Industrial Production and Capitalism Drivers of Social Change in History

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Industrial Production and Capitalism: Drivers of social change in history Ho Xin Qian Louise

In this essay, I will illustrate why industrial production and capitalism were major causes of social change in history by stating three main arguments. Firstly, I put forth the case that industrial production and capitalism have changed the role and nature of markets in history. In doing this, I trace how the market has become the central system of social coordination via market instruments, encompassing even the elements of industry like land, labor and money. In exemplification, I explain how industrial capitalism has brought about the rise of mass production and mass markets, enabling the market system to expand its influence. Secondly, I will illustrate how industrial capitalism has changed the social relations of production, as well as the social organization of work, resulting in class struggle and socio-economic stratification in history. Lastly, I touch on the changes in norms and culture within institutions due to industrial production and capitalism. For the purpose of this paper, I define industrial production as production brought about by mechanized technology and industrious labor in centralized locations. Capitalism is defined as a system of profit making commerce made possible by the usage of money, decentralized circulation of capital and the market exchange of commodities. I use the term industrial capitalism to denote the amalgamation of both forces. The Role and Nature of Markets in History

It is my contention that industrial production has changed the role and nature of markets in history, placing it in the centre of society and economy. It is true that industrial capitalism presupposes the existence of a market system. However, the market system was never the dominant system of social control until the development of isolated markets by mercantilist means, and subsequently the transnational interaction and proliferation of markets into a market economy, brought about by industrialization in the 18thC. It is due to this transcendence of boundaries and displacement of market activity that gives rise to the “market” as an abstract mechanism. According to Polyani, before the rise of markets, the society organizes itself via systems of redistribution, house-holding and reciprocity, of which operates on non-economic motives like social prestige and kinship (Polyani 1944: 46-58). After the rise of markets with long distance and local trade, markets have started to take on a more important role in providing necessities; however, they did not function for a majority of the population, who were still dependent upon common exchange and subsistence systems. Thereafter, mercantilism created isolated national markets which consolidated local economic activity and increased trade. However, it was not until the Industrial Revolution in the mid 18thC that the market system became the main driver of social change across different countries through the creation of mass markets.

The industrial revolution has brought about new forms of technology and power, transformed modes of production and created factories as centralized locations for mechanized production to take place. Mass production techniques like specialization, standardization, time-discipline, rational capital accounting and centralization allow for production costs to decrease with volume, thus generating a high amount of output, providing goods more cheaply than one could have done outside of the factory. As a result, people buy their essentials from these mass markets rather than produce by themselves. Also, they produce solely for the market, deriving income to purchase other goods in the circulation of commodities. Moreover, with industrial capitalism, the market mechanism has also come to allocate factors of production such as land, labor and money, which according to Polyani were not real commodities, but merely have exchange value because they become...
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