Postindustrial Society

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Postindustrial society is a concept used to characterize the structure, dynamics, and possible future of advanced industrial societies. Like the more recent concepts of postmodern and radically modern society, the concept of postindustrial society attempts to make sense of the substantial changes experienced by advanced industrial societies since the end of World War II. In providing a depiction of the character and future of these societies, analyses usually attempt to shape the futures they describe. Such efforts illustrate an awareness among sociologists of the "reflexive" character of much social science—that is, an awareness that analyses of society become elements of the social world that have the potential to shape the future.

Social analysts have long been aware of the potential effects of their ideas, at times engaging in work precisely because it may have an effect on the future through such mechanisms as social engineering, social movements, and the application of technology. The nineteenth-century theorists of "industrial" society, like postindustrial theorists a century later, tried to make sense of the diverse changes surrounding them, oftentimes in an effort to help shape the future. In the early nineteenth century, Claude-Henri de Saint-Simon attempted to provide an image of what was then a barely emerging industrial society, an image he hoped would enable scientists and industrialists to see the crucial roles they were to play in a society consciously directed by scientific knowledge. Similarly, in the mid-nineteenth century, Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels were outlining the characteristics of industrial capitalism, including the revolutionary role of the proletariat, when the factory system in England was still in its infancy, and the workforce "was still heavily concentrated in agriculture and domestic service, with the remainder mostly employed in the old craft industries." (Kumar 1978, p. 133) Although theorists of industrial society may not have been fully correct in all areas, their recognition of some major correlates of industrialization provided a surprisingly accurate portrait of a form of society qualitatively different from prior modes of human organization. The emerging industrial society was one that increasingly utilized technology and machinery for work; a society with substantial increases in communications, transportation, markets, and income; a society within which urbanism became a way of life, and the division of labor became increasingly complex; a society marked by an increasing role for the state, and bureaucratization in government and the economy; and a society marked by increasing secularization and rationalization.

The concept of postindustrial society indicates significant changes in some of these central characteristics of industrial society. In probably the earliest use of the concept, the Guild Socialist Arthur Penty (1917) called for development of a postindustrial state that reversed key characteristics of industrial society. Penty called for development of a mode of organization reflecting the artisan workshop, in which work, leisure, and family would be once again brought together. Although Penty may have been the first to use the concept of postindustrial society, it was not until the 1960s that the concept took on its present character, focusing on quantitative changes separating postindustrial from industrial society. Interest in the future, and in postindustrial society, developed at this time as a response to the dramatic changes occurring in advanced industrial societies. These changes included the technological and organizational expansion accompanying economic growth in the post–World War II era, the expansion of the welfare state and an increased concern over the dark side of industrialism. An array of terms emerged to characterize the social milieu of advanced industrial societies, including the technocratic era (Brzezinski 1970), service class society (Dahrendorf 1967), personal service society (Halmos 1970), postscarcity society (Bookchin 1971), posteconomic society (Kahn and Wiener 1967), knowledge society (Drucker 1969), postmodern society (Etzioni 1968), and postindustrial society (Touraine 1971; Richta et al. 1969). Although differing in focus, the analyses overlapped considerably with Daniel Bell's work on postindustrial society (1973, 1989), which has been considered the best known and most complete analysis (Kumar 1978). Thus, the following effort to characterize postindustrial society uses Bell's analysis as the organizing framework. This is followed by an examination of the related concepts of postmodern and radically modern society.


For analytical purposes Bell divides society into three parts: social structure, culture, and the polity. The concept of postindustrial society focuses primarily on changes in social structure, that is, changes in the economy, in technology, and in occupational structure. Although the social structure, polity, and culture may influence one another, it is not assumed there is a harmonious relation between the three. In fact, changes in any one may pose problems for the others (Bell 1976).

