The Information Age Manifesto

Economics and Values in The Information Society

The Information Age Manifesto[1]


Written March 1981 ---

Preface and comments update, March 21, 2008


I wrote the Information Age Manifesto in early 1981, just after finishing a consulting study for a Dutch Association of Publishers on how that country could best compete in an emerging information age.  I was a senior professional at the Arthur D. Little Inc. consulting firm at the time, in charge of this study.  In the course of working on that study and another similar study for the National Science Foundation focusing on the US, it became evident to me that emerging economic and social realities of our life were increasingly out of step with our treasured social structures and values.  Although we were in the midst of a lifestyle and values upheaval that continues to this day, nobody was clearly recognizing and saying what was going on.  So, when asked to present a paper at a relatively obscure conference in Holland, I wrote this document which soon vanished into the dustbin of history.  In 2006 I found a reprint in an archeological dig through my attic.  On looking it over I found it to be still highly relevant.  So I scanned the old reprint, corrected a few spelling and misprint errors and have reproduced the article as originally written below.  I also comment on what I write in a few places, always in italics like this


In 1982 the information age was in a much earlier stage of emergence.  There was no Internet, no personal computers.  General Motors was the Queen of the US economy and King of the world auto industry. Toyota was a small upstart, not to be taken seriously.  China and India were hardly real players in world trade.  People read newspapers, worried about Communism, went out to the movies.  Outsourcing was unheard of.  There was no such thing as e-mail and long-distant calls were very expensive.  This was long before cell phones, instant messaging, CD or DVD players, I-Pods or I-Phones, HDTV. To say that in 24 years a new information-age company (youtube) could arise and two years after birth be sold for $1.5 billion dollars would provoke ridicule.  So also would it provoke ridicule then to say that a 12 year-old from-scratch information company (Google) would become worth more that all US newspaper and auto companies combined.  This was before hi-tech, before Internet millionaires.  Before the Iraq war, before the implosion of newspapers, before world terrorism, before NAFTA, beforethe massive losses of industrial jobs in the US,before “liberal” was a dirty word. 


How the information-new have since arisen and the industrial-mighty have fallen!  But yet, how the values and policies and world views of the industrial age have persisted until today – most often to our detriment.  Significant chunks of industrial manufacturing that were once centered in the US have migrated out of the US, most significantly to China.  Yet, we have had a lot of trouble evolving or letting go of many of the value and political frameworks that were born of Industrialism, preferring to see these as part of the “American Way.”


Though written from a 1981 view of a rapidly-changing economic and social scene, I stand today by the basic hypotheses of this document.  There is a remarkable correspondence between the value frameworks of Industrialism and those of red-state political conservatives in 2008.  And there is a similar correspondence between emerging value systems of what I call Informationism and those of blue-state liberals.  And these continue to be at war with each other as the industrial base of the US continues to slip away and our continued existence as an information-age superpower is imperiled by a backlash of industrial-era viewpoints and policies. The gap between the information-poor and the information-rich seems ever-widening.


There is much more that I could write now that would update and validate what I had to say back then 27 years ago, little I would want to revise.  Perhaps at some point I will do such an update.  At the end of this article I provide an additional commentary from the 2008 viewpoint based on what has happened in the US society since 1982, particularly trends not anticipated at the time of the writing. 


Vince Giuliano



Part I

A. Introduction


The purpose of this article is to discuss the technological and economic basis of an Information Society, and to relate this basis to elements of social "superstructure," that is, to values, ways of behavior, kinds of work and other important aspects of social organization.  To do this, I view technology, economics and social organization from a historical perspective.  This perspective is chosen to make explicit how most contemporary social developments are arising as a result of the information-intensive nature of work today, and how this information-intensivity is in turn being accelerated as a result of adopting new electronic technologies and associated work patterns.  This perspective is an extension of classical "economic determinism", i.e. it holds that the nature of current productive activity shapes the nature of personal values, of the economic system, and of other key aspects of social organization.

I am considering economics here in the broadest sense - as comprising all relationships and activities through which value is generated and/or exchanged.  Included are the production and exchange of products and services, tangible and intangible; market activities and ones outside he marketplace; and activities that result in indirect con­tribution of value as well as direct, such as through creating a more healthful environ­ment.

To clarify the points made in this discussion I often cite examples and data relating to the United States, and my views are no doubt colored by my US base of experience.  My intent, however, is to describe a general pattern of societal development that is present in all advanced nations today, even though the details of how it is manifest may vary from nation to nation.

Here are some of my basic theses:


1.      Most of the values, institutions, societal mechanisms and ways of being that we see in rapid change today are undergoing transitions explicable, and in fact to be expected, as a result of changes in the prevalent means of production.  Most have to do with transition from agricultural and industrial means of production to means that involve - and require - intensive use of information and communications.


2.      The information-related means of production have in fact been evolving for many decades now, as a result of an ever-increasing pace of adopting new technologies and associated work and social patterns.

The typewriter, introduced on a significant scale at the end of the last century, was followed first by the word processor and now by integrated office automation systems.  The typewriter was also the key technology leading to women working in offices.  The telegraph was followed by the telephone and telex, and then by modern data networks.  These had also led to decentralization and de-synchronization of work and to instant verbal communications across time and space zones.  The mechanical calculator was followed by the bookkeeping machine and then by the computer; these were in turn followed by the minicomputer, the microcomputer and home computer and –now – by the expectation of logic and memory power in toys, games, appliances and other familiar products.  The radio was followed by TV, and then by Cable TV, and these together with home movies and other developments were followed by video-cassettes, video-discs and view-data.  These have led to continuing changes in our patterns and expectations of literacy and entertainment, and are leading to changes in patterns of community, housing and education.  Carbon paper was followed by office copiers which are now being followed by "intelligent" copiers which make electronic demand-publishing possible. The postal system led to increasing expectations for service, which are now creating a demand for electronic mail.  Mechanical machine tool control systems were followed by numerically-controlled tools, which are now being followed by factory robots - and these developments are reducing the amount of and transforming the nature of factory floor work.  Airplanes, automobiles and office buildings served to increase vastly the possibilities for and the amounts of human communications, and these too drew upon information technologies, such as computer reservation systems and production control and inventory management systems, to make them possible on a large scale.

The point is that the technological base and associated procedures and activities required to shift advanced Western societies into being "information societies" are hardly new - they have been here for some time.  What new is the rapidity with which both the technological base and associated use patterns are currently changing.

3        Western society has thus already evolved to a stage where information-handling and communications are the most prevalent areas of economic activity - in terms of what people actually do  This stage is relatively new - in fact less than twenty years old - and its consequences are largely unrecognized except in premature ways.  Still, those consequences are far more important in shaping contemporary society than were the consequences of Industrialism at the time of Marx's writings.  The Information Society is not coming - in terms of the economic realities of our times, it is already here.

4        While the information society is already here in terms of technologies and economics, it is just coming into being in terms of value systems and institutional relationships.  In many areas we are still getting by with the conceptual and institutional apparatus of an industrial society now moving into the final stage of metamorphosis.  Broader recognition of the nature of the new information society and its associated needs is vital at this time, because the pace of "informationization" of all work and social activities continues to accelerate.  Both policy-makers and citizens alike get confused when there is an attempt to apply the old meanings to the new context.

5        Many of the Agricultural-Society values, ways of looking at things and institutions that were once adapted to Industrialism are mal-adaptive in an information society.  Others of these values and institutions, ones that were downplayed or denied in Industrialism, are arising with new force again in the transformed context.  Example are respect for nature, and for extended family relationships.  And for many of us, God, Family and Country are still very important, but these may mean very different things to us than they did to our grandparents.

6        The conceptual and institutional baggage inherent in Industrialism is also of mixed relevancy in an information society, with some elements, like the importance of individual responsibility, continuing to become more important.  Many of the most important social and economic concepts need to be reformulated, however.  Many prevalent economic concepts, including ones used to evaluate and shape the directions of national economies, find their origins in industrial-era social organization.  Many of them are beginning to function badly or in a misleading manner in our information society.

For example, the industrial-era meanings of capital, investment and productivity, the ones in main use, suggest that the US is in deep trouble now because it is loosing its industrial base, and that it is necessary to take very strong steps to try to re-industrialize America.  By this is meant rebuilding a base of heavy industry like steel, automobile-building and smelting.  If these meanings are enlarged to take into account the information-intensive nature of our existing economy, not only does the trouble appear less serious but there is strong reason for optimism.  Moreover, a rather different thrust for re-industrialization is suggested than that popularly espoused: to encourage instead the development of high-growth, high-productivity information industries.  A new view of economics is needed in which such meanings are redefined.

I use the term Informationism here to name the social, organizational, human and other concomitants of the information society, much as Industrialism is used to describe the general conditions associated with an industrially oriented society.  Our conscious understanding of Informationism is just emerging.

7.   At the heart of the Information Societies' economics are the nature of work, the nature of capital, the nature of property, and the nature of production itself.

Most work in the US currently involves the generation, handling and utilization of information -which includes knowledge in the sense of my use.

Investment capital in Informationism includes personal knowledge and skills, data bases and information collections - as well as equipment and other traditional forms of capital.  Education and training are in fact means for creating investment capital.

