The Market Revolution, Industrialization, and New Technologies

Start Free Trial

What were the pros and cons of the industrial revolution?

Quick answer:

Some advantages of the Industrial Revolution are that it enabled the production of goods on a scale that was unprecedented in human history, that it elevated many people's standard of living, and that it expanded the economies of many nations. Some disadvantages are that it ushered in the modern era of greenhouse gas pollution and climate change, that it forced some people into exploitative labor conditions, and that it led to overcrowded conditions in many cities.

Expert Answers

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

To answer this question, we first need to establish what the industrial revolution was. In a nutshell, this was the period in the latter half of the 1700s and the first half of the 1800s in which manufacturing processes started being carried out by machine rather than by hand. This came with numerous advantages and disadvantages.

The first obvious advantage was the unprecedented scale of operations that became possible. Using machines made it possible to make things far more quickly, and this in turn meant that many things became much cheaper and more accessible.

The industrial revolution also led to the creation of many things that we take for granted today. For example, the telegraph (predecessor to the telephone) became a reality at this time, as did rapid advances in the field of medicine, with items like scalpels and test tubes able to be produced in bulk far more quickly than before.

On the flip side, I will mention three "cons" associated with the Industrial Revolution. For starters, there was massive overcrowding in the cities, which the infrastructure in urban areas was ill-equipped to handle. This led to the spread of numerous diseases.

The second disadvantage of the Industrial revolution is that it caused the start of widespread pollution and environmental devastation. Industrialization led to fossil fuels being used, and air and water pollution quickly reached unprecedented highs.

The final disadvantage that I will mention relates to the exploitation of workers. Once the industrial revolution got going, profits were seen as far more important than people. Working hours were often ludicrous, and men were unfairly paid more than women. Child exploitation was also common, and safety protocols were virtually non-existent.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There were advantages and disadvantages of the Industrial Revolution. One advantage was that it allowed for more products to be made. Since these products were made by machine, they were made much faster than in the past. This helped our economy grow. These products were usually less expensive than custom-made products. Another advantage is that some of the products that were developed helped to make life easier for people. This gave people more free time. It also became easier for people and for products to move from place to place. The development of the steam engine helped this occur.

There were disadvantages of the Industrial Revolution. Businesses grew really fast, and much of this growth was unregulated. Working conditions were very poor. People worked in unsafe and in unhealthy environments. Hours were long, and pay was low. There was very little workers could do to change these conditions. The Industrial Revolution also saw an increase in pollution. The air became more polluted as more factories were built. Many people came to the cities for the jobs that were available. This led to overcrowding in the cities. Many city governments struggled to deal successfully with this increased growth.

There were advantages and disadvantages to the Industrial Revolution.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A few other advantages and disadvantages might be worthy of mention here. 

First, implicit within the answer above, the idea of productivity came into its own in the Industrial Revolution, which was a two-edged sword, I think. While making nations more productive than ever before, providing more and more cheaper goods to people, leading naturally to the assembly line that Ford pioneered, it also created appalling working conditions for people just in terms of time spent on the job and expectations of productivity. The invention of electricity exacerbated this, making it possible for people to work even longer hours, indeed, around the clock. As we all know now, this is simply not good for anyone. I also think this drive for productivity led to the creation of unions, which some judge a good thing and other not. 

Second, from an environmental perspective, the Industrial Revolution was a disaster, with a direct line from that era to today's era of global warming.  The use of fossil fuels increased exponentially during this time, with no awareness of the consequences for our health or for our planet.  And in fact, right now, as we speak, other nations are experiencing their own Industrial Revolutions, increasing their use of fossil fuels, further contributing to climate change problems.  We, of course, were able to have this revolution without guilt, since we did not know any better, and now that we have reaped the benefits of it, it seems unreasonable to deny these benefits to other nations, an interesting environmental quandary. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The major advantage of the Industrial Revolution was that it was the beginning of a wave of new material goods that could be used to improve people’s lives.  Early in the Industrial Revolution, for example, cloth came to be made much more cheaply than it had been before.  This helped people’s lives because it allowed them to have more clothes than they could previously afford (at a time when people did not often have very much clothing).  The Industrial Revolution later brought about many more kinds of goods as well.

The major disadvantages were largely social.  The Industrial Revolution brought huge numbers of people out of the countryside and into big cities to work in factories.  Their jobs were often dangerous and did not pay much.  They lived in very poor housing conditions.  The cities were very dirty and dangerous, both in terms of health hazards and in terms of crime.  People were often disconnected from the extended families who had previously helped them with their lives.

Thus, the Industrial Revolution was good in that it brought material benefits, but it was very hard on many people whose lives were changed by it. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial