What happened during the industrial revolution

The age of industry

The industrial revolution changed the countries in which it took place: mining and industrial areas plagued by smoke and dirt shaped entire regions, cities grew and traffic arteries crisscrossed the country. The widening gap between wealthy citizens and poor workers brought the social question to the agenda, a labor movement tamed industrial capitalism in the countries of the West. It also shaped large parts of the rest of the world and widened the gap between rich and poor, but also brought tremendous material wealth. Cities became more and more attractive: today more than half of humanity lives in cities, many of them in megacities with over 10 million inhabitants.

Industrial work in a rolling mill (oil painting by Adolph Menzel, created 1872 to 1875): The working conditions in the early days of industrialization were often catastrophic. Fig. From >> wikipedia (accessed August 30, 2011), public domain.

At the end of the agricultural age, just 3 percent of humanity lived in cities; the largest cities in 1800 were London, Edo (today's Tokyo), Beijing and Canton; in Germany over 90 percent of the population lived in places with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants, in the 18 “large cities” with more than 20,000 inhabitants lived less than a million people. City dwellers benefited first and most of all from industrialization, and with industrialization cities grew and new cities emerged: cotton cities like Lancashire, centers of mining and metalworking like Sheffield or Manchester, railroad cities like Swindon. Above all, the cities shaped by industrialization looked very different from the earlier trading cities; In 1803 the writer Johanna Schopenhauer described the city of Manchester, where, due to the many rivers, many hydropower-driven cotton mills had already been built in pre-industrial times and, thanks to the Bridgewater Canal, coal came to the city early: “Dark and smoked by coal fumes, someone sees it tremendously Forge or something else similar to a workshop ”, her English colleague Charles Dickens reported on“ dirt, darkness and misery ”. Industrialization went hand in hand with tremendous >> air pollution. In the course of time, everywhere in Europe, where one could and could drive machines with coal an iron and metalworking industry could develop - first in Belgium, in the Ruhr area and in northern France - the mining whole regions and industrialists emerged eviere. New canals and railway lines crisscrossed the country. In North America, the cities grew mainly with the wave of immigration from 1840, industrial cities such as Pittsburgh emerged; New York had a population of 800,000 in 1860.

The population of the cities differed more and more clearly, a dividing line arose between the rich bourgeoisie and the poor "proletariat" (as the wage-earning workers were now called after the Roman model) who lived in different neighborhoods. The workers, who had often only just escaped the serfdom or debt bondage of feudalism, were confronted with wage labor, especially in the factory industry and the mines: at first glance this was an advance compared to feudal forced labor, but like Karl Marx with his word of> > showed doubly free farmers, this progress was double-edged: the sheer hardship forced many of them into employment contracts that were no better than the forced labor before. Once an employment contract was concluded, freedom was over: The work in the factories that were divided into labor - at the rhythm and speed of the machines - required a completely different discipline than, for example, working from home before, supervision and execution of the work fell apart; and violations were punished with fines, threats of dismissal and even corporal punishment. The working hours were extremely long, 13 to 16 hours a day not uncommon. It is true that work in the factories was paid better than in agriculture, but in the newly emerging cities it was mainly speculators who built houses and rented apartments that made it; so expensive that the children also had to work - they were particularly popular in textile factories, where they had to clean the spinning machines, and in the mines, where they fit into the smallest tunnels. The early days of capitalism were also marked by hardship and misery in industrial cities (see >> The fight against infectious diseases).

The son of a factory owner from Wuppertal lived from 1842 to 1844 Friedrich Engels In Manchester for almost two years, working in his father's cotton mill and exploring the city in the evenings and on weekends. He later wrote the book “The Situation of the Working Class in England” about this, in which he not only reports on working hours of 12 to 14 hours a day, six days a week and unbearable hygienic conditions in the city, tuberculosis and typhus and scarlet fever were rampant, but also by a large number of mutilated people - machines were often cleaned during operation, injuries or deaths were not uncommon. He also gets to know the organizations that want to improve the situation of workers, like that of Robert Owen inspired socialists. (Robert Owen, head of a cotton mill, wanted to show as early as 1799 that profits can be made with decent working conditions: He reduced working hours to 10.5 hours a day and banned the employment of children under the age of 10 in his mill Owen's changes were a success - also because Owen made many inventions that his competitors could not implement so quickly. Owen's spinning mill became a model business that numerous politicians also visited.) On the return trip to Germany, Engels learned in Paris Karl Marx know, which he would later keep financially afloat for decades and thus enabled work on his main work “Das Kapital”, the second and third volumes of which Engels published from the estate after Marx ’death (see >> below).

