Characteristics of the Second Industrial Revolution

The second industrial revolution took place between 1870 and 1914, and refers to a qualitative leap in the industrial order made possible by scientific knowledge, the discovery of new energy sources and new technological advances. This jump accelerated industrial concentration, on the one hand, and modified the economic model on the other. Let us know some of the most important characteristics of this historical process.

1. Fruit of the alliance between scientific knowledge and technological innovation

The second industrial revolution arose thanks to the combination of scientific knowledge with technological innovation. Unlike the first industrial revolution, fundamentally technical and mechanical, scientific research, in conjunction with the needs of technological and economic development, qualitatively transformed the world. For this reason, the scientific-professional qualification, not only technical, became a real demand of the industrial sector, now in search of innovations.

Thanks to this alliance between scientific knowledge and technological innovation, the development of the chemical industry was possible, for example, as well as the development of communications in all its aspects.

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2. Emergence of new energies


The second industrial revolution was made possible by the discovery of new sources of energy such as electricity and oil. This allowed the development of internal combustion engines that gradually replaced the steam engine.

See also Energy.

3. Discovery of new materials and/or new uses for them

Hand in hand with these discoveries, known materials could be harnessed for new uses and new materials were created in the iron and steel industry. For example, copper would become a fundamental material in the conduction of electricity. Likewise, materials such as steel, aluminum, nickel and zinc were created.

4. Development of the chemical industry

The chemical industry appears as a new thriving sector, which collaborates in the reconfiguration of the economy and society. The leading country in this process was Germany. New medicines appeared (for example, aspirin), plastic, rubber, dyes, industrial fertilizers and pesticides, explosives, and artificial fibers. Along with this, all kinds of products that already existed were improved, such as paper, glass, etc.

5. Development of new technologies and inventions

second industrial revolution

The last third of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th saw the creation of new technologies and the appearance of inventions that changed the world forever. Among the main inventions we can mention:

  • Telephone;
  • Telegraph;
  • automobile with internal combustion engine;
  • airplane;
  • phonograph;
  • cinematograph;
  • household appliances (vacuum cleaner, gas cooker, etc.); etc.

6. Automation of machinery

One of the most significant changes linked to the development of new technologies was the automation of machinery, which allowed the replacement of labor in many areas of industrial work.

7. Appearance of Taylorism or scientific organization of work

At the beginning of the 20th century, the American industrial engineer and economist Frederick Taylor developed the method of “scientific organization of work” or “scientific management of work”, known as Taylorism. This method was intended to enhance the efficiency of the industrial model by regulating the actions of the workforce with machinery and tools. It involved the division of labor, the subdivision of tasks, the reduction of unnecessary movements by workers, the timing of operations and the payment of work according to productivity.

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8. Replacement of the “big capitalist” by shareholders

The individual figure of the great capitalist, very typical of the first industrial revolution, was soon minimized, and a new actor appeared, this time collective: the shareholder. With this, the terms of organization and business participation were reconfigured.

9. Industrial concentration

second industrial revolution

Although industrial production and trade in general grew, the industries did not multiply, but concentrated a higher level of productivity. If the previous factories had 40 or 50 employees in a shed, the new factories managed to gather thousands of them. Many small companies were absorbed by larger ones, given the difficulty of bending to the new qualitative leap of this stage.

10. Reduced competition

From the foregoing it is also derived that many entrepreneurs were unable to compete against the largest sectors, so that there was a gradual closure of small and medium-sized industries, significantly reducing competition.

11. Tendency to monopoly and oligopoly

In this phase, a tendency towards monopoly and oligopoly developed, that is, towards the formation of large corporate groups that concentrated control of the industrial sector, particularly heavy industry and key sectors such as the arms and energy industries (electricity and oil). That is, they grew trustlarge business conglomerates.

12. Rise of new world powers

With the new changes, the countries that led the first industrial revolution moved to the rear. Thus, countries like the United States and Germany took the lead over England and France, and emerged as the new economic powers of the century.

13. Configuration of contemporary imperialism

second industrial revolution

The new economic scenario forced the constant search for raw materials and cheap labor. Along with this, new markets were also necessary towards which to direct growth. In this way, and in cooperation with the political order, contemporary imperialism was configured. The process ended in the total division of Africa (Congress of Berlin in 1886) and Asia between Russia, Great Britain, Japan, France, Holland, Portugal, etc.

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