Was the Industrial Revolution necessary for the transformation of mankind?

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kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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The Industrial Revolution was absolutely essential for the "transformation" of mankind.  Whether it was absolutely essential for the survival of mankind or for progression of human evolution, however, is a different matter.  

The use of the word "transformation" simplifies the matter considerably.  The transition from agrarian societies providing subsistence economies for millions of people supporting a small upper class to industrialized societies providing for the mass production of goods and their transporation across great distances in a fraction of the time previously experienced catapulted mankind from one level of existence to another.  As one historian put it, the Industrial Revolution "is appropriately labeled 'revolution' for it thoroughly destroyed the old manner of doing things." [Joseph A. Montagna, "The Industrial Revolution," Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute]

The Industrial Revolution fundamentally changed the way virtually every aspect of life occurs.  It made possible the development of the agricultural industry that feeds the world, and the assembly line manufacturing processes that churn out goods like automobiles at an astonishing pace.  In the process, it provided more jobs and higher wages for the overwhelming majority of people.  Without the Industrial Revolution, European and North American societies would not have experienced the levels of economic growth and social transformation that occurred from the 18th through the 20th Centuries.  The development of manufacturing processes, agricultural industries, transportation systems, and, ultimately, information technologies were all essential for the transformation of mankind.

That transformation, however, came with a price.  Environmental degradation, in particular, has been a direct result of the Industrial Revolution, and to the extent that degradation adversely effects mankind, then it is fair, if unrealistic, to ask whether the revolution was "justified."  All the same, the Industrial Revolution, despite its title, courtesy of Friederich Engels, has to be considered a natural part of human evolution.  The invention of the wheel was not part of the Industrial Revolution, but it was certainly an important precursor.