GT32P - The Politics of Industrial Societies.

Lecture 1.

Sept. 11-13

Topic 1.                                                 Industrialisation.

Robert Buddan

We begin with industrialisation for a number of reasons:

1. It is one major contribution of industrial countries to world development and marks the beginning of the history of modern societies.

2. It compares the different patterns of industrialisation among the industrial societies and establishes aspects of the modern foundations of these societies.

3. It shows the forces at work and their character - capitalism, the state, labour - their productive roles and human costs.

4. It provides lessons for developing countries.


Industrialisation: Refers to >a phase in economic development in which capital and labour resources shift both relatively and absolutely from agricultural activities into industry. The rise in the factory system, increasing urbanization and movement from rural areas partly describe the nature of the process.= (SSE, p.386). The historic industrial revolution of Europe describes a period from about 1760 when there was an >economic take-off= into long-term sustained growth. A mechanised factory system was created that produced goods in vast quantities and at rapidly diminishing costs. The industrialisation of Europe was in fact a multi-faceted phenomenon collectively termed modernization. It was:  

an economic phenomenon, mainly a change in:

- the mode of production from feudalism to capitalism;

- the form and organization of production from simple to mass production and from agrarianism to manufacturing (the factory system);

- productivity so that a combination of a commercial, scientific and industrial revolutions vastly increased productivity.

an associated social phenomenon, mainly a change in:

- demography ( population growth and distribution) and living conditions causing urbanization;

- social mobility through education and literacy;

- the class structure giving rise to the capitalist class, the working class, the middle class.

an associated political phenomenon, mainly a change in:

- the role of the state in response to new administrative and military functions;

- political participation as state power shifts to the bourgeoisie and parliament;

- unified state systems, that is, the unification of territories and nations under one national state.

The spread of industrialization.

Early industrializes:            Middle period industrializes                          Late industrializes.

(1770-)                                           (1850 -)                                                      (1890 - )

England                                          Germany                                                         Italy                       

France                                             United States                                                  Japan                    


Netherlands                                                                                                            Russia                




The spread of industrialization occurred by a process of diffusion and causing a shifting balance between industrial powers. For example, the ranking of powers was:

1750-1850: Great Britain, France, Belgium.

1860:          Great Britain; France; United States; Germany.

1880:          United States; Great Britain; Germany; France.

1900:          United States; Germany; Great Britain; France.

1980:          United States; Japan; Soviet Union; Germany.

Caused by:

- late-comers learning from early ones by imitation and innovation.

The diffusion of science and technology, and forms of production meant that all countries did not have to start from the first stage. Later industrializing countries could Acatch-up@ with earlier ones fairly quickly. It took Britain about 100 years to consolidate its industrialization. The United States, Germany, Japan could do so in half the time. Today, the diffusion of information technology, medical technology, genetic technology and forms of production in manufacturing allows developing countries to bypass the earlier stages of development of the industrial countries and to concentrate on newer forms of industry such as services as against heavy industry and agriculture. The newly industrializing countries of Asia have been the most successful today in imitating and innovating from the experiences of the industrialised countries. In the 1990's, Asian economies like China, South Korea and Vietnam have grown faster than those of the industrialised countries.


- immigration (brain gain vs brain drain).

Britain benefitted in the eighteenth century from immigration by French Non-Conformists fleeing religious persecution in France and who contributed to British inventions; the United States gained much from German and other European scientists after World War 1I; the Japanese have studied in the US and learnt American technology which they adopt to Japanese products. 

Causes/ components of Industrialization.

Western materialism (culture and mentality) arose as the overriding factor in western civilisation. The renaissance and reformation represented a break from the hold of medieval Christianity and led to:

Scientific Revolution. 1500-.

Non-western civilizations had made great advances in science before the West. However, astronomy was devoted to religion and cosmology (the nature of man=s relation to the universe); engineering was devoted to building cities and great structures like pyramids and mathematics to state administration (population censuses, accounting and taxation).