Bell's depiction of postindustrial society (1973, 1989) focuses on two dimensions: the centrality of codified theoretical knowledge, and the expansion of the service sector, especially professional and human services. The centrality of theoretical knowledge is viewed as the most important dimension, or axial principle, of postindustrial society. The institutions that most embody this dimension are the university and the research institute. In postindustrial society major innovations are more a product of the application of theoretical knowledge (e.g., Albert Einstein's discussion of the photoelectric effect for the development of lasers, holography, photonics), than the product of persons skilled in the use of equipment (e.g., Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison). The use of theoretical knowledge increases the importance of advanced education, reflected in substantial enrollments in colleges and universities, as well as substantial numbers of scientists, engineers, and persons with advanced degrees. For example, between 1939 and 1964, as the United States moved from an industrial to a postindustrial society, the number of scientists and engineers increased over fivefold, from 263,000 to 1,475,000 (Bell 1973). Relatedly, the percentage of 20- to 24-year-olds studying for college degrees went from 4 percent in 1900 to 15 percent in 1940, 26 percent in 1950, and 34 percent in 1960 (estimated from Bell 1973, table 3–4). Related estimates show tertiary enrollment rates going from 32 percent in 1960 to 56 percent in 1980 and 81 percent in 1993 (World Bank 1980, 1997). Accompanying the importance of science and theoretical knowledge is an occupational structure in which more persons are involved in services, with professional and helping services especially important. This includes increased employment in education, science, and engineering, which is a natural consequence of a society committed to science and education. It also includes expansion of the number of white-collar workers and professionals in government and the helping services, resulting from an expanded welfare state and increased attention to health care. Such trends are illustrated in the following data (Table 1) on employment trends in the percentage of the workforce in white-collar and professional occupations in the United States, and in seventeen developed countries (twelve western European countries, plus Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Israel) (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1975, 1998; ILO 1965–1988, 1997). Also included are related data for agriculture, mining, and manufacturing for the United States.

Increased employment in white-collar and professional occupations occurs largely at the expense of agricultural employment and, to a lesser extent, of manufacturing employment. The economic dynamic behind such changes consists of shifts in relative demand toward services as disposable income increases (Clark 1960), and to the greater responsiveness of agriculture and manufacturing to technical innovation (Fuchs 1968). As incomes rise, the percentage of total income used for food and agricultural products declines, and the need for basic manufactured products is more easily met. Thus, relative demand for health, education, and an array of other services may increase. At the same time, technical innovations increase productivity in agriculture and manufacturing, lowering the demand for labor in these sectors. However, technical change is less able to displace workers in services, even though technical advances aid productivity. This is most clearly seen in health care, where technical change may increase the services available and the need for personnel to provide new services. Thus, economic and technical developments shift relative consumer demand and labor toward services. Such economic dynamics point out that development of an increasingly service-oriented postindustrial economy does not mean agriculture and manufacturing are ignored (Cohen and Zysman 1987). It means that technology takes over much of what people formerly did, and shifts productive efforts and labor toward services.

Accompanying the rising importance of theoretical knowledge and the service sector are several other changes. These include changes in women's roles, especially increased participation in the formal labor force. Additionally, the class structure of postindustrial society comes to increasingly center around education and technical expertise, creating possible tensions between expertise and populist sentiments. New political issues and attitudes concerned with the environment and quality of life move onto the political agenda (Ingelhart 1977; Lipset 1976). Technocratic rule may begin to take hold in organizations, and confront the problem of rationalized means becoming ends. Corporations may come under pressure to take into account objectives other than profit maximization. Efforts at social planning increase, and confront the problem of establishing a rational calculus for maximizing benefits throughout the society. The society becomes more politicized and conflictive as citizenship expands and groups seek a place in the polity.

Such conditions provide the basis for changes in consciousness and cosmology, as individuals confront a world of information and expanding specialized knowledge. The world becomes less one in which the individual interacts with nature and machines, and more one of persons interacting with persons. The reciprocal consciousness of self and other becomes increasingly important in defining the world. The culture may come to show contradictions between values of self-restraint, discipline, and work as a calling, on the one hand, and emerging postindustrial values of consumption and the negation of traditional bourgeoisie life, on the other (Bell 1976).

Table 1
percentage of white-collar occupations united states17.631.140.144.848.059.961.8
percentage of professional occupations united states4.37.510.813.814.116.517.6
seventeen developed countries 
percentage of agriculture, mining, manufacturing united states  31.426.521.319.2 

