Social Classes Of Mid-victorian England Essay

This essay has a total of 1236 words and 5 pages.

Social Classes Of Mid-victorian England

In the Mid-Victorian period in English history there were distinct class differences in
its society. There were three classes in England. These were the Aristocracy, the
Middle-Class (or Factory owners) and the working class. Each class had specific
characteristics that defined its behavior. These characteristics were best seen in four
areas of British society. During the time-period known by most historians as the
Industrial Revolution, a great change overtook British culture. Aside from the political
and economic change which occurred, a profound social alteration transpired. The populace
seeking to better their lives, sought employment in newly-formed industries. Many of the
workers which included women and children, labored through 12 hour work shifts, with poor
nutrition, poor living conditions and completing tedious tasks1. These factors,
accompanied by various ideological precepts by Britain's intellectual community, and those
concepts imported from France, provoke a crucial social evolution. Though no government
was overthrown, a distinct transformation took place causing rebellious behavior to erupt
among the working class. This essay will address the questions of how and why this
behavior was expressed by the lower order of British society. It will also discuss methods
the ruling class used in suppressing and controlling the rebellious behavior exhibited by
the working class.The middle class held to two basic ideologies that served in the
exploitation of the lower order of the British society. Richard Atlick identified them as
Utilitarianism (or Benthamism) and Evangelicalism. Both served the self-interested
inclinations of the middle class. Utilitarianism created the need to fulfill a principle
of pleasure while minimalization pain. In the context of the "industrial revolution" this
meant that the pleasure extracted from life would be at the working classes' expense. This
provided a perfect justification for the middle class to capitalize on. The working class
of Britain, throughout the industrial revolution and through the Victorian age, acted in a
defiant manner toward both the aristocracy and middle class. This behavior extended from
the everyday activities of the workers to radical anarchist movements that categorized the
underground.The middle class seemed to be just as familiar with the inverse of Benthamism
as they were with its normal application. The pleasure principle was measured in terms of
minimalization of pain. If the sum of pain, in a given situation, is less than the sum of
pleasure, than it should be deemed pleasurable. The inverse principle applied to the
working class was how pain (work) can be inflicted, with the absolute minimum distribution
of pleasure (wages), without creating an uprising.This was seen in Andrew Ure's article.
He eloquently defended the industrial system and dismissed the infractions as conjecture.
However, the argument made by Ure clearly pointed to the existence of disciplinary actions
being performed by the industrialist and how these were allowed by the government. His
argument stated that no employer wished to beat their young employees and, if it occurred,
then it was on a small level. The argument did not condemn the use of physical discipline.
It did not directly acknowledge its occurrence, but neatly circumvented the issue by
saying it was not the "wishes" of the employer. This was an example of the beliefs of the
middle class to take disciplinary and suppressive actions taken against the working class.
The second, Evangelicalism, was considered to be selfish because of its inflexibility
toward actions outside of its moral realm. The Church at that time would help the poor
only to pacify its conscience. Andrew Mearns, in his article " The Bitter Cry of Outcast
Continues for 3 more pages >>




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