The difference with western societies was that scientific advances were devoted to materialism, and the creation of a money economy for profit. Astronomy was allied to navigation for exploration. Engineering was devoted to building railways and ships to transport goods and building commercial cities. Mathematics was used for commercial accounting. Mechanics was used to build machines that increased production.  For instance, steam power was known in ancient Egypt but it was only used to open and close temple doors. In England, it was used to run machines and power the steam engine. The scientific revolution fed into a commercial revolution. The first major advance of modern science occurred in the field of  astronomy which was closely related to navigation and geography. These in turn were the basis for worldwide commerce and the commercial revolution.

Commercial Revolution. 1700-.

International commerce existed long before European international trade. Indians and Arabs traded. The Chinese sailed through the Americas long before Columbus. But trade was more for personal consumption. It never involved conquer, colonisation and exploitation. Religions like Islam prohibited this. The Chinese thought they were superior to other cultures and refrained from mixing. The large land masses that made up the Asian continent made those societies look inward rather than outward.

 The west was different. Their international commerce  launched modern world trade and the roots of globalisation, colonialism and neo-colonialism. Between 1715 and 1787, French imports from overseas territories increased tenfold and exports, eightfold. Between 1700 and 1775, British imports and exports rose between 500 and 600 percent. Colonisation increased British trade with its colonies from 15 percent in 1700 to 33 percent by 1775. Profits gained formed a growing capital base to fuel the industrial revolution.

Industrial Revolution. 1770-.

The industrial revolution began in England for certain reasons:

- More profits from the commercial revolution poured into England than any other country. The amount of capital extracted from India and the Caribbean sugar colonies was equal to that invested in British industry in 1800.

- The commercial revolution provided expanded markets for textiles, firearms, hardware, ships and ship accessories, lumber, sails. Being a medium-sized island nation, Britain=s domestic market was relatively small forcing it to look outward enabling it to become the world=s leading naval power. 

- Industrialization needs an energy supply and Britain was fortunate to have coal. By 1800, Britain was producing more coal than the rest of the world combined. Coal allowed Britain to take the lead in smelting iron. Again by 1800, Britain was producing more iron than the rest of the world.

- England=s political system was more decentralised and less bureaucratic than many others in Europe and elsewhere, so taxation was lighter, labour moved more freely, and small farmers were numerous. Farmers turned to capitalism through the >enclosure system.= Between 1714 and 1820, they enclosed over 6 million acres of land, that is, making it into private property.

- England=s Non-conformist, Protestant religion stressed individuality and the >Protestant ethic,= leading to greater individual enterprise in science and industry and generated capitalist economic enterprise.

Between 1750 and 1850, the long-term rate of growth of the British economy became historically unique and internationally remarkable. O=Brien notes the peculiarities that favoured Britain: excellent resources (especially an abundant supply of coal); exceptionally productive agriculture; a secure system of private property rights that favoured capitalism; and an effective state. He says: ABritain was well endowed with supplies of cheap coal, fresh water and mineral ores, excellent coastal and international waterways and at a good site at the hub of an expanding Atlantic economy...Britain=s Protestant polity remained a favourable destination for skilled artisans feeing from religious persecution in Europe...After the Glorious Revolution in 1688 an increasingly powerful state defended the stability and integrity of the Kingdom by raising and >investing= extraordinary amounts of taxes in both sea and land power to acquire and hold on the largest occidental empire since Rome.@ (p.6).



The scientific, commercial and industrial revolutions were >revolutions=, not because they brought sudden changes since they did not. Rather because together, they caused the material culture of human societies to change more in two hundred years than in the previous five thousand.

These revolutions complemented each other. Each affected and was affected by the others. Eg. The scientific invention of the steam power was used to operate machines. Chemistry played a crucial role in developing dyes for the clothing industry. Astronomy aided navigation creating a shipping industry and leading to the commercial revolution.

Science, industry and politics supported each other. Progressive British and other ruling class elites promoted science and linked it to industry; and politicians used the state to sponsor navigation and conquer. Today, ruling elites in developing countries do not combine science, industry and politics lacking the cohesion, foresight and resources.   