The image of postindustrial society provided by Bell and other social analysts is one in which technological advances have made possible development of a society characterized by the expansion and use of theoretical knowledge, and the concomitant expansion of white-collar and especially professional employment. A commitment to human welfare and social planning facilitates expansion of the welfare state and human services, further increasing white-collar and professional employment. Yet, such a society is not without tensions and conflict, both within the social structure and between the social structure, polity, and culture. It is by pointing out such tensions and problems that postindustrial theorists attempt not only to describe the present and the future but also to shape the future. In one of the more recent contributions to the postindustrial literature, Fred Block is clear about the role social analysis plays in shaping the future. He points out that "[social theory] has real consequences, because individuals cannot do without some kind of conception of the type of society in which [they] live" (Block 1990, p. 2). Block's book represents a return to the analysis of postindustrial society after a brief hiatus during the 1980s that Block attributes to the breakdown of mainstream and leftist social theory, and the reemergence of a tradition of economic liberalism quiescent since the Great Depression. Block's analysis carries forward the focus of prior postindustrial theory on social structure, yet gives scant attention to the role of codified theoretical knowledge, the university and professional groups. Instead, Block looks at key aspects of the changing postindustrial economy of the United States in an effort to develop alternative possibilities for the future. He notes that a postindustrial economy utilizing advanced technology, and having a substantial service sector, would be most productive if it kept some distance from the dictates of classical economic theory. Specifically, productivity is likely enhanced by: (1) relatively low levels of marketness, allowing for greater predictability and more accurate information; (2) labor relations emphasizing cooperation between labor and management, since skilled labor in technologically sophisticated industries and the professions has substantial knowledge and is expensive to replace; (3) treating capital not merely as a physical asset, but as part of a productive process that includes the organization of persons working with capital; (4) developing measures of economic well-being that incorporate positive and negative utilities currently excluded from measures like gross national product (e.g., child care and pollution as positive and negative utilities); and (5) using various hybrid forms of market, state, and other regulatory mechanisms to enhance quality growth.

Block's work provides a useful extension of postindustrial theory into the more traditional economic domains of labor, capital, and measured economic output. The book may represent a revival of analyses of postindustrial society, perhaps under the alternative concept of postmodern society. However, before considering the notion of postmodern society, some criticisms of the concept of postindustrial society need to be mentioned. Much of the critical literature focuses on Bell's work, since it is viewed as one of the best expressions of postindustrial theory. One criticism of postindustrial theory is that it overemphasizes the role of theoretical knowledge in decision making. Although critics acknowledge that formal knowledge is more important than ever before, they contend that technical experts and scientific knowledge have not come to play the central role in decision making in government or corporations that postindustrial theorists said they would. Within government, political dynamics of the industrial era persist, and within the corporation "the expert and his knowledge are, for the most part, embedded in the corporate bureaucracy" (Cohen and Zysman 1987, p. 260). Also, critics point out that while there may be more scientists, more persons with advanced education, and more money spent on research and development, these may be only tenuously related to increases in the amount and effective use of theoretical knowledge (Kumar 1978).

Critics also question the attention given by postindustrial theorists to the service sector, and to white-collar and professional work. As with theoretical knowledge, critics agree the service sector has grown, yet question the focus of postindustrial theorists. Critics remind us that the service sector has always been a major segment of preindustrial and industrial society (Hartwell 1973), that most service employment is in low-skilled, low-paid work, and that increases in white-collar and professional employment are a consequence of dynamics embedded in industrial society. Relatedly, most of the increases in white-collar and professional employment are in clerical positions and jobs like teaching and nursing, jobs that carry less autonomy and income than traditional professional occupations. Perhaps most important, critics argue that a focus on the service sector fails to adequately acknowledge the key role that manufacturing would play in a postindustrial economy, including the dependence of the service sector on a dynamic manufacturing sector (Cohen and Zysman 1987).

One response to these and other criticisms (e.g., see Ritzer 1989; Frankel 1987) would be to point out that postindustrial theory often acknowledged points made by critics, such as the fact that the political order could check trends in the economy; that the bulk of services are in low-skilled, low-paid labor; and that a sophisticated and dynamic manufacturing sector is important for an economy as large as that of the United States. Postindustrial theory merely chose to focus on other developments that may hold insights into the future of advanced industrial society. A related response to criticisms is to point out that critics have frequently acknowledged the validity of postindustrial claims of an increasing role for formal and theoretical knowledge, the increasing importance of technical developments in information processing, and the rise of a service sector with a good number of white-collar and professional workers. The points of contention between postindustrial theory and its critics appear to center on the general portrait of society provided by postindustrial theorists: Is this society best seen as a new type of society, or as a logical extension of advancing industrialization (Kumar 1978; 1988; 1995; Ritzer 1989; Giddens 1990)? Also, what are the implications of this image of society, not only for describing the present and future, but for shaping both?


