Feb 1, 2010 Comments Off
In chapter 7 of Webster’s The Information Society Reader, Webster goes into great detail describing the difference between an Industrial Society and a Post Industrial Society. Webster claims that in an industrial society, the society is focused on producing goods. These goods are created by a combination of machinery and semi-skilled workers who assemble different products. Webster believes that these systems, which are designed by engineers will become more and more streamlined until eventually goods will be assembled and produced exclusively by the machine and semi skilled workers will be rendered obsolete. Webster says “Skills are broken down into simpler components, and the artisan of the past is replaced by two new figures-the engineer, who is responsible for the layout and flow of work, and the semi-skilled worker, the human cog between machines – until the technical ingenuity of the engineer creates a new machine which replaces him as well.” In this way the machine will come to dominate Industrial Societies.
Webster describes a Post-Industrial Society as being fundamentally different in that they are based on service rather than product. He describes it as follows. “If an industrial society is defined by the quantity of goods as marking a standard of living, the post-industrial society is defined by the quality of life as measured by the services and amenities – health, education, recreation, and the arts – which are now deemed desirable and possible for everyone.” Upon reading this, my immediate question was what are the services that a post-industrial society would provide. Luckily, Webster clarifies. He categorizes services as auxiliary services which involves transportation, and the movement of products, mass consumption, which is the distribution, finance, real estate, insurance, etc., and personal services such as restaurants, hotels, etc. Chapter 7 was dedicated to Webster’s vision of the next big economic shift and how that would change societies.
One of the bigger things Webster said would change with a Post-Industrial Society is a shift from blue collar workers to white collar workers. I feel that this is an interesting and well supported point that is not well publicized. One quote I found especially interesting was “Since 1920, the white-collar group has been the fastest-growing occupational group in the society, and this will continue. In 1956, for the first time, this group surpassed the employment of blue-collar workers. By 1980 the ratio will be about 5:3 in favor of the white-collar workers.” I had never realized how prevalent white collar jobs had become in the US, and it was interesting to get some data that showed the definite shift that the United States was experiencing. I would like to point out one of Webster’s later points about how the principles of Marxism are changing as the proletariat and bourgeoisie change. As blue collar workers disappear form America’s social system, the working class begins to approach equality. The barrier between the exploited and the exploiting is fading as a countries entire social system begins to focus on optimizing and managing resources such as time and labor.