Was the Industrial Revolution responsible for working class movements?? If so, how?

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sbolton14's profile pic

sbolton14 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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Yes, the Industrial Revolution was responsible for working class movements. During the time of the Industrial Revolution, there was a great gap between the rich and the poor. As increased technology and industry changed the cultural landscape, the working classes were forced to move from the fields to the factories.

The rich who owned the factories were united in that they only provided terrible wages, giving the working classes no options but to either work in terrible conditions for little pay or to not work at all and get no pay. 

What also sets this time period apart is that by this time, there were middle-class social activists who recognized and wrote about the injustices afforded the lower classes. Also, some of the working class could even read what was being written. This compelled workers to unite, form unions, strike, and fight back. 

As with many events in history, "things have to get a lot worse before they get better." The Industrial Revolution was the thing that made it a lot worse and stimulated the working class movements that started to make it better. 

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

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The Industrial Revolution was responsible for working class movements. These movements came about as a response to wealth inequalities, the byproduct of industrialization.

The Industrial Revolution was rooted in capitalism.  As an economic system, capitalism is defined by its inherent wealth inequalities. The capitalist system had people who were very wealthy and people who are not.  The Industrial Revolution created wealthy people.  However, it also established more poor people who experienced human misery.  They were workers who toiled in factories did so for little in way of compensation for long hours and through hazardous conditions.

The Industrial Revolution created a system where the very rich held power over the very poor.  Philosopher Friedrich Engels, who would later collaborate with Karl Marx in The Communist Manifesto, wrote that such wealth inequalities carried negative consequences: "The very turmoil of the streets... has something repulsive, something against which human nature rebels." This implication of rebellion helps explain why working class movements took place as a result of the Industrial Revolution.  Thinkers like Marx and Engels were instrumental in raising consciousness about how workers' rights and empowerment needed to be addressed.  Working class movements were rooted in the abuses of the industrialization and capitalism. 

As the Industrial Revolution increased hardship for many in its pursuit of economic growth, working class movements grew.

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