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Site Index > Industrial Politics and Economics

Industrial Politics and Economics

Perhaps the best analogy of the relationship between politics and war is that, in the words of Sir Winston Churchill, “war is an extension of policy by other means.”

Armament Production and Society

The first explosively powered weapons that are known to have existed date from around the 14th century AD. It is unknown for certain where cannon originated, but it is known that they spread very rapidly, particularly throughout Europe. The development of explosively powered weapons is perhaps the most important invention of all time. Gunpowder propelled the world out of the Dark Ages.

Fabricating Big GunsThe production of ordnance caused industrialization and industrialization brought new political and financial systems. The roots of the modern international financial system can easily be traced to the banking activities of Mayer Amschel Rothschild and his House of Rothschild, George Peabody & Company and the various banking firms affiliated with Junius and J. P. Morgan. These firms molded today’s financial system through their involvement in financing European wars and other international transactions during the early industrial revolution.

Third Liberty Loan CampaignBefore armies needed cannon there was scarcely any need for nations to secure outside funding for military campaigns because it just didn’t cost that much to send troops armed with clubs and spears into battle. When explosively powered ordnance appeared it eventually became imperative to have the latest hardware to remain competitive on the battlefield. International trade grew because of the munitions manufacturing need for materials that were unevenly distributed geographically. During conflicts it was not unusual for nations to need more industrial capacity than was available domestically. The solution was to buy needed items and materials abroad, but a financial system capable of this really didn’t exist in the early industrial era.

In the same way that the modern financial system developed out of the need to produce military hardware, the modern political systems of the world have developed for the same reason. Only one international financial system is mentioned here because today there is only one financial system that functions worldwide. Countries maintain various financial systems domestically, but internationally all must use the same system. There is a good deal more variation in political structures between different nations of similar economic and technological capabilities, but they become more similar all of the time. Eventually, if all of the world’s societies were at a similar technological and economic level, it seems plausible to purport their political structures would eventually become identical.

There is really no great philosophical political principle because political structures are driven and molded by the technological prowess and economic activities of societies. Political structures must necessarily facilitate the livelihood of their societies and when they fail in this principle respect, something, maybe war or revolution, will realign them. Eventually, economic and technological factors are going to prevail and the necessary system will be implemented regardless of any deeply held tenets.

How Modern Economic Systems Developed and Changed

Inasmuch as the material world as we know it is largely the result of military technology transfer, the very structure of societies have been molded in the same way. The process was not quite as direct, but came as a result of the industrialization that was caused by military technology. The following section looks at the development of modern political systems and their relation to industrialization.

Emerging Industrial Social Systems

View of Wall Street from Corner of BroadAt about the time that the United States was founded, in the late 1700s, many new ideas about how wealth and resources should be allocated were gaining acceptance in the Western world. The United States became a model of one of these philosophies, capitalism. Another major revolution of the same period, the French Revolution, brought forth another 18th century political system, socialism. There were other implementations of new political philosophies around this time, but most were initialized less dramatically than the previous two examples illustrate. Other implementations of new philosophies came about with more difficulty and required more time while some of the new philosophies are idealistic and have never yet been implemented.

The traditional school of thought on the emergence and interrelationships of modern political and economic structures is that they began by coincidence at about the same time. The institutions of Capitalism, Socialism, Communism, Anarchism, Nihilism and Constitutional Monarchies are believed by some to have all emerged completely independently and by coincidence. However, there is a common cause for the incredible political and economic changes that have occurred worldwide since the mid-18th century. The significance of these changes is even more dramatic when considered in perspective with the lack of change in political and economic systems in the preceding thousands of years.

It is clear that industrialization created these changes and that the Industrial Revolution was far more than simply a revolution in industrial practices. The Industrial Revolution was also a complete revolution in economics, politics and social order. Industrialization was, in fact, the most sweeping force of change in the history of mankind. It changed nearly every aspect of human existence so greatly that the societies of today are almost unrecognizable from the societies of before the Industrial Revolution. Industrialization not only changed the way that things are produced, but also changed the political, economic and social systems of most of the world. Most of these changes occurred violently. It is a great paradox that the cause of industrialization was war and the cause of war was industrialization.


