Work in Modern America
The modern day American society hosts a broad spectrum of industries with various occupations and professions to engage today’s workforce. America, much like most first world countries is a service economy based on the exchange of knowledge and expertise rather than materials and products. People have a long history of work and work evolution that has ultimately brought America to a service economy producing both strengths and weaknesses within the society and its economy. As America has moved to a service economy, much of the manufacturing and production jobs have moved oversees to third world countries creating a reliance on other economies. This globalization of the workforce as well as unionization, and the increasing power of large corporations have greatly changed the face of the American workforce and the quality of employment and the definition of work in America. The purpose of this paper is to analyze these positive and negative impacts that the service economy has had on America and connect the progression of this economy to the current issues concerning unions, globalization, the influence of corporate America over the rest of the society, and how these interconnected issues have affected people’s relationships with work and family.
The human work environment has changed more dramatically and rapidly in the last century than in any other time in history. Humans for the majority of recorded history have been nomadic hunters and gatherers. It was not until around 9000 B.C. that Agricultural societies began to develop (Hodson, R. & Sullivan T.A.2008). As these cultures developed, they gave way to the great ancient civilizations of the Inca’s, Egyptians, and other Imperial societies that “gave rise to large cities… [and] several thousand people lived off the surplus of the surrounding area” (Hodson, R. & Sullivan T.A., 2008, p.14). Craft trades were developed during this time, but the emergence of guilds and artisans under the feudal system. Guilds during this time, provided much protection for their members by regulating vital aspects of their trades including fixed pricing policies, membership, and working hours and condition regulations (Guilds in the Middle Ages n.d.). These guilds were indeed the foundation for modern day unions. The progression from Feudalism to Merchant capitalism transformed the lives of artisans dramatically. The merchant capitalists’ goal was to pay a little as possible for materials and labor. While the merchant capitalist society was short lived, it was an essential step in the progression of work leading civilization into the Industrial Revolution. The full transition from agriculture to industry was not easy. England was at the forefront of the revolution; forcing “peasants from the land and their replacement by grazing sheep,” (Hodson, R. & Sullivan T.A., 2008, p.20) in order to cater to the expanding wool trade. This migration of workers from the farmlands into the cities produced an oversaturation of the cities. The displaced workers were then forced to work in factories. The development of factories and the division of labor finalized the move from the use of skilled craftsmen to a fully centralized and capitalistic society. Inside the factories, workers were often met with abuse, subhuman working conditions and long labor intensive hours in subhuman conditions. The workforce’s retaliation to these conditions resulted in the first unions; marking their first victories with child labor laws and limited working hours in the 1820 (Hodson, R. & Sullivan, T.A., 2008). The union concept and their efforts expanded across the Atlantic to the American industrial society by the later part of the century creating unions as the Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor promoting a better standard of working conditions across the workforce in the U.S. The beginning of the twentieth century saw exponential...
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