What Are Some of the Drawbacks of Industrialization?

Industrialization is the social and economic transformation of society from an agrarian to an industrial economy. From about 1760 to 1840, the United States underwent industrialization, a period better known as the Industrial Revolution. During this time, labor and processes traditionally performed by hand were replaced by new machines that could perform tasks more efficiently.

Although new methods and machinery simplified work and increased output, industrialization introduced new problems as well. Some of the drawbacks included air and water pollution and soil contamination that resulted in a significant deterioration of quality of life and life expectancy. Industrialization also exacerbated the separation of labor and capital. Those who owned the means of production became disproportionately rich, resulting in wider income inequality. Industrialization impacted society in other ways. Workers were forced leave their families and migrate to urban areas in search of jobs. They worked long hours, were poorly nourished and lived in overcrowded conditions, which led to disease and stress.

Key Takeaways

  • Industrialization is the transformation of a society from agrarian to a manufacturing or industrial economy.
  • Industrialization contributes to negative externalities such as environmental pollution.
  • Separation of capital and labor creates a disparity in incomes between laborers and those who control capital resources.
  • Industrialization also contributes to the deterioration of health among workers, crime and other societal problems.

Environmental Disadvantages

One negative byproduct of industrialization is environmental pollution that can adversely impact human health. When companies do not pay tor the environmental damage they cause, or when these harms are not captured in pricing, this is considered a negative externality. The cost burden is placed on human society in the form of deforestation, extinction of species, widespread pollution, excessive waste and other forms of environmental degradation.

In the U.S, President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to push for environmental standards and seek ways to minimize the impact that industries have on the environment.

Financial Disadvantages

Industrialization results in a wider gap between the rich and poor due to a division of labor and capital. Those who own capital tend to accumulate excessive profits derived from their economic activities, resulting in a higher disparity of income and wealth.

Social Disadvantages

Industrialization typically leads to the migration of workers to cities, automation and repetitive tasks. Due to these factors, factory workers tend to lose their individuality, have limited job satisfaction and feel alienated. There can also be health issues brought on by dangerous working conditions or factors inherent to the working conditions, such as noise and dirt.

Rapid urbanization brought on by industrialization typically leads to the general deterioration of workers' quality of life and many other problems for society, such as crime, stress and psychological disorders. Long working hours usually lead to poor nutrition and consumption of quick and low-quality foods, resulting in increased incidences of diseases such as diabetes, heart attacks and stroke.

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  1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "The Origins of the EPA."

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