In economic terms, industrialization is the social and economic transformation of human society from agrarian to industrial. From approximately 1760 to 1840, the United States transformed from an agrarian society, in which the economy is established on the society's ability to produce and regulate crops, to an industrialized society; this period is better known as the Industrial Revolution. During this period, many processes, traditionally performed by hand, were mechanized.

Although processes were largely simplified by the introduction of new methods and machinery, industrialization introduced new problems. Its environmental drawbacks include the pollution of air, water, and soil that can result in significant deterioration of quality of life and life expectancy. Because of industrialization, there is a significant separation of labor and capital. Those who own the means of production become disproportionately rich, resulting in high-income inequality. The migration of workers, the separation of family members, long working hours, and overcrowding that result from industrialization can lead to social tension and diseases due to poor nutrition and stress.

Key Takeaways

  • Industrialization is the marked transformation of a society from agrarian to manufacturing or industrial.
  • Industrialization contributes to negative environmental externalities, such as pollution, increased greenhouse gas emission, and global warming.
  • The 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, crimes, stress, and other societal problems.

Environmental Disadvantages

By far, the biggest negative effect of industrialization is on the environment. Pollution is the most common by-product of industrialization. However, the degradation of ecological systems, global warming, greenhouse gas emissions, and the adverse effect on human health have garnered widespread concern. Because many industrialized companies are often not forced to pay damages for the environmental harm they cause, they tend to impose a major negative externality on human society in the form of deforestation, extinction of species, widespread pollution, and excessive waste. In the United States, Congress appointed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue limits for toxic air emissions, rules to phase-out ozone-depleting chemicals and their proper disposal, and other major tasks to reduce environmental risks.

Financial Disadvantages

Financially, industrialization results in a wide 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 high 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 simply factors inherent in 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 attack, and strokes.