Essay on Industrial Societies

ii. “In industrial societies, the largest portion of the labour force is involved in mechanised production of goods and services”

iii. “Industrial society refers to that form of society, or any particular society in which industrialisation and modernisation have occurred.”

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The general term “industrial societies” originates from Saint-Simon who chose it to reflect the emerging central role of manufacturing industry in the 18th century Europe, in contrast with previous pre-industrial and agrarian society. Characteristics of Industrial Society

Industrial Society is Associated with Industrial Revolution and Industrialism:

Industrial Revolution spanning the late 18th to the early 19th centuries is an event of great socio-economic and historical significance. “It transformed much of Europe and the United States by replacing essentially agriculturally based societies with industrial societies based on the use of machines and non-animal sources of energy to produce finished goods”.

Industrialism is based on the application of scientific knowledge to the technology of production, enabling new energy sources to be harnessed. It permits machines to do the work that was previously done by people or animals. It is a highly efficient subsistence strategy. Because it allows a relatively small proportion of the population to feed the majority.

Technology Initiating Vast and Rapid Social Changes:

Technology based on modern scientific knowledge leads to higher rate of technological innovations. These innovations in turn, bring about a flood of social changes. “New technologies’ such as the steam engine, the internal combustion engine, electrical power, or atomic energy tend to bring about social changes as the economic and other institutions constantly adjust to altered conditions. Unlike other societies, therefore, industrial societies are in a continual state of rapid social change.”

Larger Societies with Huge Populations:

The high levels of productivity of industrial societies further stimulate population growth with increasing members living in cities and metropolitan areas. Populations of these societies often run to tens or hundreds of millions. In all the highly advanced industrial societies a majority of the population prefers to live in urban areas, where most jobs are located.

The growth rate of population increases very sharply in the early stages of industrialism. New medical technologies and improved living standards serve to extend life expectancy. But it is observed that population size tends to stabilise in the later stages of industrialism as the birth rate drops.

Large Scale Division of Labour:

As industrialism spreads and population grows, division of labour becomes highly complex. Industrial society creates tens of thousands of new specialised jobs. More and more statuses are achieved rather than ascribed. In the previous agricultural societies a person used to become a lord or peasant through circumstances beyond personal control. But, here in the industrial society, statuses as those of politicians, teachers, advocates, mechanics, technicians, chartered accountants, engineers, doctors, etc., could be achieved.

Losing Importance of Family and Kinship:

Family and kinship as social institutions tend to lose their importance. The family loses many of its functions. It no longer remains as a producing unit but has to be contented with as a unit of consumption. It loses the main responsibility of educating the younger ones. Kinship ties are also weakened. Kinship does not play an important role in unifying and controlling people. The immediate neighbours often become more important than the distant kins.

Religion Losing its Hold over the People:

Religious institutions are no longer playing an important role in controlling the behaviour of the people. The influence of religious institutions as such shrinks markedly. People hold many different and competing values and beliefs.

The world no longer remains as the god-centered world or it is looked upon as the man-centered one. Various technological and scientific developments have made religion to lose its hold as an unquestioned source of moral authority.

Increasing Importance of Science and Education:

For the first time, science emerges out as a new and very important social institution. Ail technological innovations depend on the growth and refinement of scientific knowledge. Science is looked upon as a promising and an effective means of socio-economic progress. Similarly, education has evolved into an independent and distinct institution.

Any industrial society for that matter requires a literate population to understand and make use of the modern technological innovations. For the first time, formal education becomes a compulsory thing for majority of people rather than a luxury for the few.

Increasing Important Role of the State:

Hereditary monarchies die out giving place to more democratic institutions. State which assumes the central power in the industrial society is more known for its welfare activities than for the regulative functions. State is increasingly involved in the economic, educational, medical, military and other activities.

States are equipped with the war weapons to fight wars, but the actual outbreaks of war are relatively infrequent. “One study of pre-industrial European societies found that over periods of several centuries, they were at war, on the average, almost every Second year. (Sorokin, 1937). In contrast, most European societies have been at war only twice in the course of the century and some has not been at war at all.” Warfare can be ruinous for an advanced industrial society for it involves deadly war weapons and economic dislocations.

Widening Gap between the Rich and the Poor:

Industrialism, in its beginning stages, is normally associated with the emergence of the two social classes- the rich and the poor- between whom sharp inequalities are found. It also often widens the gap between the rich and the poor, referred to by Marx as the haves and the have- nots.

The rich class which is also known as the capitalist class is branded as the exploiting class, and the poor class known as the working class is sympathised as the exploited class. According to Marx, these two classes are always at conflict. Phenomenal changes have taken place in the industrial world especially after the death of Marx.

Most of his predictions have not come true. However, the general trend of industrial societies is towards a steady reduction in social inequalities, although, according to Lenski(1966), there are some notable exceptions.

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Industrial societies give rise to a number of secondary groups such as corporations, political parties, business houses, government bureaucracies, cultural and literary associations and special- purpose organisations of various kinds. Primary groups tend to lose their importance and more and more social life takes place in the context of secondary groups. New life styles and values create a much more heterogeneous culture which spreads its influence far and wide.

The overall characteristics of industrial societies described above, tend to be broadly similar, partly as a result of the effects of global mass communications and partly because industrialism imposes certain basic requirements on social structure and culture.

The industrial society is becoming more and more dominant in the modern world extending its influence on the other types of societies such as agricultural, horticultural, etc. It has become highly successful in exploiting the natural environment in an effective manner.

But this success has caused “a variety of problems as we witness in the form of -environment pollution, exhaustion of scarce resources, over population, the destruction of traditional communities, the disruption of kinship systems, mass anonymity, and a breakneck rate of social change that constantly threatens to disorganise the existing social structure”.