Post-Industrialism, Summary

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The sense of economic transformation within the western industrial economies had been present since the 1970s. Some say we are entering into a post-industrial era. That is, leaving behind the the world of industrialism and its imagery - the factories, the heavy machinery and overalled men. Others say we are looking at one specific form of industry disappearing – that of mass production, a Fordist manufacture. Neo – or post-Fordist society (as another discourse), is all together a different kind of economy; one which is organized around flexible forms of production, which is becoming important as a means of responding to the greater diversity of consumer demand and fragmented market tastes. To put it simply, it is a change from a ‘mass’ to a ‘pluralistic’ kind of society. Economies are always in a state of change, but they are less often in the midst of a radical shift in the direction of the economy. What characterizes this radical shift is firstly in its interconnected nature of such changes, what happens in one part of the economy effects upon the rest of the economy. Secondly it implies that a different set of dynamics is driving an economy. For instance, with the rise of post-industrialism, it is claimed that a new kind of dynamic – the generation of knowledge and the control of information, has displaced the dynamics of manufacturing technologies and the making of things. In this article it introduces 4 main theorists and their characterization of this radical shift of the economy.

Post-Industrial Society

The idea of a post-industrial society first took hold in the US in the 1960s. Daniel Bell clearly outlined the nature of this transition. He adopted a ‘stages’ model of development which identified three phases of economic progress: a pre-industrial – dominated by agriculture, an industrial - manufacturing and a post-industrial, that he suggests we have entered is dominated by services. According to Bell, the general direction of economic change is towards a service economy. He also suggests the concept of ‘axial principles’ which refers to the mechanisms or dynamics that give shape to an economy. In a post-industrial society, knowledge and information is the driving force that stimulate economic growth, it also takes the form of a final product – reams of information. Bell also pointed out the consequences of this new economic dynamic. 1.1. Shift in the kinds of work that people do. From manual, manufacturing jobs to non-manual work in the service sector, where people no longer work upon things but work with each other to deliver a service. 2.2. Shift in the occupational structure as manual jobs give way to white-collar and professional occupations. Skills and physical work requiring strength -> ‘think’ work. 3.3. The emergence of a new class, the knowledge elites. As knowledge and information are the key sources of a post-industrial society, and they are the ones who control those resources. The intellectual work would be specialized, the new hierarchies of technical elites will be formed alongside the increased professionalization of work and the bureaucratization of 'think' work. Alain Touraine also discussed about the post-industrialism. Like Bell, he also gave central place to the control of knowledge and information and identified the agents of change, the ones with control of knowledge as a ‘technocracy’. However at this point, they differ in their treatment of social conflict. In Touraine's analysis, there will be a new social divide between technocrats and bureaucrats on one hand, and a range of social groups such as workers, students and consumers on the other hand. This division is because the principal opposition between social group is no longer stem from the ownership and control of private property, but from access to information and its uses. So, the dominant class would have power over the livelihood and lifestyle, not only in the sphere of economic production. Because of...
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