Social Change in the Industrial Revolution: An Application of Theory to the British Cotton Industry

By Neil J. Smelser | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
FILLING THE BOXES

This chapter parallels the preceding in outline. Instead of dealing with abstract units, relationships, and functions, however, we shall clothe the anonymous Social System S in empirical dress by applying it to an Industry C -- specifically the cotton-textile industry. The empty analytical propositions of Chapter II will thereby become empirical propositions concerning the industry, which will serve in turn as a framework for analysing its historical development.

The Units of Analysis of an Industry. An analysis of an industry should include units at several levels -- a value-system, an ideology, institutional patterns such as contract, differentiated industrial sub- systems, and concrete units such as firms. Since, however, we are analysing differentiation at the concrete levels of social structure, we shall concentrate on the industry's organizations, roles, and activities. We shall nevertheless refer frequently to the industrial value-system, as well as its functional dimensions.

At the more concrete levels, the industrial units are roles and organizations specialized in producing the industry's goods and services. Examples of such units are workers, managers, entrepreneurs, capitalists, boards of directors, etc. To analyse these roles as parts of a social system does not break with economic analysis in the least. Indeed, many problems in this study might be posed by an analytical economic historian. It is hoped, however, that social system analysis relates these units to a wider range of social phenomena than does "straight" economic history.

What are the cotton-textile industry's products? How immediately must a role contribute to their production in order to be treated as part of the industry? Does production include the cultivation of cotton? Is the entrepreneur "part" of the industry, or an external force with occasional influences on industrial organization? Are creditors part of the industry? Are engineering firms which supply fixed capital also units?

These questions demand that we establish appropriate definitional limits for the industry. Some limits will follow from the functional analysis of the industry; others must be established by referring to

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