A postindustrial society is one in which technology supports a service- and information-based economy. As discussed in Chapter postmodern (or "posrindustrial") societies are characterized by an information explosion and an economy in which large numbers of people either provide or apply information or are employed in service jobs (such as fast-food server or health care worker). For example, banking, law, and the travel industry are characteristic forms of employment in postindustrial societies, whereas producing steel or automobiles is representative of employment in industrial societies. There is a corresponding rise of a consumer society and the emergence of a global village in which people around the world communicate with one another by electronic technologies such as television, telephone, fax, e-mail, and the Internet, Postindustrial societies produce knowledge that becomes a commodity. This knowledge can be leased or sold to others, or it can be used to generate goods, services, or more knowledge. In the previous types of societies we have examined, machinery or raw materials are crucial to how the economy operates. In postindustrial societies, the economy is based on involvement with people and communications technologies such as the mass media, computers, and the World Wide Web.
For example recent information from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates that more than three quarters of all u.s. households have at least one computer (see "Census Profiles: Computer and Internet Access in U.S. Households"). Some analysts refer to postindustrial societies as "service economies;' based on the assumption that many workers provide services for others. Examples include home health care workers and airline flight attendants. However, most of the new service occupations pay relatively low wages and offer limited opportunities for advancement.
Previous forms of production, including agriculture and manufacturing, do not disappear in postindustrial societies. Instead, they become more efficient through computerization and other technological innovations. Work that relies on manual labor is often shifted to less technologically advanced societies, where workers are paid low wages to produce profits for corporations based in industrial and postindustrial societies. Knowledge is viewed as the basic source of innovation and policy formulation in postindustrial societies. As a result, education becomes one of the most important social institutions (Bell, 1973). Formal education and other sources of information become crucial to the success of individuals and organizations. Scientific research becomes institutionalized. and new industries- such as computer manufacturing and software development-come into existence that would not have been possible without the new knowledge and
technological strategies. (the features of the different types of societies, distinguished by techno economic base, are summarized in Table 5.1.)Throughout this text, we examiner key features of postindustrial societies as well as the post modem theoretical perspectives that have come to be associated with the process of postindustrial ism.