Thursday, May 14, 2009

Industrious Revolutions Make Hardworking Households

I am working through C. A. Bayly's The Birth of the Modern World. The most interesting idea that he has introduced me to so far is that before there could be an Industrial Revolution, there had to be an "industrious revolution." This concept comes from Jan de Vries' helpfully named article from the Journal of Economic History, "The Industrial Revolution and the Industrious Revolution." De Vries argues that households in Britain and the Netherlands started working harder in the early 1700s at making things, and buying things that others had made.

To any follower of Max Weber, this sure sounds like the Protestant ethic brought to the level of the household. The people became industrious first, which created the right culture to receive - and foment - the "wave of gadgets" that the subsequent Industrial Revolution made and put to use.

De Vries goes on to suggest that now we are in a second industrious revolution as the average middle class household has all its members over about 15 in the labor force. I have to think about whether these two developments are really parallel.

Still, I think the idea of a cultural industrious revolution in (Protestant) households coming first and creating the market for a structural industrial revolution is a rich and helpful idea.


ceemac said...

Is he correct about middle class teens in the labor force?

It doesn't mesh with my limited observations. I was just thinking the other day how few of the Presby teens I know work for pay. So I was hunching that maybe fewer teens were working than when I was that age circa 1974.

Seems like getting into a good college is a full time job for middle class teens today. High grades in AP courses. High level participation in at least one elite group/team that takes up much of one's vacation. Leadership in a couple of other organizations. Meaningful volunteering etc etc.

Any idea how many of the middle class members of the just accepted class of 2013 at Centre worked in high school?

Does the author count volunteering as being part of the work force.

By the way I can't imagine most of the Presby middle class parents I know allowing thier kids to work the closing shift at a burger joint like I did when I was 16.

Gruntled said...

I think he threw the teens in. The crucial difference, and what makes today's households like the early modern ones, is that most wives are in the labor force, too.

ceemac said...

The original Sunday Schools were a response to that 1st Industrious Rev. Both parents working, kids running the street on Sunday monring.

If there is a 2nd such rev. I wonder what opportunities for ministry the church might see?