The social question in the industrialized countries

The "social question" was to be understood from the beginning in at least two directions: One dealt with the sum of the changes that industrial society brought about compared to traditional ways of life, for example the displacement of community and social ties through market relations (but this concern was often also connected with the idea of ​​restoring a class society). The other focused on the conflicts between workers and employers, for example over the distribution of the profits generated (in the form of higher wages or shorter working hours). Of course, both were related: the change in the social order triggered by industrialization and increasing market orientation only had one free one Market for work (and thus the conflicts between employers and workers) created; and also one Land market: the common property of the villages was increasingly fenced in and made private property. Landowners who had become rich invested in industry, impoverished farmers were able to hire themselves out as workers there.

The privatization of the common goods

The fact that private property increased at the expense of common goods, as can be clearly seen in the case of land fencing, was already evident in the 17th century for the English philosopher John Locke Thoughtful: Since God gave the earth to all people, the individual should only take as much from nature as he needs for his maintenance and can acquire through work. Provided that "enough and just as good remains for the other." With increasing market orientation, these restrictions no longer applied; But observers recognized time and again that only a minority benefited from this transformation: This is what wrote, for example Thomas Paine, one of the founding fathers of the USA, in his book “Agrarian Justice” written in 1795/96 that the establishment of land ownership keeps the vast majority of people away from their natural heritage and the possibility of independent survival. Paine suggested that every citizen should receive compensation for lost natural rights rights (a one-time payment on their 21st birthday and a compensation of £ 10 annually from the age of 50 - so some see Paine as a forerunner of the later social security in the USA).

Even today, many critics (such as >> Peter Barnes) point out that the huge capital that was necessary for industrialization was mainly obtained through the appropriation (or “theft”) of common property - surprisingly, without most of the people would have even noticed this. The common goods were to play another important role in industrialization: Since industry could dump its exhaust gases, sewage and waste free of charge in the air, rivers and unused landscape - also all common goods - it did not have to pay anything to destroy them Costs have been neglected until today as “external effects” (>> here). For Barnes, the problems also have to do with the fact that the new private owners were increasingly no longer entrepreneurs, but corporations: While entrepreneurs at least have to take responsibility for their actions as a person, corporations serve nothing other than maximizing returns for shareholders and theirs Managers are only measured by it. They are legally obliged to their shareholders, but only a few major shareholders have real influence - and these are often investment funds, which are also only measured by their return. As always, when many are responsible, ultimately nobody takes responsibility.

Corporations also have vast amounts of money that they use not only for production, but also to gain political influence. So they finance a huge lobby industry. This political influence also ensures that regulations that restrict the free market in favor of the general public - such as the ban on emitting certain pollutants into the atmosphere - are often delayed or weakened (think, for example, of the resistance of the automotive industry to the introduction of lead-free Petrol, the catalytic converter or current versus lower consumption limits). Since, according to the laws of the market, profits are distributed on the basis of the shares held, money flows upwards - whoever already has it is given it. This is why corporations are getting bigger and more powerful: In the USA, the sales of the 500 largest companies comprised a third of the gross domestic product in 1955, and in 2004 it was already two thirds. Their influence is therefore becoming greater and greater.