Private property includes information itself, which, unlike other forms of property can sometimes be given away or sold and still owned, can be reproduced at marginal cost and which is intangible.


8.   Most basically, understanding the information society requires a shift in understanding of what is meant by production.  The concept of "production" as we know it arose powerfully in Industrialism, as did its complement - consumption.  It primarily had to do with manufacturing, that is producing, eventually on a mass scale for use of others, and mainly had to do with tangible entities: automobiles, houses, refrigerators, tanks and planes, food, guns and butter.  It was seen as the main form of economic activity; the measure of national economic health became the Gross National Product (GNP).  The level of advancement of a nation was evaluated by the amount of its production of steel, and this view is still important in China and many other less­-developed countries   


Manufacturing-support, distribution and service activities have come to be regarded by economists also as contributing to GNP, including areas like education and government.  Very recently, US government economists decided to abandon the use of GNP in favor of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a measure which better takes into account income from foreign investments and offshore services - and this is a positive step towards bringing official measures more into alignment with the economic realities of Informationism.

Yet other major areas of value-production are not included in either GNP or GDP, like volunteer work, contribution to family and child care, and various forms of self-service.  A new concept of production is necessary as a prerequisite to understanding the economic basis of the information society.  That concept, articulated in this article, holds as productive any and all activities that produce value for self or for others, be those activities in the market system or not.  Examples of activities that are productive according to this view and either non-productive or marginally productive according to the view of Industrialism are child-care, education, social services, pollution control, recreation and entertainment, meaningful social participation as an end in itself, and forms of self-service such as cutting one's own firewood.

9.   There is a class structure in our information society: the "Information Rich", individuals who enjoy new forms of wealth and power as well as means to preserve and transmit such power to heirs, and the "Information Poor".  The information rich tend to live more comfortably in the newly emerging value system of Informationism, while the information poor are often confused, caught in the turbulence of conflict between the old value system of Industrialism and the new one of Informationism.

10. The meaning of wealth itself is becoming transformed in Informationism, away from the strictly materialistic meaning associated with traditional property concepts.  One of the new meanings is ability to enjoy a high-quality life, with all that entails; another is the ability to realize one's highest potential.

B. Economic determinism - the perspective

Economic determinism - understanding how a society works through seeing the means of production as being fundamental in shaping the social order - has worked in the past.  Anthropologists have documented the nature of pre-historical hunting and fishing societies, and how they evolved into agricultural societies.  Also well-documented are the typical accompanying changes in the social order and how these changes flow ultimately from the logic of transition to an agricultural base of production.  The natures of agricultural society and early industrial society have been characterized amply by contemporary cultural anthropologists as well as by earlier writers like Morgan, Engels, and Marx.  Those writers have also characterized the details of a typical transition from traditional agricultural organization (Feudalism) into early industrial social organization (Industrialism/capitalism).  Local and cultural circumstances have varied tremendously, and so have the paths of cultural evolution.  Yet there are clearly recognizable similarities and patterns - feudal societies have certain common properties whether in ancient Egypt, Sumeria, India or China, in Medieval Europe or Japan, or in the early American Colonies or very recently in Sicily or South America.  We know now from history that the social organization of agricultural society, including its norms and institutions, is typically transmogrified but not necessarily replaced in industrial Society, and that new norms, values and institutions arise in conjunction with industrial Society. [2]

Also the perspective of economic determinism can assist us today to help us understand what otherwise can be only narrowly seen as a period of turbulence, confusion and decline of the established order.  I draw on this perspective to help make clear how many of the inherited aspects of the old agricultural social order, as well as aspects originating from Industrialism, are being further transmogrified and overlaid by new values, institutions and norms which are part of an information-oriented social order.

Thus, social systems develop as has the brain (and other body features) in the course of evolution, where systems existing in primitive animals (e.g. the limbic system) still exist in changed form in higher animals, and are overlaid with the newer systems (e.g. the large cortex).

Improved information-handling and communications capabilities were essential for the development of the advanced agricultural societies along the Nile, the Tigris and Euphrates, in India and in China.  Anthropologists have carefully documented the impor­tance of writing, of seals, tablets, papyrus and parchment, of temple archives - and they have documented the elite roles of the literate priests.  Later, paper, printing, and the postal service first facilitated the emergence of industrial societies and soon became demanded by the exigencies of Industrialism.  Industrialism required wide-spread literacy for its functioning, and mass education soon became a key demand for the full develop­ment of Industrialism.  Industrial production required synchronization of many workers in time and place, and this required planning, schedules, resource allocation, etc., culminating finally in the development of computer production and inventory control methods.  Capitalism required the development and expansion of the concept of limited liability in ownership (e. g. the corporation) as well as the use of paper instruments like stocks, bonds, checks and letters of credit.  As the use of these became more complex, a need developed for the creation of stock exchanges and financial information networks, and the growth of these entities in scale and complexity generated the climate for introduction of successive waves of information technologies - starting with the telegraph and the ticker tape and leading to the integrated electronic exchange.  Thus, increasing intensity of information handling was fed by the growing requirements of Industrialism as it spread in scale and geographical coverage, leading society into Informationism.

C. The information workers

There is a name for purposeful economic activity - it is called work and that is a good place to start.  The major evidence that we have developed into a new information society in the United States, Europe and Japan is that the majority of work today involves information-handling as the major component.

It is possible to look at information work on the organizational or institutional level.  There exist vast institutions, businesses and organizations whose major purpose is, or whose ability to operate is largely dependent on, information handling, including most government agencies, education, banking and insurance, brokerage, publishing and broadcasting, advertising, computers, telephony and office automation.  Others, including Oettinger (2), have documented the vast scope and dynamic nature of these industries. Some representative US information industries are:

·         Computers and related equipment.  It represents a $23 billion US industry in 1980 with a sustained compound annual growth rate since 1974 of over 19 per cent.  Value-added per production worker hour is over $51.  Net export surplus is over $5 billion, and the industry employs over a quarter of a million people.

·         Telephone and telegraph equipment. It represents a $10 billion US industry in 1980 with a sustained annual growth rate of about 10 per cent. with value-added per production worker hour of over $30.  The industry employs over 130,000 people and runs about a half-billion dollar trade surplus for the US.

·         Broadcasting, radio, TV and cable TV.  It presents a $14 billion industry in the US in 1980.  Current annual growth rates are 9 per cent. for radio, 16 per cent, for TV and 17 per cent, for cable TV.  Employment is over 200, 000 people, excluding moving picture and other suppliers.

·         Telephone and telegraph services.  It represents a $60 billion US industry in 1980, employing about 1.1 billion people.  There are over 182 million telephones covering virtually all businesses and 97 per cent of the homes.  Year-to-year productivity increase per employee-hour has been averaging about 8 per cent, since 1974.

·         Commercial banking.  This industry employs about 1.4 million people in 1980, with assets of about 1.6 trillion dollars representing (1979) some 14,740 banks with 84,500 branches and offices.

·         Life insurance.  This industry employs approximately 530,000 people in 1980.  New life-insurance purchases have been growing at a compound rate of about 10 per cent. since 1974.  Total assets run close to a half-trillion dollars.

·         Advertising.  It represents about a $55 billion area of expenditures in the US in 1980.  Employment includes some 150,000 people in agencies, in addition to others in supplier organizations and the media involved.  Compound growth rate of advertising expenditures since 1974 a 12.8 per cent.

Additional information-intensive industries include those named earlier, plus real estate sales, savings-and-loan institutions, credit card organizations, schools, colleges and universities, office-equipment manufacturers, home-electronics manufacturers, silicon chip producers, and, of course, software producers.  Looked at from the institutional level, the pattern is high growth, high productivity, a positive export balance, a source of new employment opportunities.

More important to the present discussion is the transformed nature of work as it is experienced on the personal level in the information society.  It is possible to get into endless arguments about what information work consists of or about what an information worker is, since all purposeful human activity involves incredible amounts of biological information processing.  A mule driver in Peru is largely concerned with processing visual and sensory information and transmitting corrective signals to the mule.  A key-to-disc operator entering data for a computer is engaged in a fundamentally similar process - but one that is far more easily replaceable, such as by an optical character reading machine.  I do not view either of those two individuals as an information worker.  I will suggest a rather simple operational definition shortly, after commenting on the relationship between physical and informational activities.

Everyone performs physical activities (eating, walking, holding things), and those activities of course require internal information control functions.  Everyone also performs activities that have to do with the generation, absorption, processing and communication of information having to do with others, namely talking, listening, reading, writing; watching films or TV, generating or using computer software; I call these "information activities".  Work generally consists of a mixture of both physical and information activities.  Almost every job that can be conceived of, in fact, consists of both physical manipulation activity and information activity, regardless of industry, and has so consisted throughout history. The two types of activity are of course inseparable.  The Universe is made of energy and of information.  Purposeful physical manipulation requires informational control, and information communication requires some form of physical realization.  Doing information activities as part of a job therefore does not mean that the person doing the job is an information worker.  Work activities which are basically physical (like carpentry) and those which are basically informational (like writing) both require the performance of both physical and informational activities to support them:

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Often, work requires a hierarchy of activities that are alternately physical and informational in their nature.  Thus a mail carrier in a chemical factory office is performing a physical activity (carrying), which supports an informational activity (message transmission) which ultimately supports a physical manufacturing activity.  I would therefore like to define an information worker not by the industry that he or she is working in, but rather by whether that worker is mostly concerned with direct and substantial handling of information that is either transmitted by others or for communication to others (i.e., social, not private information).  An information worker is one whose main work activities consist of information activities.  Thus, a truck driver for a newspaper is not an information worker (he handles physical information packages, not the information itself), but an office worker or receptionist in a steel mill is.  A floor supervisor in the steel mill, who spends most of his time talking to employees and completing production reports, is also an information worker according to this definition.  Thus, information workers have been with us throughout history.

