Postindustrial Societies Research Paper Starter

Postindustrial Societies

(Research Starters)

This article presents an overview of the tenets of post-industrial societal theory and examples of post-industrial societies and their structures. Additionally, contrasts are made to better explain post-industrial societies. Also presented are insights into ways post-industrial societal philosophies impact current sociological thought and an examination of transformed ways of thinking for sociologists viewing societies through the Post-Industrial Societal lens. Insights into different models of thinking are offered through the tenets of politics, religion, culture, economics, work force, traditions and values, and the family. A conclusion is offered that describes solutions for conceptualizing post-industrial societal theory into current societal practices. The most riveting aspect of post-industrial society and current societal practices is an overview of declining birth rates and fertility and present impacts on post-industrial societies.

Keywords Counterculture; Incrementalism; Industrialization; Modernization Theory; Post-Industrial Society; Post-Modernist Theory

Post-Industrial Societies


Daniel Bell's Post-Industrial Society

Daniel Bell was the initial proponent of the idea of the post-industrial society, promoting the idea through his 1973 book entitled: The Coming of Post-Industrial Society. After experiencing and analyzing the radical societal changes brought on by the 1960s, Bell (1973) argued that a radical transformation of economic and political structures was underway in societies like the United States. He further indicated that changes in occupational structure, demographic patterns, and government funding to science and education would precipitate a shift to a society where theoretical knowledge was central and experts would be the primary advisors to government and business (Townsley, 2000, p. 739). This theory supported an earlier notion that the importance of academics, scientists, and professional experts in government would continue to grow and this idea was echoed in a wide range of scholarly work that was written and published at the time (p. 741).

Bell was the catalyst of three substantive ideas including the end of ideology, the post-industrial society, and the cultural contradictions of capitalism. All three of these ideals merged into a collective notion that seems to underscore society's present condition, not only in the United States, but in other highly developed nations. Bell argued in 1955 that party politics was entering a phase in which it would no longer be governed by extremist ideology of the left and right, but would instead require a mixed economy, a welfare state, and liberal democracy.

Bell's later work (Waters, 1995) proposed the idea that the post-industrial society was precipitated through socio-economic structures that were entering a major historical shift from manufacturing goods to the production of services. Bell argued that this paradigmatic shift would be accompanied by "an intellectualization of technology, the rise of a scientific knowledge class, and a renewed communalism in politics" (Waters, 1995, p. 12-13). Bell further contended that capitalist societies were driven by threatening and disruptive contradictions at a cultural level. He indicated that capitalism originated because of the combination of a work discipline and a Protestant culture based on "frugality and abstemiousness." He flagrantly claimed that within the system of the continued stress on discipline and the emphasis on gratification, an eventual deterioration of the culture would occur unless there was a fundamental reversal. He further indicated that not all theorists agreed with this notion (Waters, 1995, pp. 12 - 13).

The 1960's

The 1960s has been reported to have played a significant role in creating post-industrialism. Rossinow (1997) wrote that the feelings surrounding the dissidence of the 1960s were and remain intense, "often intensely hostile." To conservative Americans especially, the cultural and political rebellions associated with this time were closely integrated and ultimately advanced a revolution against the underpinnings of advanced industrial capitalism resulting in developing an oppositional consciousness and a new society within the old (p. 80). The counter-culturists determined to develop counter-institutions in which ordinary citizens would accept "responsibility for the world we live in and accepting the responsibility for changing it." These groups "emphasized recycling and established refuse collection sites around town" (p. 101). In the later 1960s, social change brewed freely and ideals from this time predicated that white college-educated youth would be the agent of radical social changes which evoked a "new working class" theory (p. 103). These primary tenets of societal discord, new campus radicalism, and a rising "technocracy" were identified in sociological literature as the underpinnings of a new movement and a new way of thinking, which would shift thought and work from a manufacturing mindset to a service of "authenticity."

The post-industrial society was a new way of thinking and acting which arose from a counterculture revolution brought about by a changing society and societal mindset. The result of the post-industrial society can be found not only in the society of the United States but in other industrial nations. The hallmarks of the post-industrial society have produced lasting social, economic, and cultural impacts which are the result of our own growth and development as a society, but are not without conflicts and discord which theorists argue produce long-term threats and sustenance for the continuation of the world's great, industrialized societies.


The Present Framework of Post-Industrial Societies

For purposes of better understanding the tenets of the post-industrial society several factors should be identified, categorized, and described in their evolved states. These categories include, but are not limited to, politics, religion, culture, economics, work force, traditions and values, and the family.


Within the framework of the post-industrial society, economic and physical security become less pressing political concerns while other issues, like self-expression, subjective well-being, and quality of life, become more politically important (Inglehart,1977, 1990, 1997). These values then place a growing emphasis on environmental protection, the women’s movement, and increased participation in shared political decision making (Inglehart & Baker, 2000, pp. 27 - 28). Central to the political decisions and expressions of post-industrial societies are survival/self-expression values and outlooks (p. 31), which also conveys societal beliefs toward abortion and euthanasia (DiMaggio, Evans, & Bryson, 1996; Hunter, 1991; Williams, 1997). After analyzing these internal values, Inglehart and Baker argued that historically Protestant societies rank higher in this outlook than former Communist societies and these cultural influences strongly dictate political characteristics. Moreover, a resurgence of fundamentalist Islam has changed political actions in international politics (Inglehart & Baker, 2000, p. 19).


As an agrarian society transitions into an industrial economy and people feel more physically and economically secure, traditional religious beliefs become less important. However, in the post-industrial society, people continue to seek answers to life's essential questions. These questions underscore the human outlook and while traditionalist denominations may decline, new theologies, such as environmentalism or New Age beliefs emerge (Baker, 1999). The spiritual outlook in post-industrial societies tends to change from a "spirituality of dwelling" to a "spirituality of seeking" (Wuthnow, 1998). The post-industrial society member may spend less time in church, but are more likely to "spend time thinking about the meaning and purpose of life" (Inglehart & Baker, 2000, p. 47).


When the survival of society wanes from being the centerpiece of existence, as it has been described in pre-industrial societies, ethnic and cultural diversity become increasingly acceptable and much more tolerable. Within pre-industrial societies basic survival is strongly emphasized, and several factors such as poor health, low interpersonal trust, intolerance toward out-groups, and favoritism toward authoritarian governments dominates the cultural framework. Oppositely, in post-industrial cultures environmental activism, self-expression and diversity are not only tolerated, but are appreciated for their high interest and stimulation.

Further described within the post-industrial societal culture are changing gender roles and reframed sexual norms....

(The entire section is 3904 words.)