Recent discussions of the character and future of advanced industrial societies have been framed within the concept of postmodern society. Although the variety of work dealing with postmodern society makes a clear definition difficult (Smart 1990; Kumar 1995), it seems reasonable to say postmodern society differs from postindustrial society in having the more nebulous reference point of a type of society coming after "modern" society. Whereas studies of postindustrial society understandably give substantial attention to technical and economic factors, studies of postmodern society broaden the focus to bring political and especially cultural phenomenon more to the center of analysis (Kumar 1995). This shift in focus helps explain why analyses of the cultural dynamics of postindustrial society are frequently considered in terms of the dynamics of postmodern society (e.g., Baudrillard 1983), and why studies of the economic characteristics of postmodern society look very much like studies of postindustrialism (e.g., Clegg 1990). For many authors, postmodernism is the culture of a postindustrial society (e.g., Lyotard 1984; Lash 1990; Jameson 1992; Mandel 1978).

Analyses of postmodern society may differ from postindustrial analyses not only in substantive focus, but also in basic presuppositions regarding the nature of social reality. While studies of postmodern society can reflect a standard social science framework, what has come to be called postmodern theory often includes a critique of science that undermines traditional social scientific inquiry (Turner 1998; Bogard 1990). Although the central tenants of postmodern theory are still unclear (Smart 1990; Ritzer 1997; Rosenau 1992), it is possible to note some major themes. Reflecting the influence of literary criticism, postmodern theory often views "social and cultural reality, and the social sciences themselves [as] linguistic constructions" (Brown 1990, p. 188). Authoritative images of what is real are seen to emerge through rhetorical processes in which "people establish repertoires of categories by which certain aspects of what is to be the case are fixed, focused, or forbidden" (Brown 1990, p. 191). Postmodern theory critiques the notion that signs and symbols adequately capture reality, and posits that signs and symbols are the only reality we truly know (Brown 1987). The reality of the social world described by social scientists is viewed as inseparable from the discourse through which social scientists come to signify some descriptions of the world as more legitimate than others (Lemert 1990). The traditional hierarchy in which reality occupies a privileged status separate from the symbols used to describe it is broken down, or deconstructed. The deconstruction project of postmodern theory not only critiques the separation of reality from symbols describing it, but also critiques other hierarchies, such as those separating expert knowledge from common knowledge, and high culture from low. The project even moves to deconstruct the very possibility of a generalizing social science, and the idea of a social world (Foucault 1980; Baudrillard 1983). In such bold forms a postmodern sociology becomes a contradiction in terms, undermining its own basis for existence (J. H. Turner 1998; B. Turner 1990; Smart 1990; Bauman 1988). However, although a postmodern sociology may be difficult to establish, a sociology of postmodernism that examines postmodern society, and draws from postmodern theory, is possible.

Attempts to characterize postmodern society reflect the contributions of postmodern theory, as well as more conventional sociological approaches. From postmodern theory comes a view of postmodern society as a technologically sophisticated high-speed society, with access to vast amounts of information, and fascinated by consumer goods and media images. Mass consumption of goods and information is seen as facilitating a breakdown of hierarchies of taste, and development of an explicit populism. Technology and speed blur lines separating reality from simulation, as television, videos, movies, advertising, and computer models provide simulations of reality more real than real. People may realize this hyperreality is simulation, yet be fascinated by it, and come to make it part of their lives, thus transforming much of reality into simulation (Baudrillard 1983). Under such conditions history comes to have little meaning, and the fast-paced present becomes increasingly important. People may attempt to come to grips with such a world, but the world comes to undermine major assumptions, or grand narratives, of rationality and progress, thus generating a sense of exhaustion (Lyotard 1984). An acute sense of self-consciousness and unease may develop, as "the current age stumbles upon the very transvaluation of Western values and vocabularies that Nietche urged more than a century ago" (Baker 1990, p. 232).

Views of postmodern society from more conventional social science frameworks echo some of these themes. For example, both Daniel Bell (1976) and Christopher Lasch (1979) point to the development of cultural themes in postindustrial society emphasizing consumption and personal gratification at the expense of themes emphasizing self-restraint, work, commitment, and a sense of historical connection and continuity. In a Marxist analysis, Fredric Jameson (1984) points to the loss of a sense of historical connection in the consumer-oriented world of late capitalism.

