Sociology and the Age of Revolution, Industrialization, and Urbanization

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Sociology and the Age of Revolution, Industrialization and Urbanization
Several types of.revolution that took place in the eighteenth century had a profound influence on the origins of sociology. TIle Enlightenment produced an intellectual revolution in how people thought about social change, progress. and critical thinking. The optimistic views of the philosophes and other social thinkers regarding progress and equal opportunity (at least for some people) became part of the impetus for political revolutions and economic revolutions, first in America and then in France. The Enlightenment thinkers had
emphasized a sense of common purpose and hope for human progress; the French Revolution and its aftermath replaced these ideals with discord and overt conflict (see Scharna, 1989; Arendt, 1973). During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. another form of revolution occurred: the Industrial Revolution. Industrialization is the process by which societies are transformed from dependence 011 agriculture and handmade products to an emphasis on manufacturing and related industries. This process first occurred during the Industrial Revolution in Britain between 1760 and 1850. and was soon repeated throughout Western Europe. By the mid-nineteenth century. industrialization was well under way in the United States. Massive economic. technological. and social changes occurred as machine technology and the factory system shifted the economic base of these nations from agriculture to manufacturing. A new social class of industrialists emerged in textiles. iron smelting. and related industries. Ma.ny people who had labored on the land were forced to leave their tightly knit rural communities and sacrifice well-defined social relationships to seek employment as factory workers in the emerging cities, which became the centers of industrial work. Urbanization accompanied modernization and the rapid process of industrialization. Urban/ZIItion is the process by which an increasing proportion of a population lives in cities rather than in rural areas. Although cities existed long before the Industrial Revolution. the development of the factory system led to a rapid increase in botl; the number of cities and the size of their populations. People from very diverse backgrounds worked together in the same factory. At the same time. many people shifted from being producers to being consumers. For example. families living in the cities had to buy food with their wages because they could no longer grow their own crops to consume or to barter for other resources. Similarly. people had to pay rent for their lodging because they could no longer exchange their services for shelter. These living and working conditions led to the development of new social problems: inadequate housing. crowding, unsanitary conditions. poverty. pollution.. and crime. Wages were so low that entire families including very young children-were forced to work. often under hazardous conditions and with no job security. As these conditions became more visible. a new breed of social thinkers turned its attention to trying to understand why and how society was changing.