Work in the Postindustrial World Research Paper Starter

Work in the Postindustrial World

(Research Starters)

This article will be framed by an understanding of the post industrial world. Contrasts will be made to better explain current work practices contrasted with work in the past. Also presented are insights into ways post industrial societal philosophies impact our framework of work and ways humans in post industrial societies view their work from a technological and service-based lens. The most riveting aspect of post industrial society and societal work practices is an overview of different kinds of available work that never existed before. A future seemingly limitless in its approach to work is more overworked than any previous generation. Implications for this malaise will be presented.

Keywords Information Technology; Post Industrial Society; Post Industrial Work; Work Life; Work Life Balance



Post Industrial Societies

Daniel Bell was the initial proponent of the idea of the post industrial society promoting the idea through his book entitled: The Coming of Post Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting. 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 for three substantive ideas including the end of ideology, the post industrial society, and the cultural contradictions of capitalism. All three of these ideas 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, as well. Bell argued in 1955 that party politics was entering a phase in which it would no longer be governed by extremist ideologies of the left and right but would instead require a mixed economy, a welfare state, and liberal democracy. Bell's later work proposed that the idea of 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" (p. 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."

Bell flagrantly claimed that within the system of continued stress on discipline and the emphasis on gratification, an eventual deterioration of the culture would occur unless a fundamental reversal occurred (Bell, 1995, pp. 12-13). Within the post industrial societal construct, economics is one of the main factors in determining post industrial society outcomes and economic growth espouses predictable cultural and political consequences. Industrialization typically leads to occupational specialization, increased educational levels, higher income levels and eventually results in alternative gender roles, changed "attitudes toward authority and sexual norms, declining fertility rates, expansive political participation, and a changing work force" (Inglehart & Baker, 2000, p. 21).

One caveat of the changing economic structure of the post industrial society is the cultural heritage of the civilization undergoing the change. Hamilton (1994) argued: "What we witness with the development of a global economy is not increasing uniformity,…but rather the continuation of civilizational diversity through the active reinvention and reincorporation of non-Western civilizational patterns" (p. 184). In other words, while the economic landscape may be shaped by specific post industrial tenets, economic outcomes are constructed and heavily dependent on historical and cultural inputs. Within the post industrial society, life is constructed around services advancing a "game between persons" in which people "live more and more outside nature and less and less with machinery and things; they live with, and encounter only, one another" (Bell, 1973, pp. 148-149). A more highly educated society generally allows workers to deal more with people and concepts, "operating in a world in which innovation and the freedom to exercise individual judgment are essential" (Inglehart & Baker, 2000, p. 22). Rather than a strong reliance on agrarian components or manufacturing, the post industrialist workforce places an emphasis on subjective well-being and quality-of-life (Inglehart, 1977, 1997). More time in the workforce seems to be spent more on the quality and service of the work for humankind, rather than the difficulty of labor.

Work in the Post Industrial World

According to researchers, work in the post industrial world has dramatically changed the face of the organized work structure and time spent occupied with work. According to Lewis (2003) "paid work is increasingly dominating people's lives," and that, "Far from the rise in leisure once predicted from the technological revolution, many people are now working longer and more intensively than ever." It seems that issues influencing the integration of paid work and the workers' life spent out of work, often referred to as "work-life balance," have mainstreamed into a relevant discourse between employers and unions (DfEE, 2000; DTI, 2001; Hogarth, Hasluck, Pierre, Winterbotham, & Vivian, 2001; TUC, 2001), in the media, and in our daily discussion (Lewis, 2003, p. 343). Lewis (2003) further adds, "These issues are not new. Questions such as whether it is possible to 'succeed' in occupational life without sacrificing personal life have grown out of a long tradition of research and discussion on the interface between work and the rest of life" (p. 343).

The central problem blurring the time between work and leisure is the expanded time in the global twenty-four-hour marketplace. Space, time, and distance are "compressed by information and communication technology, temporal and spatial boundaries between paid work and personal life are increasingly non-existent" (p. 343). While these phenomena may create new opportunities and broaden horizons for the most educated and highly skilled knowledge workers, allowing them to work when and where they choose, new challenges also arise.

Blurred Work Boundaries

Lewis (2003) argued that "many forms of post industrial work, which dominate people's lives, are becoming the new leisure." She described post industrial work as "what people choose to spend their time on and enjoy doing" (p. 344). One of the main characteristics of post industrial work is home-based teleworking, or telecommuting. Home-based teleworking further blurs the boundaries between work and non-work and is characterized by work's intrusion into leisure time (Sullivan & Lewis, 2001; Hill, Miller, Weiner, & Colihan, 1998). Workers struggling with blurred boundaries between work and leisure can never be completely lured away from work, which then interferes with family time, or other non-work activities at any time. Increased communication and information technology adds to blurred work and leisure boundaries and drives workers to spend increased time during the evenings and on "weekends, or on trains and planes, in hotels or at the gym spent on work related activities" (Lewis, 2003, p. 344). The consequence of blurred work boundaries is that workers may spend too much time or not enough time working.

Statistically, while both genders are impacted by blurred work boundaries, women often feel bounded family commitments and less able to work long hours (Lewis, Cooper, Smithson, & Dyer, 2001; Sullivan & Lewis, 2001). Thus, "just as leisure is highly gendered, with women less able than men to preserve the boundaries between leisure and other activities (Kay, 2002) the autonomy to use flexible working arrangements to prioritize work is also gendered" (Lewis, 2003). This research suggests that gender related issues between men and women continue to influence women's professional work lives. Arnold and Niederman (2001) stated vehemently: "The statistics are clear that women, minorities, and older workers, at least in the United States, are not fully represented in the Information Technology work force; firms may need to take positive action to make the workplace more attractive" (p. 32).

Information Systems

The development of Information Systems has had a profound effect on the rate of advance of all science. As the old industrial age is being replaced by a new era of the information society, this transition implies that the relative importance of intellectual capital invested in software and systems will increase in relation to the capital invested in physical plants and equipment (p. 63). Similarly, Tonn and White (1996) argued that information technology (IT), broadly defined as computer and telecommunications technology is having a substantial impact on almost every community on earth. Researchers further indicate that "data bases are coming on-line, communication over the Internet is worldwide, distance learning is becoming common, wireless communication is growing, and multinational corporations already rely heavily on...

(The entire section is 4331 words.)