2.b.15 – What are the main consequences of the industrial revolution?

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February 2, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

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What are the main consequences of the industrial revolution?

The emergence and spread of the model of production in series (or industrial) caused deep economic, social, technical and scientific changes, some exceptionally positive, some tragically negative:
– series production led to lower production costs and therefore, to an equal sale price of the product, a very high profit was obtained by the industrial entrepreneur; industry proved to be a highly profitable activity and soon a fierce competition developed;
– one of the strategies adopted to defeat the competition was to lower the cost of the product; those who adopted this strategy, not only survived the competition, but triggered a virtuous circle in which the price fell, increasing the number of clients who could afford to buy; the turnover increased, profits for the same number of workers increased, the possibility of still reducing costs increased. Selling to the masses as well as to the rich became a very good business;
– to lower the costs, a portion of the profit could be waived on each item sold, it could be reduced the wages of the workers, it could be decrease the number of workers, buying more modern machines and the market and production could be broadened without increasing the fixed costs; all these techniques were adopted with mathematical precision and efficiency;
– the general lowering of prices on industrial products made them accessible to large masses of the population that previously were not able to buy them, increasing then the purchasing power and average wealth for large sections of the population;
– fierce competition in industrial production quickly took the place of craft production in many sectors such as textiles and metallurgy. The craftsmen, remained without work, had to be converted into low-cost laborers;
– to reduce the cost of the product is sought to reduce the maximum salary of workers to reach the minimum necessary for survival, condemning them to an extreme poverty, while the rest of the world was becoming richer thanks to them;
– large profits allowed big investments, especially in buying large industrial machinery, designed to have an increasingly high efficiency and require a small number of expensive workers; therefore, in time workers passed from poverty to unemployment and extreme poverty;
– investing in machines proved to be very beneficial to industrial entrepreneurs, but for engineers and scientists as well, who saw their profits and their prestige increased. The result was a scientific and technological development never had before: sometimes, after only few years, the machines appeared to have become obsolete, especially those utilizing the steam power, that gave a great contribution to industrial production; various branches of the science, having industrial applications such as chemistry, mechanics, thermodynamics (for steam engines and then motors) developed, but also sectors not directly involved could take advantage of this moment of grace enjoyed by sciences such as medicine, biology and electrotechnique.

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