Back To CourseIntroduction to Human Geography: Help and Review
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Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.
In our modern world of huge farms, factories, and computer companies, it can be rather hard to imagine a time when life held no gadgets at all, no grocery stores full of food or men and women bustling around factory floors. However, despite our inability to fathom how people lived without microwaves, manufactured cars, and the Internet, the generations before us somehow got by. In today's lesson, we'll take a look at these generations and our generation, as we discuss economic activity in the pre-industrial, industrial, and post-industrial age.
Going in order from oldest to most recent, we'll kick it off with the pre-industrial age. Stated very simply, the term 'pre-industrial' is defined as the time before industrialization. In other words, it was life before machine manufacturing and mechanization.
When speaking of economies, most activity during the pre-industrial age existed at the subsistence level, in which goods are produced for the consumption and survival of one's family group. In this subsistence lifestyle, most goods were produced by the family for the family. For instance, a farmer grew food for his family, not to sell at a market. And moms made clothes for their kids to actually wear, instead of trying to sell them on a website dedicated to homemade products. Adding to this, most people lived in rural farming societies rather than cities.
Along with subsistence-level living, some people did offer services and products for sale within their small, rural communities. However, unlike our modern world, they were not made by big machines or huge owner-operated factories. Instead, they were produced in what have been coined cottage industries, or businesses or manufacturing systems operating in a person's home or private property. A great example of this is a woman offering seamstress services to her community or a man using his barn to start making and selling horseshoes to his neighbors.
However, as the Industrial Revolution, an era spanning from the 18th to 19th century in which the worlds of Europe and America moved from predominately rural farming areas to industrialized cities, life and economic activity really began to change. With this change, we come to the era of industrialization. Very much like the actual definition of the Industrial Revolution, industrialization simply denotes a society transforming itself from a primarily agricultural society into one based on the manufacturing of goods and services.
With the onset of industrialism, economic activity shifted from the rural countryside to the more industrialized cities. This occurred as many farmers realized there were better paying and more stable jobs in new factories of the modernized world. This movement to city life is known as urbanization, the migrating of people from rural areas to urban ones. Of course, as the people came to the cities, their money came with them.
Although this may sound like it crippled the economic activity of the rural areas, this was really not the case. Quite the opposite, many of the farmers who stayed behind saw their own economic boons as all those new city dwellers needed someone to supply them with food. So, while city economies were thriving through industrialization, rural economies were growing through commercialization, producing for a market, making one dependent on the buying and selling of goods.
For those of us living in the modern West, we are very familiar with the era of industrialization. We see it played out every time we drive past a large factory or buy a mass-produced piece of particle-board furniture. We witness it as we see documentaries on dairy cows being milked by machines or jelly beans being produced by the millions.
However, something we might not be as familiar with is the idea that some argue we are now living in a post-industrial age. To explain this one, post-industrial simply denotes a time in which an economy no longer relies on heavy industry and manufacturing, but instead on the offering of services.
In a post-industrial age, many assert that economic activity is driven by the service industry rather than just the manufacturing industry. Again, keeping things rather simple, the service industry is generally defined as businesses that work for a customer but are not involved in manufacturing.
Although the idea that we are in a post-industrial age is a bit up for grabs, let's give some examples of what this looks like economically. For instance, my cousin is a consultant in the banking industry. He goes in and checks out banks and then gives them a plan to better maximize their systems and their security. Now when he leaves, they tend to give him a rather nice paycheck. However, he doesn't leave them with any products. Rather than paying him for a product, they are paying him for a service. In other words, money is definitely flowing, but no goods are being passed around. This is an example of a post-industrial economic activity.
Bringing it into our everyday lives, each time you call an Internet provider to complain that your computer has crashed, you are taking part in the service industry. Think about it: They send out a technician, he services some cable or some wire, and you get a bill, having not received any new products. Just like the voice on the other end of the phone tells you, you make a service appointment, and you will be paying for a service call.
Using this example, those who argue that we are not living in a post-industrial age point to the fact that someone had to manufacture the wires that the service guy came to fix. They also point to the fact that lots of men and women still wake up every morning and go to work at manufacturing facilities.
However, those who fall into the post-industrial camp will argue that this is becoming less and the less the case in the United States as more manufactured products are being exported into the U.S. than are made here. With this in mind, they offer the argument that our economy has become more about the service of stocking shelves for consumers than actually manufacturing the goods that go on the shelves. In other words, we've become rather post-industrial.
Pre-industrial is defined as the time before industrialization. During this time period, most economic activity took place at the subsistence level, in which goods are produced for the consumption and survival of one's family group. Goods and services were also provided through cottage industries, or businesses or manufacturing systems operating in a person's home or private property.
The Industrial Revolution, an era spanning from the 18th to 19th century in which the worlds of Europe and America moved from predominately rural farming areas to industrialized cities, moved much of the world into an era of industrialization. Industrialization takes place when a society transforms itself from a primarily agricultural society into one based on the manufacturing of goods and services.
Industrialization led to urbanization and commercialization. Urbanization is the migrating of people from rural areas to urban ones, while commercialization is producing for a market, making one dependent on the buying and selling of goods.
Many argue that we, especially as Americans, are now living in a post-industrial age. Post-industrial means a time in which an economy no longer relies on heavy industry and manufacturing, but instead on the offering of services. In other words, within a post-industrial age, service industries, or businesses that do work for a customer but are not involved in manufacturing, sort of eclipse industrial and manufacturing ones.
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Back To CourseIntroduction to Human Geography: Help and Review
35 chapters | 365 lessons