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A post-industrial society is a society in which an economic transition has occurred from a manufacturing based economy to a service based economy, a diffusion of national and global capital, and mass privatization. The prerequisites to this economic shift are the processes of industrialization and liberalization. This economic transition spurs a restructuring in society as a whole.

Social and economic attributes of the post-industrial society

The University of Marylandmarker's George Ritzer provides six changes in social structure associated with the transition to a post-industrial society:

  1. Within the economy, there is a transition from goods production to the provision of services. Production of such goods as clothing and steel declines and services such as selling hamburgers and offering advice on investments increase. Although services predominate in a wide range of sectors, health, education, research, and government services are the most decisive for a post-industrial society.
  2. The importance of blue-collar, manual work (e.g., assembly line workers) declines and professional (lawyers) and technical work (computer programmers) come to predominate. Of special importance is the rise of scientists (e.g., specialized engineers, such as genetic or electric). Many mining towns and similar settlements face large scale unemployment as a result of the increasing importance of both theoretical knowledge with a simultaneous decline in manufacturing and increasing importance of environmentalism. Many industrial towns residents are on benefits, such as the dole.
  3. Instead of practical know-how, theoretical knowledge is increasingly essential in a post-industrial society. Such knowledge is seen as the basic source of innovation (e.g., the knowledge created by those scientists involved in the Human Genome Project is leading to new ways of treating many diseases). Advances in knowledge also lead to the need for other innovations such as ways of dealing with ethical questions raised by advances in cloning technology. All of this involved an emphasis on theoretical rather than empirical knowledge and on the codification of knowledge. The exponential growth of theoretical and codified knowledge, in all its varieties, is central to emergence of the post-industrial society.
  4. Post-industrial society seeks to assess the impacts of the new technologies and, where necessary, to exercise control over them. The hope is, for example, to better monitor things like nuclear power plants and to improve them so that accidents like that at Three-Mile Islandmarker or Chernobylmarker can be prevented in the future. The goal is a surer and more secure technological world. The doctrine of the precautionary principle is sometimes used in preventing the worst aspects of new technologies, such as cloning and genetic engineering, when there is no evidence of their negative impact.
  5. To handle such assessment and control, and more generally the sheer complexity of post-industrial society, new intellectual technologies are developed and implemented. They include cybernetics, Game theory and Information theory.
  6. A new relationship is forged in the post-industrial society between scientists and the new technologies they create, as well as systematic technological growth, lies at the base of post-industrial society. This leads to the need for more universities and university-based student. In fact, the university is crucial to post-industrial society. The university produced the experts who can create, guide, and control the new and dramatically changing technologies.

Daniel Bell develops the idea of "Post-Industrial Society"

Daniel Bell primarily established the idea of the post-industrial society through his 1973 work The Coming of Post-Industrial Society. Within this work he describes the U.S.S.R. and the United States as the only two industrialized nations. The dichotomy between the two was the capitalist and the collectivist mindsets. He correctly predicted the attributes of the post-industrial capitalist society, such as the global diffusion of capital, the imbalance of international trade, and the decline of the manufacturing sector on the U.S. domestic front.

Cultural aspect of post-industrial society

Bell emphasized the changes to post-industrial society are not merely socially structural and economic; the values and norms within the post-industrial society are changed as well. Rationality and efficiency become the paramount values within the post-industrial society. Eventually, according to Bell, these values cause a disconnect between social structures and culture. Most of today's unique modern problems can be generally attributed to the effects of the post-industrial society. A large number of people may find themselves with no clearly defined role. These problems are particularly pronounced where the free-market dominates. They can include economic inequality, the outsourcing of domestic jobs, etc.

The post-modern and post-marxist idea that the economic base (manufacturing and agriculture) and ideological superstructure (art, religion, philosophy, science, etc) are the same thing, akin to a monocoque bodied car (Such as a Hudson Hornet), is a common thread in post-industrial thinking. For example, emphasis on the arts as an important economic sector rather than just a means of exploring spiritual themes and political ideas, or a means of personal expression is a case in point. Actor and artistic director of the Old Vic Theatremarker, Kevin Spacey, has argued the economic case for the arts in terms of providing jobs and being of greater importance in exports than manufacturing (as well as an educational role) in guest column he wrote for The Times. It can be argued that the creative sector has taken a more prominent role in the wake of manufacturing's decline and that, in some countries, it produces more exports than manufacturing alone.

