… is from page 247 of Emma Griffin’s superb 2013 book, Liberty’s Dawn: A People’s History of the Industrial Revolution:
Low levels of employment obviously meant low incomes, but it also restricted the personal and political expression of the labouring poor. It continued to restrict women’s scope for improvement well into the twentieth century. And it is perhaps here that we see most clearly the grounds for emphasizing the ways in which the industrial revolution enhanced rather than destroyed patterns of life. Critics will argue that the material gains for most families were small. But they were just enough to drag wage-earners out of the servile submission that poverty had forced upon them since time immemorial.
DBx: Many critics of Britain’s industrial revolution base their hostility to that era on the undeniable fact that the stupendous changes in economic life that then began both did not create heaven on earth for workers, and enriched some people more and faster than it enriched others. The perspective of such critics is faulty. The relevant, adult question is this: ‘How many people are escaping an earthly hell and how far away is their escape taking them from this hell?’ In contrast, the irrelevant, childish question could not be more different: ‘How many people have yet to reach an earthly heaven, and how far away is the poorest person from this paradise?’
A great deal is learned about someone’s ideology and politics simply by discovering which of the above two questions that person believes to be the relevant one.