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The 1950s: A Watershed in the Oil Economy Development Essay

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Updated: Dec 14th, 2021

Introduction

The growth of world economy is normally attributed to several factors where capital, energy and labor are key factors. Pollution of the environment is directly related to level of manufacturing indicated by the strong relationship between use of fossil fuel in manufacturing products and the subsequent accumulation of pollutants and waste in the environment. The twentieth century falls into two phases of uneven growth on the basis of consumption and real wages. The focal points are before 1950 and after 1950. There has been an increase in greenhouse gases where the atmosphere has become more concentrated an indication of an increase in global energy consumption largely attributed to mass consumption in the industrial world.

Main body

The principles of sustainable development characterized several countries and societies in terms of energy consumption before the 1950s. Swiss society for example largely lived very close to the principles of sustainability (Strasser 1998, 363). For instance, there were no surpluses from wages earned and hence wages were enough to cover basic needs only limiting choices of individual lifestyles. The war had reinforced the tradition of agricultural society curbing consumption and recycling of resources to avoid wastage of energy. Second, the concept of biodynamical farming was used in agricultural production where most farmers used animal machinery rather than mechanical machinery hence needed no fuel energy but rather relied on their own fodder (Krech 2004, 1176). All this changed in 1950s and had significant influence to energy consumption. Third, in the years before the 1950s, people used to live close to their working areas and residential areas were located close to local public transport systems. This hindered urbanization as no urban centers would develop apart from the ones already existing. During 1950s, people started living far away from their work areas and transport systems and thus urbanization was realized. Fourth, shopping was part of a localized housework where food and other stuff were bought in small retail shops that were close to residential areas. There was no variety of goods to be shopped and stocks were limited. As industrialization began, small shops grew into large businesses with several chains in many locations providing a wide range of goods to customers. As a result, people were employed and therefore they did not have to work on agricultural farms alone to get the wages. Lastly, the railway was essentially used in coal distribution and hence industries were developed along the railway lines. During the 1950s, the railway became a major means of transport as it aided in industrial development through transport of raw materials and finished products to the industries and the markets.

The rapid changes in most European countries economically and socially have affected global energy consumptions mainly attributed to initial shift away from sustainability to mass consumption (llbery 1981, 62). As industrialization kicked off, European economies developed into two different sectors, the modern and traditional sectors. The modern sector was part of international market economy characterized by competitive capitalistic enterprises. The traditional sector was contrary structured according to agrarian model of the society where work was organized socially. The traditional sector virtually disappeared in the 1950s as modern sector got momentum. Economic growth is one notable change that made an impact that influenced changing patterns of consumption in the 1950s. There was considerable per capita growth of gross National product of many countries in this period. There was significant rise in real wages (Gordon 1998, 47) in many European countries that were from 250 percent to 400 percent. Employers and trade unions agreed in working conditions and wages regulation in comprehensive settlements that bonded both sides. The settlement served as a model for other branches of the economy whose results were sustained rise in real wages in the entire economy and formed the basis for transition to mass consumption of energy. Apart from economic growth and rise in wages, there was rapid manpower decline in the agricultural sectors where many people moved to the service sector of the economy (Redclift 1996, 62). Creation of systems of social securities too played a great part in the 1950s as the system provided a source of regular income to the handicapped and the elderly (Strasser 1998, 367) which too had an impact on the rate of energy consumption. Emergence of political consensus across the societal spectrum in many European countries during this period had an impact on economic growth and influenced energy consumption. For instance in Switzerland, some social democrats were incorporated in the federal government which was never the case before (PRS Group Incorporated 2002, 143).

Conclusion

In conclusion, rise in real wages, political and social stability formed a basis that favored transition from industrial to consumer society. The shift in agricultural procedures such as animal machinery to mechanical machinery in 1950s was significant in making the 1950s a watershed in development of oil economy. With development of infrastructure, people were able to live away from their work areas and this favored urbanization in the 1950s. Businesses too grew as shops developed to large chains providing a wide range of products to customers and created job opportunities to people. The railway formed a basis for rapid industrialization as it helped in distribution of raw materials and finished products. The transition of consumption patterns as a result of several factors discussed above was realized during this post war period.

References

A. Gordon. The wages of affluence: labor and management in postwar Japan. Harvard University Press, Harvard, 1998

B. IIbery. Western Europe: a systematic human geography. Oxford university press, Oxford, 1981

M. Redclift. Wasted: counting the costs of global consumption. Earthscan publishers, London, 1996

PRS Group Incorporated, Political Risk Yearbook: West Europe. University of Michigan press, Michigan, 2002

S. Strasser. “Syndrome of the 1950’s in Switzerland: cheap energy, mass consumption and the environment. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1998

S. Krech, R. McNeil, C. Merchant. Encyclopedia of world environmental history, Volume 3. Routledge publishers, Oxford, 2004.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'The 1950s: A Watershed in the Oil Economy Development'. 14 December.

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