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The evidence of the existence of an information society lies in what the work forces in the United States, Japan and Western European countries are doing, i.e.., in the amount and importance of the information activities compared to the physical activities:

There have, by definition, always been information workers.  The main points are that there are more and more information workers, that the information content of all jobs is increasing, and that the need to communicate information is increasing.

In his impressive Doctoral Thesis, Marc Porat arrives at a figure of 46 per cent, of the US labor force being information workers (using his own definition) in 1967. The percentage has been steadily increasing since then. Porat's data shown in the table was from 1967.

Since then the rate of migration from farm and manufacturing occupations into information and human service ones has accelerated.  I estimate that about 60 per cent. of the US work force consists of information workers, and that in the more advanced European countries like the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, the figure runs in the 50 per cent. to 55 per cent range now.


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We have an information society.


(Comment from the 2008 viewpoint:  These statistics seem so quaint and superfluous now.  Obviously the trends have gone way beyond those shown.  Agriculture is now something like .3% of the workforce.  Everybody knows our manufacturing jobs have been going away.  Of course we have some other kind of society, so what’s new?  Right.  Things weren’t so clear back in ’82.  And even in 2008 it’s not so clear to most people what the basic issues related to success and prosperity are.)


D. The means of production


What then are the "means of production" in an information society; how do they differ from those in Agricultural Society or Industrial Society?  This question is tantamount to inquiring as to the nature of capital in Informationism.  On the national level, an important current question in the US (and in many European countries as well) is "Are we investing enough of what we need to invest to survive and do well in the world that exists?"  Many today feel that the US is falling behind in industrial-type investments, for example, and there are strong forces for "re-industrializing" America.  The question can be asked on the organizational level, where a business needs to be concerned with investing where the results will be most productive.  When is it appropriate to invest in manufacturing machinery, in office automation, equipment, in staff resources?  Finally, it is a valid question on the individual level, where investment can be in bank accounts, housing, stocks or the education of children.  The following discussion introduces this important topic.

There are three radically different kinds of capita: today, agricultural, industrial and informational, each having current meaning grounded on evolution of earlier meaning as a result of changing circumstances.  Thus, each of these forms of capital have had different significance depending on the stage of evolution of the society.  All three forms of capital have existed in some less-important precursor form at all times of history of our civilization - e.g.. there were knowledgeable and privileged infor­mation workers in the ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Persian pre-civilizations i.e. the priests.  They, in fact, were dominant in Egypt in large measure, because the whole economy depended on a key information element (the Nile flooding time) which they monopolized.  This permitted the priests to take - by "information force" - a great deal of power and control.  They were an "information elite".

Agricultural capital consists of the major means of production underlying an agricultural or feudalistic society, mainly consisting of land, secondarily consisting of slaves, animals, and in some societies serfs or women.  Value was added to these natural capital resources through land clearing, animal husbandry, use of primitive farm implements, and through building infrastructure components including villages, roads, irrigation systems, castles, forts, temples and churches.


Industrial capital consists of the major means of production underlying an industrial society, including factories and manufacturing facilities, shipping and transportation resources for goods and materials, machinery and industrial capital goods in general, mining and mineral extraction resources, and energy resources.  Information capital - the major means of production in the information age - consists of information itself, and of information processing and information communications resources, including:


1. Human resources

·         Knowledge resident in individuals

·         Professional skills;

·         Judgment, wisdom, integrity, decisiveness

·         Problem-solving capabilities

·         Personal communications skills

2. Systematic bodies of information

  • Information captured in media: books, films, tapes, etc.
  • Data bases and compilations of all types
  • Libraries and organized collections
  • Indexes, catalogues, directories and access tools


3. Information technology

·         Printing presses, typesetting equipment, typewriters, postal service equipment, copying machines, filing cabinets, library facilities, and other means for paper-­based information communications

·         Television and radio broadcasting and receiving equipment

·         Equipment for making, distributing and viewing films, tapes, records and videotapes

·         Computers, major, mini and micro, and "intelligent electronics" in general

·         Office automation equipment

·         Telecommunication facilities

4. Information institutions

·         Publishing and information distribution organizations of all kinds: newspapers; data base publishers; on-line service companies

·         Airlines; other transportation systems

·         Restaurants and meeting clubs.

·         Broadcasting, TV, moving picture and recording companies

·         Telephone and telecommunications companies

·         Computer network and service companies

·         Government agencies; bureaucracies in general

·         Financial organizations of all kinds; banks; insurance companies

·         Educational, research, consulting and other "knowledge" institutions

·         Brokerage, advertising, marketing and public relations firms; - Courts, law firms, regulatory organizations

·         Trade and professional associations; churches and volunteer groups; unions


5. Institutions and facilities which support information transfer

  • Office buildings
  • Hotel and conference facilities
  • Restaurants and meeting clubs


The basic nature of information capital is such that capital resources (the means of production) can lie not only in the physical domain (land, buildings and animals in Agricutluralism  ; factories and machinery in Industrialism), but also in individuals and in institutional structures.  Capital resources can be intangible entities like software, data bases, and public image.  Well-paid executives, scientists and other professionals possess personal information capital, built up in the course of their education, training and career development.

In the personal dimension, by information capital I mean the same thing that contemporary labor economists call "human capital".  This consists of more than just the facts one knows; it has more to do with one's abilities to find facts, analyze them, fit them into an existing framework, and to create new frameworks when needed.  It consists of personal qualities such as management skill, ability to judge relevancy of information, ability to communicate well in person, ability to read non-verbal cues of others, openness to forming bonds of trust, honesty and integrity.  In the economy, the value of one's human capital depends of course on the job one is applying it to.  To the extent that the job market is "perfect", salary and compensation levels measure human capital, but it is far from perfect.  A rough measure in common use in hiring is of course education, background, training and work experience; one's record of success.  One could calculate that at an 8 per cent, return-on-investment rate, the human capital present in an executive or professional, who earns about $80, 000 annual gross income, would be worth about a million dollars.  The market value of a publishing, consulting or other information company has little to do with the value of its tangible assets: its office buildings and office furniture.  The market value is based on earning power which is typically based on staff resources and "goodwill" in the market-place. The value of a publishing, consulting or high-technology company can rapidly decline to zero if the key people decide to leave - as many organizations that have acquired such companies and have tried to run them by standards appropriate to industrial manufacturing have learned to their sorrow.

Thus, there are three rather different types of capital resources (means of production) of importance today, each very different in the way it works, each interacting with the other two kinds, and each exercising its own kinds of social influence.  Moreover, in the present information society the meanings of agricultural and information capital have themselves changed significantly. Ownership of land, once absolute, now is subject to many kinds of constraints related to environmental preservation and the general public welfare.  Robber Baron capitalism and the-hell-with-the-public industrial expansionism is giving way to more and more comprehensive concepts of social responsibility.  Our prevalent economic frameworks, those forming the basis for public policies as well as those forming the basis for business and personal investments, only partially or dimly acknowledge the nature of information capital or its significance - and then as an add-on to industrial-type capital.  This can lead the people in an advanced nation to feeling poor when they are rich, to seeking economic survival when the issue is wisely using existing wealth and sharing it with the rest of the world, to investing in dying or unproductive industries, and to failing to see real opportunities.  Perhaps most disquieting, individuals may sense a deep dissonance between the prevalent value systems and social frameworks of agreement on the one hand, and their own direct experience on the other hand.

E. Capital and Labor


In the classical economics of Industrialism, capital and labor are two very different things, and never the twain shall meet except in natural conflict, say over the bargaining table.  The dichotomy goes back to Marx.  Capital was seen as something outside of and separate from the individual worker, as being vested in land or ownership of tangible productive assets.  Skills and knowledge were not considered to be capital resources, and labor was largely regarded to be a more or less homogeneous resource or commodity, not under control of those who labored in an industrial environment as long as the capital resources belong to someone else.  Laborers did the work and capitalists had the capital, and the two groups were separate and basically antagonistic to one another.  This view still holds powerful sway: much of US labor law is based on it, and it is espoused by many leaders of both industry and unions. The idea of a society of skilled and knowledgeable individuals, each carrying around a great deal of human capital within themselves and not beholden to dominating landholders or industrial capitalists was foreign to the experience of those who created the industrial labor movement.  Yet that is the reality for many today, particularly those in the professional and managerial ranks.  In the United States evidence is to be found in the job markets for skilled individuals, in the high job mobility rates of today, in the classified advertising sections of big-city newspapers.

F. Production


Earlier, I described production as that which produces value, for the self or for others. This certainly includes classical agricultural and industrial-type production.  The key question is what else does it include, characteristic of Informationism?