The emergence of a labor movement

Even if "free" (wage) labor initially differed only gradually from forced labor, one thing had changed with it: the balance of power between employers and wage workers was unequal, but non-economic constraints had become less significant. The knowledge of the Enlightenment and the ideas of natural rights of all people continued to have an effect. The states tried to reforms to prevent the events of 1789 from happening again, for example in the British "Great Reform Act" the number of voters was increased from 400,000 to 650,000 (about one in five adult men). The workers could also defend themselves and - individually or collectively - fight for improvements. On the one hand, they banded together to support each other in the event of illness, for example, and on the other, they defended themselves against the conditions. One example is the Silesian weavers' revolt of 1844 (which, among other things, inspired Gerhard Hauptmann's drama “Die Weber”). Workers' associations had been established in Germany since the 1840s; in the United Kingdom, as early as 1829, the spinning workers had come together in a general union - the first trade union. Partly armed social unrest and general strikes, which were sometimes brutally suppressed, accompanied the early phase of industrialization. In 1848 both came together - the call for reforms in society and the dissatisfaction among the workers: when the French king forbade a reformist banquet, the "February Revolution" demonstrations followed, which was also followed by the army and the national guard. The wave spread across half of Europe, including riots in Berlin, Vienna, Budapest and Rome. When the Paris national workshops (where the unemployed were employed) were closed in June, there was another uprising. The middle class, however, was not ready to dare an open revolution: the army and the national guard now turned against the workers, and at least 3,000 people died. 15,000 workers were then banished to prison camps. The only achievement in France was the reintroduction of universal male suffrage, which was also demanded by the middle class. The other European uprisings were all suppressed. (The universal suffrage for men - one of the demands of 1848 - was introduced in the USA in 1870 and also applied in the German Empire from 1871, but only from the age of 25. It was the first country to also introduce the right to vote for women 1893 New Zealand, Finland (1907) and Norway (1913) led the way in Europe.)

Women's rights

At the end of the 19th century, women were only allowed to vote in New Zealand and South Australia, where women's suffrage was introduced in 1894. The fact that women had a completely different - worse - status than men in public life was a legacy of the conservative societies of the agricultural age. The woman was more or less the property of the man who was allowed to beat her in many countries (as long as he did not kill her in the process), her movable property also belonged to her husbands, including the money she might have earned. For a long time, divorces were nearly impossible (throughout England, from 1700 to 1857, when marriage became a secular contract, there was an average of two divorces a year).

Since 1833, the newly founded Oberlin College in the US state of Ohio was the first university to allow women to attend lectures, and since 1837 they have also been able to obtain degrees.In 1849 Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to graduate from Geneva Medical College in New York, and in Europe in 1867 a Russian woman successfully defended her doctoral thesis at the University of Zurich. In Germany, in 1880, the British Hope Bridges Adams was the first woman to complete her medical studies with a state examination in Leipzig, which was not recognized, so she did her doctorate in Bern and finally practiced in Germany with an Irish license (approbation). In England, women have also been able to graduate from universities since 1878 (University College London, but Cambridge University, for example, did not give degrees to women until 1948). In 1903 Marie Curie (>> A Brief History of Nuclear Power) was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize (and again in 1911 - she was the first person to receive a second Nobel Prize). (Incidentally: Marie Curie only went to Paris, where she carried out the Nobel Prize-winning work, because the University of Krakow did not accept women in her home country, Poland.)

Women benefited more from the introduction of compulsory schooling (in Prussia as early as 1717, but in the USA, for example, only after 1851 and in England not until 1880) more than from higher education, which rarely led to the recognition of women as equal members in the respective specialist circles was introduced): this generally applied to all children, and led women to learn to read and write as well as men, and in some countries such as Canada even better. The next advance came - completely unintentionally - with the First World War, the first "total war", which involved the resources of the whole nation in the war: the men were at the front, so the women were "allowed" to work in the ammunition factories. Many had a paid job for the first time and were allowed to travel without a male companion. Even if there were certainly one or two arguments when the men returned from the war (if they did return), these freedoms could not be reversed - after the First World War, women were given the right to vote in Germany, for example. (In the countries where this was not the case, it happened after the Second World War - for example in France, Italy or Japan.)

