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The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting Reissue Edition

4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0465097135
ISBN-10: 0465097138
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Daniel Bell is the Henry Ford II Professor of Social Sciences Emeritus at Harvard University and Scholar-in-Residence at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of editor of 17 books, two of which, The End of Ideology and The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, were listed among the 100 Most Influential Books since the Second World War (TLS, October 1995).
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 616 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reissue edition (July 21, 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465097138
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465097135
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #196,386 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The Coming of the Post Industrial Society; A Venture in Social Forecasting by Daniel Bell
Daniel Bell is a renowned sociologist and post-Marxist, his prophetic book was first published in 1976 and republished in 1999 accompanied with a new foreword by the author. Since 1976 many of the concepts, theories and phrases Bell pioneered have become naturalised, universal conventions, and thus Bell should, most definitely, be considered a futurist.

This definitive book explores the `coming age' and evaluates how this new Post Industrial Society will alter the structure of society. As Bell openly concedes `the sociologist is always tempted to play the prophet and if not the prophet the seer' (Chapter 1). He does, however, explain that the `forecasting' he attempts is different from predicting. For, forecasting is only possible where there are `regularities and recurrences of phenomenon (and these are rare). It is only possible where one can assume a high degree of rationality on the part of the man who influences events-agreement to follow the rules'. And it seems that Bell's sociological background has given him the required understanding.
The new foreword shows considerable contemplation of the books success. Bell explains how there has been an unprecedented increase in the use of the phrase `post industrial society' but he is not complacent, rather he underlines the lack of `specificity as to what is connotes'.
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Dr. Bell's readable tome clarifies the confusion many of us experienced in the 1970s, when goofy hair, TV shows and music seemed the cultural norm, the presidential fiascoes made us wonder who was in charge, and the OPEC oil crisis showed that we no longer controlled our national economy, much less that of the rest of the emerging world. This work threads a number of political-economic-culture visions of famous philosophers, especially Marx, into a pattern that helps explain the conditions leading up to that lost decade, which then set the stage for so much since.

Those years were on the cusp of the "post-industrial society" described in this book. The corporate "Organization Man" developed from the hard technologies of World War Two had met the "Personal Voices" expressed on campuses during the explosive Sixties. The result was chaos. But science and mathematics had not understood what that word meant, much less the meaning of networks, complexity, and emergence in social terms, as we know now. So Bell did the best he could for the moment.

The work concludes with "An Agenda for the Future" which describes a sort of New Utopia in which, while human life is not all harmonious, it is a place where the "polity" can work out its priorities, giving voice to all its constituents through national, state, and local forums. This all seems to be something of a progression of two hundred years of American history and of an evolution of purist theories (such as Marx) into pragmatic techniques.

Right at the times of publication in 1973 and again in 1976, though, Bell seems to have overlooked the underlying currents of reactionary efforts to revert the nation to earlier times. The capitalists saw the Gilded Age as their Utopia.
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Format: Paperback
Only three reviews of this classic book? Since one of them is a one star review written by something that sounds like a marxist, I thought I should add some counter weight. This is an insightful book that talks about the coming of the service economy and the importance of knowledge for creating stratification in the new society. Bell actually has many positive things to say about Marx description of the capitalist system in the 19th century. Written 40 years ago, I would still consider it very readable; both in terms of style and content. Sure it belongs to the old school sociology, which certainly isn't trendy in academic sociology. Finally the author wrote an 80 page foreword in 1999 updating his views slightly.
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Format: Paperback
When this book came out in 1976 many of the nascent trends it predicted were already in the works, and now, almost 30 years later, it can certainly be said that they have arrived with a vengeance. The information age, the service economy, a de-emphasizing of industrialism, the expansion of knowledge workers (especially in biology and the hard sciences), the increasing role of women in the work force, were all discussed intelligently and articulately in this book. In some ways it's reminiscent of Alvin Toffler's Future Shock from a half generation earlier in its discussion of those social trends that would reshape and "shock" society to its foundations. But Bell is clear that post-industrial society would not entirely replace the earlier order. Societies after all are usually conservative, retaining many old traits even as they develop the new ones which Bell discusses here. I'm also reminded of Kenneth Galbraith's earlier The Age of Affluence which predicted a new era of prosperity and leisure driven by advances in science and technology. I guess this just goes to show you that great minds think alike. :-) Overall, a classic work in qualitative sociology which has certainly proven to be prophetic in both the accuracy and scope of its predictions.
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