Another more obvious example of this monocoque argument is the internet. While used for e-commerce and other economic activities, it can also be used to promulgate poetry, give practical advice over being jilted by your boyfriend and inform you of the latest football results as part of the ideological superstructure. They effectively become monocoqued by using the same apparatus and software.

However, this argument of base and superstructure being indistinguishable from each other can also be used retrospectively throughout history. It can be used to argue that pre-Christian fertility cults were economic as well as ideological constructs because their economies were depedent on the fertility they worshipped, especially as they were pre-industrial agrarian economies where food was often .


Bell's theory is not without problems (Veneris, 1984, 1990). Bell (1973, p.15) stated that his "post-industrial society" is a "service economy". "Services" is the third economic sector according to Colin Clark, the other two being the "primary" and the "secondary" (that is why the service sector is called also "tertiary").Bell is aware of the inadequacy of this approach.

The theory of the Information revolution provides a much clearer theoretical and empirical method framework than the "post-industrial society". One should note also that when historians and sociologists considered the revolution which followed the agricultural society they did not call it "post-agricultural" society/revolution. Instead, they tried to identify the most salient feature of the new revolution and coined the term "industrial". In a similar manner, the term "post-industrial" is problematic since it signifies only a departure, not a direction, and an alternative term should be sought.

Another critique to the idea of post-industrial society comes from a group of geographers (such as Allen Scott and Edward Soja) who argue that industry remains at the center of the whole process of capitalist accumulation, with services not only becoming increasingly industrialized and automotized, but remaining highly dependent of industrial growth. Not only productive services which are directly hired by industrial sectors, but even financial services in the global cities, are directly supported by profits earned with investments on industrial sectors across the globe. New strategies of industrial localization, which have since the 1970s shifted several blocks of manufacturing activities to low-cost areas outside the industrialized economies, created, according to this argument, an illusion of a postindustrial society in these regions whose jobs are heavily concentrated in the service sectors, but are still highly connected to the industrial economies outsourced to other areas.

These authors, mainly Ed Soja (based on Henri Lefebvre), propose that the sociology which advocates this postindustrial transition have a methodological problem which underestimates the importance of space, its production and its organization, in the reproduction of social relations, and of capitalism itself. This "manhattanist" attitude towards the studies of urbanity results in a placement of industry in a blind spot, and not visualizing the other geographical scales fundamental to the proper understanding of the global city itself.


Examples of post-industrial societies include the United Statesmarker, Canadamarker, Japanmarker, and Western Europe. The "post-industrial" period did not begin until during or after World War II, according to most sociologists: "Western sociologists usually maintain that the basis of the post-industrial society began to be formed in the late 1950s and that the process has been gaining ground ever since."

See also


  1. Ritzer, George. The Coming of Post-Industrial Society. Second Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007.
  2. Bell, Daniel. The Coming of Post-Industrial Society. New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1974.
  3. Kevin Spacey makes an economic case for the arts
  4. Veneris, Yannis. The Informational Revolution, Cybernetics and Urban Modelling, PhD Thesis, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, 1984. This thesis explored trends and theories (general economic and regional), and developed a large scale dynamic simulation model of the transition from an industrial to an informational economy.
  5. Veneris, Yannis. Modeling the transition from the Industrial to the Informational Revolution, Environment and Planning A 22(3):399-416, 1990. [1]
  6. Inozemtsev V.L. The Inevitability of a Post-Industrial World: Concerning the Polarity of Today's World Order, Global FOCUS, Vol. 13, No. 2. P. 60-79 (2001).

External links

  • Post Industrial Society Essay Bell’s ‘post-industrial society’, criticisms of his analysis of the role of information and knowledge in relation to contemporary social change and the extent of these changes. (2005)

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