In what ways did the emerging industrial economy conflict with artisan republicanism? How did wage laborers respond to the new economy?
In United States, industrialization started in 1760s to 1820s when manufacturers and merchants increased their product output through building factories and re-organizing work. Through these expansion strategies, the price of goods was lowered, and division of labor became more efficient. However, the workers control over conditions and pace of work was eroded. For the tasks that were unsuited to outwork, there was the creation of factories characterized by specialization of responsibilities and tasks (Ilic, 2004).
The manufacturers relied on steam engines to drive the mills and machines that used power in production. Britons feared that the American manufacturers could become involved in exports. As a result, Britain prevented export of textile machinery any exports as well as immigration of the mechanics. However, the introduction of the cotton spinner in America by Samuel Slater marked the beginning of Industrial Revolution. Britain formulated protective legislation that resulted to reduced production rates than in America. As a result, Americans started to improve their machines and embarked on technological innovation (Hodges, 1992).
Industrial revolution changed lives of the workers and the nature of their work. Most craftsmen in America developed an ideology of artisan republican that depended on principles of equality and liberty. They considered themselves equal and free from forced labor. The increased republicanism saw many workers taking more wage earning jobs. Some employees formed unions and their bargaining power with the employers heightened. Most of the artisans facing threats from industrialization started specialized shops. The American and English law illegalized workers from organizing themselves with the aim of getting their wages raised. Nevertheless, the formation of the labor theory of value by union leaders as a mutual benefits society sought for better work conditions and better pay (Hodges, 1992).
Hodges, G. (1992). The Decline and Fall of Artisan Republicanism in Antebellum New York City: Views from the Street and Workshop. Journal of Urban History 18(2), 211-21.
Ilic, B. (2004). The Transition from Industrial (traditional) to New (information) Economy. Ekonomski Anali 49(162) , 99-126.