The conditions for industrialism also create world power status. Historically and contemporaneously these are: a self-dependent energy source (coal, steam, oil, nuclear energy); mutually interacting progressive developments in science, technology and industry; leading agents with a cohesive purpose (a capitalist class or a determined state elite); international power (military or hegemonic control over world trade and its institutions). It is continuing command of these that make the industrial countries remain world powers at present. Some speak of a second industrial revolution underway marked by their command of nuclear energy, high-tech machines (e.g. computer technology), space science, genetic engineering, and the information revolution.

Industrialization in Other Countries.

Whereas Britain was the first industrial nation, France was the second. The process of diffusion continues today. Its phases have been:

First Phase: Mid-eighteenth to mid-nineteenth century marked by mechanisation, mining, metallurgy and the steam engine. England was the main innovator.

Second Phase: Latter nineteenth century to mid-twentieth century marked by the more direct application of science to industry and mass production techniques. Germany led the way in applying science to industry. The United States pioneered the development of mass production techniques (e.g.. mass assembly production or Fordism). This was the era (especially after 1870) when massive monopolistic corporations - the forerunner of the multinational corporation - emerged. Lenin referred to this period as that of >monopoly capitalism,= or a new phase in imperialism. The United States emerged as the new industrial giant.

Different countries joined industrialization. The process began in Europe, then extended outside of Europe to the United States and the >white Dominions= (Australia, New Zealand and Canada) and then to the non-Anglo Saxon world to Russia (Euro-Asia) and Japan (Asia).

Patterns of Industrialization.

The pattern of industrialization differed according to culture and religion, resources, degree of state bureaucratisation, relative strengths of the aristocracy/monarchy, bourgeoises, middle and working classes.

State and market: In England, businessmen played a more direct role in creating the domestic market. Capitalism took on a laissez- faire character. (This was not unnaturally the home and period of Adam Smith (1723-1790), the intellectual leader of laissez-faire economics). In a sense, while the British aristocratic state concentrated on overseas imperial expansion, the capitalist class concentrated on developing capitalism at home.

O=Brien argues convincingly that the aristocratic British state gave overwhelming attention to foreign policy and devoted most of its expenditure to overseas adventures aimed at building an empire to serve Britain=s domestic need for markets to which to sell British industrial products and for profits to invest in ongoing industrialization at home. 

Elsewhere industrialization was more statist. The existence of stronger aristocracies in Europe lengthened their life especially after the failed French Revolution and the restoration and mutual support of conservative monarchies across Europe. The European bourgeoisie was able to later use the bureaucratic state to initiate capitalism. Industrialization was more state-driven in France, Germany, Italy and later in Russia and in the conservative culture of Japan. The more nationalistic forms of capitalism sponsored by these states remain evident in the protected Japanese market and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which protects European farmers.

The bureaucratic - elitist tradition of the French state is particularly noteworthy.

Blackford acknowledges the importance of government/state in industrialization. He says:

AThe establishment of strong national governments provided political frameworks conducive to economic and industrial growth. Either indirectly or directly the national governments stimulated industrial growth and business development. The similarities in the actions of Great Britain, the United States, and Japan, especially those of the Japanese and American governments, outweighed their differences. As latecomers to industrialization, when compared to Great Britain, America and Japan found it necessary to rely more on government to aid in economic growth. Both nations, in particular used government funding to build much of their infrastructure, especially the transportation networks needed for the creation of domestic markets...the three national governments were also active in opening overseas markets for industrial goods...@ (1988:38).

In fact, the compressed period of state-sponsored industrialization in Japan came out of the realisation that Japan could only defend itself from domination by the west through rapid industrialization. In the 1860's an American gun boat appeared at a Japanese harbour demanding that Japan open itself up to trade with the west. It was from then that Japan undertook a concerted effort to >catch-up= with the west as an industrial and military power.


