HS-102 Readings

The Factory System


    The factory system was a new way of organizing labor made necessary by the development of machines which were too large to house in a worker's cottage. Furthermore, the efficient use of the new machines required that many of them be installed together where they could all be driven by the
same power source.

     Therefore, workers' homes became separately located from their place of work. All brought together under one roof, it was considerably easier for the factory owner to supervise and closely regulate their workers.

     Ruthless competition between owners (capitalists) motivated them to reduce costs and maximize productivity in every way. That meant imposing long hours, low wages, and unsatisfactory, even dangerous working conditions upon the workers. It also meant employing child labor and women's labor because the wages were lower and the work to be done often required little skill.

    Working hours were as long as they had been for the farmer, that is, from dawn to dusk, six days per week. Hours were regulated with precision by the factory clock to ensure that a full measure of work was performed. Wages were so low that entire families; father, mother, and children had to work in order that the family might survive at a bare subsistence level. The cruelest form of employment was that of children taken from orphanges or otherwise abandoned. For these unfortunates had no adult to afford them some degree protection from exploitation. The work performed was monotonous and often dangerous. Children employed in coal mines, pushing or pulling coal carts, grew up stunted in growth, and died at an early age, usually by their twentieth year.

     While capitalists were gaining increased political power as a result of the liberal revolution, the workers had no political power or influence. When workers tried to organize into the first labor unions, these were often outlawed by a government controlled by capitalists. These circumstances encouraged the development of the socialist ideology.

     It also led to the English reform movement.