Industry East and West: The Second Industrial Revolution and the Western World

Industry East and West: The Second Industrial Revolution and the Western World

The first industrial revolution began in England, spread to the Continental mainland, and then crossed the Atlantic to the United States. Only generations later did it affect Russia, and even then only in part, whilst the peoples of Asia were hardly affected at all.

On the other hand, the industrial revolution of our time directly affects all the industrial nations of the West, and it naturally finds a much broader field of operations there than the first ever did, for it was with this first industrial revolution that industrialism really began. However, this second industrial revolution does not affect only the Western industrial nations, but the Soviet Union as well, and this means that—unlike the first—it is affecting various societies with various social structures; and these societies are striving in different ways and with different means to embody and digest its results.

In addition, the second industrial revolution affects not only the Western world and the Soviet Union, but also the peoples of Asia, and, though with a certain time lag, the peoples of Africa because it is taking place in what may be called the phase of world historical development, a phase in which, with the decline of colonial imperialism, the Asiatic and increasingly the African peoples too are becoming free, sovereign States and building up their own societies and their own economic systems.

The societies which existed in the days of the first industrial revolution developed the necessary organs to absorb and digest its technical achievements, but they hardly began to develop those organs necessary to cope with its social consequences. But in the 150 years approximately which have passed between the first and second industrial revolutions, decisive social changes have come about. The individual employer-capitalist no longer dominates the most important industries today as he did then. In fact, in the Western world these industries are now dominated by between 1,000 and 1,500 giant corporations. At the same time, the workmen employed in these industries are now organized in trade unions, and the trade union is so firmly established as part and parcel of our social structure that it is impossible to conceive of a democratic society without it. Further, for a variety of reasons the State sector is rapidly extending, and with it the general influence of the State on economic life is increasing. Further, today, in this period of the second industrial revolution, there is a far greater scientific understanding of the economic system.