Market and classes. Industrialization produced two new classes - capitalists and factory workers. The emerging British working class was taken by surprise by the phenomenon of industrialization which no one had experienced before and where the social consequences of capitalist industrialization could not have been anticipated. Thus, the history of British industrialization is appalling for its exploitation of child and female labour, and labour in general (including that in the colonies). The British labour movement was slower to develop and labour and communist politics has been relatively weak. (The British Labour Party is celebrating only its centenary anniversary in 2000 and has been in power alone for only 25 of the last 100 years).

Because industrialization came later to most of Europe (except in France where a bourgeoises was strong enough in the late 1700's to temporarily overthrow the monarchy), and because of the mass production techniques of later capitalism where large groups of workers were organised for production, the working class and labour politics were a stronger accompaniment of capitalist industrialization. The politics that accompanied the process was relatively more labourist. The socialist tradition has been much stronger in Europe  (e.g.. Germany ) and as a result it is there that the tradition of the welfare state has been most advanced. Countries like Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands were to develop strong welfare states. (It is not surprising that the father of working class politics, Karl Marx, should have been German).

Business and capitalism. Capitalism in England and France - the earliest industrialisers - was based more on small business compared to later industrialisers where the state sponsored large corporations and mass production encouraged the growth of large corporations in their early stages of industrialization. Britain has for long been called >a nation of small shopkeepers.=

Today of course, the rise of the corporation has led to the notion of >corporate capitalism.= Capitalism has been more corporatist. Scholars of industrialism and democracy note the effect of corporations on capitalist competition and democracy. In countries like Japan, the corporate ethic is particularly strong since both private corporation and state are seen as partners on behalf of national capitalism, that is, one where the interest of the Japaneze nation comes first. (In fact, this phenomenon has earned Japan the nickname, >Japan Inc.=).     

Big business started to become a part of America=s capitalist landscape from the late 1800's. In 1860, no American company was valued at $10 million. By 1904, over three hundred were. In 1901, United States Steel Corporation became the first billion dollar company in America.

Big business created oligopoly where a few large companies dominated certain fields like food processing, oil, machine making, chemicals, and transportation.

Culture and capitalism. England has been regarded as a contradiction of modernisation. Economic industrialisation represented the progress of modern economic and political values. However, in England it occurred along with the retention of traditional, sometimes archaic cultural values. The strength of these Victorian values is well known. It lies in the marked impact of the Victorian era on British industrial modernity. Essentially this is a culture that takes pride in the monarchy and gives deference to authority and the upper classes. The Victorian era cultivated upper class notions of good manners, politeness, religion and pride in things >English.=

The Victorian ethic could win over the English population to this culture because the British did take pride in a nation that, after all, was a world power and the seat of the modern world=s largest empire. The population respected the state, monarchy and the Protestant religious values that its imperialist elite promoted. It admired its ruling class and its upper class culture. So it is that Britain could have remained a society deeply organised along class lines but not susceptible to revolutionary class conflict. In this respect, Karl Marx=s expectation of revolutionary class conflict in England did not materialize.

The United States stands in good contrast to Britain and, to a lesser extent, Europe. The absence of an aristocratic, feudal and monarchical tradition has made its classes more egalitarian in values (democratic and social equality) although it is still a class stratified society. Religion plays a smaller role than one finds in the conflicts between Catholic and Protestant parties in Europe today and which have deep roots in European history, the centre of world Christianity. 

And the Protestant ethic ( as in Britain) is more influential in promoting individualism and enterprise in contrast to Catholicism and its more archaic religious dogmatism and promotion of the Catholic Church=s interests over secular, individual ones.

  A good contrast between the experiences of industrialising countries is provided by Mansel Blackford, The Rise of Modern Business in Great Britain, the United States and Japan. The countries selected are interesting because they represent early, middle and late industrialisers as well as countries of different cultural traditions within the western and outside of the western framework. 

