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“Work Place Discipline” and its influence on nineteenth century English society

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"Work Place Discipline" and its influence on nineteenth century English society "Hickory dickory dock, The mouse ran up the clock, The clock struck one, The mouse ran down, Hickory dickory dock. (Children's nursery rhyme. Anon.) The Industrial Revolution, it could be said, was responsible for the beginning of the notion that "Time is money". Not only were there massive changes in the means of production, but also in the working lives of most of society. Not least of these was the transformation of working practices from agricultural and cottage industry to full scale factory systems with their need for "workplace discipline". In this essay I intend to take a brief look at the background to the Industrial Revolution, the need for change and how a workforce was created and disciplined for both the factory system and the domestic system. I will then go on to discuss how these changes influenced society and the effect they had on the lives and welfare of ordinary people. Although it was not as instantaneous as it sounds the Industrial Revolution did however bring about drastic changes to society, both economically and socially over a relatively short period of time. ...read more.


Discipline was administered in the form of fines and other punishments including, in some cases, beatings and corporal punishment. Often these punishments would be applied for minor acts of self-indulgence such as drinking water, despite the heat in the factory, or talking to colleagues. Despite the different image conjured up by the name, similar conditions existed in the domestic system. In this system production took place in the homes of workers and the merchant would pay a wage for the production. That old fashioned industry has now been converted into an outside department of the factory the manufactory, or the warehouse. (Marx.1867) This system was very common in the woollen industry as the diversity of yarns and production techniques meant it was difficult to mass-produce. Until the mid eighteenth century the worsted woolcombers had enjoyed a limited amount of power partly through the speciality of their trade but also because of a union organisation which ensured fair pay and conditions. However the Worsted Acts introduced the second half of the eighteenth century gave an incredible amount of power to the worsted masters in controlling their workers. The post Industrial Revolution domestic system differed from cottage industry before industrialisation which was made up of independent workers working on their own materials who were therefore themselves merchants on a small scale. ...read more.


New Model Unions developed in the mid nineteenth century which, although limited membership to skilled men, led to the successful growth of trade unions for all workers. The power of these organisations eventually led to the birth of what we now call the Labour party. There were changes too in art. Romanticism had concentrated on uncontrollable emotions such as love, religion and beauty whereas the growth of realism attempted to depict the reality of life with all its sadness and difficulty and encouraged people to work to change what was happening. It is difficult to deny the inevitability of the Industrial Revolution and the resultant increase in technology, wealth and power, but at what consequence? It is almost impossible to imagine the extreme transformation it wrought in the lives of the majority of people, however the revolution shaped modern society into what we now recognise. The resultant increase in the rights of workers today, improvement in health care and welfare all have their roots in the changes that occurred at that time, the cost being the intense suffering of at least two generations of people. If it is true that civilisation spoils people then is it not also true that people spoiled civilisation by turning society into a clock watching army of worker ants? ?? ?? ?? ?? Lesley Jackson 1 BA Hons Social Studies Yr 1 ...read more.

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