Bell, Daniel (1973) Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting (339-368)


The transition from industrial to post-industrial society (PIS) occurs through the extension of technical rationality, the advance of scientific rationality into the economic, social and political spheres. Where once the industrialist was dominant, now the technocrat, planners and scientists dominate. According to Bell, the govt. becomes increasingly instrumental in the management of the economy and less is left to market forces. Instead of relying on the invisible hand, the post-industrial society will work toward directing and engineering society. This is an extension of the thought of Weber (rationalization) Durkheim and Saint-Simon (the father of technocracy) and Taylor (scientific management school). The "birth years" of the post-industrial society were the post WWII years which saw great technological developments such as: transformation of matter into energy - atom bomb and the first digital computer. What is characteristic of post-industrial society is not just the shift from property or political criteria to knowledge as the base of power, but the character of knowledge itself. Theoretical knowledge it has become central, it is the "matrix of innovation". Bell anticipates that the key organization of the future will be the university (replacing the business firm). Prestige and status will be rooted in the intellectual and scientific communities.

In the PIS, technocrats exercise authority by virtue of technical competence. Their emergence as power holders signals the emergence of efficiency, instrumentalism, and pragmatic problem solving. This manifests Weber's warning that we are becoming "specialists without heart". "It is in this conception of rationality as functional, as rationalization rather than reason, that one confronts the overriding crisis of the technocratic mode." In this mode statistics take the place of history in an attempt to understand society. "The virtue of belief in history was that some law f reason was operative: History either had a teleology as defined by revelation, or some powers of emergence or transcendence that were implicit in man's creativity (Hegel's spirit)."



Technocracy: political system in which determining influence belongs to the technocrats of administration and the economy (French definition)

Technocrat: man who exercises authority through his technical competence

class: not a specific group of people but a system that has institutionalized the ground rules for

acquiring, holding, and transferring differential power and it attendant privileges

[see *** Table 6.1 "Stratification and Power" (359)]


In Bell's view of post-industrial society:

- technical skill becomes the base of power

- education becomes the mode of access to power

2 propositions: (1) scientist will have to be taken into account in the political process

(2) science is ruled by a different ethos than other social groups, scientist thus behave differently


3 modes of power and social mobility in US:

Base of power: property political position skill

Mode of access: inheritance, machine membership, education

entrepreneurship co-optation

Social unit: family group, party individual


In conclusion, Bell argues that the political arena will become more important as a site for mediating future conflicts. The increase in planning paradoxically increases opportunity for conflict because it provides and identifiable target where once there was the illusive invisible hand. Communal choices will increase in importance. There is no single best solution as the scientific management school believed. Bell states that the technocratic mind-view falls before politics and that "politics is prior to the rational". The questions of classical political philosophy remain: "who should make and at what levels of government, what kinds of decisions, for how large a social unit?"

Participatory democracy is not a panacea, it does not address the difficult issue of whose participation should count more?