In the year of the uprisings of 1848, Marx and Engels also wrote “Communist manifesto"That predicted the collapse of the system with the revolution of the working class - the book became a world bestseller. Scientific claim Karl Marx’Major work published from 1867 >>“ Das Kapital ”: For Marx, the urge to shape nature was the characteristic of man; the work with it expression of the human being. With wage labor and the division of labor, people lose control over their work, and their true humanity is destroyed as a result. Since the social relationships between consuming and producing people are more static than the productive forces, i.e. the tools, machines and the knowledge and skills of the workers, the tensions would become so great that social conditions would be overturned. The class of wage workers is becoming ever more numerous and the capitalist class, which is becoming ever smaller through concentration processes, is deprived of power. Since the wage workers would get the means of production in their hands, the work would be self-determined and people would finally be able to realize themselves.

It should turn out differently. The labor movement grew stronger - in Saxony, for example, in 1863 with the "General German Workers 'Association", the first mass workers' party was founded; In 1864 the International Workers' Association was founded in London. In 1875 the General German Workers' Association merged with the "Social Democratic German Workers' Party" founded in Eisenach in 1869 to form the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany (which was established in 1890 in Social Democratic Labor Party of Germany, SPD, renamed). On the other hand, as predicted by Marx, the companies got bigger and bigger, but that didn't mean the capitalist class got smaller - it was expanded to include managers and executives (see >> below). The middle classes did not disappear, as Marx foresaw, but grew faster than the industrial workers. Qualified skilled workers also rose from this class to the middle classes.

In the 1870s / 1880s, the nation states had gained sufficient creative power to intervene in the economy and society. As a reaction to the >> Founders' Crash, which cast doubt on economically liberal ideas, and also out of fear of the growing social democratic movement - the Reich Chancellor Bismarck wanted to ban in Germany in 1878 with a "law against the publicly dangerous endeavors of social democracy" (socialist law) - the same passed Bismarck (as a carrot to the stick, so to speak) in Germany one Social legislation: workers in Germany have had health insurance since 1883, accident insurance since 1884 and old-age insurance since 1889. Bismarck's social legislation was adopted in many other countries and is considered the beginning of the Welfare state. In Germany, however, it did not (as hoped) lead to alienating the workers from social democracy, but rather to radicalizing them and creating a "social democratic milieu" isolated from bourgeois society. In 1890 the Reichstag rejected the extension of the Socialist Law, the Socialist Workers' Party of Germany then called itself in Social Democratic Labor Party of Germany, SPD, um. After intense debate, this no longer aimed to defeat capitalism through a revolution, but to improve it through reforms. Rising wages also contributed to this, through which wage workers also benefited from material wealth to such an extent that they were on the whole more interested in pragmatic improvements in their situation than in revolutionary overturns. (Marxism was not brought to power by a working class insurrection in any country; and the Soviet Union and China were not even industrialized countries at the time of their “revolutions”.) And in the industrialized countries, industrial capitalism particularly has the non-upper-class people , a material standard of living and a (healthy) life for which there is no historical comparison.

Life in an industrial society

The material >> productivity of industry led, especially in the second half of the 20th century, to unprecedented material wealth in industrial societies. In these countries, the poor now have more material goods than the pre-industrialized rich. The symbols of this company were the emergence of the first department stores: Bon Marché in Paris, Hermansky in Vienna, Tietz in Berlin. In the 20th century, the first supermarkets appeared to offer groceries, and finally to retail groups such as Wal Mart or Carrefour, who set up shopping centers outside the cities.

After people were able to satisfy their basic needs for food, housing and clothing in this way, new markets continued to emerge: At about the same time, the >> car and electrical household appliances were fighting for the consumers' wallets, as soon as the markets were largely saturated, entertainment electronics followed: Radios, televisions, video recorders and today DVD players, flat screen televisions, MP3 players, digital cameras, ... Access to these products was made easier by credit offers: hire purchase, consumer loans and credit cards made it possible to buy beyond the means; more and more products, which in earlier decades were only available to the rich, became mass-produced goods. One example is long-distance travel.

