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Post-Industrial Society: Definition & Characteristics

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Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Did you know that the United States of America is considered a post-industrial society? Learn more about post-industrialized societies, their characteristics, and effects. Then, test your knowledge with a quiz.

What Are Post-Industrial Societies?

A post-industrial society is a stage in a society's development during which the economy transitions from one that primarily provides goods to one that primarily provides services. In other words, the service sector, made up of people such as nurses, teachers, researchers, social workers, and lawyers, among others, accounts for more of the economic growth and wealth than the manufacturing sector, which is made up of people such as construction workers, textile mill workers, food manufacturers, and production workers. The economic transformation associated with a post-industrial society subsequently transforms society as a whole.

Information, services, and advanced technology are more important in post-industrial societies than manufacturing tangible goods. As the name suggests, a post-industrial society follows an industrialized society, which focused on mass producing goods with the aide of machinery. Post-industrialization can easily be seen in places like Europe and the United States, which were affected by the Industrial Revolution before other places around the world. The United States was the first country to have more than fifty percent of its workers employed in service sector jobs.

Characteristics of Post-Industrial Societies

The term post-industrial was first popularized by American sociologist Daniel Bell when he wrote The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting in 1973. In this book, Bell describes six changes that are associated with post-industrial societies.

  1. There is a shift away from producing goods to creating services. Production of goods (like clothing and shoes) declines while the production of services (like fast food and fitness coaching) increases. Direct manufacturers of goods are few.
  2. Blue-collar, manual labor jobs (like assembly line worker and welder) are replaced with professional and technical jobs (like doctor and computer analyst).
  3. There is a transition to a focus on theoretical knowledge over practical know-how. Theoretical knowledge leads to the creation of new, innovative solutions, like how knowledge created by doctors has led to new, effective models of patient care.
  4. There is an increased focus on the implications of new technologies, when and how they should be used, and when and how to control them.
  5. The need increases for the creation of new scientific disciplines like cybernetics and information technology to assess the impact of the new technologies.
  6. There is a critical need for higher education institutions like universities to create graduates who can develop and control the next wave of technological advances.

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