work.  They have to work as hard as they are told to work.  They have no choice in these matters.  There is certainly no room to take an afternoon off to go fishing.  Either they comply or they lose their jobs.  Thus, workers lost a great deal of autonomy when industrialization came.

In the agrarian society, farmers worked at home with their families.  Their entire family helped in the work and everyone was economically important.  After industrialization, this changed.  Now, work happened away from home.  Families no longer got to work together.  Women and children might not have the ability to help the family economically.  These facts would have weakened the solidarity of the family because they no longer spent as much time working together and they no longer had the feeling that they all contributed to the family’s economy.

In these ways, the change from agrarian life to industrial life was rather difficult for workers and their families.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial