Post-industrial Society: Characteristics And Examples

The post-industrial society is proposed to define in terms of social and economic system, stage of development to that achieved by industrial societies concept.

If industrial societies were defined by a strong development of the industrial sector, the post-industrial era involved a transition from an economy based on industry to one based on services.

This transformation affected various areas of society and came hand in hand with a technological revolution that led to profound changes in the management of information and communication systems.

Most sociologists agree that the post-industrial period begins in the decade between the end of World War II and the end of the 1950s.

However, and although some authors had already published works referring to aspects of this transition, the post-industrial concept did not emerge until the end of the sixties, beginning of the seventies.

The first theorist to use it was Alain Touraine in the publication of his book ” La societé post-industrielle ” in 1969. Later, in 1973, the sociologist Daniel Bell also used the concept in his work ” The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting ”, considered one of the most complete analyzes of post-industrial society and its characteristics.

Characteristics of post-industrial societies

After the contributions made by D. Bell and other authors of sociology and economics, some characteristics of this type of human society can be highlighted :

-The strength of the economy is focused on services, this being the area of ​​the economy with the highest growth. The economic activities of the tertiary sector (transportation and public services), the quaternary (commerce, finance, insurance and real estate) and the quinary (health, education, research and recreation) are those that acquire greater importance at this stage.

-The society revolves around information. If in industrial society the generation of electrical energy had been the engine of change, in post-industrial society information and information transmission systems become cornerstones of progress. The presence of information and communication technologies, and their fundamental role in the post-industrial social fabric, has led some theorists to refer to this period as the “information age”.

-Knowledge is the most precious good. If in the industrial era power emerged from property and financial capital, in post-industrial society there is a change in the nature of power and the possession of knowledge becomes the strategic resource. Hence, some authors, such as Peter Ducker, have coined terms such as “knowledge society”.

-As a result of the previous transformations, the structure of professionals in post-industrial societies is radically different. On the one hand, unlike what happened in industrial society, most employees are no longer involved in the production of material goods, but in the performance of services.

-While in the industrial era practical knowledge was valued, in the post-industrial stage theoretical and scientific knowledge are extremely important. In this context, universities become key pieces to respond to the needs of a system with a high demand for professionals with advanced knowledge, who allow to take advantage of the technological revolution.


Paying attention to the characteristics described, we can affirm that the United States, Western Europe, Japan or Australia, among others, are societies in a post-industrial stage.

Globally, the United States is the country that concentrates the highest percentage of GDP in the services sector (80.2% in 2017, according to CIA World Fact Book data ). Some of the social changes resulting from the post-industrial transition that can be observed in this American society are:

-Education facilitates processes of social mobility. If in the past, mobility between social classes was practically nil, since status and purchasing power was basically inherited, today, education facilitates access to professional and technical jobs that allow greater social mobility.

-Human capital is more valued than financial capital. To what extent people have access to social networks and opportunities or information derived from them, is what determines a greater or lesser success in the class structure.

-High technology, based on mathematics and linguistics, is increasingly present in everyday life as simulations, software, etc.

Among the countries with economies not very focused on the services sector, the following stand out: United Arab Emirates (49.8% of GDP concentrated in the industrial sector), Saudi Arabia (44.2%) and Indonesia (40.3%).

However, outsourcing is a worldwide phenomenon and even these countries, in recent years, have considerably increased the percentage of GDP generated in the service sector.


The post-industrial transition affects different spheres of the daily life of citizens, some of its consequences are:

-The levels of education and training of the population are increased. Education becomes universal and an increasing percentage of the population accesses higher education. Training is essential to integrate into the labor market and helps define social class.

-The relationship model between the company and the worker is substantially transformed. The qualifications and tasks required by employers go from being stable over time and well defined to being dynamic. Jobs and the functions associated with them are constantly changing, and the tasks to be performed are highly complex.

-The normalization of the use of technologies and their penetration into the home, allows the existence, increasingly, of relocated jobs and / or flexible working hours.

-Both on the part of the company, as well as on the part of the workers, especially among the generation called “millennials”, the permanent contract loses value, while temporary contracts and self-employment proliferate.

-The population has more resources, as a consequence consumption shoots up. On the one hand, this increase in consumption serves to grease the machine of the capitalist system. On the other hand, increased material consumption also increases the generation of waste, making its management one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century.

-The socialization processes are transformed. The simple possibility of being able to obtain all kinds of information, goods and numerous services without having to go out into the public space has substantially modified social interactions.

-New threats arise as a result of scientific and technological progress. Global Priorities Project, of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, in their text “Unpresented tecnologic risks” mention: biological weapons, manipulation of the climate and creation of highly sensitive products by companies (3D printers or artificial intelligence)

Scientific progress in post-industrial societies has been very fast, while scientific research in developing countries has been nil or very slow. This fact contributes to aggravating the dependency situation between the poorest and the richest countries.


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