One productive approach to postmodern society starts from the assumption that a central process defining modern society is differentiation. Thus, the type of society coming after modern society is viewed as reversing this process. The process of de-differentiation is illustrated in the cultural arena in the conflation of high and popular culture noted above, as well as the general deconstruction project of postmodernist theory (see also Lash 1988). Within the economic arena de-differentiation appears in the reversal of the processes of bureaucratization and the division of labor characteristic of the assembly line (Clegg 1990). Such trends have been viewed as part of the changing character of production in the world economy since 1960, and have been examined under such terms as the second industrial divide (Piore and Sable 1984), or the emergence of disorganized capitalism (Lash and Urry 1987). The changes frequently include a shift to smaller organizations or subunits of organizations, a less formalized and more flexible division of labor, increased variation in the character of products, more decentralized managerial structures, and the use of computers. Such organizations are engaged in services, information processing, or production using computer controlled flexible production techniques (Burris 1989; Heyderbrand 1989; Clegg 1990). The postbureaucratic character of these organizations is made possible by computers that do routine tasks, as well as by the need to respond flexibly to diverse clientele and markets, and the sophisticated capabilities of employees that operate complex manufacturing equipment and provide professional services.

Although postmodern production techniques and organizations are becoming more prominent and important in advanced industrial societies, they may express themselves in different ways and do not eclipse other forms of production and organization. Low-skilled tasks in manufacturing and services will likely compose a substantial segment of the workforce far into the future, creating the possibility of increased variation in skill and income in postmodern society. Also, postmodern organizations can vary substantially among themselves. For example, Clegg (1990) argues that Japan and Sweden stand as alternative expressions of postmodernist futures. Sweden provides the more optimistic democratic scenario with fairly broad representational rights of workers in organizations. Japan represents a less optimistic view with an enclave of privileged workers formed on exclusive principles of social identity, such as gender, ethnicity, and age.


Much as critics of the concept of postindustrial society pointed out that postindustrial trends were best seen as the logical extension of major characteristics of industrial society, so Anthony Giddens (1990) has questioned the notion that postmodern trends actually represent a break with modern society. Giddens acknowledges current trends of complexity and widespread change accompanied by lack of a clear sense of progress, and would also likely admit to trends of de-differentiation in some organizations. However, Giddens does not see this as constituting postmodernity. Instead he refers to such trends as characterizing radically modern societies, for these societies represent the logical extension of three essential characteristics of modernity. The first characteristic is an increase in complexity, as the major processes of industrialization, class formation, and rationalization proceed apace and shape one another. The second key element of modernity is the separation of much of what humans experience as social reality from concrete instances of time and space. Thus, money represents an element of social reality that designates a mechanism of exchange not bound to any specific instance of exchange. Even more abstractly, experts and expert systems represent specialized knowledge that may be called upon for a variety of purposes at a number of times and places. Science is one of the clearer expressions of such knowledge, with its esoteric and changing images of the character of the natural and physical universe. As societies become more modern, humans are viewed as increasingly experiencing the world through such abstract, or "disembedded," categories as money, expertise, and science. Realization of the disembedded nature of social life helps facilitate development of the third characteristic of modernity, its reflexivity. As noted earlier, reflexivity refers to the fact that efforts and information used to understand social reality become part of reality, and thus help shape the present and the future. According to Giddens, awareness of reflexivity is not confined to social scientists, but is embedded in the nature of modernity. Modern societies generate theories of what they are, which become important constitutive elements that shape society, including the future character of theories. All three of the characteristics of modernity find expression in each of four interrelated institutional complexes: capitalism, the nation-state, the military, and industrialization. Thus, radically modern societies are those in which major institutions are highly complex, abstract or disembedded, and reflexive. Such societies will be more difficult for individuals to concretely understand; will require substantial amounts of "trust" in abstract and expert systems; and will generate high levels of self-consciousness, as persons seek to use personal resources to more reflexively construct personal identity and meaning. Thus, radically modern societies may produce the unease and sense of powerlessness that some postmodern theorists see in postmodern societies. By avoiding the concept of postmodern society, Giddens is able to illustrate how current trends are part of the logic of modernity, and is able to provide a view of the future more optimistic than the view of some postmodern theorists by underscoring the reflexive and transformative power of ideas and action.


Most analyses of postindustrial, postmodern, and radically modern societies carry with them a view of societal change occurring within an increasingly interconnected world system. Giddens is quite explicit in this regard, pointing out how the complexity, abstractness, and reflexive character of modernity moves beyond the nation-state to become a world-level phenomenon (1990). This is most clearly expressed in the development of a world capitalist system, a nation-state system, a world military order, and an international division of labor. Although Giddens does not systematically consider the dynamics of these aspects of the world system in discussing radical modernity, his conceptualization is a useful reminder of the possible utility of considering multiple dimensions of the world system in efforts to understand postmodern societies. As the review of postindustrial and postmodern literature suggested, most analyses consider the role of the world system in terms of economic exchanges (Bell 1989), new technologies, and new modes of economic organization (Piore and Sable 1984; Lash and Urry 1987; Clegg 1990).

