Within this essay, the conditions of the English working class in the nineteenth century will be critically explored in relation to the nature and significance of state power in the production and reproduction of mass harm.Whilst some of the damage inflicted by totalitarian governments appear to be only temporary, most forms of harm are shown to be more permanent and long-lasting, especially mass social harm. Mass harm is harm that is inflicted through crimes of the powerful, such as states, corporations and professions. So, the idea of social and mass harm originally was to expand that notion of harm to encompass the harms that organisations and nation states cause. It could be argued that during the 19th century the state produced mass harm towards the working class and this all stems from the social hierarchy that was in place.
Danny Dorling(2008) carried out work based around why harm matters more than crime due to it having more longstanding damaging internal and external effects and it illustrates how harm relates to social and economic inequalities that are at the centre of the liberal state. Dorling also believes that “politicians use crime to mobilize support both for their own ends and to maintain electoral support for their parties” therefore the state is reaping the benefits as “Crime serves to maintain power relations (Dorling 2008).Social hierarchy is the classification of society that segregates the residents of a country into specific groups based on various factors both wealth and occupation play a significant part in this segregation. There was a mixture of factors such as power, education, economic status, prestige etc that incorporated the division. This was also the case during 19th century England and the social hierarchy that was prevalent then, as during the industrial era society was highly stratified even if it wasn’t as tidily demarcated as portrayed. The highest power authority and social status holder within the 19th-century social hierarchy were the aristocrats, they were not involved in manual work usually and the groups consisted of the royal family, spiritual lords and great officers of the state such as Knights. The middle class consisted of people who were marginally wealthier than the lower class, however, it was divided into two sections depending on social status and economic power, the upper middle class and lower middle class.
Finally, the lowest social class was also split into two parts consisting of the working class and the poor. During this time 80% of the English population were actually working class, therefore, this gives a rough idea of how many were actually negatively affected.The Industrial Revolution impacted society as a whole during the 19th century by introducing innovations which impact the way people generally lived on an everyday basis, it is known as one of the most significant events in humanity due to the significant changes it brought that changed lives in immeasurable ways. New machinery, methods, and techniques for producing goods such as the way clothes were made, or the way waste was produced changed the way society functioned. The rapid change caused human suffering, for example, unhealthy working conditions, water, air ; noise pollution and the exploitation of child labour were all new issues that were generated. For thousands of years before the industrial revolution, the lower classes had earned their living primarily through agriculture and now they worked in factories, and although factory work was easier than working in the fields it was still an issue as wages were extremely low, and even with an entire family working it was difficult to earn a decent living. Working conditions were filthy and dangerous leading to increased disease and death.
Overcrowding in cities quickly accelerated the contraction of disease. Child labour meant that children as young as 6 years old who worked all day did not go to school, and as a result grew up to be illiterate. When the issues were combined, for example, harsh working conditions, reduced wages, longer working hours (up to 18 hours a day) left time for little to no family contact all of which contributed to the breakdown of traditional rural family values. This caused tensions within societal classes to arise, mainly between the working class and the middle class. It is believed that the state inflicted this hardship onto the working class and did very little to help them during the industrial revolution as the changes that were made tended to affect them negatively. Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto in order to give a voice to the struggling classes in Europe as the working-class people were struggling with their need to get by in life and feed their family and the internal call to make a choice and gain equality. The problem was that the proletariats did not have much of a choice at the time because if they did not work then they did not survive. The European society during the nineteenth century consisted of oppressing wealthy people over the poor workers and the impact of this sort of financial recklessness in a heavily financialised economy can be immense.
The struggling class had no way to make choices and use their autonomy. Instead, the business owners made choices for them and used the workers for their own rewards, the state should have intervened and ensured this wasn’t the case however they were the people in power encouraging this behaviour.Many of the ideas and ideologies that shape the world originated or were modified from the 19th Century. Most of these relate to economics, however many also describe or impact the social systems of class and hierarchy and imply political action. Others deal with politics and economic activity, but all are interrelated.
During the 19th-century class, consciousness was rife as the owners were capitalists and there was a clear distinction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Capitalism was in full swing and was promoting a free market economy with free enterprise system, means of production and distribution were privately owned and operated for profit. Decisions regarding investment of capitalism were made by investors and production, distribution and the prices of goods, services and labour were determined largely by the forces of supply and demand in the free market.Although from a critical perspective, free market cannot adequately produce and distribute goods and mismanagement, low wages and unequal distribution of resources cause wide suffering. Human society should not operate for only certain individuals but for an unselfish community were all benefit. According to John Locke “It is also a state of equality, in which no-one has more power and authority than anyone else”. The means of production and distribution were government owned and operated therefore all decisions regarding the investment of capitalism were made by the government alongside the production, distribution, and the prices of goods, services and labour.The early 19th-century industrial revolution produced struggle between the bourgeoisie and proletariat as capitalism sharpened the struggle by increasing the hardships of proletariat class through many different means.