6 Inch Spanish Brass CannonThe Middle Ages spanned a period of about 1000 years from around AD 500 to approximately AD 1500. There is deviation about the exact dates based on various factors such as locale, but it ends at the Renaissance, and that period’s beginning also has the same variation. Nevertheless, near the end of the Middle Ages, Europeans were involved in the Crusades, a religious mob-warfare type of endeavor. This amounted to a perpetual state of war that lasted about 200 years. One of the primary activities in these societies was the production of military items. Somewhere around the 14th or 15th century the cannon was invented. Here again there is some variability based upon the exact definition of cannon and other factors. Nonetheless, the invention of cannon is really the point where industrialization began.

Life in the Middle Ages

It is important to consider the political, economic and social structures that were in place before the world industrialized. At the end of the Middle Ages most of the world's societies lived under the feudal system. Feudal systems were military, political and economic systems. Although in the feudal system the populace and all property were owned by the state, most subjects at least had the means of subsistence. Generally, the peasants in feudal societies had houses, personal effects, some land that they occupied and an activity of livelihood.

Peasants generally paid taxes of about half of the agricultural production from the land that they dwelt on to their lords, the owners of the land. They were also required to work about 20 hours per week for their lord. In addition to those requirements, the peasants had to give ten percent of their production to the church. Although these requirements were severe, peasants generally only worked about 260 days per year due to the many Holy Days, or holidays. There were large festivals and entertainment on Holy Days.

Social Changes of Industrialization

When industrialization began, the structure of the affected societies changed. The feudal system gave way to new political and economic systems and the changes were caused by industrialization. Industrialization came about through military factors. Furthermore, political and economic changes frequently came about violently because of their magnitude. In most cases, industrialization displaced every aspect of the feudal system, including the ruling classes. When the ruling classes tried to suppress these changes, they came about more violently and completely - even when the change was postponed. The French Revolution is perhaps the greatest example of the unfortunate results that resistance to industrial social changes could have for the ruling classes. It is interesting to note that the means of dealing with the deposed ruling classes was the guillotine, perhaps the first mechanical device that could meet out executions on an industrial scale and with industrial methods.

Because Europe was at war most of the time, industrial goods such as cannons and guns became increasingly important to the heads of state. The rulers had to have these items or else their states would be conquered by another state trying to expand its territory, a practice now known as imperialism. They could not resist industrialization because the materials of war were crucial to their survival. In fact, they usually embraced new technologies and industries and tried to encourage advances in these areas, especially in armament design. Nevertheless, they usually failed to embrace the changes to their societies that industrialization demanded. It required new social structures and for the monarchs to step aside from their roles as the supreme rulers of their nations. There are only a few cases where the monarchs were astute enough to realize that they could not resist these changes. It is extremely paradoxical that the industrialization that rulers needed to maintain their positions eventually caused their rules to topple and ended their political systems and way of life. In most cases, this change came about through some violent means. In reality, the cause of war was industrialization, and the cause of industrialization was war.

The End of Feudal Systems

Apparently, industrial societies cannot exist within a monarchy form of government. To continue industrialization Europeans had to leave behind the old feudal system. In a few cases, graceful changes occurred with the formation of constitutional monarchies, but in most cases, change occurred turbulently.

In the Mill by Lewis Hine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1909The reason for the end of the feudal era, the widespread political unrest - and ultimately the World Wars - was industrialization. It is interesting that WW I started with Austria-Hungary, the last great dynastic empire. At the end of World War I, the Austria-Hungary Empire dissolved into nationalist states. Austria-Hungary's Habsburg monarchy also dissolved at this time.

Near the end of World War I, most of the world's remaining monarchies crumbled. This cleared the way for new industrial societies and the new industrial era. Industrialization was the underlying cause of these turbulent changes and the cause of industrialization was war.

The Problems of New Industrial Societies

After the feudal system was purged, new sets of problems began to arise for the newly formed industrial societies. Many of the very basic elements of modern political and economic systems had gradually emerged on their own. Since the transition to industrial society came about somewhat subtly, many of the problems that began to appear were unexpected. Factors of life that had not been problems in feudal societies became enormous problems for early industrial societies.

