Modernity is a term created by sociologists in the late 19th century which describes the wide range of technological, economic, social and political changes that have taken place since the industrial revolution and shape today’s modern society. The beginning of modernity, commonly referred to as ‘the great transformation’ (Bilton 2002, p.24), saw society rapidly change through various complex and intertwined processes. In this case study I will focus on two processes, industrialisation and urbanisation, and highlight the impacts they have had on the life of a member of my family. First I will review the existing sociological literature about these processes, and then discuss my interview method and findings. I will then set out my analysis and detailed discussion as to when and how these processes either negatively or positively impacted my family members life, and discuss where their experiences do and don’t line up with the literature. I will conclude with reflecting on how both of these processes have impacted my family member’s life in line with the sociological literature, noting some limitations and lessons I have learnt for next time I conduct an interview for the purposes of a case study.
Industrialisation is a key feature of modernisation, which originated at the dawn of the industrial revolution in the late 1700’s. Industrialisation brought on inevitable social, economic and political changes to society, which Bilton (2002, p.27) describes as having “major consequences for the mass of ordinary people”. According to Germov (2007), industrialisation irreversibly changed the pre-modern societies way of living, changing work being time focused rather than task focused and all about capitalism. Rural farms were taken over by large factories which rapidly spread throughout Europe when steam powered machines were invented (Germov 2007). Germov (2007) describes the new form of specialised divisions of labour were created to maximise workers productivity and increase the employers profit, return and investment. Germov (2007, p.366) said that ‘time was now money’ and social life had become controlled by capitalism.
Influential sociologist Karl Marx (1818-1883), theorised that the impact of the industrialisation and capitalism on society had alienated humans. Van Krieken et al (2006) said Marx described work as the main activity undertaken by humans, and that specialised division of labour would alienate the humans from their natural pursuit of fulfillment (Germov 2007). Marx believed that if workers had no control over the product of their labour, work became impersonal and gave workers feelings of isolation. As stated by Van Krieken et al (2006) Marx believed humans needed to build their own products and see others benefit from them to realise their own importance and experience fulfilment. Probert (2006) puts a different point of view across, saying that although Taylorist management had been introduced to decrease workers input into their work, workers were happy with getting paid and working less rather than finding fulfilment within their employment.
Industrialisation brought about an inevitable and movement of migrants from rural areas to the city, a process called urbanisation, a key feature of modernity. According to Hogan (2006, p.136) urbanisation, is ‘arguably one of the most significant demographic trends of the past 100 years’. In 2006, there were 21 cities in the world that held populations of over 10 million people, and Hogan (2006) said cities with 1 million or more were growing at rates between 2 and 4% per year. Population was also increasing due to the decrease in death rates and increase of birth rates (Hogan 2006).
Many sociologists have also researched the social changes in cities due to urbanisation. Well-known sociologist Georg Simmel, summarised by Giddens (2009, p.210), interpreted the experience of an urbanite to be one that ‘bombards the