Industrialization Influence on American Workers Essay (Critical Writing)
The industrialization process falls under the second half of the nineteenth century, during which the American economy and society underwent significant changes. Urbanization, the emergence of new businesses, and new technologies, as well as the development of capitalism, were among the leading changes that occurred to American workers. In the articles presented by DiLorenzo, Dubofsky, and Blackmon, the focus is on defining the impact of industrialization on the American workers in terms of labor conditions, wages, machinery, and standards of living. Specifically, DiLorenzo focuses on the evidence improvements of the working conditions during the industrialized prosperity.
By focusing on such issues as increase of incomes, greater competence in handling technologies, the author has managed to provide both qualitative and quantitative data on the positive influence of the capitalist movement. Dubofsky concludes that, despite the fact that the growth in earnings was relatively moderate, the rapid economic development should not necessarily be the best solution for American employees. Finally, Blackmon refers to the industrialization process as to the phenomenon of re-enslavement of the labor force. DiLorenzo asserts an argument that Capitalism helped improve the workforce and wages for the average worker, however, Dubofsky and Blackmon present a more convincing statistical argument and notable first-hand accounts that prove otherwise.
While deliberating on the influence of capitalism on the American labor force, all the authors discuss the wage rates among the employees. At this point, DiLorenzo focuses on the evident improvement, though a moderate increase in wages that significantly raised the standards of living. To prove that, the scholar evaluates the wage rates with regard to the current rates, as well as define the opportunities that earnings create for workers. For instance, DiLorenzo writes, “in 1908, the typical American worker had to work two years to earn enough money to but average-quality care” (99). Nowadays, the average American workers will need eight months to buy a technologically advanced car.
Although modern possibilities are much more beneficial, capitalism contributed greatly to worker’s material status and potential. Despite the positive changes that DiLorenzo enumerates, Dubofsky acknowledges the rise of wages, but the percentage of increase is relatively low with regard to the fact of rapid economic growth. The research argues, “…prosperity of course, boosted wages but that after the outbreak of World War I prices rose even more rapidly, and workers found themselves breathless on an economic treadmill” (Dubofsky 20). Therefore, the price rise significantly outperforms the increase in wages among American employees.
Blackmon takes a radical position, criticizes the industrial age, and insists on the idea that “…blacks would serve a highly useful purpose as clever mules for an industrial age” (51). Hence, the white population conquered the power and made African-American become more dependent on the capitalist system. Maltreatment and inequality in the workplace were typical of that time, particularly in relation to people of African ancestry (Blackmon 52). The scholar refers to Milner, who undermines the success and objective attitude of the white population towards the racial minorities. Although the second half of the nineteenth century marked the abolition of slavery, the industrialization age referred to the re-regiment of liberated slaves. So, the existence of discrimination and unequal treatment was evident.
While discussing working conditions, DiLorenzo relies on the argument that the previously established employed setting was of a much lower standard, as compared to those provided by the capitalists. Specifically, as the economic growth was evident at the end of the nineteenth century, the industries launched more consumer products to the market, leading to the greater comfortableness of the life of the working class. For instance, kerosene lamps allowed workers to light their houses in inexpensive ways. So, DiLorenzo writes, “these goods become commonplace as capitalism enriches the working class and mass production allows for lower and lower costs of production” (96). The rate of production of cars and textile increased in New England, expanding the production of cheap cotton for average-income people.
Blackmon denies the improvement in working standards and conditions, particularly for African American people, because capitalists overtly ignored their rights. In the article, the researcher mentions, “Milner employed convict slaves in the late nineteenth century, he and his business associates subjected the workers to almost animalistic mistreatment” (Blackmon 52). The businessman’s records provide the stories about African-American women, whipped and naked, and about black men, chained, starved, and beaten. Taking advantage of the slave labor, the newly emerged capitalists strived to revive slavery and use African Americans for increasing profits at their industries and factories.
Dubofsky withdraws the misconceptions about the high-quality standard of living and working conditions and discusses the material progress of the industrialized society (76). Specifically, although the working-class life experienced sustain progress and everyone was in front of unlimited opportunities, the working conditions did not relate to high material progress. The researcher mentions the deplorable effects of industrialization on working women, among which an evident rise of prostitution was marked. Therefore, the statistics show that workers had to fight for survival when the capitalist movement reached its highest peak of success.
Concerns with working hours led both to negative and positive outcomes. At his point, DiLorenzo focuses on the fact of shortened working hours and, as a result, more leisure time was provided for workers. Specifically, DiLorenzo insists, “…and wages rose, more and more workers could afford to work fewer hours and still support themselves and their families” (100). Due to the fact that the wages increased, the working hours decrease did not influence the quality of working conditions.
While deliberating on the nature of capitalism and its attitude to racial minorities, Blackmon focuses on rigid violations of human rights by holding African Americans in jail (75). The prisoners did not have an opportunity to regulate their working hours, and, as a result, severe maltreatment led to numerous deaths. According to the researcher, the capitalist accused prisoners of the crimes they had not committed. Besides, public criticism relied on the abhorrent conditions among prisoners, which posed a serious threat to the health and welfare of laborers. Multiple corporations agreed on using the prisoner’s labor to increase their profits.
Multiple deaths at plants and factories were marked in American industrial history. Dubofsky exemplifies the coal mine explosion in Illinois that took over 180 lives in 1908. Two years later, 146 women died of the fire in a fireproof shop. In 1917, 164 copper mines died in the North Butte Speculator Mines. The evidence proves that “…long hours and intensive labor practices combined to produce in the United States one of the highest industrial accident rates in the Western industrial world” (Dubofsky 24). Hence, unsecured setting and long working shifts negatively contributed to the low-quality conditions.
A shift from manual production to a technologically advanced environment has provided both positive and negative changes to the working conditions and wage rates among the employees. According to DiLorenzo, the introduction of machinery in the workplace made workers more competent and technologically savvy. As a result, the degree of safety in the environment was much higher with the introduction of automotive devices. Besides, the author explains, due to the fact that the dangerous job discourages workers because it threatened their lives, capitalists aim to ensure a safe environment for their employees to increase the competitiveness of their venture (DiLorenzo 101). Besides, cases of injury did not contribute to the welfare of both capitalists and the working class.
Blackmon disapproves of the policy that the government and capitalist infrastructure introduced against the Africa-American population (77). The legislature imposed strict restrictions on laborer’s rights and accused them of many crimes without viable convictions. Therefore, although technological advancement took place, it did not influence the quality of working facilities for the employee significantly.
In conclusion, DiLorenzo is not persuasive in his argument about the improvements of working conditions and life of the average class with the advent of industrialization era whereas Dubofsky and Blackmon insist that the conditions worsened significantly as soon as the capitalists introduced longer hours, lower wages, and automated equipment, putting laborers under danger. While discussing labor hours, pricing policy, and economic growth, the researchers suggest that there is no evident connection between economic prosperity and the industrialization process. Moreover, Dubofsky points to the revival of the slavery period that made African Americans suffer from discrimination, unequal treatment, and violation of human rights.
Blackmon, Douglas. Slavery by Another Name. The Re-enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. New York: Anchor Book. 2008, Print.
DiLorenzo, Thomas. How Capitalism Saved America: The Untold History of Our Country, from Pilgrims to the Present. US: Crown Forum, 2004. Print.
Dubofsky, Melvin. Industrialism and the American Worker, 1865-1920. US: Harlan Davidson, 1996. Print.
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