Small Child Working in Mollahan MillsThe source of many of the problems that emerged with industrialization was that now few people possessed the materials of production. Companies that employed workers for wages now owned the materials of production, or capital. Workers were highly dependent on the companies and could not sustain life without their jobs. In order to increase profits, many companies exploited their workers. Instances of child labor involving small children were common in the early days of the Industrial Revolution.

Crowded NYC street, circa 1900Another set of problems that emerged as societies industrialized resulted from the increasing population densities in industrial communities. Before industrialization, peasants lived in sparsely populated agricultural arrangements and there were not many large cities. As industries began to grow, many cities grew very rapidly and company towns began to spring up. Sanitation suddenly became a huge problem and many industrial cities were filthy with few provisions for sewage, refuse or drinking water.

SmogSoon, industrial environmental pollution became an enormous problem also. This was especially serious when a company was engaged in processes that created toxic products and byproducts. In many industrial areas, the air became unbreathable and the water became undrinkable. The air in many industrial cities was frequently so smoky that visibility was never more than a few hundred feet. New manufacturing processes that created valuable chemicals like nitroglycerin had frequent mishaps thereby making retirement plans unnecessary.

Companies become Very Large

New assembley lineOne of the problems that was difficult to deal with was that some companies grew to sizes that could not have been imagined a century earlier. This sometimes caused other problems. In some cases, a large geographical area depended on one company for its livelihood. If the company had hard times, so did everyone in that area.

Some companies grew to control the entire market for the products that they produced, a situation now known as a monopoly. Monopolies sometimes became so large and powerful that not even governments could control them or address the problems that they created.

In several instances, companies actually became larger than the government, making regulation nearly impossible. In fact, the Federal Government in the United States had to grow and significantly expand and redefine its role to meet this challenge.

Industrialization Created New Economies

The Gold Coast, Chicago, Illinois USAIndustrialization created many new economic opportunities and actually created entirely new economic systems in many instances. Industrialization also demanded new monetary and financial systems. Some of these changes were the result of the enormous number of new items that were suddenly available at a reasonable cost and in plentiful supply. New retail organizations, distribution systems and support industries emerged to serve the industrial sector.

Industrialization created new financial systems and the systems of the feudal era began to disappear early on. The monetary systems of medieval times were phased out rapidly. The causes of this were military and industrial. In order to finance military campaigns, nations now found that they had to borrow money. The reason that money had to be borrowed was because of the need to purchase and produce large quantities of industrially produced military tools such as ordnance.

The need for defense capital gave rise to many new enterprises in the financial sector thereby affecting all aspects of the society. Whole new banking enterprises like international and investment banking emerged in the early part of the Industrial Revolution. Most of the largest banking houses of today sprang up during this period. Large banks wielded enormous influence over economic and monetary policy and molded the fiscal policy of the world. The result of this was that monarchies were no longer in direct control of monetary policy. In many cases, monetary policies and realities were now imposed upon nations by external forces.

Economic systems of the early Industrial Revolution had practically no controls, restrictions or safety mechanisms. This situation afflicted the currency, the banking sector and the general economy with great instability. The most common economic system was the free market system, especially in the United States where it initially emerged.

The free market economy could, and frequently did, make large and wild swings. Economies frequently went from boom to bust and currency sometimes became worthless overnight. There were many instances of financial panics during the 1800s and economic instability was an everyday thing. Often, frugal individuals went bankrupt during financial panics. Financial panics frequently caused the failure of otherwise solvent and well-managed institutions.

Panics can occur for a variety of reasons, but usually they result from an industrial or banking crisis. Crises can be caused by rapid fluctuations in commodity or security prices. An industrial crisis can be triggered by a significant change in a factor of production for that industry, such as a significant change in commodity prices for materials that it uses.

Other panics have resulted from the collapse of a leading firm in a market sector, such as the failure of a prominent bank. In the case of financial institutions, failure of one institution sometimes causes runs on other banks because confidence in the whole banking industry has been shattered. Ultimately, these factors create widespread economic instability thereby stifling economic activity because investors are reluctant to make commitments.

New Social Structures for Industrial Societies

As more and more economic controls and safeguards were created to avoid some of the problems outlined above, the free market system and capitalism ceased to exist - at least at the national level. The free market system is still sometimes used in trade between nations, but as a national system, it has completely disappeared.