In any case, the leisure and tourism sector developed into the next winner: The first professional football league was established in England in 1885, and soon 300,000 people were paying money every week to watch a football match. Cinemas opened at the beginning of the 20th century, in 1869 Thomas Cook offered the first trip outside Europe (to Egypt and Palestine), and in 1900 the first Michelin travel guide appeared. The airplane gained in importance from the 1950s. Today tourism is one of the most important industries in the world.

However, surveys and other indicators - the number of suicides, the number of depression - show that people do not become happier through all material prosperity above a certain threshold (>> more). Since at the same time the manufacture of all the products and services endanger the natural foundations of life (see left >> here), the search for a new life model has long since begun (>> more).

The rise of managerial capitalism

In the early days of the Industrial Revolution, owners and entrepreneurs were mostly identical: the owner owned and managed the company. If one's own capital was insufficient, it was often collected from family and relatives, and many companies were also run by several family members (such as the Rothschild banking house or Siemens). These early capitalists were closely connected to their social environment through their families. In such family businesses, profit was usually not the sole criterion for success; occasionally, for example, possible expansions were not taken into account in order to maintain family influence. This constellation can still be found in small and medium-sized companies; But in many large companies the family capital was not enough to keep up with developments: Siemens, for example, still had 650 employees in 1874, and in 1914 it had more than 57,000. New industries such as electrical engineering grew quickly, and after the >> founders' crash of 1873 there were also mergers in the form of cartels, holdings or corporations - with these, competition was to be limited or even eliminated. In many cases, these large companies no longer belonged to a single owner, but belonged - via share ownership - to the banks, for example, which now invested more heavily than before in industry. Many of these groups were also highly integrated and had all the steps in product manufacture in hand, from raw material supply to production and sales.

But that changed the company: If the market had previously been the central coordination instrument, the activities of the corporations also had to be coordinated internally; the company organization and the managers employed with it gained in importance. Since the owners (families) no longer determined the direction of the company, but more profit-oriented investors and the senior managers were paid partly based on success, many feared that entrepreneurial action in manager capitalism would be more ruthless and irresponsible (since an employed manager hardly will be responsible for losses with its entire existence). Family-related considerations certainly also decreased, but after all, employed managers often stood with their names for the company's success (e.g. Emil Rathenau for AEG), but were also visibly associated with failures, so that economic activity is still so far in a social context stayed embedded. It was not yet possible to speak of “organized irresponsibility” in general.

The rise of financial capitalism

That changed when, in the wake of the first >> oil crisis of 1973 >> neoliberal or market capitalist ideas like those of Friedrich August von Hayek and Milton Friedman prevailed especially in Great Britain and the USA and state regulation was dismantled: This, and The end of the >> Bretton Wood system of international currency stabilization led to new >> business models for banks and a rapid growth in the financial sector, the importance of which increased significantly in the overall economic product: in the USA from around the 1950s to 2008 from two to eight percent. In doing so, it lost its once-serving function - financing investments in productive purposes - and became an end in itself: there was speculation - money should make money; the profits no longer came from creating value. But profits rose exorbitantly; so that even large industrial companies soon founded their own financial service providers, which quickly earned more money than their core business. The profits of the financial sector also led to the creation of numerous equity investment companies, such as mutual and pension funds.

However, these funds had to win their investors over in competition with other funds, and the criterion for the investors was usually the profit achieved. The funds were able to increase it by, on the one hand, buying and selling shares more quickly, and, on the other hand, clearly negotiating their interests - on behalf of the shareholders - with the company management. The managers of manufacturing companies lost the power they still had over banks that were oriented towards long-term success (at least as long as business was going well) or when the ownership structure was fragmented; the interests of the shareholders ("shareholder value") became the most important yardstick by which they were measured. Non-economic values ​​and relationships such as the traditions of the company, content or the interests of employees only counted insofar as they were the shareholder value served. With the investment bankers, analysts and rating experts, financial managers working purely according to the logic of the financial markets without social involvement gained more and more influence on the business of companies; the deregulation also allowed the profits of the investment companies to be reinvested but distributed to managers and shareholders.

