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Change from Artisan Republic to Factory Based Production
In America, the artisan republic was characterized by small scale production and traditional lifestyle. Majority of individuals lived in rural areas and worked in rural villages and small farms. Life was communal, and the American society was egalitarian. A significant small number of people worked in manufacturing or trade. The merchant families and the prosperous lived in a very simple life. They lived a traditional life where cleanliness was less observed. Most families manufactured their soap and clothing. The period was characterized by small scale production where skilled craftsmen were self-reliant, and their products were sold in local markets. The craftsmen were own masters and total control of their production and their families. The period was characterized by communal living lifestyles where every member of the community had equal rights. There was a good relationship between the whites and the blacks. However, this traditional form of living changed through industrial revolution where new men with wealth and power emerged. Industrialization created divisions in the society between the producers and owners of capital. Industrial revolution created new terms such as those of employee, employer, foreman and boss. Consequently, the above changes faced strong resistance from the American working class since the system led to drastic changes that resulted into creation of very wealthy individuals. Wealthy individual who benefited from this system of production undermined the livelihood and virtues of American working class. Hence, industrialization undermined the traditional mode of production, depressed certain trades and killed certain trades completely. The workers staged a strong resistance against industrialization, but the Americans tried to keep the older traditions to reduce resistance from workers in a number of ways (Boris and Lichtenstein 85).
In older household economy, the master lived in the same house with their assistants. After the introduction of the factory system, the Americans sought to maintain the traditional patterns through introduction workers quarters. The workers who were ejected from their master houses after the introduction of the factory system of production were transferred into separate neighborhoods of working class. The traditional life pattern was characterized by communal living and hence the Americans maintained those patterns of life to their workers through the introduction of working class quarters. The workers in this case could have a feeling of communal living with other fellow workers in those quarters. The work culture during this period was characterized by decline in artisan system. The skilled practiced by the artisans were subcontracted to inexpensive and unskilled laborers. The skills were also subdivided amongst many laborers. The small-scale production that characterized the traditional artisan republic was replaced by large-scale production through the use of machines. Consequently, production shifted from labor intensive to capital intensive mode of production and most traditional artisans lost jobs in the process. The above mode of production made the relationship between the employee and the employer impersonal. Consequently, the workers were forced to live in the neighborhood of their employers to enable them to provide cheap labor to the factories (Hammond and Mason 135)
The Americans also sought to maintain the older traditions of work through providing employment in those factories. The workers were employed to provide cheap labor in the newly created factories. However, the relationship between the master and the assistants changed to that of the employee and his employer. The worker’s skills were exploited in these factories, and they were required to work for long hours for little pay in the form of wages. The new relationships between the employee and the employer became exploitative and could no longer match with the traditional one where everyone had an equal opportunity to scale up to the level of his or her master. In order to maintain the older traditions of work and obtain cheap labor the owners of factories recruited the entire family and housed them in boarding houses. Women and children were recruited to provide skilled and unskilled labor in the factories at a very low wages. The above led to exploitation of child labor and violation of children rights. For instance, industrialization led to the revolution of the shoe making industry. Textile industries employed the entire family including the women and the children those factories relied on the brutal system that incorporated child labor (Frank 128).
The Americans also sought to maintain the old traditions of work through specialization and division of labor in new factories. Work process in printing, building trades, shoe making, and tailoring became more radically recognized, and customer oriented. Division of labor led to certain people specializing with one task rather than performing different tasks. For instance in the shoe industry instead of one man making the whole shoe, the whole process was divided into many small tasks. The several small tasks were performed by different individuals such as a journeyman, the master, a woman worker in her home and the trader who would sell the final product. However, labor division and specialization alienated the workers from their products unlike the traditional work where the artisan had direct ownership of their products. Most of the master craftspeople left their supervisory role to contractors and foremen who supervised the skilled and unskilled workers (Boris and Lichtenstein 86).
The Americans succeeded to some extent to maintain the older traditions of work under the new factory system until, and this resulted into a tremendous increase in productivity in those industries. Increased productivity greatly increased the wealth of capitalists. However, this mode of production did not exist for long before it was confronted by strong protests from the workers. In the early eighteenth century the shoe makers and journeymen organized labor strike and protested heavily against the changing work conditions. They protested against the sub-contraction, use of cheap labor and subdivision, but the court found them guilty and fined them. However, these movements continued with the agitation for better working conditions. They protested against increased use of semiskilled and unskilled labor, declining standards and wage reduction. They also condemned the employer’s practices that they claimed to be against the independence of workers. Later the Supreme Court came to recognize the right of existence of trade unions in America to agitate for better employment terms of workers. The trade movements countered the success of the Americans in maintaining the older traditions of work through strong agitation for better employment terms. They organized massive strikes that pressurized the employers to reduce the working hours in the factories. In addition, the labor movements agitated for the abolition for imprisonment due to debt, right to public education and other better working conditions. The exploitative nature of the new factory system of production received a lot of criticism from the workers since it suppressed their chances of succeeding and enslaved them. Consequently, the agitation bore fruits after the improvement of most working conditions of workers (Rodriguez 136)
Boris, Eileen and Nelson Lichtenstein. Major Problems in the History of American Workers: Documents and Essays. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.
Frank, Andrew. Early republic : people and perspectives. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2008.
Hammond, John Craig and Matthew Mason. Contesting slavery : the politics of bondage and freedom in the new American nation. Charlottesville : University of Virginia Pres, 2011.
Rodriguez, Junius P. Slavery in the United States : a social, political, and historical encyclopedia. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2007.