In early Industrialism, production meant growing food, mining minerals and manufacturing products; in later Industrialism, production has been interpreted to include also activities related to the physical distribution of foods and physical goods, activities like shipping, retailing and advertising.  From the narrow and traditional view-point of industrial social organization, activities like government, social services, education, entertainment, environmental protection, recreation and volunteer work are regarded to be non-productive to be either in the domain of social overhead or in the domain of "consumption" which is the opposite of production.  Housing, according to this industrial-society view, is also a form of consumption once it is built.  This view holds that information and communication are important to facilitate production, but are themselves basically non-productive in nature.  Only production that flows through the market economy is measured or regarded to be real and significant.

The view of production that is appropriate to our information society is both broader and more natural: productive activities are those that produce or add value, for the self or for others.  Value, in turn, is measured by contribution to quality of life.  In this view government activities that improve the social climate, police, fire, recreational and educational activities are productive.  Pollution control and environmental health activities are likewise productive.  High-quality housing contributes directly to the quality of life to those who inhabit it and is productive.  Information services, such as one that reduces customer waiting time in line at a bank as a simple example, can be directly productive to their users.  More and more, we find examples where new information and communications technologies are producing and delivering new forms of value directly to users - in ways that transcend the old industrial concept of production.


The distinctions being made here are far from academic. A great deal of current debate and discussion has the form of trying to fit industrial age concepts to our information age realities.  There has been much discussion recently, for example, about how much "unproductive" capital is tied up in housing.  This view holds that having good housing, complete with modern appliances, is unproductive - essentially ignoring the labor-saving and life-quality contributions the housing and the appliances make to child-care, and to personal and family lives.  It simultaneously holds that manufacturing more housing and making more appliances is productive, putting the emphasis on what is not instead of on what is.



Part II


Declining the paradigm

Many of the transitions we see today in values, ways of being, social institutions, etc. are explicable by the changes in the means of production leading to Informationism.  The purpose of this Second Part of the "Information Age Manifesto" is to develop this point through examining some selected aspects of economic and social organization.  My intent is to illustrate further that there are a small number of facts which, taken together, are sufficient to explain many if not most of the value system and other super­structure changes being experienced in advanced Western nations.  These facts are:

  • Most work is information work;
  • The definition of what is productive is rapidly broadening;
  • There is a new important type of capital around;
  • This type of capital is owned and controlled by very large numbers of individuals who apply it directly in their work.

The various aspects of social organization are very different in the three 'isms'. In the remainder of this paper, I shall discuss only a representative sample of these aspects, namely those that have most centrally to do with the economic underpinnings of the information society. (Most of the others not discussed in this paper are described at length in Alvin Toffler's book: 'The Third Wave).  In discussing them I talk about what goes on in Agricutluralism, Industrialism and Informationism as if these systems existed in pure form.  In fact they do not, and elements of all three value systems are operative in the US and in other advanced countries today.  What is important is the emergence and growing importance of the Informationism system values, and the gradual fading of the other values.

1.      The meaning of personal wealth


Wealth in each "ism" derives directly from ownership or control of the corresponding type of capital. I use the word "wealth" here in the broader sense, to mean "that which is valued, sought and conserved".


·         In Agricutluralism  , personal wealth means land, property, animals, slaves; it means sons to carry on with the land; in later stages it means gold, money as surrogates for the above.

·         In Industrialism wealth can mean ownership of businesses, industrial properties and industrial securities as well as agricultural wealth.

·         In Informationism wealth can mean having an established capability to earn a good living, be this through a good education, professional capability or reputation, or through holding a good job.  It can mean control of information resources or communications flow through holding hierarchical position in an organization.  Of course, it can still mean agricultural or industrial wealth.

On a more profound level, the very meaning of wealth is evolving in our information society.  After basic survival needs are met and then belonging needs, new needs emerge in a Maslovian type of hierarchy: a need for experiencing participation in society, a need for fully expressing the self as an individual, a need for experiencing oneself as contributing to the world.  The condition of wealthy evolves from one meaning "owning money and possessions" into meaning "leads a rich, full and meaningful life."  Being wealthy used to mean possessing material things: houses, cars, boats, good clothing etc.  It still means having free and ready access to such things, but it no longer neces­sarily means owning them.  There is recognition of growing inconvenience of owning excess items in a crowded affluent society. Perfectly serviceable household items can be pur­chased at a very small fraction of their replacement value at dozens of garage sales in Hometown U.S.A. on a typical Saturday - the owners are simply tired of them.


In the emerging meaning of wealth (again in the sense of that which is valued, sought and conserved) whether one has a lot of money is not necessarily important. Instead, wealth has to do with the overall quality of life, how one spends one's life, how one experiences one's life, what one does in the world, how much one contributes to others.  Real wealth is seen as quality of life in process.  Of course, money still has a lot to do with these things, but in a changing way.

In our transitional society, where there are many vestiges of earlier value systems, many holders of information wealth are interested in the tangible symbols of wealth of earlier times, such as having significant savings, owning stock or displaying symbols of wealth such as large houses, yachts, expensive cars, jewelry.  That is, the rich in information wealth - managers and professionals - utilize their personal human capital (their training) through the medium of their information work to generate property and industrial wealth through the medium of the money system.

The so-called "debt economy" present in the US today is a situation in which large num­bers of people enjoy very rich life styles while, at the same time, many of these same people have little or even negative net worth using conventional (agricultural or industrial) measures of economic value.  These are people with cars, vacation homes, boats and who take European vacations, and who at the same time owe more in mortgage and other debts than they have in savings or investments.

The situation may seem ridiculous according to classical industrial-era economics - that so many individuals with essentially no net capital resources can live so well so consistently for so long a period with such comfort and security.  The explanation is simply that such individuals have a great deal of human capital which produces ample earning power.  Therefore they can get along very comfortably with little or negative net agricultural or industrial capital, as reflected by monetary net worth.  As mentioned previously, the money system cannot directly put a value on an individual's human capital. It does so indirectly, through a salary or earning level.

2.      Means for-the-acquisition of-wealth­


In Agricutluralism  the means for acquisition of wealth are slow: the build-up of farming and property holdings, marriage or favor of nobility, the use of slavery or dominance of serfs, or conquest and plunder.

In Industrialism the means are entrepreneurial success: good investments, successful financial speculations, clever articulation of the market system, exploitation of workers.

In Informationism the means, in addition to the above-mentioned ones, are usually education followed by training (i.e. the build-up of personal information capital) obtained in the course of better and better jobs; the pyramiding of experience.  It can also come about through special access to or control of key information resources or through exercise of bureaucratic power - which is essentially control of information flow in an organization.  Likewise, another means for acquisition of wealth is through the public exposure attainable through the use of public communications media: this is the case for rock singers, moving picture stars and baseball players.


Although all mechanisms still continue to work, the original agricultural era ones are of less and less importance.  While the industrial era ones are still important, their importance is slowly declining as the number of “managers” declines and as profes­sionalism is valued more and more.

Professionalism is a major means of organizing and channeling personal capital development in Informationism.  Professionalism defines a new type of "class" structure. Members of a profession (medical doctors, lawyers, etc.) enjoy a monopoly on the practice of an activity and can exclude all others.  Trade and professional societies provide hundreds of forms of specialized accreditation, and often exercise strong in­fluence on the formal educational system.  As they succeed, the situation can tend to be so limiting that other parallel professions arise, as has been the case for psychiatry.  More and more small business-people like real estate and insurance agents, beautician and morticians, are also choosing to view themselves as professionals and are striving for professional identities.  Small wonder, the information elite enjoy the very high pay of corporate top managers, the power of top government officials, the mobility and intellectual freedom of top university people and consultants.

The accumulation of personal or organizational informational capital is in most cases exempt from capital gains taxation.  As a consultant I continue to acquire more and more knowledge which increases my market value, i,e. I am accumulating information capital.  I do not have to pay capital gains taxes on that capital.  Similarly, a US television station does not have to pay capital gains on the "goodwill" it acquires through its operations, as long as it is not sold.  The personal income tax, viewed in this context, is a value-added tax obtainable through taxation of the value added through the application of information capital.

Universities and schools are the institutions devoted to the building of information capital in younger individuals. The old fashioned economics of Agricutluralism  /industralism views educational institutions as important but peripheral to the productive mainstream, as producing a service, the real value of which cannot be established in the market system.  In countries moving into Industrialism, classroom discipline and literacy are often seen as necessary means for preparing people for the work ethic of a manufacturing society.  Education thus relates to labor, which is seen as something very different from capital.  The economic perspective I am suggesting as appropriate for Informationism views education as related to capital formation; a school is a facility for the production of capital resources.

Another kind of facility that enables an individual to augment his or her capital resource is a library.  It is another information capital resource, also one that feeds the building of personal information capital.

3.   Means for the preservation and transmission of wealth to children


In Agricutluralism , the major means for preservation of wealth are conservation of family property for inheritance to sons, dowries for daughters.  Also inherited were titles of nobility which went along with land and which conferred supposedly absolute and everlasting rights over it.  Loss of property (agricultural capital) meant ruin.  In Industrialism, inheritances, through the media of wills and trusts, can involve securities, portfolios, family businesses.  They can also involve giving a son or son-in-law an inside role in managing the business, so he eventually ends up in charge.  Ruin means he runs the business down, squanders the wealth, i.e. loss of industrial capital.

