Second industrial revolution

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As a second industrial revolution in is economic history research a second phase of industrialization after the first industrial revolution called. The temporal classification and the definition of the term itself are not uniform. Essentially, a German and an Anglo-American variant can be distinguished. With the rise of new management sectors, especially in the chemical industry and electrical engineering , French and German-language research began the second industrial revolution in around the 1870s and 1880s, which marked the phase of high industrialization in Germany . The Anglo-American variant, on the other hand, emphasizes the transition to mass production and to new industrial forms of organization ( Fordism , Taylorism ), especially since the 1920s.

Concept history

The concept of the second industrial revolution was first formulated by Georges Friedmann in 1936. For him, the widespread use of electricity, intensified mechanization and mass production were the decisive innovations. Later this view was further differentiated. In view of the economic and scientific development, Georg Friedmann spoke of a third industrial revolution in the 1960s, characterized by automation and the use of atomic energy.

Term in German economic history

The new industries were based on the combination of research and industrial production. In particular, chemical and physical knowledge was used economically on a large scale. In addition to the universities, the companies had their own research and development facilities. As a result, the experience of the employees in production became less important.

With the rapid growth they replaced the textile industry and the coal and steel industry as the leading sectors. In contrast to the first industrial revolution, the German economy was a leader. In the past, it had to import techniques and knowledge, especially from England, but now it has become a technology exporter. The new research and knowledge-oriented industries included the chemical industry and electrical engineering as well as mechanical engineering and the optical industry. Large in-house research laboratories emerged in the pharmaceutical industry in particular. The development in the electrical industry was similar. Werner von Siemens , himself a technician and physicist, built up a laboratory for his company in the 1860s, which developed into a large in-house research facility. The contact between business and the universities and non-university research institutions such as the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt founded in 1887 was also important .

In the chemical industry, soda and sulfuric acid gained importance as the basis for new products, such as for the synthetic dye aniline.

In addition to the previously dominant energy source, coal, crude oil played an increasing role. It was used to drive internal combustion engines ( Otto engine , diesel engine ).

In addition, electricity was used on a larger scale: generator (from 1866), incandescent lamp , electric motor, etc. The use of electricity also improved communication considerably. In addition to the older telegraphy (from around 1840), the telephone followed around 1880 .

Anglo-American tradition

In parts of German research, the innovation spurts of the 1920s / 1930s are seen as the beginning of a third industrial revolution. This was characterized by the rationalization of production through the introduction of the assembly line (1913, Ford works).

Above all in Anglo-American research, the breakthrough to mass production and the scientific management of Taylorism / Fordism is only referred to as the second industrial revolution. One of the reasons for the differences is that the First World War was not as decisive an economic turning point for the USA as it was in Europe. In the USA, by the way, the mass production of steel and the construction of railways on a larger scale began later than in Europe, while mass consumption began much earlier.

Other usage of the term

In various older sources, the phase of the second industrial revolution was set from around 1950. Its basis is the rationalization of industrial production through automation . An advanced form of automation is the introduction of industrial robots (from 1970).


The concept of the second industrial revolution is controversial. Critics of this concept emphasize that the importance of inventions and the economic use of scientific knowledge fails to recognize that this aspect was not unknown before. The derivation of the term from the use of new materials such as light metal, plastic, petroleum or other things was not without criticism. Even in the first industrial revolution, there were basically synthetic products. Coal was turned into coke and steel was made from pig iron. It is also correct for the critics that since the 1870s heavy industry has been relinquishing its leading role to the electrical industry, the chemical industry, the optical industry and vehicle construction as “new industries”.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Georges Friedmann: La crise du progrés. Esquisse d'histoire des idées 1895-1935 . Paris 1936.
  2. Johan Hendrick Jacob von der Pott: Meaning and periodization in history. Leiden et al., 1999 p. 411
  3. Dick van Lente, Bert Altena: The history of society in the modern age 1750–1989 Göttingen, 2009 p. 169
  4. ^ Hans-Werner Hahn: The industrial revolution in Germany. Munich, 2005: p. 42
  5. ^ Christian Kleinschmidt: Technology and Economy in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Göttingen, 2007 p. 94
  6. Dick van Lente, Bert Altena: The history of society in the modern age 1750–1989 Göttingen, 2009 p. 169
  7. ^ Toni Pierenkemper: Economic history. The emergence of the modern economy. Berlin, 2009 p. 88
  8. Dieter Ziegler: The industrial revolution. Darmstadt, 2005 p. 101
  9. ^ Dtv-Lexikon , Munich, 1975, article: "Industrial Revolution"
  10. Fuchs, Konrad; Raab, Heribert, Ed .: dtv dictionary of history , 3rd edition, Munich, 1977, article: "Industrial Revolution"
  11. Dieter Ziegler: The industrial revolution. Darmstadt, 2005 p. 102 f.