Skip to main content
Social Sci LibreTexts

16.3C: Industrial Work

  • Page ID
    8482
  • [ "article:topic" ]

    Industrial labor is labor in industry, usually manufacturing, but it may also include service work, such as cleaning or cooking.

     

    LEARNING OBJECTIVES

     

    Discuss the impact of the Industrial Revolution on workers and the shift from small scale to large scale workforces

     

    KEY TAKEAWAYS

    Key Points

     

    • Before the Industrial Revolution, most production took place in homes or in small workshops. After the Industrial Revolution, production increasingly took place in factories, giving rise to industrial labor.
    • A blue-collar worker is a member of the working class who performs manual labor.
    • Karl Marx used the term proletariat to describe the industrial working class.
    • A blue-collar worker is a member of the working class who performs manual labor.
    • Karl Marx used the term proletariat to describe the industrial working class.

     

    Key Terms

     

    • proletariat: the working class or lower class
    • Industrial labor: Industrial labor is labor in industry, mostly understood as manufacturing, but can include related service workers, such as cleaners and cooks.
    • blue-collar worker: A blue-collar worker is a member of the working class who performs manual labor.

    In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Industrial Revolution dramatically changed labor practices. New technology made workers much more efficient and productive, but these developments were expensive. Building new industrial machines required enormous investments. To be able to afford these investments, production had to take place on a larger scale. Before the Industrial Revolution, most production took place in homes or in small workshops. After the Industrial Revolution, production increasingly took place in factories, many of which were situated together in industrial districts.

    Industrial labor is defined as labor in industry. In most cases, this is understood as manufacturing, the type of labor that takes place in factories, on assembly lines, and that which involves heavy machinery. This being said, industrial labor also includes service jobs that rose up alongside, and as a result of, industrial production. Industrial labor includes factory workers, but it may also include service workers, such as cleaners and cooks.

    Karl Marx referred to industrial laborers as members of the proletariat. In common parlance, these people are often referred to as blue-collar workers. Blue-collar work may be skilled or unskilled, and includes manufacturing, mining, construction, mechanics, maintenance, technical installation, and other types of physical work. Often, blue-collar workers physically build or maintain something.

    The New Blue-Collar Worker: This clip from CNN shows the development of a new type of blue-collar worker in South Carolina.

    The term “blue collar” refers to the type of clothing often worn by industrial workers. Industrial and manual workers often wear durable canvas or cotton clothing that may be soiled during the course of their work. Navy and light blue colors conceal potential dirt or grease on workers’ clothing, helping them appear cleaner. For the same reason, blue is a popular color for overalls. Some blue-collar workers have uniforms embroidered with either the business’ name or the individual’s name.