The true free market system began to disappear near the end of the 1800s, in response to the serious problems listed above. When the Great Depression struck in 1929, many of the possible problems with this system became painfully evident. As part of the solution to end to the Great Depression, measures implemented in the 1930s, and especially in 1934, effectively ended the free market system and capitalism in the United States.

It is popularly believed in the United States that the economic system of that nation is capitalism. In fact, the economic system used in the US is more or less socialism, and this has been so since 1934. There are still capitalistic aspects of the American and European economies, but there are few markets that are allowed to fluctuate freely, the essence of true capitalism. Even the institutions that are stalwarts of capitalism such as the commodity and stock markets are only allowed to fluctuate within certain limits today. If one of these markets realizes too much change in one day, trading is suspended. A true free market system does not have these types of restrictions.

It is easy to romanticize the wonders of the capitalistic system - but important to remember what led to its demise. The changes made to the free market system happened out of necessity. They are widely popular because they create much more stability, a feature that benefits nearly everyone. In fact, the only group that does not benefit from added stability are the few individuals that have an infallible sixth sense about upcoming market conditions. The economic and political systems of today are much more complex than those of the pre-1930 period. Without modern safety controls in the financial markets, it is likely that they would be much more unstable today than they were before 1930.

In a similar manner, if a social structure has too many controls an industrial society will undergo substantial changes to correct this problem. This is what occurred in most communist countries in the last part of the twentieth century. In the twentieth century working communist system states owned and controlled all of the wealth and resources of the society and the people worked in the industries for wages and benefits. Industrial production was an integral part of the communist philosophy. Because communism was devised after industrialization had occurred, and years later than the philosophies of capitalism and socialism emerged - there were advantages for the creators of communism, Marx and Engels, in addressing this issue. Nevertheless, it is evident that there were numerous inadequacies in their societal model.

Industrial production was an integral part of the communist philosophy. Because communism was devised after substantially more industrialization had occurred, and years later than the philosophies of capitalism and socialism, there were advantages for Marx and Engels, the creators of communism, in addressing this issue.

Because of industrial economic factors, most communist countries had to modify their basic characteristics. Therefore, all industrial societies have to be structured within certain boundaries for optimal function. If those structures are not within the required limits, change must occur.

The Form of Modern Social Structures

The structures of all societies must be within certain boundaries dictated by the principle economic activity. If a social structure requires adjustment, the means of change is usually a crisis such as a war, a political revolution or even an economic catastrophe. The effect in each case is that when the society survives the crisis, it is then reformulated within the boundaries that are required by economic forces.

No great ideology actually mandates the necessary parameters for the correct political, social and economic structures for a society. The necessary parameters for successful working social structures are dependent upon a society's main economic activity and not upon high-minded political philosophies. Since political and economic systems are forms of control for societies, changes to these institutions are frequently tumultuous. If the social systems are not working, change must come; otherwise, the society will dissolve. The true reasons that changes occur are frequently masked, but deep analysis usually reveals that the actual causes are economic in nature.

Failures of Political Philosophies

People frequently give the same fervor and zeal to their political beliefs as they do to their religious beliefs. In many cases, people identify with a philosophy without having seriously studied the true forces at work and the available options.

Likewise, political parties occasionally perpetuate erroneous concepts. One way that this can happen is when a flawed idea was a strong tenet of the founder or other strong figure of the party. Because the basic tenets of political philosophies may define the entire school of thought, false ideas may be held with religious fervor.

Social systems and the environments in which they exist are dynamic. Therefore, the structure also must undergo constant change. When people hold political dogma with the same conviction as religious views, necessary social changes can be irrational and difficult to implement, and therefore, tumultuous. In a democracy, each individual has a responsibility to analyze information so that they may make their own intelligent decisions for participating in the political process. As societies have become more complex, this task has grown immensely, and perhaps, is largely being neglected. It is not satisfactory in a democracy for an individual to take the word of someone else for one’s stance on a particular issue, but it is a responsibility to analyze issues in detail and make the best decision from the available options independently.

