Munich Personal RePEc Archive

The sociological perspective on the knowledge-based society: assumptions, facts and visions

Krings, Bettina (2006): The sociological perspective on the knowledge-based society: assumptions, facts and visions. Published in: Enterprise and Work Innovation Studies No. 2 (November 2006): pp. 9-20.

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Abstract

The paper will present the central discourse of the knowledge-based society. Already in the 1960s the debate of the industrial society already raised the question whether there can be considered a paradigm shift towards a knowledge-based society. Some prominent authors already foreseen ‘knowledge’ as the main indicator in order to displace ‘labour’ and ‘capital’ as the main driving forces of the capitalistic development. Today on the political level and also in many scientific disciplines the assumption that we are already living in a knowledge-based society seems obvious. Although we still do not have a theory of the knowledge-based society and there still exist a methodological gap about the empirical indicators, the vision of a knowledge-based society determines at least the perception of the Western societies. In a first step the author will pinpoint the assumptions about the knowledge-based society on three levels: on the societal, on the organisational and on the individual level. These assumptions are relied on the following topics: a) The role of the information and communication technologies; b) The dynamic development of globalisation as an ‘evolutionary’ process; c) The increasing importance of knowledge management within organisations; d) The changing role of the state within the economic processes. Not only the differentiation between the levels but also the revision of the assumptions of a knowledge-based society will show that the ‘topics raised in the debates’ cannot be considered as the results of a profound societal paradigm shift. However what seems very impressive is the normative and virtual shift towards a concept of modernity, which strongly focuses on the role of technology as a driving force as well as on the global economic markets, which has to be accepted. Therefore – according to the official debate - the successful adaptation of these processes seems the only way to meet the knowledge-based society. Analysing the societal changes on the three levels, the label ‘knowledge-based society’ can be seen critically. Therefore the main question of Theodor W. Adorno during the 16th Congress of Sociology in 1968 did not loose its actuality. Facing the societal changes he asked whether we are still living in the industrial society or already in a post-industrial state. Thinking about the knowledge-based society according to these two options, this exercise would enrich the whole debate in terms of social inequality, political, economic exclusion processes and at least the power relationship between social groups.

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