Having not yet read Hard Times - but having some other familiarity with Dickens (after all, it's said that he repeats the same novel
) I imagine that your question about the author would be answered in the affirmative. The most obvious example of his criticisms of capitalism's excess can be found in the classic A Christmas Carol
. Along with the rise of the factory came the rise of the corporation, which shifted local business responsibility away from community-orientation and toward loyalty to distant corporate board members and shareholders. In retrospect, the coporation was key - say for the growth of the U.S. economy - but it would be easy to see how its popularity would have alienated many in the 19th Century working class.
That's a good last set of questions you pose. Just as the Industrial Revolution had its critics, the Information Revolution is sure to have its critics as well, but we might have to wait another 50 years to know which are classics from early 21st Century literature address existing problems. I remember a friend of mine - back in 1995 or 1996 - who lambasted the microcosyms people lived in because of the internet. I think that is true today. Feelings of responsibility and belonging to one's community (because one works in that community) could very well weaken as a global e-commerce mentality develops. Think about this - in the Middle Ages, we might be discussing history in some Florentine bar while drinking our swill; in the 19th Century, we might live in the same town and exchange our ideas via pamphletting or by writing bulletins which are posted at the town center; today, we discuss thoughts and events on an internet forum while we are separated by thousands of miles.
There is far less reliance on our geographic neighbors than ever before, and there is little local interdependence.