In Informationism, the major means are transmission of middle-class values through good upbringing (a rich family environment), providing good schooling, providing a college education followed by graduate school.  The child must demonstrate an existing accumulation of information capital (e.g, through high college admissions testing score just to get admitted. to a good college; it is not possible to buy one's way into a good school anymore with just money.  Ruin is seen as dropping out of school prematurely, not seeking better and better jobs, i.e. the failure to acquire sufficient human capital.

The tax structure has been making the bequeathing of agricultural or industrial wealth along family lines (in the form of inherited property or money) less and less possible. Transmission of information wealth to children - providing them with good upbringing and education that leads to high earning power - is of very great importance to parent having a lot to do in the US with such things as desire for home ownership in the suburbs where schools are good, flight from core cities, resistance of parents to busing.

The money system and earlier forms continue to be used, as means for converting from one form of capital to another.  For example, home ownership is an important means for building up equity to enable providing for college education for children.  Various insurance policies are purchased with the same intent.  Managers and professionals are often given stock options, which provide them with partial ownership of the companies they work in.


4. The role of education

In Agricutluralism , formal education, to the extent it existed, was reserved for the clergy and for the nobility.  Its purpose was to see that existing values are preserved in the society, particularly values having to do with work, loyalty and religion that were vital to keep things going as they were.  There was little practical content, this being mainly taught by on-the-job, family and life training, by apprenticeship from an early age. Theories - religious, mathematical and scientific - were the properties of the cloistered few, be they in the palace or in the monastery.  Participation was more widespread in the great agricultural "democracies" - Greece and the early US - but even in these societies the vast majority were illiterate and many were enslaved.

In Industrialism, formal education expanded enormously, serving both to transmit specific skills necessary in an increasingly complex society, and to act as a carrier-wave for the industrial society itself.  At first the curriculum was standardized and focused on the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic; later it became more differentiated.  Skills that were taught included those of engineering and science; later of marketing, advertising and market research.  As part of their carrier wave-function, schools helped children break out of the closed-system pattern of the agricultural family, prepared them for fragmentation between home and work lives.  Literacy and punctuality helped break young people out of the verbal and natural time rhythms of the farm.  Schools served as reservoirs to hold large numbers of young people on their way into the job market.  While large scale schooling was born of Industrialism, the inherent process of it is one of the main driving forces leading forward into Informationism.  With the wide-spread acquisition of technical skills and skills for dealing with specific aspects of the society came growth in the amount and importance of personal information capital.

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In Informationism, we are experiencing not only shifts in how education is viewed and experienced, but also its relationships to economics.  The main business in developing higher education in the 1960s and 1970s in the US was creation of a vast set of institutional resources that makes the first two years of College available and affordable to anyone who is willing to get it, regardless of financial or previous academic performance circumstances.  The education is now available at very low cost to virtually anyone willing to go to a community college.  The goal has also been to eliminate the barriers to four-year education as well, and progress continues to be made towards that goal. The average level of education continues to increase, both absolutely and relatively.

 In the past few years there has been a rapid and powerful shift away from parent and scholarship financing of college costs, and towards loan financing, at least in the US, as a major public policy thrust.  The Guaranteed Student Loan program, and other new State and federally-backed programs that guarantee student and parental loans, have produced a current debt liability in the order of $18 billion, which may well approach $100 billion by 1985 given the current massive shift to loan-financing of college costs.  The loans in fact are debt-financing of human capital resources; a student loan can be compared to an industrial bond - the proceeds from both are used to acquire capital resources.  The shift to loans thus represents an implicit acknowledgement of the capital-building nature of education.

5. The role of work

In Agricutluralism , work is just part of life: there is little separation between "work" and "leisure"; there is hardly such a thing as a vacation, and the attention-requiring needs of animals and, in some cases, the fields go on even on the Lord's day.  Work life and family life flow in and out of one another.  The goals of work are intrinsic to life, passed on and enforced by Church, State and Family.  Rewards are survival, honor, acknowledgement of higher authorities.  Day-to-day work consists largely of pursuing specific, tangible and repeated activities, holistic with the life imperatives of animals and crops.  Since roles are mostly given by birth there is nowhere further to go and little competition.  "Being better" or "doing more" may be expressed through religion or knighthood or acts of loyalty to the local nobility, but not through work which is defined from childhood, seasonal but unchanging from year to year. 

In Industrialism, work becomes a separate and different part of life, away from family and among strangers.  Most industrial work is dull, repetitive with the human used as extension of a machine.  Variations due to seasonality are diminished or gone.  Social interaction on the assembly line is minimal.  The purpose of work becomes to get money to buy the good and rewarding things of life.  The concept is to have more and therefore be better. The ultimate is to attain wealth and escape work.  The idiom is individualism, each person for himself, competition.  Salvation is becoming rich.  The process is striving. Personal loyalty between worker and owner diminishes, may become negative.  Work takes place in a well-defined context, the factory, where efforts of all workers are mechanically synchronized.  Goals are promotion or entrepreneurial success, i.e. escape from one set of roles into another set, or accumulating enough money to escape from fixed roles into leisure which comes only with wealth. 

In Informationism the separation of work from the rest of life is increasingly breaking down.  Information work inherently involves communication, and offices are usually places with more social interaction than the typical factory floor.  Attempts to industrialize offices (such as with rows and columns of keypunch or word processing operators) tend to fail, giving way to more personal and informal formats. Important communications among swelling numbers of managers and professionals take place in conference rooms, restaurants, bars, hotels, clubs, airplanes and resorts.  Business and the highly personal are mixed. The fixed time and place co-ordinates of work characteristic of Industrialism are slowly but certainly fading with the expansion of air travel and electronic communications.  The electronic information machines are becoming connected in global communications network that do not require synchronism.  Human pacing is taking over again, at least for managers and professionals.  There is more and more teleworking.  For the information elite, the tine and place of work is increasingly at their option, day or night, at the office or away from it, weekdays or weekends, at a good restaurant or resort hotel: wherever there is a telephone to talk on or connect a computer terminal to. With "flextime", job sharing, job re-design and other new working patterns, increasing choice is also coming to secretarial and clerical information workers, and eventually to blue collar workers in automated industrial plants.  Life's activities begin to take on a 24-hour day, 7-day week character.  The purpose of work continues to comprise the survival goals of before (to make money) but, for more and more of the information rich, goes beyond survival to include personal growth and learning, and to include contributing to something greater, to making a difference in the world. 

For those tuned to the rhythms of Informationism, the process of working often becomes a major source of reward in itself.  For many employees who are confident that survival is not at stake for themselves, the doing is more important than the having resulting from the pay.  There is immense contribution of effort going into voluntary associations where there is no direct pay.  There are some 13,600 national-level professional societies and trade associations in the US, and in the order of another 75,000 regional and local voluntary associations.  Besides time given to such groups, there is a tremendous and increasing amount of self-service in the US.  Some of this is associated with the "do-it-yourself" movement, which started some 20 years ago.  There are enormous markets for personal carpentry tools, for example.  A lot of self-service is now taken for granted, associated with the use of household appliances, like washers, dryers, microwave ovens, cleaning tools, refrigerators and freezers, food processors and pregnancy testing kits. The productivity of household work has increased vastly since the days when shopping for fresh food had to be done daily. New personal tools continue to come on the market that promise to increase that productivity even further - the home computer being among the most recent of them.  An impact of this productivity increase in households - as well as of the general affluence that goes with it - has been the virtual disappearance of household servants, in the US at least.

Television speeded the transition to self-service in homes, through the constant marketing of new products that offer slight labor savings advantages.  Thus, over the last twenty years refrigerators have become larger; their freezer compartments have become larger; they have become frost-free; automatic ice-makers have been introduced; and they have become more energy-efficient.  The latest development is that they have finishes that do not show children's fingerprints.  The value of each improvement is dramatically portrayed to the consuming public via inescapable TV advertising.  Hundreds of different types of products are thus continuing to increase the productivity of households - and those productivity gains are not reflected in the GNP or GDP measures used to evaluate the economy.

A new value orientation to work is emerging, noisily championed by the "youth generation" of the 1960s and now quietly part of how many young and not-so-young adults see the world.  The shift in emphasis is away from working to survive, away from separation of work and the rest of one's life, away from emphasis on having, on having more, and then more yet.  The shift is towards working as an expression of contribution and participation, towards seeing work as an organic part of one's whole life.  It is towards seeking quality, both quality of experience and quality of goods.  Emphasis is on experiencing, on aliveness.

6. Market economics

Agricultural societies come in a variety of shapes and forms, ranging from the early Nile Valley, Mesopotamian, Indian-Vedic, Roman, Greek, Chinese and Mexican pre-civilizations, to the Agricultural Society of the American colonies and the US up through the end of the last century. In general, agricultural production is characterized by land holdings of a large scale, but also is characterized by farming on a small scale, an artisan system for producing goods, some combination of slavery or serfdom that holds poorer tenant farmers to their properties, some system of noble entitlement, dominance by strong local landowners or lords.  A parallel free trade market usually arises in cities.  Most production and consumption are local and not in the market-system.  Markets are basically local and economies are usually stable for long periods.  Long-distance trade is usually for luxuries, such as oysters towed in nets from England to Rome or, later, spices brought from the Orient to Europe.  There is no "growth imperative".  Availability of land is viewed as the controlling scarcity, and wars were fought over land in order to obtain "room to live", even though the population was only a very small fraction of what it is today.


