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

By Neil J. Smelser | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
SYMPTOMS OF DISTURBANCE IN THE FAMILY

Any major sequence of structural change in the family, which touches the deepest of human sensitivities, is neither easy nor automatic. Early in such a sequence there occur periods of explosive "symptoms of disturbance" which constitute Step 2 of the differentiation. In this chapter we shall trace these disturbances first among the factory operatives and second among the hand-loom weavers. Among the working-class turbulences of the period were appeals for relief, destruction of property, strikes, Utopian schemes such as Cobbettism and Owenism, and agitation to limit factory hours.*


INTRODUCTION: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN STRUCTURAL PRESSURES AND SYMPTOMS OF DISTURBANCE

How far can working-class disturbances of the period be traced to the cotton industry? How far may we generalize to other industries? In this chapter we shall discuss movements which spread beyond the cotton industry. The early co-operative ideology, for instance, seemed to attract hand-loom weavers and other artisans more than factory spinners. To account for the full course of early co-operation, of course, we must refer both to other social groups and to other pressures than those on the family economy. I shall consider only two problems: (a) Why did the co-operative ideology appeal to certain groups in the cotton industry at certain times? (b) What parts of this ideology were appropriate in terms of the pressures on and dissatisfactions with the family economy? Any conclusions must apply only to the working classes of the cotton industry. The same holds for factory agitation. The cotton operatives fought to limit factory hours by law, particularly in the 1830's and 1840's. Much of the impetus for this movement came, however, from the Yorkshire woollen and worsted industries. Furthermore, industrialists, Tory

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*
We shall postpone a full discussion of the "disturbed" elements of factory agitation until Chapter XI.

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