Firstly, production and competition drove out smaller and more traditional industry to replace it with giant factories and corporations. Also, production and competition forced middle-class owners and artisans out of business, therefore increasing number of workers needed for factories down into proletariat class. Also, few companies forced workers to work for less which meant increased suffering which also resulted in social unrest.One of the most powerful European ideologies that were expressed during the 19th century was based on the concept that a nation is composed of people with common language, customs, culture and history. Therefore, this nation should then be administered by the same government and national and ethnic boundaries should coincide. This was the government’s attempt to display equal morals however it was extremely contradictory given the social hierarchy in place. They were very much attempting to portray the creation of a better life for all, however, it was all hypocritical and very much based around the higher classes sticking together, gaining more power and becoming wealthier whilst the working class continued to have decreased power, if any, and becoming more destitute, if possible. The aim of these ideologies is so that people conform to this way of thinking that is beneficial to the state and lures people under the false pretences of an ideal scenario when in reality these ideologies generate harm.
The importance of individuals attitudes and moral in the economy and society have a big influence on the world. Politicians are actively aware of and use specific words and themes to tug on the heart strings such as “family values” and “moral majority” to persuade this large group of people to support their certain ideologies.Seeking job opportunities and improved quality of life, rural families all over the country migrated to urban areas. And as a result, the Government allowed the expansion of railroads which led to the progress of a national merchandise for finished goods.
As a direct result of the migration from rural to urban societies, overcrowding quickly became an issue coupled with the fact that cities were not prepared for such a rapid growth in population. For example, there were not enough houses, horses, police officers, sewage systems or garbage dumps to accommodate everyone. Because industrialization centres itself on fast and faster production times, bosses were known to strictly discipline their employees and treated them harshly.
Workers were underpaid. To survive every able member of the family was forced to go to work. This led to the rapid rise in child labour within factories. Young children were being overworked and underpaid for quite a long time before laws were enacted to prevent this, therefore rich companies were exploiting the poor, especially considering the average work day was 14-16 hours.
As women and children were often the most affordable forms of labour, they were forced to be employed in the worst industries such as coal mining.Coercion, and subsequently the right to use violence, is the state’s sole method for functioning and existing. Without it, the state is powerless to exist credibly. Thus, at the core of political theory is the argument to justify the state’s use of coercion, without this, the state cannot be ethically justifiable.
However, can a violent, or otherwise morally dubious act such as coercion, ever be truly justified, if enough good comes of it surely it could be mitigated, but it is questionable how much ‘good’ is enough and can the indefinite ever really be justified. Even if everyone were to consent to being coerced, explicitly or implicitly, it could not be any more moral than consenting to let someone murder you to save someone else’s life.Most people feel the state is justified in their use of coercion because of their enforcement of laws that protect us from ‘harm’ that would make us worse off than having to live with being coerced. Even though there are many historical examples of how this power of coercion has been abused and subsequently made people worse off than if there was no coercion (acts of war, state atrocities, and any state-authorized act of violence).There is a very significant link between the state power producing and reproducing harms in terms of the conditions of the working class in the nineteenth century. However, it may not have been as successful if they did not inflict their ideologies onto society as this is one of the main tactics they used to draw people in. The governing power of society is the class which is in possession of social and political control and therefore conveys the responsibility for the circumstances of proletarians, therefore if a group in particular, influenced the power to improve conditions for the working class, it was the state as it is generally considered the government’s role to promote morality and justice within its citizens and seek to restrict supposedly immoral and unjust acts. Therefore, if an act is to be considered immoral, it seems obvious to suggest that the government is justified in restricting it regardless of whether it is harmful to others, and they should not be promoting it.
Englert (1845) understood these harms carried out by the state as entirely preventable and a product of social relations that could have been organised very differently to meet the needs of many and not just a specific few. Engels correctly identified the disease, squalor and deprivation endured at this point in time, not to be ‘natural’, but an ‘inevitable consequence’ of the laissez-faire model of capitalism that dominated 19th-century England.It has been argued that they may not be the sole reason to blame as elite writers and journalists spread ideas of nationalism too, and they can influence the states opinion and members of society can also take on their views due to the line of work they are in.
It could be said that capitalism was not to blame but rather the workers themselves that self-induced poverty through expenditure of alcohol, tobacco and gambling and that they were their own worst enemies due to the supposed wage rise in the early 19th century, however whether they did rise still remains a matter of debate, but other evidence made it clear that the conditions worsened rather than improved. It is without a doubt that industrialization affected the modern world indefinitely as it had an immense effect on the economic, political and social structures of the private and public space and in turn, the working class in England negatively suffered during the 19th century. The transitional period of the industrial revolution may be considered a strain in human history in both positive and negative ways. While it may be praised for introducing the concept of machines manufacturing and producing goods in lieu of human labour, construction of factories and industrial complexes, the creation of new job opportunities which never existed before, and new advances in technology.
History can never forget the flip-side of the coin: lengthy working hours, low wages, unsafe ; hazardous working conditions, and the exploitation of child labour. The state and private companies developed different ways to interact and manage the working class for personal gain and benefits, however this should not have been the case and retrospectively highlights the many issues that were at fault within the state, its ideologies and its power. It also highlights the fact that unfortunately during this time economic status translated into social status.