Social class and industrialisation. Regardless of where and when industrialisation took place, it was led by and mostly benefitted economic and political elites.  In Britain, the majority of business leaders were the sons of businessmen or public officials (upper civil servants). This upper class was more closed than that of the American upper class so that wealthy persons tended to come from within this class than from without. The American class structure, without an aristocratic history, was less rigid and more fluid so that more persons from the middle class could enter the business elite. (This fluidty of social mobility and opportunity gave rise among early immigrants to the notion of the American dream - that anybody could make it in America).  Japan too, developed an elitist structure. Most of its business leaders came from the merchant/business class and the old samurai, warrior class. Like in Britain, they tended to be educated at two or three exclusive universities.

The degree of social inequality varied. Of course, capitalist industrialisation resulted in great class inequalities. But there was relatively less income inequalities in Britain than in France (making France more revolutionary). And, the middle class was on a whole better educated in Japan than it was in England by the mid-1800's and Japan has traditionally placed more stress on education as a social discipline (not merely a right) than any other industrial country.

However, the poor suffered everywhere. England and France ran horror houses of child labour - children under 17 (and as young as 6 or 8 years), working anywhere between eleven and sixteen hours a day, living in crowded barracks, fed sparsely, and regularly beaten if they were late or to make sure they stayed awake at the machines. Women were mainly unemployed but when they had a job, it was mainly as domestic servants or working in the sweatshops of the textile industry. Political and social unrest were common and for the first fifty years of the seventeenth century, Britain was mostly on the brink of revolution. Ireland suffered the greatest human catastrophe of the nineteenth century anywhere in the world when nearly a million starved to the death in the Great Irish Famine of 1846-47.

Hobsbawm refers to the relative pauperization in Britain in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: A There dispute about the fact that relatively, the poor grew poorer, simply because the country, and its rich and middle class, so obviously grew wealthier. The very moment when the poor were at the end of their tether - in the early and middle forties - was the moment when the middle class dripped with excess capital, to be wildely invested in railways and spent on the bulging, opulent house-hold furnishings displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851, and on the palatial municipal constructions which prepared to rise in the smoky northern cities.@ (1968:72).          

The period of early industrialisation was, in fact, an inhuman and dehumanising period. Millions died from forced labour and cheap labour. Some classes existed in near slave - like conditions. The working population did not have the rights nor the organisation that they have today. Yet, out of working class struggles, conditions were to improve and today, the working population of the industrial countries have a better standard of living than their compatriots elsewhere.

The Politics of the Industrialisation.

The politics of industrialisation was undemocratic, corrupt and violent. For over three hundred years the forces of progress and reaction battled over constitutions, parliament, voting, trade unions, elections. In the process revolution and counter-revolution, reform and reversals characterised the period. But over time a new kind of politics emerged around certain central ideas which have come to be a part of the politics of industrial societies. 

Accompanying the process of industrialisation was a political revolution across the early industrialising countries. This is marked by certain principles:

Parliamentarism: A product of the Glorious Revolution (1688) in England when a Bill of Rights was established (1689) laying down the principle of parliamentary supremacy. The economic revolution spawned a class of merchants and lesser gentry making up a new middle class. Their essential goals were security of property and person, and religious tolerance. Their method was by gaining parliamentary rights for themselves. Parliament gained more power in England earlier than in the other countries. Yet, while the parliamentary principle was recognised early, it only became practice in Britain in the 1830's.


Enlightenment: A product of the French Revolution (1789) where its intellectual leaders promoted the idea of progress and enlightenment against past ages of ignorance and superstition. The idea emerged that if reason prevailed over faith, the condition of humanity would steadily improve so that each generation would be better off than the one before. Enlightenment philosophers believed that natural laws governed the universe and human societies and therefore both could be understood and manipulated for the betterment of humankind. Social conditions were not fixed by God. They rejected the ideas that Kings ruled by divine right or that poverty was natural. They rejected the fatalism of Christianity - that the social order was fixed by God=s plan and that history was predetermined. By their enlightened actions, men could change the world.

