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Marriage, Family, The Bourgeois Family As A Model

Industrialization refers to the mechanization of production, and particularly the substitution of human and animal labor by mineral power, such as coal, water, and steam. Two other processes, however, that preceded mechanization had a major impact on family life: agrarian reform that made the production of food more efficient, at once increasing the quantity of food and releasing human labor from its production; and proto-industry, a system in which rural workers, operating as family units, purchased raw materials from contractors, worked them into semi-finished or finished products, and sold them back to the urban manufacturer. In some regions and countries this type of production, particularly in the case of certain textiles, persisted along with full-scale factory production into the twentieth century. Output expanded through the multiplication of production units—families—rather than through mechanized tools of production, thus making the family an agent of economic development (Mendels 1972; Tilly 1983; Berg 1986). Ultimately mechanized production in factories became the dominant form of production, creating new social classes and a new ideology about family life.

A number of factors caused England to industrialize first, beginning around 1750. Rapid population growth acted as a catalyst for increased production of food and manufactured goods, and England had the advantages of abundant raw materials, colonial possessions, and advanced transportation systems on sea and land. The social impacts of industrialization in England were in many ways brutal, particularly when rural laborers were forced off the land and when the skills of artisans became obsolete. Although the case of England was long thought to be the "classic" model of industrialization, no other country had exactly the same conditions and patterns of development. Industrialization in France began later and far more slowly than in England, with large-scale industry developing only in the 1850s. Germany and parts of central Europe followed in the 1860s, the United States in 1870s, and Russia only at the end of the century (Blackwell 1968; Henderson 1969; Landes 1969; Trebilcock 1981).

Although the timing, pace and social impacts of industrialization varied, it had similar impacts everywhere on marriage and family life. One of the most important consequences was the removal of work from the home. Second, it promoted migration from the countryside to the city, and between towns, as well as to other countries, particularly across the Atlantic. Third, it promoted a decline in marital fertility, and families became much smaller. Fourth, it created two new social classes, the industrial proletariat and the bourgeoisie, each of which experienced change in family life very differently. The bourgeoisie gave rise to a new model of family life that came to dominate social mores as well as social policy in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (Moch 1983; Accampo 1989; Levine 1984).

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaModern Marriage & Family Issues