Founding of Modern Social Systems

The NYC Easter Parade, circa 1900In the late 18th century, many new ideas about how wealth and resources should be allocated were being debated worldwide. Many of the basic philosophical elements for the foundation of industrial societies began to emerge on their own making it possible to create formal systems out of them. The reason that formal political and economic philosophies developed during this time is that social conditions created by industrialization demanded it. Never before in history were new political philosophies seriously considered and debated to the extent that they were during this period.


Capitalism was one of the first economic systems to appear when new industrial social theories were established. It was one of the most prevalent forms of economic systems in the early days of the Industrial Revolution. Capitalism in its pure form has completely disappeared from use at a national level, but it is still used in international trade. Black markets are also capitalistic.

Capitalism is an economic system that consists of private ownership of the factors of production where the owners use those resources to generate a profit. One of the important characteristics of capitalism is that the economic system is free and governments have little or no control over economic activities.

Most of the Western World's economic systems today maintain some features of capitalism. Although most Western countries generally allow private ownership of production factors, they are no longer allowed to operate completely freely, as in a pure capitalist system. Because of this, it is realistic to purport that most free world economic systems today are actually some form of fascism or socialism.


The communist philosophy originated in Russia during the mid-19th century. It is both a political and economic system. Communism is somewhat based on the socialist philosophy, but is different in many ways. Some people refer to communism as socialism, but this is very misleading. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published a pamphlet titled "Manifesto of the Communist Party" in 1848. Marx and Engels named their system "communist," rather than "socialist," to distinguish it from utopian socialism.

The manifesto defines communism as the abolition of private property. Near the end of the Communist Manifesto, they called for the forcible overthrow of all existing social institutions. The manifesto did not define most other aspects of the movement, however, so many details were left open to change. This created the possibility for major fundamental changes when Lenin, sometimes known as Nikolai Lenin, came to power in the revolution of 1917. Many changes may have resulted from the numerous problems encountered while establishing a new government in Russia. Lenin had many problems setting up the new government and establishing a working economic system.

He nearly destroyed all that remained of the Russian economy. An emergency transitional system was set up to avert a complete economic collapse, and then Lenin died in 1924. It then fell upon Lenin's successor, Joseph Stalin, to devise a working economic system. Stalin never changed the economic structure and the transitional system stayed. In a way, the Communists never created an economic system and kept the transitional system until the economic catastrophes of the 1980s and 1990s. It is clear that economics are far more powerful than even the most powerful totalitarian governments.

Lenin, the mastermind of the revolution, did not believe that ordinary workers could know what is best for them and he believed that full-time managers should control them. Lenin's views created a more severe government than some of the followers of Marxist philosophies had envisioned, and the party split into two factions. One of the factions, Lenin's Bolsheviks, believed in more government control of the country and the other faction, the Mensheviks, were more moderate. After Lenin's death, Joseph Stalin strengthened the communist party in Russia and promoted communism in other nations. Eventually, the communist system became one of totalitarian control. Russia was the only communist country until after World War II.

The Communist Manifesto stated the belief that the basis of communism was historical materialism. Marx and Engels believed that economic forces determine the course of history. They thought that they could explain all history as a struggle between the ruling classes and oppressed groups. Marx thought that capitalism must inevitably give way to socialism. This would come about through a struggle between the bourgeoisie, who owned the factories and machines and the proletariat, the class of modern wage earners.


Fascism is an economic system where there is free ownership of the materials of production. In a fascist system, the government usually controls the direction and operation of a state's economy. Some economists consider fascism to be state capitalism. Fascism gained popularity in the first half of the twentieth century and was instituted in several nations before World War II.


Socialism is the idea that the people, either directly or through government, should own the factors of production and distribution. It is an economic system and has little to do with politics. Socialism does not hope to create complete income equality although there is generally more equality than in other systems.

There are many varieties and degrees of socialism. These range from mild welfare states to communal systems. Socialism can be achieved on various levels and it is not necessary that it involve government. There were many experiments with socialism in the United States in the 1800s. Many communal societies were attempted in the isolation of the American frontier. Most failed and no longer exist.

In a small way, the increasing number of employee owned companies in the United States are also types of socialism. It is widely accepted that the welfare state, which the US initiated between 1934 and 1967, is a definitive characteristic of a socialist society

Socialism is the most common form of government in the industrialized world.