Industrialism stresses resource exploitation, growth, expansion of markets, first to national levels and then to international ones.  Land holdings get divided, but farming is on a larger scale aided by machines.  More and more goods flow through the market ­system.  Relatively free markets are mediated by monopolies and cartels.  Economies become unstable. Consumption is viewed as important. Industrial growth is limited by the availability of natural and energy resources, by limitations of investment capital and by limitations of labor supply.  Money and natural resources are viewed as the controlling scarcities. Wars are fought over mineral and labor resources and over control of markets.


In Informationism, information-handling supports and transforms agricultural and industrial activities and also develops a major life of its own.  The economics of information-handling are radically different from those of earlier eras (e.g.. information is duplicable at negligible cost; you can give information away or, better yet, sell it and still have it; the more effectively you communicate the information you have, the more you get, etc.  On the other hand knowledge or wisdom, which are about how to handle information, are not easily duplicable).  Information itself becomes a valuable economic good.  Production in Informationism is not consumptive of land, natural or energy resources, although sizable amounts of industrial capital may be required to realize a major information technology (e.g. communication satellites, computer networks, etc.).  Markets tend to become international; the largest publisher of English-language scientific journals is in the Netherlands; US films are shown on TV throughout the world, the US dominates the international computer market, etc.  A few of the better-known information-age multinationals are IBM, ITT, SONY, Nippon Electric, Philips, CITICORP, the Chase Manhattan Bank, American Express, Dun and Bradstreet.

As a result of the above, an increasingly stronger warp is being applied to traditional economic relationships, and the economic rules-of-the-game require constant revision.  At first, changes are made in the old system of rules in order to accommodate them to the new informational realities (e. g. original copyright laws were an attempt to extend property concepts to writings and performances).  In stages, the old system becomes basically transformed in the face of the new productive realities (e.g. copyright laws simply cannot stop people from using copying machines).  We are no longer sure why we fight wars and recently we have been avoiding them. 

(Comment, March 2008:  It’s pretty clear we are more than willing to fight wars continuing a long tradition of the US getting involved in a major war every 20-30 years.  The reasons we are told for fighting wars is constantly changing and never to my taste very satisfying.  Some of these reasons, such as protecting the honor of our country and armed forces, go right back to agricultural feudalism.  Personally I believe the basic reason is the one Eisenhower warned us about.  The military-industrial complex needs a periodic excuse to non-productively consume a very large portion of our disposable wealth and a war provides that excuse.)


7. The character of market transactions 

In Agricutluralism  the market system was not the major system in operation for economic exchange of goods, and services; it was only an auxiliary supporting system.  The major systems in operation were personal service provided because of loyalty or allegiance (for the king, the duke, the Church or the family, sometimes in the form of indenture, serfdom or slavery), tribute or taxation.  Market transactions for more common items was characterized by haggling, cheating.  Trust was low. "Caveat emptor" and horse trading are agricultural-era concepts.  For the major market transactions that did take place, building a special relationship of personal trust, was the important first business.  Barter or exchange of tangible money (e. g. gold and silver coins) was the mode.  Information that was apart or separate from personal experience was not valued or trusted per se unless vested with well--defined authority of Church or Nobility.

Shopping in a mid-eastern bazaar can provide a contemporary recreation of the earlier system.  There is no such thing as objective market value; prices for each sale are arrived at through bargaining processes.  The larger the transaction, the more intense is the interpersonal interaction required for bargaining.  A shopkeeper will invite you to tea, engage in personal conversation, assert that he is your friend before proceeding with the business of trying to sell an oriental rug.  From our cultural perspective, this can be seen as manipulative; we assume there is such a thing as a "fair" value for the rug.  From the deeper cultural perspective of the bazaar shopkeeper, however, the real value is what trusted friends can agree to.  Western businessmen in Kuwait or Saudi Arabia may have to engage in interpersonal interactions with potential clients for weeks or months, basically as part of building trust prerequisite to closing a major deal.

In Industrialism the market-system is the main one for economic exchange.  Some market transactions are still personal, but most transactions are significantly less so. Information about the property being purchased or sold becomes important, independently of trust.  Some objective information (e. g, stock-market prices) begins to emerge as having intrinsic value.  Intermediary brokers, (for industrial stock, insurance, real estate, ships, furniture, etc.) begin to be relied on, because they offer a combination of personal trust, relationships and access to information about what is being sold.

In Informationism the nature of market transactions can shift significantly further away from the personal and here-and-now as distantly created "objective" information is increasingly used and trusted.  Markets increasingly deal with rather abstract entities, such as secondary mortgage-market certificates, shares of mutual funds which hold portfolios of tax exempt bonds, shares in a real estate limited partnership.  Many of the newer forms of "packaging" securities of various kinds are only possible because of the availability of computer systems that can keep running track of the complex relationships involved.  Money itself is increasingly an abstract entity: electronic signals that represent information in a data base that represents a credit or debit balance that represents a payment, credit or debit sum of money in a demand deposit account, that represents paper money that in turn represents units of exchangeable value.  Some intermediaries (e.g. stockbrokers) find themselves less necessary or down-graded in importance because of the existence of new electronic information networks that define market-places.  There is decline of trust of the intermediary as a deal-maker, or perhaps a decline in the sensed importance of such trust. 

Information technology serves to make markets broader, more standard, more national or international in character.  Examples are: the great recent increases in the US of computer-produced mail and catalogue sales; the central impact of newspaper advertising on establishing market levels for used cars; the impact of computerized Multiple Listing Services in creating regional markets for real estate.  Besides TV marketing there is a steep rise in telephone marketing, and also in marketing that combines the two media: a TV advertisement encourages watchers to immediately call a toll-free "800-series" number to order the item being advertised.  The new two-way cable TV systems allow users to order advertised items by pushing buttons by the TV set.  The focus of trust shifts from the strictly personal to trust of the fairness of the system, to trust of objective information such as that provided by trustworthy services like Standard and Pool's or Mood's, or the telephone company.  Markets for securities, real estate, automobiles and many products are becoming less risky due to increased information availability from such trusted sources, and also because of regulations designed to protect consumers.  There is much greater trust in the ability to have complaints listened to and to obtain legal protection if one is cheated. 

As buying and selling becomes easier and safer in the information society, the role of the broker or salesperson as an intermediary - who his traditionally served as both authoritative information source and person in whom some trust can be placed - can be expected to evolve and, in the overall, decline.  For major transactions (e.g, the purchase of one company by another, the purchase of industrial real estate, or ships or factories) a new role of fee-consultant emerges. The role is that of a professional dedicated to serving the interests of the client, not necessarily that of a deal-maker.


8. The international division of work

The world today consists of societies in all stages of transition: ones emerging from nomadism and/or Agricutluralism   into early Industrialism, ones evolving from Industrialism into Informationism, and developing ones, like Mexico, where there are major aspects of all three systems.

(Comment, March 2008:  In the early document I did not talk about the dominant mode of social organization that preceded Agricutluralism , namely Tribalism.  Tribalism was how humans organized themselves for millions of years.  Agricutluralism is very recent, having been around for only 3,500 years or so.  Before that, most of the millions of years of our history were spent in tribalism.  The basic economic activities of tribal societies were originally hunting, fishing and berry-gathering for food; later animal herding beame predominant.  Tribal societies were (and are)basically nomadic and did not recognize private property.  Natural gods were worshipped and there was little communications between tribes.  The tribe was the entire social system.  Members of other tribes were to betaken as concubines, enslaved or killed. Tribalism is still alive in isolated parts of the world.  More importantly, many cultures have only recently emerged from tribalism and retain many attitudes, values and ways of behavior that originate in tribalism.  These are in much evidence in the Middle East, for example.  Both Paistinian Islamacist Moslems and Orthodox Jews are in mortal combat over large tracts of desert real estate, both sides claiming God gave it to them.  Neither side sees the humans on the other side as having value and it is perfectly good idea to kill them.  The “Battle of Civilizations” is actually a conflict among four cultural systems: Ttribalism, Agriculturalism, Industrialism  and Informationism.)


The processes of Informationism facilitate the co-ordination and division of labor across international lines. Multinational corporations and international trading companies, for example, absolutely depend on the telephone, the telex and air travel for their current highly efficient forms of operation.  Production scheduling, inventory control, shipping, ordering and billing, quality control, packaging, order fulfillment, even shop management - these are all things becoming realistically possible on an international scale as communications costs decline and become ever more distance-independent.  Except where transportation costs are high, economics strongly favor the export of industrial-type, repetitive, low-skill, labor-intensive processes to the developing countries in the Third World: Korea, Mexico, Singapore, Taiwan, The Philippines, the Dominican Republic, Hong Kong.  There, industrial "sweatshop" conditions similar to those described by Engels in the, 19th century can often be found.  Hourly wage rates may be one tenth or one twentieth of those in the US or Germany, with women working many hours under extremely poor working conditions, with similar disruptions in social and family life to those experienced in the early exploitative days of Western Industrialism.  In 1976, the average daily wages for female unskilled work was $2.56 in the Philippines, $1.36 in Indonesia. 

