Three models of post-industrial society
Originally posted October 31, 2006, during H808.
• Term first used by Fritz Machlup in the 1930s, but the main Info Soc theorists are Daniel Bell in the 1960s and 70s and Manuel Castells in the 1990s. Info society is seen as a successor to industrial society.
• An info soc is one in which the dominant activity is the creation, manipulation and distribution of information. An info soc typically has a knowledge economy in which knowledge is the main input and product of economic activity, and therefore the most important source of wealth
• Information technology is the defining technology of this type of society – replacing physical manufacturing which is the defining technology of industrial society
• An info soc needs a steady supply of highly-educated, flexible, knowledge workers, so education and training are of paramount importance
• Term first used by Jan van Dijk in 1991 and later taken up by Manuel Castells. It developed from the idea of a ‘wired society’, described by sociologist James Martin in the 1970s, which focussed more on the physical telecoms infrastructure of such a society than on the socio-cultural impact.
• A networked society is one in which the prime mode of organisation and structures at individual, organisational and societal levels are all shaped by a web of social and media networks. The operation and outcomes of economic production, social experience, power and culture are all modified by a new “networking logic”.
• Van Dijk contrasts the “social co-presence” made possible by the networked society with the mass character of industrial society in which groups, organisations and communities take shape in “physical co-presence”.
• Van Dijk argues that whereas information forms the substance of post- industrial society, it is networks that shape such a society’s organisational structures and forms.
• Risk theory introduced by Ulrich Beck and developed by Antony Giddens – both in the 1990s. Giddens sees Risk society not as a new form of society but as a result of modernisation – as the latest phase of ‘modernity’.
• Key trends in modern society – global networks and interdependence, the diffusion of knowledge/information throughout society and the prevalence of what Giddens calls ‘abstract systems’ – make everyone more vulnerable to, and acutely aware of, man-made risk.
• Both the risks themselves and the acute risk-consciousness which results are products of the rapid change and discontinuity characteristic of late modern societies. ‘The notion of risk is central in a society which is taking leave of the past, of traditional ways of doing things, and .. opening itself up to a problematic future’ (Shaw, 1995).
Shaw, Professor Martin, 1995. The development of ‘common risk’ society: a theoretical
overview’ [online] http://www.sussex.ac.uk/Users/hafa3/crisksocs.htm (accessed