However, these investment bankers, analysts and rating experts did not have a public face; and their purely economic logic has also been criticized. But for many, the >> collapse of the Eastern Bloc was also considered proof of the superiority of market capitalism. The existence of a non-capitalist alternative had also led to the fact that representatives of the capital side and politicians close to them had to some extent accommodated demands for social justice in order to prevent even more radical changes.Deregulation continued to increase, especially internationally and especially in the financial sector; and led to a degree of "organized irresponsibility" which the >> financial crisis of 2008 clearly demonstrated: the financial sector did not want (and could not) stand up for the consequences of its decisions, so that ultimately the exorbitant profits of bank managers are borne by public funds. And an effective, cross-border political decision-making system that re-embeds the globally active financial sector in a social context and forces it to assume responsibility - also for non-economic values ​​(similar to the state regulations that once improved the situation of workers), is still not in sight. On the contrary: The one-sided economic logic under the pressure of globalization leads to manager profits rising, while informal, largely unprotected employment relationships are on the rise again in the most developed industrial societies. In Germany, around 1.7 million people work for an hourly wage of less than 5 euros an hour. Minimum wages are circumvented by the fact that those affected receive work contracts (for which there is no minimum wage) or are employed by bogus companies that are based in (Eastern) European countries (for which local law applies). In the countries that are currently going through the phase of early industrialization, Western corporations also like to use "outsourcing"Local subcontractors who often circumvent or ignore fundamental legal regulations or social, safety and environmental standards.

The impact on the rest of the world

The Industrial Revolution was based on from the start Raw materials from all over the world: The cotton for the English textile industry came from the south of America and from India, later also from Egypt and other African countries; Dyes and techniques came from India and the Ottoman Empire. In return, finished products came back. Before the Industrial Revolution, most countries made their own clothing; in 1700 India was the world's largest textile exporter. With the rise of the English textile industry, all these less efficient manufacturers were pushed out of the market: The population of the Indian textile center Dhaka (in today's Bangladesh) fell by more than half from 1750 to 1850, and the Persian Isfahan lost 90 percent of its silk spinning mills from 1830 to 1890 . It was similar in other industries: English metal goods were cheaper than those from Asia, Africa or Latin America, and they drove them out of large parts of the market.

England bought not only raw materials, but also food and other goods (grain from America and Russia, wood from Canada and the Baltic States, sheep from Australia, beef from Argentina and North America, tea from India and China, coffee and sugar from the Caribbean,. ..). With the inventions of the Industrial Revolution, the steamship, the railroad, the trucks and later the airplanes and their connection to what ultimately became a global transport network, the movement of goods and people increased steadily. Many of the producing countries did not see their future in their own industrialization, as did their European neighbors in England, but as suppliers of agricultural products for the industrialized countries. With the fast means of transport, food and luxury goods could be transported in ever larger quantities and further, as well as machines, tools, fertilizers and pesticides for their cultivation. This led to a global specialization in agriculture: why should one grow wheat in the hilly regions of England when it could be imported cheaply from Kansas? The Industrial Revolution thus contributed to the global industrialization of agriculture. This enabled an unprecedented population growth for mankind, but with it the food supply also became dependent on fossil fuels for the machines that produced them and for the vehicles that transported them - without fossil fuels, most people in industrialized countries would be again today Threatened by hunger.

To supply the industrialized countries, new farms and plantations would have to be created in the supplier countries, and workers were needed. Often these were bought. The early industrial age therefore initially led not to an increase in wage labor outside Western Europe, but to one Prime of slavery: In the south of America slaves work in cotton production, in Brazil on coffee and sugar plantations; in Russia and Eastern Europe serfs worked in the grain fields, and in West Africa in palm oil production. Since the 1780s, more and more people have spoken out against slavery; but it would be >> another 80 years before it was abolished. The abolition of slavery freed four million people in the United States, one and a half million in Brazil - and 50 million serfs in Russia, among others. But that still did not lead to a victory for wage labor. New workers were also sought in the poor regions of the world: India and China in particular now provided workers - 30 to 40 million Indians worked mainly in the British Empire, Chinese “coolies” mainly went to the plantations in Southeast Asia, but also to build railways North America and Canada. In return for paying for the crossing, these people often committed to a "Bondage", which often gave the employer almost unlimited power over the contractual partner for years. This did not only affect the Indians and Chinese: the poor regions of Europe also left around 50 to 60 million people from 1840; 70 percent of them went to North America, but above all Italians, Spaniards and Portuguese also to Argentina and Brazil.