The result is that any repetitive manufacturing process where there is significant content of unskilled labor is most sensibly exported out of the advanced information-intensive nations, whether it concern is wigs, garments, toys, shoes or automotive equipment.  The information era itself has created a need for a substantial amount of such manufacturing, particularly the aspects of electronic component assembly for consumer goods that are not yet automated.  The division of labor typically keeps the high value-added steps, the ones involving management or professional skills, in the advanced countries and exports the repetitive low value-added part.  Semiconductor chips produced in Texas are shipped to Singapore where they are assembled into computer memory boards, and those are shipped to Denver Colorado where they are finally assembled into minicomputers. Modern on-line information utilities in the US ship large amounts of raw data to shops in Korea and Taiwan for key-to-disc entry.  The information -intensive "First World" nations control and manage the overall process, handle the research and development, the marketing and sales, the computer processing, data base management and on-line distribution, the systems-development and systems-operations, the high-technology manufacturing steps, the advertising and financing, the distribution and use.  The export of Industrialism to the Third World has many social and economic aspects beyond my scope of consideration here - both positive and negative ones.  The major point is that the possibility and attractiveness of export of mass-production industrial-type activities to developing nations is in itself an important driving force for the further informationization of the advanced western nations. 


9. Locus and style of leadership 

In classical Agricutluralism, leadership is typically vested in nobility and/or religious leaders who work together in a tight hierarchical system where there is complete linkage between Church and State.  Decisions are autocratic, with power flowing from God to King, to Duke, to lesser noblemen, eventually down to male serf or slave, then down to his women and children.  The role of a decision is to interpret or enforce a religious or moral principle or the will of a higher authority.  Typically "courts" of elite developed, who to some extent shared leadership, usually through a process of politics and favoritism.  Even where agricultural "democracies" arose, such as in ancient Greece, Rome and in the early US, participation was reserved for the highly-propertied class.  Democracy did not extend to slaves or serfs, or to subjugated territories. 

Industrialism saw the gradual break-down of the more rigid leadership roles of Agricutluralism and the gradual expansion of parliamentary forms of governance. Heroic industrial leaders arose, using the power of capital and incentive: men like Carnegie, Mellon, Rockefeller and Henry Ford.  Such individuals in early Industrialism often made important decisions personally.  Later, their children took over the businesses and the transition to professional management started. Industrialists begin to exercise their own influence on government, often at cross-purposes with powerful agricultural interests.  Elitist coalitions of business leaders, politicians and land-owning interests formed and usually functioned powerfully out of the public view.  The "power elite" owned the press and corruption was either taken for granted or little noticed.  The tendency was to try and address social needs with fixed rules, laws and codes administered by bureaucracies, and these bureaucracies built up their own power bases.  The free market ethic and the bureaucratic ethic began to be in some conflict. "The less government the better" was (and still is) the slogan of businessmen, but these same businessmen were willing to run to government for favorite treatment or subsidy, often feeding the bureaucratic growth they claimed to abhor.  Unions came into existence in response to excesses of the incentive system, and developed their own administrative bureaucracies.  Both government and union bureau­cracies are, of course, information-handling empires, and thus the needs of Industrialism again led to the growth of Informationism. 

In Informationism, leadership becomes far more diffuse, tending to move into the hands of specialized professionals: professional managers, staff planners, legal advisors, consultants, etc. The effective structure of a large corporation is more often that of a loosely, but effectively co-ordinated federation of businesses than a tight hierarchy. Communication requirements are complex, leading to the creation of extensive support structures. Decision-making in the large corporation is based on extensive staff studies. Task force and committee processes draw on multiple parts of the organization and involve consultants, accountants, economists, engineers, marketing specialists, attorneys, regulatory experts - in fact those who have personal information capital. Strategic assessment and market studies, technological forecasts, long-range plans, management information systems, world-wide communications networks, data bases - all are part of the informational underpinnings of the large corporation. A great deal of personal interaction, voice and written communication, meetings, retreats at resorts, electronic communication and air travel are involved. The large corporation develops an international identity, usually with English as the common language and with the national identities of individual managers fading in importance. 

Government, slower to change, tends recently to favor decentralization of responsibility to state and local levels, a broader base of participation in decision-making, a tendency for break-up of the operating elitist coalitions, as they become effectively exposed in the public media. It is harder and harder to hide corruption. More and more important decisions get handled in front of courts and regulatory bodies, in adversary proceedings that are extremely information-intensive. Citizen and consumer groups get into the act, as do the public media. Billion-dollar lawsuits arise, ones that can determine the fate of corporations, public projects or principles of environment. Tens of millions of dollars are often spent on databases and information retrieval systems, and on carefully-­documented studies by the litigants to support their positions. The information "haves" participate in a thousand different ways in governing the society.


10. Objects of commitments 


In Agricutluralism .  commitments are to God, the local Duke and Lords, Country, Family and Land. Fealty and loyalty are assumed, given from birth. Commitments are not matters to be thought out consciously. Commitments are to identities that are inherited, to being a serf, a tinker, a member of the court.

With the rise of Industrialism both the objects of commitments and the nature of the commitments themselves moved into transition. They started out as in Agricutluralism  , but ties were increasingly weaker. New commitments developed, to company, to a type of work or to profession. Commitments could be to hard work (Protestant Ethic), to getting rich (Horatio Alger) and for some, to social objectives (the wealthy's support or the arts, for example). For some, commitments were in the type of industrial work and accompanying lifestyle "My daddy was a coal miner and I am a miner too", or "My father was a union organizer in this steel mill, and I am carrying on his work for the union". In most cases, though, commitments to roles ceased to be inherited. A farmer's son would go to the city and work in a factory. The son of a tailor could study to be a doctor.

In Informationism commitments are increasingly broader, less rigidly shaped by long­ term role expectations. For some, the main commitments are to the self, to personal growth and greater self-expression. For many others, there is a basic commitment to further the general good of society, not abstractly but directly through job, lifestyle or volunteer work. Also becoming broader are the avenues through which those commitments can be expressed. Expression might be through occupation, hobby, sub-cultural interest, professional groups, temporary mates; or it might be in the more traditional terms of home, family, Church. The, increased choice and diversity is made possible through expanded communications means that make connection with others easy, even at a distance. The long-distance telephone can enable loved ones to stay in touch. Other important means include specialized magazines, computer-generated mail and Citizen's Band radio. Also contributing to choice is TV which portrays alternative life-styles and illustrates their legitimacy. 


At the same time, there appear to be increasing levels of commitment to the greater society and the general good, as expressed in environmentalism, consumerism, and emphasis on social responsibility of businesses. The world of electronic information, TV in particular, serves to connect the individual with the whole society around him, helps to relate the individual's interests to those of society in general. 

Objects of commitment in Informationism tend to be more changeable in the course of one's lifetime. There is increasing willingness to move through a whole succession of commitments, to both individuals and to properties, as one moves through the life cycle from youth to old age. The tendency is for less attachment to property for self-image purposes, more for immediate pragmatic use value. Emphasis is towards new forms of ownership which play down old absolute concepts of possession and tend to stress use-access instead. An example is in the rapid spread of time-shared, condominium ownership, where an individual can affordably buy "ownership" of a ski-apartment in Aspen Colorado for one week out of the year and also an apartment-villa on the Costa Brava of Spain for another week.

11. The nature of commitments

In Agricutluralism  commitments were, for most, few and long lasting, measurable in lifetimes and multiple generations. They were mainly derived from a limited set of rigid roles. These roles, in turn, followed directly from a small set of generating religious and social organizing principles. There was little option for leading what we now consider to be a unique personal lifestyle, if one was a father and head of a family with six children in colonial Massachusetts, and also a tenant farmer and a Congregationalist parishioner.

In Industrialism commitments became more changeable, but still usually of major duration. Tenure of religious involvement, jobs, mates and residency in a single home were typically measurable in decades. Commitments were still seen largely to be shaped by a limited number of role stereotypes, thus limiting behavioral change; e.g. , being a good religious family person meant no divorce and living with the same mate no matter what the personal feelings might be. The "protestant ethic" usually required staying in a family-oriented or religion-oriented role through thick or thin, even when staying in that role entailed personal unhappiness or suffering. Sufferance, in fact, became a mark of goodness. Gradually, though, the rigidity of these stereotypes began to break down. 

In Informationism, the commitments tend to be ever-more changeable, multiple and overlapping in nature. People have more and more options, and are increasingly well informed of them. Time between major changes may be measurable in weeks, months or a few years. There is more mobility in jobs, changes in households, cohabitation, marriages, divorces, re-marriages, changes in careers, new hobbies, vacation trips, new friends. The role stereotypes that hold people in places where they are unhappy are not gone yet, but they are melting away. The public media expose moral reality in vivid detail and endless variety, and it becomes difficult for a society to maintain Victorian dualism - a rigid official moral code along with a practical situation that fosters prostitution and debauchery. Rigid moral and legal codes governing personal behavior are becoming more flexible. Victimless crime is becoming decriminalized. Staying in marriages or jobs that are not rewarding, just for the sake of role continuation, is seen less and less to make sense. 

