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Does Technology Wreck the Middle Class, or Do We Reap the Benefits of Mechanization?

Mechanization encompasses moving from a traditional society to an industrialized and urbanized society. In agriculture, the process increases productivity, efficiency, and quality, reducing labor, human drudgery, and cultivation costs. Despite its advantages, mechanization wrecks the middle class. It disheartens them, renders their services monotonous, and the work environment intolerable.

Mechanization reduces the employment rate of middle-class laborers. Since the end of the Great Recession, the United States unemployment rate has declined by two million (Autor & Dorn, 2013). Although the American productivity rate has significantly risen, the number of employed adults, particularly the middle class, has reduced proportionately since the early 1990s (Autor & Dorn, 2013). To this end, pundits wonder whether the unemployment drought has taken a toll on the country.

Interestingly, mechanization is degrading middle-class laborers and rendering their services monotonous. According to (Autor & Dorn, 2013), mechanization has benefited manufacturers, consumers, and unskilled workers who do hand jobs; however, it has rendered the skilled workers jobless since the machines are almost doing everything. Since its invention, laborers’ jobs have become less strenuous, manufacturers have managed to produce large quantities in shorter periods, and consumers have started purchasing more products at a lower sum (In Praise of Mechanization, 1897). On the one hand, it has increased manual tasks, particularly in-person interaction tasks, visual and language recognition tasks, and situation adaptability tasks like cleaning hotel rooms, driving a truck, and preparing a meal. On the other hand, it has rendered skilled workers who used to do storing, retrieving, manipulation, bookkeeping, quality assurance, and clerical duties jobless (Autor & Dorn, 2013). As such, the demand for middle-class professionals, notably engineers, technicians, lawyers, designers, and advertisers, has reduced significantly. To this end, some have been forced to join the unskilled labor force and earn low pay.

In the tailoring business, mechanization has increasingly benefited the employers (high-class citizens) and disheartened the tailors, mainly middle-class citizens. Before the invention of sewing machines, the tailors, together with their wives and children, worked quietly. However, after the invention in 1855, they started having issues with their neighbors and landlords. Tailoring activities were no longer still and quiet; instead, they were noisy and environment-polluting (A Tailor Testifies, 1883). Equally, the invention prompted the bosses to authorize tailors to purchase the machines. As such, tailors who had saved a few coins dug deep into their pockets and bought the machines. After a while, they realized that the machines’ returns were low (A Tailor Testifies, 1883). It benefitted their bosses, stitched nicely and neatly, yet made too much noise, thus, forcing them to work faster and stop sewing earlier before night dawns.

Mechanization, particularly in the United States, rendered labor conditions of middle-class workers intolerable. As machine operations improved, agricultural profit margin increased, and the employment opportunities for unskilled workers widened; however, the profit-hungry employers made the living standards of middle-class workers more dangerous and intolerable (In Praise of Mechanization, 1897). In England, loom managers are assigned two assistants; one between the loom and another behind it. Unfortunately, American manufacturers assign one assistant to the loom manager and expect them to output more products (In Praise of Mechanization, 1897). As such, they experience difficulty turning the spindle rapidly, thus, exhausting their physical power and making their work environment intolerable.

Conclusively, mechanization has benefited the manufacturers and unskilled low-level laborers yet killed middle-class services. It has replaced human arms in factories and disoriented middle-class laborers. To this end, we continue to mourn the disappearance of middle-labor positions as we enjoy their advantages.


Autor, D.H., & Dorn, D. (2013). How Technology Wrecks the Middle Class, New York Times 

“A Tailor Testifies” (1883)

“In Praise of Mechanization,” (1897)


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