Recently, analysts have drawn increasing attention to cultural dimensions of the world system (e.g., Featherstone 1990; Boli and Thomas 1997), pointing out how themes associated with modern, postmodern, and postindustrial society have become elements of an emerging world culture (Meyer et al. 1997; Meyer 1991; Smith 1990; Robertson 1989, 1990). Giddens touched on these themes when he noted how the abstract and reflexive character of modernity has become a global phenomenon, making theories of modernity part of contemporary culture. Meyer (1980, 1991) and others (Meyer et al. 1997) also note the role that ideologies of modernity and postindustrialism may play in the contemporary world, pointing out how rationalized conceptions of modern society, including social scientific discourse, have become part of a contemporary world cultural framework. For example, modern images of society that view economic development, national integration, and personal and societal progress as the product of individuals with specialized knowledge are said to have become a world-level assumption, and generated expansion of educational enrollments between 1950 and 1970 (Meyer et al. 1977; Boli and Ramirez 1986; Fiala and Lanford 1987). Relatedly, postindustrial images of the role of specialized knowledge in society are viewed as an important factor affecting the worldwide expansion of higher education and professional employment in the post–World War II era (Meyer and Hannan 1979). Such images may account for part of the increase from 3.7 percent to 9.2 percent between 1960 and 1990 in the percentage of the labor force employed in professional occupations among twenty-two developing countries, a significant increase considering the substantial population and labor-force growth during this period. This contrasts with the increase from 6.1 percent to 18.5 percent for the seventeen developed countries reported earlier, and with the increase from 10.8 percent to 16.5 percent for the United States. While economic growth may account for some of these increases in professional employment, the substantial expansion for developing countries, especially compared to the United States, indicates other variables likely play a role. It seems plausible that postindustrial images regarding the importance of specialized knowledge and personnel may have an effect.


Efforts to understand the character and future of advanced industrial societies in the latter half of the twentieth century have been done under the rubric of at least three major concepts. The concept of postindustrial society focused attention on social structural or economic dimensions of society, especially the changing character of technology, knowledge, occupations, and the market. The concept of postmodern society continued to bring attention to structural and economic aspects of society, yet gave increased attention to political, cultural, and psychological dimensions, at times with an explicit critique of standard social science methodology. The concept of radically modern society underscored the links between contemporary changes and the basic dynamics of modernity, while introducing the useful idea that radically modern societies are characterized by high levels of abstractness and reflexivity. Each of the three concepts acknowledges that changes are occurring within an increasingly interconnected world system.

The current review clearly illustrates the reflexive character of much social science. In postindustrial theory this was largely a recognition that formal scientific knowledge may shape the future. In postmodern theory, and especially in radically modern theory, this reflexivity also became part of the culture itself, affecting the consciousness of much of the population. This creates a vastly more complex image of society, with a diverse array of possible futures, and may account for the unease postmodern theory sees as characterizing postmodern society.

While work on postmodern and radically modern society offers insightful ideas, most empirical research has been done on postindustrial society, and economic aspects of postmodern society. Future studies should attempt to examine some of the major elements of postmodern and radically modern approaches, as well as continue to clarify areas of ambiguity within postindustrial theory. For example, within the postindustrial framework, attention should be given to understanding the influence of various segments of a knowledge class on specific institutions in society, and to trying to explain national variation in the expansion of various types of service employment.

Within the postmodernist framework, it would be informative to assess claims of pessimism, self-consciousness, and declines of grand narratives, noting their variation across social groups and societies. Examination of variation across time and space in the way individuals, communities, and societies experience exposure to media might help clarify the provocative hypothesis of the increasing salience of simulation in social life. Efforts to rethink extant research in terms of the simulation hypothesis could also prove informative.

Drawing from the view of radically modern societies, it would be useful to examine the idea that modern cultures increasingly incorporate reflexive elements. Analysis of the changing role of evaluation studies, news presentations and commentaries, and economic projections and predictions could help clarify the developing reflexive character of human societies.

Last, to assess hypotheses regarding the effects of world cultural themes, research could examine the effects of an ideology of specialized knowledge and expertise on expansion of professional employment. The data presented above suggest the plausibility of such an effect, yet do not offer firm support.

Issues such as those above are but a few of the avenues of research that may help provide a clearer image of the character and future of advanced industrial societies. In posing the issues, and in providing answers, social science will likely help shape the future it describes.


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Robert Fiala