Post-Industrial Society in Sociology

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A post-industrial society is a stage in a society's evolution when the economy shifts from producing and providing goods and products to one that mainly offers services. A manufacturing society is comprised of people working in construction, textiles, mills and production workers whereas, in the service sector, people work as teachers, doctors, lawyers, and retail workers. In a post-industrial society, technology, information, and services are more important than manufacturing actual goods.

Post-Industrial Society: Timeline

A post-industrial society is born on the heels of an industrialized society during which time goods were mass-produced utilizing machinery. Post-industrialization exists in Europe, Japan, and the United States, and the U.S. was the first country with more than 50 percent of its workers employed in service sector jobs. A post-industrial society not only transforms the economy; it alters society as a whole.

Characteristics of Post-Industrial Societies

Sociologist Daniel Bell made the term "post-industrial" popular in 1973 after discussing the concept in his book "The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting." He described the following shifts associated with post-industrial societies:

  • Production of goods (like clothing) declines and the production of services (like restaurants) goes up.
  • Manual labor jobs and blue collar jobs are replaced with technical and professional jobs.
  • Society experiences a shift from focusing on practical knowledge to theoretical knowledge. The latter involves the creation of new, invention solutions.
  • There is a focus on new technologies, how to create and utilize them as well as harness them.
  • New technologies foster the need for new scientific approaches like IT and cybersecurity.
  • Society needs more college graduates with advanced knowledge who can help develop and advance technological change.

Post-Industrial Societal Shifts in the U.S.

  1. About 15 percent of the labor force (only 18.8 million Americans out of a workforce of 126 million) now works in manufacturing compared to 26 percent 25 years ago.
  2. Traditionally, people earned status and gained and privilege in their society through inheritance which could be a family farm or business. Today education is the currency for social mobility, particularly with the proliferation of professional and technical jobs. Entrepreneurship, which is highly valued, generally requires a more advanced education.
  3. The concept of capital was, until fairly recently, considered mainly to be financial capital gained through money or land. Human capital is now the more important element in determining the strength of a society. Today, that's evolved into the concept of social capital -- the extent to which people have access to social networks and subsequent opportunities.
  4. Intellectual technology (based on math and linguistics) is at the forefront, utilizing algorithms, software programming, simulations and models to run new "high technology."
  5. The infrastructure of a post-industrial society is based on communication whereas the infrastructure of industrial society was transportation.
  6. An industrial society features a labor theory based on value, and industry develops proceeds with the creation of labor-saving devices which substitute capital for labor. In a post-industrial society, knowledge is the basis for invention and innovation. It creates added value, increases returns and saves capital.
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Crossman, Ashley. "Post-Industrial Society in Sociology." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Crossman, Ashley. (2021, February 16). Post-Industrial Society in Sociology. Retrieved from Crossman, Ashley. "Post-Industrial Society in Sociology." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 28, 2023).