The Industrial Revolution Made Capitalists the Puppeteers of Divorce

rosieThe industrial revolution placed stress on this arrangement for capitalism would now draw the vast majority of the 95% of people who had lived on dispersed farms engaged in the hard life of farming into the cities, small towns and burbs to sell their labor. While women would still play their traditional roles, their home labor would gradually ease through the products of the industrial era. And Men would find that they could now provide more to their families with less labor.

Yet a curious tool of the modern capital era seemed to be at odds with this newfound freedom. Modern industrial warfare would require massive labor efforts, drawing women into the workforce. And to curb the benefits that additional labor might bring to the masses, money inflation followed re-entrance of military men into the increased women workforce at every turn. After WWI and again in the 1940s, inflation ate away the family benefits of increase labor and of the gains that unions made by collective bargaining, handing the benefits of increased labor over to owners of capital.

Even so, the increased productivity, health and lifespan brought about by the industrial era increasingly gave the American family new freedoms to participate in an upward societal shift on Maslow’s hierarchical scale toward self-actualization. With this shift came a correlating trend of divorce. From the end of the Civil War until 1964, divorce rates in America would trend upward from 5% toward 36%.

Self actualization, personal gratification, and individual choices toward happiness now became luxuries that did not exist in a world consumed with meeting the basic necessities and having to meet these needs with lifetimes that before the industrial era had spanned only half as long. Then came the paradigm shift made possible by the birth control pill and abortion. The sexual revolution expanded the possibilities to take the experiment of self actualization to new heights.

Post WWII, only 12% of women attended college. Post Viet Nam War, 45% of women entered higher education. And traditionally lower paying jobs open to women were quickly being replaced by other gender workforce clusters that then dissolved into fields across the workforce spectrum. Women now demanded and gained financial freedoms hitherto unknown. With financial and sexual freedoms secured, the divorce rate skyrocketed from 36% in 1964 to 48% in 1978.

The shift up Maslow’s hierarchy placed a burden on the role of traditional families and hit black families hardest. Black men were the least able to rise in the shifting economy and their family lead roles were the most threatened. Interestingly, inflation followed the entrance of women into the workforce during the 1970s and 80s as well, dramatically drawing their labor efforts back toward the owners of capital.

From 1978 on, the inflationary tool of capitalism has drawn the benefits of American labor away from the modern family toward the owners of capital. Since then, Divorce rates have stabilized and actually retreated, yet less people have married, more have waited to later ages to marry, and cohabitation rates have increased dramatically.

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Filed under divorce, Racism, social trajectory

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