Other Industrial Political Philosophies

Capitalism, Communism, Socialism and Constitutional Monarchies are not the only social systems that manifested themselves during the early part of the Industrial Revolution. During this period, many “isms” were tried - and many more “isms” were theorized than have ever been instituted. Some of the untested systems include Nihilism and Anarchism.

As a part of the militaristic focus of the Axis powers that was succeeding in economic recovery, the governments began to manage industrial production and product design by the mid-1930s. As the militarism increased the government control of production increased until the military-political machines were in total control of all economic output.

Although the main objective of the military control of manufacturing was to produce arms, consumer items were also produced in limited quantities. In order to use resources frugally, most of the consumer products that were available were special new designs.


Nihilism is an interesting philosophy that emerged in the mid-1800s. The basic tenet of Nihilism is the rejection of all authority. In other words, Nihilists do not believe in any authority over them either religious or political. "A Nihilist is a man who does not bow down before any authority; who does not take any principle on faith, whatever reverence that principle may be enshrined in" - from Ivan Turgenev's novel, Fathers and Sons.

In Western Europe, Nihilism emerged as a school of thought that denied objective truths and values. For Friedrich Nietzsche, it meant the denial of accepted ideas. Nihilists seldom are able to reject all ideals without initializing new ones. Therefore, as a practical matter true Nihilism cannot exist. Nihilists were thought to have contributed a great amount of terrorism to Czarist Russia, thereby facilitating the Bolshevik Revolution.

Philosophical Anarchism

Anarchism is another of the more interesting philosophies to have emerged from the early industrial period. The main idea of anarchism is that government regulation of individuals is immoral. In philosophical anarchism - the structure devised by Pierre Joseph Proudhon - each member of a society would fulfill his or her obligations simply as a social responsibility. In this model property would be held in common ownership of the whole society based on free agreements, sort of a giant honor system. This form of anarchism has been the pattern for some communal-type societies.

Legend has it that this type of social structure was actually used in early history before organized governments emerged. It is known that Anarchism was used in the early Christian Church and several ancient Greek references to it, including those of Plato, exist.

It does not seem that anarchism would function well in a large society because it would require a great deal of training for each member of the society so that they would clearly understand their social obligations and responsibilities. For anarchism to be successful would require that every member of a society live up to his or her social obligations. This is the fundamental flaw in all social systems but some systems address this point more successfully than others do.

Terroristic Anarchism

Another form of anarchism known as Terroristic Anarchism emerged in Russia during the 1800s. Led by Mikhail Bakunin, the followers of this philosophy believed that government had to be destroyed violently. This idea gained some popularity worldwide and caused many political assassinations, much social unrest and many uprisings in the early twentieth century. Many observers believed that the activities of the terroristic anarchists contributed greatly to the success of the Bolshevik Revolution. It also was one of the major causes of the Spanish Civil War. Terroristic Anarchism has overshadowed Philosophical Anarchism and is the type that is generally thought of when considering Anarchism today.

Terroristic Anarchism is also credited for the assassination of American President William McKinley. He was elected to two terms as president serving from 1897 to 1901. He was shot by an Anarchist, Leon Czolgosz, on 06 September, 1901 and died on 14 September 1901. His last words were "Good-bye, good-bye, all. It is God's way. His will, not ours be done."

Today there is some renewed interest in Anarchism and it appears that Terroristic Anarchism is becoming the prevalent type.

Non-Industrial Social Systems

Although many people in the Western World believe that a form of democracy and some capitalistic features are necessary for all societies to be fair and good, this may not actually be true. It does appear that it is true for industrial nations, but it may not be the best form of government for non-industrial societies. The concept of forcing freedom and democracy onto other nations is preposterous on every conceivable level of rationale. One of the best pieces of evidence that can be used to support the axiom that democracy might not be the best model for every situation is that monarchies have survived very well in nations that are not industrialized. Many of the countries in the Middle East that are not industrialized, and are unlikely to ever be industrialized, continue to have monarchy forms of government. In many cases, it does not appear that these societies are unhappy with this form of government or that it serves them poorly.

Without a doubt, the areas where feudal government structures still exist are some of the most turbulent areas of the world. Widespread industrialization never occurred and is unlikely to ever occur in those areas. Those areas have undergone a great deal of modernization in the past century. In many ways, it seems that these societies have skipped industrialization and jumped directly to post-industrial society in many respects.