A labor movement like in Western Europe emerged in the 19th century only in the USA (where the unions, however, increasingly also became a protective community for skilled workers against [unskilled] immigrants and non-union members). This shows that this does not inevitably arise from the tension between capital and labor, but also depends on social conditions: the liberal constitutional orders since the 18th century in Western Europe limited the self-interest of the economically strong and allowed - with all attempts at restriction such as Bismarck's socialist law - a collective action of the workers. Slaves and servants did not have this right. (Even in today's China there were and are numerous protests by wage workers who are exploited and uprooted in a way comparable to the early wage workers in Western Europe - but a supraregional labor movement has not emerged there.)

The development in the colonies described above had already started before the emergence of industrial capitalism (see >> here), but the dependence of the industrialized countries on raw materials and food from the colonies increased the profits of the export-oriented plantation economy and thus led to further expansion. The profits from slave trade, slave labor and other forms of forced labor such as contract bondage also drove industrial capitalism in its early days, not just the exploitation of wage laborers. The supplier countries hardly had any alternative: the industrialized countries also used their industrial knowledge for the manufacture of weapons, and steam-powered gunboats and machine guns made them militarily superior to a large superior force to such an extent that military actions were often triggered on minor occasions. England had lost the United States in 1783, but gradually annexed India from 1750 to 1860 - initially with the help of the East India Company, and then directly later. In 1914 the >> British Empire spanned the whole world. Other industrialized countries were no better: France conquered colonies in Africa and Indochina, Belgium in Africa. Germany, although a latecomer due to its late unification in 1871, followed suit in Africa and the Western Pacific (more: >> The world is growing together).

Growing inequality

Colonization, the global exchange of agricultural products and industrial goods and the emigration of many millions of people - all three made easier by the >> invention of the telegraph - led to one first globalization: A world market arose, which was supported by the >> gold standard (the backing of currencies with gold) introduced in 1878. On the one hand, it made economic crises noticeable worldwide, but also led to enormous economic growth - production almost tripled from 1870 to 1913. At the same time, inequality increased: the industrialized countries and some particularly preferred agricultural regions in the USA, Canada, Argentina and Australia benefited from the new wealth. These regions should >> also industrialize, others were left behind. At the beginning of the 21st century, the poorest 20 percent of the world's population will receive around one percent of the world's income, and three billion people live on a maximum of US $ 2 a day. That is often not enough to buy enough food (>> more).

Cultural consequences

With the global transport network, not only goods were exported, but ideologies as well. The western world saw its secular, materialistic, egalitarian and democratic values ​​as the culmination of civilization and wanted to make the rest of the world happy. That was not new either: the success of colonization had already seduced European and American missionaries into spreading their faith across the world. The locals had often merged this with their old religions, creating new beliefs. The languages ​​of the colonial rulers - especially English, Spanish and French - spread and native languages ​​became rarer and often died out altogether; Sometimes, however, the migrant workers created their own languages ​​as a mixture of their original languages ​​(there are now more than 25 mixed Creole languages ​​on the Caribbean islands). Since their trading partners and the politicians in the countries of the South had to at least pretend that they wanted to adopt Western practices if they did not want to isolate themselves, they were forced to within a few decades the scientific, medical, agricultural and industrial development of the Understandable in the West. In this way enclaves of the West arose in the countries; in 2000, for example, almost half of humanity lived in cities.

The urbanization of mankind

From the mid-1850s, the poor hygienic conditions in the slums had led to large-scale urban redevelopments: In Paris, George-Eugène Haussmann had old quarters torn down, widened streets and integrated suburbs into the city; in London, a cholera epidemic and the stench resulted from the Thames, into which the sewage was discharged, in the second half to build a sewer system. Gas lamps increasingly illuminated the streets of cities, trams and subways (the first opened in London in 1863 - pulled by a steam locomotive and fitted with gas lamps) made it easier to move around the city.