Republicanism: A product of the American Revolution (1776) by which a republican government (as opposed to a monarchy) was established. The American Revolution symbolised the fact that a people could govern themselves. The establishment of this independent republic proved to people in Europe that the ideas of the French Enlightenment were practicable - that it was posssible for people (as against Kings and Nobility) to establish a state and a workable system of government based on the rights of the individual. (No wonder the French gave the Statue of Liberty to America as a gift and a symbol of the goals of the French Enlightenment).

Nationalism: A product of the Napoleonic Wars (1815) which disunited and scattered many nations and subjected them to foreign rule; and a counter movement to World Christendom which identified people, not according to nationality but according to their Christian belief, loyalty to the Pope ( not the state), and by Latin as their official language not their vernacular languages. Nationalism came to mean citizenship, of a state, ruled by the people, with their own vernacular language, and their national church. By 1871, Nationalism had triumphed in Greece, Belgium, Italy, Germany and indeed, across western Europe. (It was weaker in central and eastern Europe, the sources of a resurgence of nationalism many ethnic wars today).

Liberalism: A product of the bourgeois revolutions (English, French, American) concerned with middle class property and parliamentary rights. In its early variety it was more concerned with equal civil rights rather than equal political and social rights. Later on in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it became liberal-democratic, that is, concerned with a broader set of rights - voting, welfare, worker=s rights, women=s rights etc..

Socialism: A product of and counter to the capitalism and liberalism of industrialisation and bourgeois democracy. While its primitive form existed during early industrialisation, its modern form evolved from Karl Marx (1818-1883). It favours the rights of the community and collective welfare over individual rights. It holds that human nature is primarily a product of the environment (such as ideology and power relations) and so society can be reformed to promote collective welfare over individual profit and to instill cooperative social attitudes and patterns of behaviour over competitive ones.

These ideas were originally unique to what constitutes, when taken together, a political revolution that accompanied the economic revolutions in science, commerce and industry. The revolutions in politics and economics supported the material culture that emerged to form industrial societies. The most important result was that in this period, the mass of people became a part of the political process for the first time in history.

- Revolution, urbanisation, literacy and larger working and middle classes caused a growth in political participation. They organised, particularly from the 1870's, to win more political and social rights.


- Scientific and industrial developments in printing raised political consciousness, national consciousness, propaganda and the means of mass mobilisation.

- Class conflicts gave rise to class-based political and labour organisations struggling to win influence in parliament and over the state and public policy.


The period from about 1750 to the First World War witnessed the first industrial revolution. It was not only a period of quantitative changes (rates of productivity, numbers of persons who could vote), but in qualitative changes as well. It dramatically transformed conditions and consciousness in the present industrial countries, creating the modern way of life and outlook. Those transformations have affected the developing countries both negatively (colonisation) and positively (the diffusion of technology and democracy).

However, developing countries cannot repeat industrialisation in the same way. Their conditions are different. They:

- are subjects of neo-colonialism rather than potential agents able to colonise other countries;

- must develop while granting democracy, human rights and environmental protection to man and nature whereas the first industrialisers did not;

- are being asked to limit the role of their states rather than use the state as a stimulus for investment and to protect their markets as most industrial countries did;

- are subject to globalisation where the rules of the world economy are already set by industrial countries rather than being able to make those rules;

- suffer from the >brain drain= where they lose skills to the already industrial countries, rather than benefit from the >brain gain= that industrial countries did.

At the same time, developing countries have certain advantages. They do not have to reinvent the wheel. They can benefit from the diffusion of:

- technology such as information, medical, machine and genetic technology which they can adapt to their economies with the right policy emphasis on science, industry and the role of the state;

- advances in democracy and human rights, and in fact, many Caribbean countries have more democracy and better social and human conditions than the industrial countries when the latter were at the same stage of development;

- better educated and more aware populations to prevent the social and environmental disasters that accompanied industrialisation in Europe.

We live in a time of the >third wave= of democratisation and the >second industrial revolution.= Developing countries must quickly resolve the legacies of the disfigurement imposed on their development by the past practices of the industrial countries and take advantage of the democratic and industrial waves and revolutions of today.

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