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10-08-2015, 15:19


The new world created by the Industrial Revolution led to the emergence of a mass society by the end of the nineteenth century. A mass society meant new forms of expression for the lower classes as they benefited from the extension of voting rights, an improved standard of living, and compulsory elementary education. But there was a price to pay. Urbanization led to overcrowding in the burgeoning cities and increasing public health problems. The development of expanded means of communication resulted in the emergence of new organizations that sought to manipulate and control the population for their own purposes. A mass press, for example, swayed popular opinion by flamboyant journalistic practices. As the number and size of cities continued to mushroom, governments by the 1880s came to the reluctant conclusion that private enterprise could not solve the housing crisis. In 1890, a British housing law empowered local town councils to construct cheap housing for the working classes. London and Liverpool were the first communities to take advantage of their new powers. Similar activity had been set in motion in Germany by 1900. Everywhere, however, these lukewarm measures failed to do much to meet the real housing needs of the working classes. Nevertheless, the need for planning had been recognized, and in the 1920s, municipal governments moved into housing construction on a large scale. In housing, as in so many other areas of life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the liberal principle that the government that governs least governs best (discussed later in this chapter) had proved untrue. More and more, governments were stepping into areas of activity that they would never have touched earlier.