With the spread of the car (from 1920 in the USA, from 1950 in Europe), the cities expanded even further into their surrounding areas. The newly emerging light industry also often migrated here. New cities emerged in the industrializing societies, the proportion of the urban population in the Soviet Union rose from 20 to over 60 percent, and by the end of the century Moscow had become a city of 6.5 million. In Japan, cities emerged around Tokyo, the area of ​​which doubled between 1923 and 1945. But the cities in the developing and emerging countries, where giant cities emerged, grew even faster: Lagos in Nigeria, Nairobi in Kenya, Ankara in Turkey. Above all, Latin America achieved a degree of urbanization like Europe or North America (in Africa and Asia “only” a third of the people live in cities). The attractiveness of the cities is mainly due to the fact that the economic activity of the countries is concentrated here and that there is at least a minimal infrastructure. But in many ways the living conditions are similar to those of the early industrial cities; around a third of the city's population lives in slums - over a billion people worldwide. City at the beginning of the 21st century - that's the splendor of New York or Tokyo as well as the slums of Lagos or Calcutta.

In the course of the industrial age, more and more people moved to the cities. In 2006, for the first time, more people lived in cities than in rural areas. Own illustration based on >> Clive Ponting: A New Green History of the World.

What all these cities have in common, however, is that the people in them suffer from the noise and, in many regions, from the air pollution from the trucks and delivery vans used to supply them and the cars used to transport people. The transport system led to a concentration on the city centers; Transport connections to their supply took precedence over pedestrians, cycle paths and gardens and other habitats. Buildings and streets shaped the human environment in the cities where the majority of people live today - probably also a reason for the alienation of humans from nature. Still, the cities remained attractive; For the rich, the entertainment and cultural offerings are evidently enough compensation for their downsides. In the 20th century, rents rose significantly in the better parts of the metropolitan areas; In order to accommodate all the people who wanted to live in the cities, buildings were built higher and higher. In 1990 the Park Row Building in New York was the tallest residential building at 119 meters, in 2000 this - the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur - was already 375 meters high. The first Megacities arose as a result of industrial development, for example in the Ruhr area, whose population was 4.5 million in 1939, or the continuously populated area between Tokyo and Kobe in Japan. Today there are 27 cities on earth with more than 10 million inhabitants. These megacities are the most extreme example of the largely artificial environment that humans have created with the city. They represent a particular concentration of energy and resource consumption - the Sears Tower in Chicago, for example, consumes more electricity than an American city with 150,000 inhabitants.Without a complex infrastructure - without subways, elevators, air conditioning and artificial lighting - megacities would hardly be attractive.

Twenty-seven metropolitan areas and megacities in the world have more than 10 million inhabitants. Red means: over 20 million people live here, orange: over 15 million people, yellow-orange: over 10 million people. Own illustration.

Ecological consequences

And the industrial revolution had ecological consequences: urban air pollution reached unprecedented levels, the expansion of agriculture led to the expansion of arable and pasture land at the expense of forests, polluted the soil with fertilizers and pesticides and resulted in huge irrigation projects and polluted water brought cholera and typhoid epidemics. These consequences are presented in detail on the following pages:

The consequences of industrialization for the earth's ecosystem

>> The population of the world
>> Raw materials
>> floors
>> Water use
>> Water pollution
>> Air pollution
>> Climate change
>> Endangering biodiversity

Continue with:

>> The industrialization of agriculture

Back to:

>> Overview The Age of Industry

© Jürgen Paeger 2006 - 2020

Literature tip: If you want to get an impression of what life is like in the megacities outside of the rich countries, read once Suketu Mehta: Bombay. Maximum City - "By far the best book that has been written about this broken metropolis so far." (Salman Rushdie)

How saw Manhattan before it was discovered by Europeans?

The New York Wildlife Conservation Society asked itself this question - and tries to find an answer >> here (welikia.org).