The Industrial Revolution and Urbanization

One of the longest-lasting and most significant impacts of the industrial revolution that took place from the end of the eighteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth century was the mass migration of the populace from rural areas to cities in a process that has come to be characterized as “urbanization”. Urbanization had a profound effect on the daily lives of individuals who found themselves forced into the position of having to adjust from self-sustaining life on farms to depersonalized lives in bigger cities. In addition, these people also found themselves confronted with a newfound dependence on services that they had been used to providing for themselves. Sometimes-convenient plumbing and fresh water supplies-these services were not provided at all. Because of this sudden and overwhelming growth, and the resultant discontent to which it gave rise, urbanization also had an impact on the entire economic and governmental systems of the developing nations.

Before the industrial revolution took force in England, the overwhelming majority of the population lived in rural areas. Startlingly, the population rate of towns would explode over the course of the 19th century from 16% to 54%. Up until this time the government’s response to civil services in cities was based on the laissez-faire (lazy, is a more apt description) concept of leaving people to their own devices. Because most citizens lived in agricultural areas such necessities as transportation, water and sanitation were not deemed necessary concerns for government interference. Obviously, long-term myopia was just as endemic to government planners then as it is now. The sudden and overwhelming influx of the populace into a tight, centralized location forced the government to reconsider this method of governance, however. With the construction of factories, and housing for the laborers sent to work in those factories, cities were faced with newfound and critical needs to reorganize their policies on sewage, travel infrastructure and water supplies. Although the industrial revolution led to terrible working conditions for men, women and even-perhaps especially-children, and although it sparked the era of pollution and environmental and ecological exploitation that appears to be poised to rise up and bite us on the butt big-time, it must also be admitted that it was one of the driving forces behind the development and modernization of public transportation, schooling, and health care.

As a result of people moving into a centralized location from all parts of the country, cultural distinctions that had evolved over centuries through geographical borders began to amalgamate. The collapse of a cultural definition for people which had been defined by historical and geographical circumstances created a need for a new collective identity. This human drive to associate and belong to a tribe was brilliantly exploited by trade unions. The mechanization of industrial society had created a new breed of wage earners. The newfound city-dweller quickly found himself forced to become a low-paid, overly worked factory laborer who discovered that he was totally at the mercy of business interests. Whereas citizens in rural and agricultural areas were politically as well as geographically distanced from being significantly impacted by great social movements, migration into impersonal cities acted to make citizens looking for a new identity in the dehumanizing atmosphere in which they found themselves much more open to radically progressive ideas. In a way, one impact of the industrial revolution on cities was ultimately the creation of a more distinct and obvious class divide which eventually resulted in socialist revolutions around the world.

The industrial revolution led to significant changes in all aspects of life, and this included an accelerated growth in cities that also led to widespread changes in the social, economic and political lives of individuals. Another result of the industrial revolution was the social, economic and political imperatives of the nation’s leaders to abandon their laissez faire attitudes in order to provide services which had not been deemed conducive to expanding wealth. The most ironic-and doubtless the least foreseen effect of the industrial revolution by its capitalist engineers-was to reveal that the distribution of wealth under the new capitalistic structure was patently unfair, giving rise to another revolution: the communist revolution.

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