It is possible to say that economic, industrial, and intellectual trends, which emerged in the nineteenth century, contributed to the growing inequalities in many European societies. Moreover, one should speak about the growing class division which can be explained by the fact that a growing number of people became dissatisfied with the lack of opportunities for climbing social ladder. This argument can be best illustrated by examining the primary sources that can throw light on the experiences of people who lived during that period.
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To some degree, this confrontation can be explained by extremely poor working conditions that could destroy the health of an individual. For instance, it is possible to mention Sadler Commission Report on Child labor. This document shows that children could be beaten and humiliated by foremen.
Moreover, these people did not have many opportunities to improve their living conditions even though they could be working since the age of eight. This is one of the issues that can be singled out. The hostility between various classes could be intensified because workers could believe that they were dehumanized by their employers.
In order to understand the causes of this hostility one can look at the extremely rigid rules that regulated workers’ behavior. According to these rules, workers could be fined for every deviation from the procedures established by the management . To some degree, this situation can be explained by rapid development of technologies during the nineteenth century. This trend reduced the bargaining power of workers whose services were of lesser importance to manufacturers.
Admittedly, there were people, who attempted to show that there had been no need to speak about injustice. For instance, one can mention Samuel Smiles and his book Self-Help and Thrift. He wanted to emphasize the idea that the social inequalities could be explained by the individual qualities of a person. For instance, he said that poverty could be explained by “individual idleness, selfishness, and vice”.
This rhetoric could not fully explain the origins of inequalities. However, it could intensify the hostility toward more prosperous people. In turn, the arguments put forward by Samuel Smiles were less popular in comparison with the ideas of Karl Marx.
These examples show that the nineteenth century was marked by the growing class division. To some degree, this process can be attributed to the declining bargaining power of workers. Moreover, one should speak about the ethical critique of capitalism.
Dooday, Graeme. The Morals of Measurement: Accuracy, Irony, and Trust in Late
Victorian Electrical Practice, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Print.
Perry, Marvin. Sources of the Western Tradition: Volume II: From the Renaissance to the Present, New York: Cengage Learning, 2008. Print.
- Marvin Perry. Sources of the Western Tradition: Volume II: From the Renaissance to the Present (New York: Cengage Learning, 2008) 143.
- Perry 148.
- Smiles, as cited in Perry 150.
- Dooday, Graeme. The Morals of Measurement: Accuracy, Irony, and Trust in Late Victorian Electrical Practice (NY: Cambridge University Press, 2004) 66.