Many Middle Eastern countries have substantial militaries and assault rifles are civilian fashion necessities. Nevertheless, their prosperity has made weapons production unnecessary because they can easily afford to purchase weapons from abroad. Could this be why industrialization never occurred there and dynastic forms of government have survived, simply because there is little ordnance production?

Policy For Modern Social Systems

Since the Western powers have become a very powerful influence delving in the affairs of the entire world, it might be well for Western policymakers to consider that democracy may not be the ideal political system for all nations. Many Westerners believe that democracy is the only correct political system, but they do not consider its industrial context. Democracy, Capitalism, Communism and Socialism emerged to fulfill the needs of industrial societies. They may be the correct solutions for industrial societies, but evidence suggests that they are not the correct structures for non-industrial societies. If this were not the case, these political philosophies would have emerged much earlier in history, and fewer instances of other systems would remain in non-industrial societies today.

Social Upheavals Lead To Wars

In most cases, the necessary changes in social structure for industrialization came about violently. There has been a recurring pattern where industrialization caused war and war caused industrialization. The way that war causes industrialization is simply because the necessary tools of war are industrial products. When nations become ensnared in military engagements, they increase industrial production to meet the challenge. This is how war causes industrialization. The way that industrialization causes war is because industrialization demands certain characteristics in the social structure. If these characteristics are not in place, industrialization will force their creation. The social changes required for industrialization led to worldwide turbulence in the twentieth century, widely considered the bloodiest century in human history.

Revised Historical Materialism

Historical Materialism, in the theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, holds that the events of all of history are determined by economic forces. Unlike in their theory, however, my similar theory holds that all modern Western history - that is, history since the Middle Ages - can be explained as a struggle to form working industrial societies. This comes about through a struggle between the people of all classes and the factors of society that are not working for an industrial society. In many cases, the true causes of the struggles are not clearly evident.

Some of the earliest examples of violent changes in social structure caused by industrialization were the American and French Revolutions. In the United States, further changes came about during the American Civil War. The American Civil War was the first major adjustment to the American capitalistic system. It ended several important characteristics of true democracy and pure capitalism.

Industrialization Ends Capitalism

Power house mechanic working on steam pump, by Lewis Hine, 1920It is interesting to consider the fact that industrialization did eventually end all purely capitalist forms of government also. Even in the United States, the previously pure-capitalist system gave way to socialism by the mid-1930s. There is a huge paradox in that the very creation of capitalism, industrialism, seemingly cannot exist within that system. Most Americans do not realize how much difference there is in today's economic structure from that system called capitalism that existed before the 1930s.

It seems that the purely capitalistic systems were very successful when industrial techniques were more or less equally limited to cottage industry levels. In an arts and crafts type of society, capitalism functions very well. This was the state of technology and society that existed when the United States was founded. It diminished throughout the 19th century and was replaced by the social systems that were created by the Industrial Revolution.

Karl Marx was correct that capitalism would inevitably give way to socialism. The method and reason for this change was not what Marx envisioned, however, as the cause was actually industrialization. It is also likely that the degree of change from capitalism to socialism as well as the type of socialism that gained prominence would be disappointing to Marx.

Industrialization Creates its Own
Political and Economic Systems

The Industrial Revolution is more significant for other factors than it is for the changes that it made on industrial practices. It required entirely different social structures to emerge in order for an industrial society to function. In fact, the systems that have actually emerged from industrialization tend to be hybrids of most political philosophies. The industrial political systems of today are not purely socialist, communist or capitalist. It appears that none of pure political systems can function as an industrialized society.

Throughout the twentieth century, pure systems of capitalism, socialism and communism have given way to the formation of new hybrid systems. In the United States and the Soviet Union, two extreme examples of social structures, transitions have caused a departure from the pure forms of political and economic philosophies. It is now apparent that industrial societies must have a political structure that serves an industrial society.

Post-Industrial Society

Many political and economic experts feel that the advanced nations of the world are now in a post-industrial period. Does post-industrialism require different social structures than industrialism did? If so, how will a post-industrial society be formulated? If change is necessary, will it require the same tumultuous changes that industrialization did to achieve workable social structures?

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