Labor Economics: Theory, Institutions, and Public Policy

By Ray Marshall; Vernon M. Briggs Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
Labor and Industrialization

The conditions of work were transformed by the technological, social, political, and economic changes accompanying industrialization. Although industrialization is one of the modern world's most revolutionary phenomena, its impact on social institutions differs in different times and places, depending on the peculiarities of the society being transformed. This chapter outlines some of the main characteristics of industrialization, with emphasis on its importance for labor issues, and discusses some of the conditions of workers in contemporary industrializing societies.

The following chapter discusses some of the important changes that have eroded many of the basic features of industrialized economies, leading to what some call a postindustrial system, but which we prefer to call the international information society.


THE NATURE OF INDUSTRIALIZING SOCIETIES

The first country to experience rapid industrialization was Great Britain during the last part of the 18th century. Rapid industrialization followed in the first half of the 19th century in France, Belgium, and the United States; it began about mid-century in Germany, the last quarter of the century in Sweden and Japan, and since that time in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and many Latin-American and eastern and southern European countries. Four eminent labor economists have noted that the industrial society tends everywhere to require broad ranges of skills and professional competence, widely distributed throughout the economy; to have dynamic, rapidly changing technologies; to be open societies, "inconsistent with the assignment of managers or workers to occupations or to jobs by traditional caste, racial groups, by sex or by family status"; to require educational systems to produce the skills and professions needed for its technology; to create increasing levels of general education; and to require the recruitment and structuring of work forces in order to meet labor and managerial requirements.1

Industrial societies also tend to be urbanized and to become increasingly complex, requiring an expansion of governmental functions to provide necessary infrastructure

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1
Clark Kerr, John T. Dunlop, Frederick Harbison, and Charles Myers, Industrialism and Industrial Man ( Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1960), p. 35.

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