The shift to Informationism, like all major shifts in social paradigm, leaves behind many who want to remain with their older value system, or who think they cannot adapt, or who do not want to adapt.  As the value system and other superstructure elements evolve, many people are angry, confused that things are not as they once learned they "should" be.  Among these are many of the 'Information-Poor', those who do not know how to obtain and utilize the information necessary for effective participation in our society - and those who do not even want to try. 

Even among the better informed, there are some people who want to go back to the simpler situation of yesterday - one with less choices.  Informationism provides a wide range of personal choices for those who want - and know how - to take advantage of these choices.  And there are those who want to respond by reducing choice for everyone.  These are mostly lifestyle-conservatives who want to enforce a more finite and closed value system derivative from Industrialism, one that has capital punishment and that turns off for once and for all the personal choices associated with sexual equality and permissiveness, availability of abortion, availability of pornography, etc.  While the thrust of the moral conservatives is to reduce diversity they consider to be deviant, they themselves contribute to the diversity. 

Perhaps nowhere is the clash of value options more clear today than in Iran, where agricultural- society values and earlier values associated with tribal nomadism are in conflict with both industrial and information society values.  The Ayatollah Kholmeini version of lifestyle-conservatism, a much exaggerated version of the very powerful moral conservative movement which exists in the US, tries to force the society back to a simple set of once-held values that originated long before Industrialism.  It is interesting that Khomeini developed his popularity in Iran, while he was in exile during the time of the Shah, largely through the medium of cassette recordings played in Mosques.  Also, the hostage situation assumed such significance in the US largely because of the direct dramatization of TV coverage, and the Islamic students holding the hostages, well understood the power of the TV medium.

12. Personal motivation 

Faith, incentive and egalitarianism have been around as social organizing principles throughout human history and, no doubt, before.  A tendency can be observed that there is a progression in the emphasis devoted to these imperatives in the three social orders under discussion.  The major imperative is faith in Agricutluralism; it shifts to incentive in Industrialism, and then in the direction of a new form of participative egalitarianism in Informationism .

The original hunting and fishing societies had as their major underlying imperative survival of the tribe.  Co-operation and belonging were essential. To the extent that essential roles had to be interchangeable for survival, there was often a kind of egalitarianism of participation exercised. With the coming of Agricutluralism the social order became more complex and stratified; even more so in Industrialism. In typical agricultural societies with strong religious belief systems, emphasis was on simple survival in this world, with salvation and transcendence to come in the next world. Surrender to the social order was the only choice. Matters in this world could not be changed, and surrender was the only path to salvation in the next world. 

The impact of Industrialism was to fragment the old social organization; members of a family no longer worked together as they did previously; they were cast into new singular work roles in factories, mines, etc., and where one worked and where one lived became more separate.  With this fragmentation came more emphasis on the individual, the notion that a person could make a difference in this life through incentive.  The old and new systems of faith and incentive sometimes accommodated to each other in ways that now seem strange: as an early capitalist it was all right to exploit child labor or poor immigrants and at the same time exhibit faith in God through religion, or faith in the country through supporting orphanages. 

Throughout history there were always a very few who felt they could make a major difference in the world in which they lived - usually they were among the nobility, the very rich, the politically powerful; also, the utopians and social reformers.  The international socialist movement rising at the start of this century and the trade union movement in the 1930s in the US represented thrusts towards egalitarianism.  Yet, they were "them against us" movements, e.g. Workers against Capitalists and Bosses; they were movements predicated on struggle and class-war; their very focus on tensions served to help maintain those tensions.  For most people in industrial society, taking care of oneself, and then perhaps taking care of one's family, seemed to be about all that could be done.  For the successful ones, exploitation of nature as well as exploitation of the work of others seemed to be the main orders of business. 

With the rise of Informationism, a rather new thing seems to be happening, the realization of large numbers of people that they are capable, right now, of making this society better.  Because of the new electronic communications, we are far more familiar with the rest of the world and what is going on in it than ever was possible before in the past.  We are used to seeing space photographs of the Earth or major parts of it; we are used to seeing movies like "Star Wars" - it is easy now to think of the Earth as a whole which is part of a larger whole.  As planetary consciousness develops, there is an increasing willingness on the part of many individuals to do what they can to take responsibility for developments in the world.  This consciousness holds individuals as potentially capable of making real differences.  It holds forth the possibility of a realistic set of steps that individuals can pursue to end war (that's what Vietnam was all about), expose and end corruption (that's what the Watergate matter was all about), adequately house the population (in 1950 some 3E per cent. of the US population lived in substandard housing; now its down to less than 4 per cent.), give employment to all who want to work (4 million new jobs created in the U: in 1978), equalize the rights of women (two out of three entering the labor force in the US are now women and 43 million women are now earners), and more and more.

There is still war, corruption, unemployment, substandard housing and abrogation of personal rights. There are still frightening challenges in the world associated with most serious matters like the proliferation of nuclear weapons, genocide against tribal peoples, hunger, and destruction of the natural environment.  But the point is that tens of millions in the US and in the rest of the world care about these things and are willing to do whatever they can about them. We do not see ourselves as so helpless anymore.


Additional comments from a March 5, 2008 perspective.

Given what has happened in the 27 years since this was written, I am afraid that the article expressed too much optimism.  I thought that there would be inevitable and steady social evolution to bring the US society and economy into alignment with Informationism.  Instead we have had a prolonged and disastrous period of moving in the opposite direction.  At the moment our US is beset by recession and inflation and rising unemployment.  There is a prolonged debt and liquidity crises.  Our national debt has skyrocketed and the value of our currency is plunging in world markets.  The institutions that insured bonds and those that rated the security of complex investment instruments have failed us and the economy is paralyzed.  We have become a debtor nation which based its prosperity for a number of years on the willingness of foreign investors to buy our country piecewise. We have needed foreign government investment funds to keep our biggest financial institutions alive.  Our middle class has been vanishing.  We are pouring trillions into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with no ends in sight. 

While we have had great success in developing our software, electronic, financial services, entertainment, health care and biotechnology industries, our society has not adequately adjusted to the realities of the new international information society.  Each year our education system ranks lower by international standards and our comparative level of health by most levels is dropping equally fast.  When I wrote this article, our country ranked first in the world in terms of the proportion of the population where adults between 25 and 34 have at least a high school degree and also for the proportion who are college graduates.  By 2005 we had slipped to ranking ninth and seventh in the world by the same measures.  And we are dropping fast.  Education is critical to generating human capital which is critical in an information economy, and we are simply not investing in it adequately.  The World Health organization ranks our US health system 37th in the world, below Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.  Yet we spend more per-capita on health care than any other country.  Again, this is a failure to protect human capital. And where the US was a clear world leader in fields like engineering, medical research, electronics, biotechnical research and software development, now there many countries seriously competing in each of these areas.  World development of Informationism is rapidly moving forward and threatens to soon outpace us.  What has happened? 

I think part of the answer has been a major social and political backlash in the US towards conservatism, starting with Ronald Regan.  This backlash has biased our US culture and its priorities to favor “traditional” (e.g. industrial-era) ways of thinking, policies, investments, institutions and activities over those of Informationism.  Examples are:

·         Government priorities, laws, regulations, tax breaks and subsidies favoring big industrial corporation and industrial-era interests.  These policies are often anti-science and anti new-technology.  As examples:  Subsidies and tax breaks are provided to big oil companies.  Petroleum exploration is favored over building windmill energy farms and geothermal power plants.  New-technology approaches to alternative energy sources and energy conservation are not supported.  Regulations favor power companies and coal producers and funding for environmental research is cut back.  A ban is enacted against government funding of stem cell research causing the US to lose its edge in this area.  Government-funded programs for control of AIDS and teen pregnancies must emphasize abstinence from sex. Schools much teach creationism instead of evolution.

·         Numerous policies favoring financial and industrial capital over human capital.  Examples are: Tax breaks for the rich coupled with less-visible taxes on the poor including greatly expanding State Lotteries and legalized gambling. The US middle class is vanishing.  There is a shift from subsidizing college education and scholarships to forcing students to borrow from financial institutions to pay for their educations.  These factors are making higher education less accessible to may Americans, an opposite to what is happening in many parts of the world.  Another example is reduction or elimination of inheritance taxes, bringing us back to the feudal tradition of inheritance of estate.

At this moment, during the 2008 presidential campaign, it looks like a major shift in the value system of politics may finally be taking place to allow our society to prosper by embracing Informationism.  At least that is a hope. 

Copyright 1982, 2008 by Vincent E. Giuliano, all rights reserved.

I have written a number of other works which touch on themes in this paper from various viewpoints, both serious treatises and fiction stories.  I encourage you to look over the items I have online by going to my Writings Index Web Page. 

[1] Paper presented at the 14th International TNO Conference: Information Society: Changes, Chances, Challenges, Rotterdam March 18-19, 1981, pgs 93-115 in the Proceedings, The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research

[2] The Science of Culture, a Study of Man and Civilization Leslie A. White, Grove Press, New York 1949