Industrial societies are based on technology that mechanizes production. Originating in England during the Industrial Revolution, this mode of production dramatically transformed predominantly rural and agrarian societies into urban and industrial societies. i describes how the revolution first began in Britain and then spread to other countries, including the United States. Industrialism involves the application of scientific knowledge to the technology of production, thus making it possible for machines to do the work previously done by people or animals. New technologies, such as the invention of the steam engine and fuel-powered machinery, stimulated many changes. Before the invention of the steam engine, machines were run by natural power sources (such as wind or water mills) or harnessed power (either human or animal power).
The steam engine made it possible to produce goods by machines powered by fuels rather than undependable natural sources or physical labor.As inventions and discoveries build upon one another, the rate of social and technological change increases. For example, the invention of the steam engine brought about new types of transportation, including trains and steamships. Inventions such as electric lights made it possible for people to work around the clock without regard to whether it was daylight or dark outside. Take a look around you: Most of what you see would not exist if it were not for industrialization. Cars, computers, electric lights, televisions, telephones, and virtually every other possession we own are the products of an industrial society.
Industrialism changes the nature of subsistence production. In countries such as the United States, large-scale agribusinesses have practically replaced small, family-owned farms and ranches. However, large-scale agriculture has produced many environmental problems while providing solutions to the problem of food s'lpply. In industrial sccleties, a large proportion of the population lives in or near cities. Large corporations and government bureaucracies grow in size and complexity. The nature of social life changes as people come to know one another more as statuses than as individuals. In fact. ;r person's occupation becomes a key defining characteristic in industrial societies, whereas his or her kinship ties are most important in preindustrial societies. Although time is freed up for leisure activities, many people still work long hours or multiple jobs. Social institutions are transformed by industrialism. The family diminishes in significance as the economy, education, and political institutions grow in size and complexity. Although the family is still a major social institution for the care and socialization of children, it loses many of its other production functions to businesses and corporations. The family is now a consumption unit, not a production unit. In advanced industrial societies such as the United States, families take on many diverse forms, including single-parent families, single-person families, and step families.
Although the influence of traditional religion is diminished in industrial societies, religion remains a powerful institution. Religious organizations are important in determining what moral issues will be brought to the forefront (e.g., unapproved drugs, abortion, and violence and sex in the media) and in trying to influence lawmakers to pass laws regulating people's conduct. Politics in industrial s(i:ieties is usually based on a democratic form of government. As nations such as South Korea, the People's Republic of China, and Mexico
have become more industrialized, many people in these nations haw intensified their demands for political participation.
Although the standard of living rises in industrial societies, social inequality remains a pressing problem. As societies industrialize, the status of women tends to decline further. For example, industrialization in the United States created a gap between the nonpaid work performed by women at home and the paid work that was increasingly performed by men and unmarried girls. The division of labor between men and women in the middle and upper classes also became much more distinct: Men were responsible for being "breadwinners",
women were seen as "homemakers" (Amott and Matthaei, 1996). This gendered division of labor increased the economic and political subordinationof women. Likewise, although industrialization was a source of upward mobility for many whites, most people cf color were left behind (Lorber, 1994). In short, industrial societies have brought about some of the greatest innovations in all of human history, but they have also maintained and perpetuated some of the greatest problems, including violence; race class and gender-based inequalities; and environmental degradation.