Theories of the Causes of the Industrial Revolution

Essay by milanitalyUniversity, Bachelor's October 2004

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Listening to Mozart would not let one see the entire picture of classical music. One would have to also sample Beethoven, Bach, Chopin, and others to get a more rounded view. Similarly, numerous perspectives on the theories that try to explain the Industrial Revolution must be considered, if one wants to see the whole picture. There is not one theory that is more convincing than any other; each of the theories can work together to create the most logical hypothesis.

Three of the theories that work together to create the most convincing argument for the causes of the Industrial Revolution are closely related; these three theories are authored by sociologists Karl Marx, Max Weber, and Robert Merton. Marx believed European colonialism was essential for the Industrial Revolution because as long as there were colonies and markets to sell to, Britain would be provided with the two necessary things for the revolution: raw materials and capital.

Weber studied Marx's theory and his opinion differed. His theory, Protestant Work Ethic, proposed that though colonies were good, they were not essential. What he did think was essential was religion-- specifically puritan religion. He believed the Puritans, which comprised most of the merchant class, stimulated the Industrial Revolution because of their religious ideology that made them work hard and not spend the money they made frivolously. Their ideas that hard work

and frugality would give them a greater chance of salvation lead them to reinvest the capital they made back into their businesses, which in turn lead to the capitalist mentality. Merton's theory emerged after Weber's. He also believed that the Puritans helped spark the revolution, but in a different way. Puritanism promoted growth of science because studying the earth and nature was to study the work of God. He believed that...