Post-Industrial Society

I have recently come across this relic of a relic, Daniel Bell’s Coming of Post-Industrial Society, which reflects orthodox Marxian social theory’s foregrounding of industrial capitalism back onto itself. If orthodox Marxists were correct and if the driving impetus behind capitalism is industrialization, then post-industrial society, if it is even capitalism at all, is something that requires an entirely different analytical frame, perhaps information or financialization or technology or artificial intelligence.

But the original premise is mistaken. Industry should not be mistaken for the factories and assembly lines, which migrated elsewhere (China, Mexico, Singapore, and Thailand) in the 1970s. Industry should instead be understood as an expression of ΔQ/ΔL, where a change in quantity is increasing more quickly than the change in labor; where, in other words, labor (and/or capital) is industrious. This is how all neoclassical economic theorists, including Marx, understood industry. Factories and assembly lines are but one expression of industry. But so too are organizational efficiencies, informational efficiencies, technological efficiencies, and so on.

But this means that, beginning with Bell, theorists of post-industrial society, insofar as they take the false premise of industrial society as their point of departure, reproduce the theoretical morphology of that premise. It is a relic of a relic.

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