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Modernity is a transition between how society lived years ago opposed to how society lives now. This case study will focus on the impact of industrialisation and consumption and how it has shaped the modern world of a close friend along with society today. The academic sources that were used contained useful information along with an interview I conducted, to help prove and analyse how the impact has changed and shaped the modern world.

This case study will cover the way industrialisation has changed society. It will discuss the social, economical and technological changes along with the key changes and how society perceives what work is. In addition it will discuss how society has gone from producing to consuming, how we shopped years ago opposed to now and how this has changed our lives.

Literature Review


Industrialisation has transformed the way societies have produced products required to meet societies needs. It has transformed many social institutions such as work, family, social bonds and education. In addition the biggest impact of industrialisation was the change from gathering and cultivating to manufacturing which has drastically improved productivity and wealth.

The major social, economic and technological change was the Industrial Revolution between the 1760’s and 1850’s in Great Britain, spreading through Europe, United States, Japan and Australia between 1800’s and 1900’s. Industrialisation processes dominate factory-based manufacturing and the use of mechanical aid. This marked the end of agricultural economy to mass production and mass consumption economy (Germov, J, 2007 pg 365).

In pre-industrial society, life revolved around agriculture, hunting and gathering. Work was not conformed by time but by the four seasons of the year and the availability of natural sunlight. Once the harvest was completed people no longer worked until the next harvest time (Germov, J, 2007 pg 366).

The main key changes brought by industrialisation are: • Dominance of factory production and mass consumption. • Specialised division of labour. • Workers relocating to cities • Time orientated production changing from task oriented work. • Change social order from feudalism to capitalism.

In today’s society the social view of ‘work’ is primarily given to paid employment and is monitored by government policies, employer associations and unions. Work in today’s modern society is difficult to define, simply because it can be constituted as leisure or for every day living. Sports for highly talented people for example, are classified as work whereas for others they see it as leisure. Although most people would associate paid employment as work many do fall under unpaid work for example, household, voluntary and self improvement (higher education) just to name a few are forms of work. The most accurate definition provided by Richard Hall is “work is the effort or activity of an individual that is undertaking for the purpose of providing goods or services of value to others and that is considered by the individual to be work” (Germov, J, 2007 pg 367-368). Work is the main focus on today’s modern society, gender has no preference over who is the main bread winner opposed to the old way, where men were the main bread winners and the wives were the carers for the home and children (Germov, J, pg 370).

Another impact of industrialisation in the workforce is repetitive labour, according to the assembly line invented by Henry Ford, who argued that the majority of the workforce would rather do the same job on a daily basis without having to think, or use their initiative or creativity. Marxist Harry Braverman argued that taylorism is the dominant philosophy in today’s labour force, where managers establish written work procedures to accommodate their way of planning and instruct how work is to be done. Decision making by workers is non-existent, and in today’s modern world it has gone to the extreme of monitoring the employees not over a working day or hour but in seconds. This standard is used by the Toyota Company; however it is not a pattern of intensification of work only confined to the car industry, but remains evident throughout the global economy. Francis Green states that modern work has come under increased and unwelcomed control from above, leaving employees with less influence over their daily lives and less fulfilling then before (Allen, K 2011 pg 45-46).

The alienation from products has become more evident in today’s modern world, where the links between producers and products has been detached due to large factories. Employees that produce for the global market are unable to use what they create. A prime example is third world countries that produce products such as clothing and toys are unable to afford them because of the low incomes they receive. Opposed to the early 1600’s where land was the key to the economy, farmers control small plots to provide for their families giving a percentage to their lords and what was left was dispensed as they saw fit (Allen, K, 2011 pg 47).


Consumption has progressed as a major indicator and source of showing one’s identity. In today’s society children, teenagers and even adults believe that by consuming expensive brands of fashion such as Nike and Reebok along with many others; this proves who they are. This proves to be sad as it doesn’t show who someone is and in addition people are being killed for their belongings (Telander, R, 1990).

A greater emphasis has grown in society from production to consumption; it is now a major social practice in our everyday life. Youth slogans such as ‘Born to Shop’, ‘Shop till you drop’ and ‘I am what I consume’ has made it the number one social activity (Macionis, J, Plummer, K 2012 pg 525).

Throughout societies history the common way to shop was done through open air markets. With the arrival of large department stores and the emphasis on advertising, it has now become an easier way to shop in the one location. In addition having larger department stores and easier access to different commodities, we can now access and buy products such as food, clothing and any major electrical appliances along with many others.

As quoted by Macionis and Plummer, “are we driven to consume through our needs and choices, or are we perhaps driven to consume through the manipulation of our needs”. The question now is we being brainwashed by all the advertising to belong and fit in with today’s society’s way of consumption?

Commodities are strictly dominated by large brands for example, Nike, Adidas, McDonalds, Sony and Coca Cola just to name a few. These brands are not just a brand anymore but have become their unique identities, and due to promoting and advertising, it is now worth billions of dollars.

