Post Industrial Society Essay

Following the Keynesian response to the Great Depression, the Allies’ defeat of fascism, the Marshall Plan and the reconstruction of western Europe and sustained economic growth in the western bloc from 1945 into the 1960s, Raymond Aron (1967), Daniel Bell (1960), Ralf Dahrendorf (1959) and John Goldthorpe et al. (1969), among others, argued that western capitalist societies had developed into industrial societies.

Industrial societies’ chief characteristics, its proponents argued, included an open, meritocratic stratification system; improved standards of living offering access to a wide range of consumer goods; growing diversity in share ownership; professionally trained managers running trans-national firms; human relations strategies to improve productivity and working conditions; a diversified division of labor emphasizing skill and education; the systematic application of science and technology in production; the institutionalization of class conflict in collective bargaining; and the end of ideology.

Bell’s (1973) extremely influential The Coming of Post-Industrial Society built on those claims. Bell argued that technology and information processing would define post-industrial societies. The coming order would feature economies centred on telecommunications, information and computer technology, differentiating them from pre-industrial, extraction-based or industrial, fabrication-based societies. The centrality of theoretical knowledge; creation of new intellectual technologies; growing influence of a knowledge class; growth of services; changing nature of work; and greater inclusion of women in the labor force would characterize post-industrial societies. Manuel Castells’ (1996; 1997; 1998) The Information Age built on Bell’s analysis.


  1. Aron, R. (1967) 18 Lectures on Industrial Society. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London.
  2. Bell,   (1960)  The End of Ideology.  Free Press, Glencoe, IL.
  3. Dahrendorf, R. (1959) Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society. Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA.
  4. Goldthorpe, J., Lockwood, D., Bechhofer, F., & Platt, J. (1969) The Affluent Worker in the Class Structure. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

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These “notes” are guiding a work in progress entitled The Post-Industrial Society. They appear as “notes” to emphasize the tentative nature of the formulations. The “post-industrial” society, as it was outlined in the first part of this essay, was defined as one in which the economy had moved from being predominantly engaged in the production of goods to being preoccupied with services, research, education and amenities; in which the professional-technical class had become the major occupational group; and – most importantly – in which innovation in the society, as reflected in the changing relationship of science to technology, and economics to the polity, was increasingly dependent on advances in theoretical knowledge. For this reason, the intellectual institutions of the society, because they are concerned with the codification of theoretical knowledge, will increasingly, in the last third of the century, become the primary institutions of the society. The post-industrial society, it was argued, presupposes the rise of a new class who, on the political level, serve as advisors, experts or technocrats. The relation between the technocrat and the politician, serving as the broker for various interest groups, will become one of the problematic issues of the post-industrial society.

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