The dominance of these big brands has become global. Society nowadays knows their names due to their sponsorship of all the major celebrities and sport stars worldwide. With this being a major factor, society identifies who we are by what we own and consume. Unlike fifty years ago we now have adopted the need to buy a wide variety of products that has become more of a leisure rather than a necessity, and now with online purchasing and telemarketing you can purchase products of any nature without having to leave the comfort of your own home (Macionis, J, Plummer, K, 2012 pg 526-527).

The consequence that society faces is the exploitation of low income countries, where women and children are being subjected to minimal wages and long hours of labour (Macionis, J, Plummer, K, pg 525). Another major impact of consumption in today’s modern world is inequality. According to Veblen (pg 527), the three main factors that point towards consumption inequality are money (not everyone has the capability of affording the new goods available), transport (unable to venture into shopping malls) therefore purchasing at local stores and paying higher premiums which then leads to less choices and finally, consumers that lack the skill and knowledge of bargains and the use of technology, are the ones that are faced with exclusion (Macionis, J, Plummer, K, 2012 pg 528).

Methods and Findings

To enhance my knowledge and further construct the material needed to show the impact of industrialisation and consumption, I interviewed a close friend of the family named Michelle. Michelle is a theatre nurse of thirty years and grew up in Sydney NSW; she is in her fifty’s and currently works for Queensland Health. Michelle recalls growing up with her adoptive parents and two brothers, and basically remembers living a very simple life. She grew up where money was tight and remembering that the finer things in life were a rare commodity. It was due to this that Michelle chose to study and better her life hence her position as a high paid theatre nurse.

In the interview which was conducted in the privacy of her own home, the main focus of the interview was the impact of industrialisation and consumption in the nursing industry, the challenges she has faced with modern technology, the working conditions opposed to thirty years ago and how she feels consumption has affected her in her workplace and home life, are just a few examples of what was discussed in the interview. The interview was recorded on a digital recorder and consent was given for the interview to be carried out (Serrano 2012).

Analysis and Discussion

After analysing the impacts of industrialisation and consumption and interviewing Michelle, industrialisation has had a tremendous impact in the sense that technology has grown dramatically and plays a positive role as well as a negative one. For example thirty years ago the analysis of a patient was done manually by observation and handling, where as now everything like blood pressure and taking someone’s temperature is done with machines. The downside to this is that nurses nowadays are not made to do it the way it was done thirty years ago and lack that knowledge and close interaction, that if technology were to crash they could face horrible situations.

My findings with consumption were that the medical profession face the challenge of obesity in patients due to fast foods. Thirty years ago as opposed to now Michelle has stated that patients are experiencing more medical conditions such as diabetes heart and lung disease just to name a few. The consumption of fast foods is a lot more prominent now than it was thirty years ago. As for her personal experience, shift work has made it difficult to shop normally, shopping and consuming products online is the way modern society now do things, where as thirty years ago it was difficult to consume this way as they didn’t have the luxury of shopping online. The impact society has experienced is that shopping is much easier and more accessible which has reduced the burden of consuming. Owning big brands as mentioned earlier such as Nike was something Michelle had never experienced, as it was unaffordable and unusual, where as thirty years later children are looked at as uncool if they don’t own at least one pair, and society feel that they need to have it.


Modern society is faced with a large amount of change, ranging from technology to consumption and industrialisation, the question is what impact has it had on today’s society? From the analysis, research and interview conducted by me, I have found the impact of industrialisation and consumption to have changed modern society in a dramatic way. I have found the changes to have been positive in certain areas and negative in others.

The positives of industrialisation seem to outweigh the negatives. Major changes that industrialisation has brought to the modern world is technology. It seems that without technology it would be extremely difficult to run things the way they run today. The workforce has had significant changes with the implementation of government policies. Negatives that we face with industrialisation are decision making made by the employees is non-existent and the employers have gained more control over their employees.

In addition to industrialisation, consumption too has positives and negatives. Society has gone from a world of productivity to a world of consuming. Consumption these days tends to portray ones identity. I have learnt that although in history shopping involved going out to the local markets/shops and spending time purchasing and interacting with others was a good thing because of social factors, nowadays it is normal to shop from the comfort of your own home. This in itself proves to be a positive outcome leaving more free time for one self. The negative aspect would be the social factor (not having to socialise with others).

The interview I conducted went extremely well and I gained a vast amount knowledge I hadn’t really given much thought on before. I was oblivious to the change in the machinery used hospitals, until interviewing my interviewee. Thinking back and realising now it is so true. If there is something that I would do differently it would be to research in more detail the machinery used in hospitals back then compared to now. I also would have gone into more depth with my interviewee regarding consumables thirty years ago in comparison the now. In conclusion do you feel industrialisation and consumption have impacted modern society?

Reference list

Macionis, J and Plummer, K (2012). Consumption in modern economies in Sociology: a global introduction, 5th ed., Pearson, Harlow UK, pp. 525-528

Kieran, A (2011). Marx and the Alternative to Capitalism. London: Pluto Press. p45-47

Swinburne. (2013). Industrialisation and Capitalism. Available: Last accessed 16th Sep 2013

Serrano, T (2013). Unpublished interview for SLSS 101 Case Study, Swinburne, Swinburne Online, 16th Sep.

Telander, R (1990). 'Your sneakers or your life', Sports Illustrated, viewed 15th Sep 2013, .


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